Friday, April 29, 2011

A bit early for the Ascension, but this is classic

This Sunday: "Every sin imaginable could be forgiven by Him!"

This Sunday, the Church celebrates the second Sunday of Easter which, since 2000, is also Divine Mercy Sunday. It is an incredible feast anyway, but carries special significance this year: Pope John Paul II will be beatified on Sunday.  John Paul II instituted Divine Mercy Sunday on the day he canonized St. Faustina and called it "the happiest day of my life".  I ask GW Catholics to read excerpts from the Divine Mercy Sunday website which explain the feast.

When I explained the feast in a Sunday homily years ago in the parish, I heard confessions for four hours that day!  I will be available for Confession before and after Mass this Sunday as well as throughout the week in order for GW Catholics to receive God's infinite mercy and to gain a plenary indulgence.  Take advantage of this great deal! 

"Despite evil’s attempts at discrediting Catholic Priests, many fallen-away Catholics will soon be returning to the practice of their faith. The reason: the Church’s new feast on the Sunday after Easter. What new feast you might say? It is the “Feast of Divine Mercy”. The Catholic Church has been celebrating this feast ever since the Vatican had made it official on April 30th in the Jubilee year 2000. Why would every Catholic want to come back, you might ask? It is the promise that Jesus Himself made for a complete forgiveness of sins and punishment on that day, even to the most terrible sinner imaginable. God in His great mercy is giving mankind a last chance for salvation.

When did Jesus make this promise and how does one get it? Jesus left all the details in a diary that He commanded Saint Faustina to write in the 1930’s. It was her job to record everything that He wanted mankind to know about His mercy before He returns to judge the world. To get this great promise one has to go to Confession and then receive Holy Communion on that Feast of Divine Mercy, which has now been called Divine Mercy Sunday throughout the whole Church. Jesus said, “Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (Diary, 300) To receive Communion worthily one should be in the state of grace and without serious sin...

In Saint Faustina’s diary, she recorded that Jesus also indicated that He Himself is there in the confessional. He told her, “When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity." (1602) Jesus knew that people would need to hear these words today, so He went on to say “Come with faith to the feet of My representative...and make your confession before Me. The person of the priest is, for Me, only a screen. Never analyze what sort of a priest that I am making use of; open your soul in confession as you would to Me, and I will fill it with My light." (1725) "Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.” (1602)

Many feel that their sins are unforgivable but, Jesus said, “Were a soul like a decaying corpse, so that from a human standpoint, there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. In the Tribunal of Mercy (the sacrament of Confession) ...the greatest miracles take place and are incessantly repeated." (1448) "Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.” (1602)

Every sin imaginable could be forgiven by Him!...

On the evening of His resurrection Jesus appeared to His Apostles and the first thing that He did was to give them the power to forgive sins (John 20:19-31). This is done through the power of the Holy Spirit. For sure it was not the Lord’s intention just for the Apostles to forgive sins but rather for that power to be passed down through the Holy Spirit to the priests of today. That is why Confession is so much of an uplifting experience; we are actually receiving heavenly graces and the forgiveness of sins from the Lord Himself!...

Remember these words of Jesus, “ I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment." (699) "Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity...tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near.” (965) Wake up people of the World, and repent of your sins, this just might be our last hope of salvation!"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Victory is Mine"

This is from Msgr. Charles Pope's post from Sunday on the ADW blog:

At the Great Easter Vigil, after a lengthy series of Old Testament readings, The lights come on full, the Gloria is intoned and the opening prayer is sung. Then all are seated for the first reading from the New Testament proclaimed in the new light of Easter glory. It is Romans 6, the opening text from the New Testament proclaimed by the Church as Christ steps forth from the tomb! It would seem the Church considers this an important reading for our consideration, given it’s placement.

Romans 6 is a kind of mini-Gospel where in the fact of our new status as redeemed transformed Children of God is declared. And within these lines is contained “Standing Order # 1″ for the Christian who is a new creation: “No longer let sin continue to reign in your death directed bodies.”

Perhaps we can take a look at this central passage from the New Testament. Here it is in total and them some verse by verse commentary:

We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:1-14)

1. THE PRINCIPLE - We have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? - Here is a powerful and uncompromising statement. Paul is setting forth the most fundamental principle for the Christian life. Namely that sin is not to have any power over us. This is the NORMAL (i.e. normative, to be expected) Christian life, a life that is victorious and that is seeing sin put to death and the blessings of grace come alive. Paul says, quite clearly, we have died to sin.

Before returning to this concept it might be important to consider what the word “sin” means here. The Greek word is ἁμαρτίᾳ (hamartia). In its root sin (ἁμαρτίᾳ) means “missing the mark” or falling short of a designated goal. In the Greek tragedies the hero often had a “fatal flaw” wherein he misses the mark, or fails to obtain what he sought due to a moral failing or error in judgment. In Scripture the word ἁμαρτίᾳ usually means something closer to what we mean by sin today, namely “a moral failing.” But we should not completely leave behind the notion that sin is a missing of the mark. It is not untrue to say that sin is not so much a reality unto itself as it is a “privation,” a lack of something that should be there. In every sin, something is missing that should be there.

Now St. Paul often describes sin (ἁμαρτίᾳ) at two levels: the personal experience with sin, but also as a “climate” in which we live. So we might distinguish between Sin (upper case) and sin (lower case). Hence, Sin is the climate in which we live that is hostile to God, that has values in direct opposition to what God values. It is materialistic, worldly in its preoccupations, carnal and not spiritual, lustful, greedy, self-centered, and alienated from the truth. It will not submit to God and seeks either to deny Him or to marginalize him. This is Sin. (We need to understand this distinction for in verse 10 of this passage Paul says Christ “died to Sin.” But clearly Christ had no personal sin. But he DID live in a world dominated by Sin and it was to THAT which he died).

As for sin (lower case), it is our personal appropriation of Sin. It is our internalization and acceptance of the overall climate of sin. For example, a Bosnian child is not born hating a Croat or Serbian child. That hatred is “in the air” and the child often (usually) internalizes and then acts upon it. Hence Sin becomes sin.

Now Paul says, we have DIED to all of this. That is to say the overall climate of Sin cannot any longer influence us, neither can the deep drives of our own sin continue to affect us.

But how can this be, most of us feel very strongly influenced by Sin and sin? Consider for a moment a corpse. You cannot humiliate or tempt, win an argument with or in anyway personally affect a corpse. The corpse is dead and you and I can no longer have any influence over it. Paul is saying that this is to be the case with us. We are dead to the world and its Sin. It’s influence on us is broken. Because of this, our personal sins and drives of sin are also broken in terms of their influence.

Ah but you say, “This does not seem true.” Nevertheless, it IS the principle of the Christian life. It is what is normative for us and what we should increasingly expect because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is true, death for us is a process, more than an event. But to the degree that the old Adam has been put to death in us, then his vital signs are diminishing. He is assuming room temperature and Christ Jesus is coming alive in us.

And here is the central question Is Jesus becoming more alive in you? It is a remarkable thing how little most Christians expect from their relationship with Jesus Christ. The best that most people hope for is to muddle through this life and just make it (barely) over the finish line to heaven. Mediocrity seems what most people expect. But this is not the normal Christian life! The normal Christian life is to be increasingly victorious over sin, to be experiencing the power of the Lord Jesus Christ at work in our lives. We have died to sin. It’s influence on us is waning, is diminishing. Increasingly the world and its values seem ludicrous to us and God’s vision becomes precious.

So here is the principle – have died and are dying to sin, it is increasingly impossible for us to live in it or experience it’s influence.

2. THE POWER - Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

When Paul (and Scripture) use the word “know” it always means more that grasping something intellectually. To “know” in the Bible means to personally experience something and to have grasped it as true. Thus, what Paul is really saying here, “Or is it possible that you have not experienced that we died with Christ and risen with him to new life?” In effect he is saying, grab hold of yourself and come to experience that you have died to your old life and now received a completely new life. Start to personally experience this.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation! (2 Cor 5:17). This is the normal Christian life and we ought to be experiencing it more and more.

But here again, we have to fight the sloth of low expectations. Do you think that Jesus Christ died for you so that you would continue to be in bondage to anger, or lust, or hatred? Surely he died to free us from this!

To see your life transformed is NOT your work, it is the work of the Lord Jesus. Since it is his power at work we ought to expect a lot. But low expectations yield poor results. So Paul is saying, come to know, come to personally experience and grasp his power at work in you. Have high expectations! How can we have anything less when the death and resurrection of Jesus are the cause of this?

3. THE PERSONAL WITNESS – For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. -

Once again Paul says we “know” this. This is the normal Christian life: to experience that our old self was crucified and has died and that increasingly we are no longer slaves to sin.

In my own life I have experienced just this. Have you? I have seen many sins and sinful attitudes put to death in me. My mind has become so much clearer in the light of Christian faith and I now see and experience how silly and insubstantial are many claims of this world. So, my mind and my heart are being transformed. I have died to many of my former and negative attitudes and drives.

I’m not what I want to be but I’m not what I used to be, praise God. A wonderful change has come over me.

How about you? Do you have a testimony? Do you “know” (experience) that your old self has been crucified and that you are being freed from sin?

4. THE PROCLAMATION – in various ways then in the verses that follow, Paul sets forth the essential proclamation of the Normal (normative) Christian life:

1. count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
2. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires…..
3. [you] have been brought from death to life….
4. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

Some final questions:

• Do you believe this?
• Do you know (experience) this?
• What do you expect from your relationship with Jesus Christ?
• How are you different from some one who lived under the Old Covenant?
• How are you different from the unbelievers in this world?
• Are you living the normal Christian life of dying to sin and rising to new life in Christ, or are you just muddling through?

Icon above is 18th Century Russian, and is available at most Icon Distributor. In this vision, is the Harrowing of Hades where Christ pulls Adam and Even from their tombs and summons them to new life.

This song says, Victory is mine, I told Satan, “Get thee behind” for victory today is mine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"The women are the first at the tomb"

 At today's daily Mass (yesterday's Mass was packed!), I began my homily with "where are all the men?" in talking about the Crucifixion, the tomb, and at most Masses today where there are usually more women than men.  I referred to Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter, "Mulieris Dignitatem", in which he addresses the scene at the tomb as well as the feminine response to the Gospel in general.  Here is an excerpt from his letter.  Rock on, women!  Step it up, men!

First witnesses of the Resurrection

16. From the beginning of Christ's mission, women show to him and to his mystery a special sensitivity which is characteristic of their femininity. It must also be said that this is especially confirmed in the Paschal Mystery, not only at the Cross but also at the dawn of the Resurrection. The women are the first at the tomb. They are the first to find it empty. They are the first to hear: "He is not here. He has risen, as he said" (Mt 28:6). They are the first to embrace his feet (cf. Mt 28:9). They are also the first to be called to announce this truth to the Apostles (cf. Mt 28:1-10; Lk 24:8-11). The Gospel of John (cf. also Mk 16: 9) emphasizes the special role of Mary Magdalene. She is the first to meet the Risen Christ. At first she thinks he is the gardener; she recognizes him only when he calls her by name: "Jesus said to her, 'Mary'. She turned and said to him in Hebrew, 'Rabbuni' (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, 'Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God'. Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord'; and she told them that he had said these things to her" (Jn 20:16-18).

Hence she came to be called "the apostle of the Apostles".38 Mary Magdalene was the first eyewitness of the Risen Christ, and for this reason she was also the first to bear witness to him before the Apostles. This event, in a sense, crowns all that has been said previously about Christ entrusting divine truths to women as well as men. One can say that this fulfilled the words of the Prophet: "I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy" (Jl 3:1). On the fiftieth day after Christ's Resurrection, these words are confirmed once more in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, at the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete (cf. Act 2:17).

Everything that has been said so far about Christ's attitude to women confirms and clarifies, in the Holy Spirit, the truth about the equality of man and woman. One must speak of an essential "equality", since both of them - the woman as much as the man - are created in the image and likeness of God. Both of them are equally capable of receiving the outpouring of divine truth and love in the Holy Spirit. Both receive his salvific and sanctifying "visits".

The fact of being a man or a woman involves no limitation here, just as the salvific and sanctifying action of the Spirit in man is in no way limited by the fact that one is a Jew or a Greek, slave or free, according to the well-known words of Saint Paul: "For you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28). This unity does not cancel out diversity. The Holy Spirit, who brings about this unity in the supernatural order of sanctifying grace, contributes in equal measure to the fact that "your sons will prophesy" and that "your daughters will prophesy". "To prophesy" means to express by one's words and one's life "the mighty works of God" (Acts 2: 11), preserving the truth and originality of each person, whether woman or man. Gospel "equality", the "equality" of women and men in regard to the "mighty works of God" - manifested so clearly in the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth - constitutes the most obvious basis for the dignity and vocation of women in the Church and in the world. Every vocation has a profoundly personal and prophetic meaning. In "vocation" understood in this way, what is personally feminine reaches a new dimension: the dimension of the "mighty works of God", of which the woman becomes the living subject and an irreplaceable witness.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Sunday - homily

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!!

Last fall, a senior emailed me about getting back into her faith. She had not been active at the Newman Center in her time at GW and wanted to know how she could get involved. So, we went to lunch at Potbelly’s. She told me about her life and current situation; she had much good going on. She had a good relationship with her boyfriend, many solid prospects for work after graduation, and many good friends. But, something was missing; it was her faith. I listened to her and then suggested Confession as the usual first step for a Catholic to come back to the Church. She said, “oh no, not Confession”. She really didn’t believe in it and questioned why we needed to go to a priest. I laid out the reasons, mainly showing in the Gospel where Jesus gave us this sacrament and the Church’s tradition with it. Not long after that, she asked for Confession and has a few times since then. It’s amazing to see the difference in her faith since September or October. Back then, she admitted to not knowing much about her faith; now she is teaching others, including her boyfriend. She is rock solid in her faith! Their relationship is off-the-charts good now; her life is off-the-charts good now. She is very, very happy. She is experiencing new life…the new life that comes from the Resurrection.

I had to give her evidence, though. I had about thirty minutes at Potbelly’s to give her the reasons to believe what the Church teaches. We all need evidence to believe. God gives us reasons to believe that He is there and that He loves us. We just heard the evidence that He gave the Apostles and disciples with the Resurrection. The first pieces of evidence were the empty tomb and the burial cloths. The biggest piece of evidence was the Risen Christ! People saw Him walk the earth for forty days after the Resurrection. As we heard in the first reading, they “ate and drank” with Him. He was not just a ghost. They saw the evidence and believed.

God offers all of us evidence every single day that He is there and that He loves us. He gives us evidence through other people, through our experiences, through prayer, through whatever. I know that you are looking for the evidence that He is there. You want to believe; you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. So many GW Catholics have come to me this year saying that either they don’t believe that God exists or that He doesn’t love them. And, these are good kids! For different reasons, they have serious doubts; sometimes, it’s always been this way or it’s not their fault. I try very hard to give them the evidence that God exists and He loves them.

Another of our seniors has struggled to know the presence of God. He has told the story publicly of how he has been very active at the Newman Center all four years, but didn’t experience the presence of God for most of that time. It was surprising to many, especially me when he told me this in spiritual direction last year. I suggested that he make a five day, silent retreat which he did in Pennsylvania. He asked the Lord to give him the evidence that He is there and the He loves him. This God did, not just because I asked Him; I think God orchestrated the whole thing. On the retreat, he had not just a feeling of the presence of God, but an encounter with the living God. He truly experienced God’s love in his heart and mind. He has new life!

Pope Benedict has said the message of the Resurrection is that God exists. When we have a sense that God exists, we have a sense of the love of God. If you want evidence that God loves you, look at a crucifix. It is the greatest sign of God’s love for you! Some who have doubted God’s love have looked at the events of the past few days and said to me, ‘this is for everyone but me. He died for everyone else, but not me’. Two people in the past week have said this. I thought to myself, ‘what makes you so special?’ He died for all of us. None of us is worthy. This is for all of us. He shows His love through His Death, and reveals that He is alive and there through the Resurrection.

Last story which involves one of our freshmen. She has been Catholic her whole life and served in her parish and all that stuff, but never experienced the love of God. She went on conference with 40 other GW Catholics back in January. It was a weekend with about 1,500 other Catholic students in college. The climax of the weekend was Eucharistic Adoration on Saturday night; Adoration is when the Eucharist is exposed for all to adore. She had never done Adoration before. She wrote me about it afterwards, and said that as soon as she saw the Host in the monstrance, she got it about he faith…about all of this stuff. She had a huge physical and emotional experience where she felt enormous pressure coming out of her chest, was grinning ear to ear, and sobbing profusely. She didn’t know how long it lasted. She wrote that this was the first time she felt the love of Jesus Christ. Then, her powerful line: “God raised my broken heart”.

May God raise your broken hearts as He raised Christ from the dead. There are many broken hearts on this campus – not just with relationships, but with problems back home, divorce, friendships, loneliness, etc. You are looking for God in all of this. Beg Him to give you evidence that He is there and that He loves you. As you receive the Eucharist tonight, beg the Lord to give you the evidence to believe. Tell Him straight up that you need it. Through the Risen Christ in the Eucharist, may you know that He is there and that He loves you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Holy Week at Newman Center

Here are the services offered for GW Catholics for Holy Week:

Wednesday, April 20

Eucharistic Adoration, 12:30 -10 pm

Confessions, 8-10 pm

Holy Thursday, April 21

Mass of the Lord's Supper, 6:30 pm, St Stephen's

Adoration, 9pm-12 am, Newman chapel

Christ in the Garden, 12 am - 6 am, Newman chapel

Good Friday, April 22

Living Stations of the Cross, 3 pm, St Stephen's

Confessions, 12 pm - 6 pm, Kogan Plaza

 Celebration of the Lord's Passion, 6:30, St. Stephen's

Passion of the Christ, 9 pm, Newman

Holy Saturday, April 23

Easter Vigil, 8 pm, St Stephen's

Christ is Risen!!

Easter Sunday, April 24

Masses at St Stephen's - 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm (NO 5:30 Mass)
                                      7:30 pm (student Mass), 10 pm (student Mass)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Don't take Lady Gaga seriously

Anon wrote, “As Catholics, how should we respond to this stuff Lady GaGa keeps doing? She put out a song a week before Good Friday called ‘Judas’ and it's extremely offensive. “

During our Alternative Spring Break trip, I learned that some – and maybe many – GW Catholics are big fans of Lady Gaga. We got a heavy dose of Lady Gaga during the trip. It was a good Lenten penance for me and some of the others! Not a fan.

The music sounds somewhat ok to me, but her act is a bit much. From what I’ve heard and seen from her music, I’ve found it offensive morally, of course, but also intellectually. I’ve seen this before (e.g. Madonna). This type of provocative entertainment might be new for you students, but it’s old and played to me and others who have been around a little longer (but not too much!).

Like so many modern performers, Lady Gaga has to go to great lengths to remain relevant. Even though she has a big following of fans, they will get tired of her and turn to the next big thing if she gets old. So, she has to stay fresh and provocative.

And, she has done so with her latest song, “Judas”. It comes out this week which is no coincidence. It’s been uncanny that the devil plays some kind of card during Holy Week to distract us. Last year, it was a media attack on Pope Benedict that got people talking. This year, people are talking about the warped view of Judas that Lady Gaga presents through the eyes of Mary Magdelene. One line is all you need to know about this song:

“Ohohohoh, I'm in love with Judas, Judas… Ohohohoh I'm in love with Judas, Judas”.

This is warped! Ironically, Pope Benedict gave a recent insight about Judas that is real. “His remorse turns into despair. … He shows us the wrong type of remorse: the type that is unable to hope ... Genuine remorse is marked by the certainty of hope born of faith in the superior power of the light that was made flesh in Jesus.” The real tragedy of Judas is that he could “no longer believe in forgiveness”, according to the Holy Father. Judas and Peter committed the same sin (betraying Christ), but Judas lost hope and Peter did not.

To GW Catholics who are fans of Gaga – including my buddies from ASB – I ask you to approach her music as you would approach things like horoscopes or professional wrestling: this is entertainment only. Don’t take it seriously! It’s not real!

I understand if you “just like her music”. But, be careful with her lyrics and her act just like you would be careful with horoscopes. In fact, I would suggest to take her as seriously as you would horoscopes…which means: don’t take Lady Gaga seriously.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Palm Sunday - homily

In the first youth group I served, one of the teens with whom I became good friends was a girl named Shannon. We've stayed in touch over the years and I served at her wedding. She married her high school sweetheart, Craig, when she was 24. Tragedy struck three years later; they got into a very serious car accident. Craig died at the scene and Shannon barely survived. She has made a miraculous physical recovery.

We spoke a year after the accident and she was not doing well at all, as you can imagine. She said, "the hardest thing with all of this is that I have no one to talk to who understands. There aren't many 27 year old widows". She was in such pain. I listened to her some more, and then said, "there is one person who knows what you're going through: Jesus". I then explained what the Lord said from the Cross: "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus was not forsaken or abandoned by the Father. God abandons no one. But, many people feel abandoned by God...or a parent...or a husband..or wife...or members. They feel abandoned, lonely, isolated, or rejected. Mother Teresa taught that this is the worst human pain. Jesus entered into all of that on the Cross. He united Himself to all those who feel this way. I said to Shannon, "Jesus knows what you are going through and you know what He went through. You are right there with Him on the Cross". She said it was one of two most powerful conversations she has ever had. Hopefully, it helped her in her healing process.

Christ is always one with the Father. But, when he enters into his Passion, he feels the separation from Him that some people feel. He experiences everything we do except sin. Everything, even being abandoned by God...of all things!

As we come into union with the Lord in the Eucharist tonight and as we celebrate the events of Holy Week - the events of our salvation - let us unite our suffering with Christ as He united His suffering with ours.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Palm Sunday w/ Cardinal McCarrick

Cardinal McCarrick will celebrate the Palm Sunday 7:30 pm student Mass this weekend.  All GW Catholics are invited to join the former Archbishop of Washington for Mass and pizza after Mass in the Parish Hall.

Stations of the (Part 2)

Tonight: Stations of the Cross, 5:30 pm, and Eucharistic Adoration, 6-7 pm, Newman Center chapel.

A plenary indulgence can be gained by praying the Stations of the Cross. A plenary indulgence removes all temporal punishment due to sin which, basically, means a get-out-of-Purgatory free card for someone you know who has died. So, you can send someone to Heaven tonight by praying the Stations with us and satisfying the following conditions:

"To gain a plenary indulgence you must perform the act (Stations of the Cross, e.g.) with a contrite heart, plus you must go to confession (one confession may suffice for several plenary indulgences), receive Holy Communion, and pray for the pope’s intentions. (An Our Father and a Hail Mary said for the pope’s intentions are sufficient, although you are free to substitute other prayers of your own choice.) The final condition is that you must be free from all attachment to sin, including venial sin." To view the full article from, click on today's title.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Is God Really There?" (Part 2)

Last night, Brother Hyacinth from the Dominicans led Part 2 of our discussion, “Is God Really There?” It was an enlightening and penetrating conversation with many excellent questions and comments from students. The main focus was the problem of evil: how an all-good God exists, how is there evil in the world? After the discussion, I spoke briefly with some medical students who struggle personally and professionally to answer that question. I gave some insights which seemed to help. I have addressed this question in a talk, “Why Does God Allow Suffering?”, a few times. The notes below are from my talk and are very much along the lines of what we all discussed last night.

I know this probably TMI, so just unpack a little at a time.  Look for something in these notes that helps and focus on that for now.  Then, slowly unpack other parts of what you read below.  Of course, I am available to discuss these notes with any GW Catholic indivually or any related questions to suffering with which you are struggling.

-resource – JP II (“On the Christian Meaning of Suffering”)

I. Calcutta / Jeremiah

-suffering I saw in Calcutta (2000) reminded me of Jeremiah 14
- “my eyes stream with tears… over the great destruction which overwhelms…my people…look! those slain by the sword…look! Those consumed by hunger” (14: 17-18)

- he saw the vast pains of the people of Judah due to war, famine, and drought
- he’s essentially saying to God, 'Lord, do you see this?'
- similar to the question we like to ask, ‘why does God allow suffering?’

II. Why does God allow suffering? (similar to, ‘why does God allow sin?’)

- a mystery (how an all-loving God could allow suffering in the world He created)
-we don’t claim to know full answer; just what’s been revealed

a. God’s active plan / perfect plan – He wills no suffering or death
God’s passive plan - He allows suffering and death

- God = good
- Paradise - all good

Catechism of the Catholic Church:
- original state of holiness and justice
- harmony b/w man and woman & all creation
- “as long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die” (#376)

- Wis 1:13 - “God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living

b. How did suffering enter the world? SIN (explain Orig. Sin)

- Free Will (God respects our freedom that much)
- suffering is consequence of free will / choice to sin

c. Suffering is a natural result of sin

- Jer 14: “We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you” (v.20).

- our sins or the sins of others
- diff. types of evil – moral (adultery, e.g.)
- natural (Hurricane Katrina, e.g.)
- physical (disease, e.g.)

III. Why does God allow good people to suffer?
“ innocent “ ?

1) why “ a young mother of 3 to get cancer?
2) why “ a young bride to become a widow after 3 years of marriage?
3) why “ an elderly, devout Catholic to suffer so much physically?

IV. CRUCIFIX: Why did God allow this (His own son to suffer)?
- same question as those above; (use in counseling ppl)

• Christ is ultimate innocent victim (never sinned)
• Father has infinite love for Son; not punishing Him


a. Our justification / salvation
- “he was pierced for our offenses” (Is 53:5)
- “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pt 2:24)
- “this is my body….this is my blood… shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven”

b. LOVE: sacrificial love (greatest love)
- teaches it and lives it

c. Union with poor and suffering (who are dependent on God)
- “my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
- unites with lonely, depressed, rejected, isolated

d. Bring a greater good (grace of Christ)
- “God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. As St. Paul says, ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’”  – St. Thomas Aquinas

V. (repeat) Why does God allow innocent people to suffer?

(suffering of the guilty is due to their own sin
suffering of the innocent is due to sins of others)

- be in union with His Son
- Father has infinite love for His Son
- “ for those in union with His Son

(trust, too; “Lord, I know you won’t give me more than I can handle. I just wish that you didn’t trust me so much” - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta)

If we are suffering and can’t attribute it to any sin of our own, then GOD IS NOT PUNISHING US FOR PAST SINS

- just like He wasn’t punishing Christ on the Cross


a. Join in Christ’s work of justification / salvation
- St Paul – “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church” (Col 1:24)

- ‘offer it up’ / 13 year old girl in hospital who complained about her pain until her mother told her to offer it up for others; she happily did that and didn't complain anymore

- our suffering can be salvific

b. LOVE (greatest love) / purification
- “Love is always a process involving purifications, renunciations, and painful transformations of ourselves” (PB XVI)

- “God chastises those who are close to Him” (Judith 8:27)
(He loves)

c. Union with poor and suffering
- “blessed are the poor” (dependent on, trust in God)

d. Bring greater good

- Job: returned more than he originally had


1) T. Paccassi: finding joy in her children after getting cancer
2) Woman in nursing home: Healing of family because of her redemptive suffering

VI. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta / suffering

- “the best way to imitate Christ is through suffering; those who are closest to Jesus on Earth are those who suffer the most”

a. great graces available and powerful prayers of those who suffer
- nursing home residents, sick – pray for parish, youth, specific situations

b. right there with Christ, united with Him on the Cross
- S. Walden – widow at age 27

VIII. Conclusion

What are God’s feelings about those who suffer?
- most likely, the same as Jeremiah’s.
- God’s “eyes stream with tears” seeing His children in pain. Ultimately, His answer to the question of suffering is that He sends His Son to suffer for our sake so that we might be saved / transgressions/ by his wounds we are healed (of suffering

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Christians who are homosexual are called to a chaste life"

In case some GW Catholics have been confused recently by what they have seen online or in public from other GW Catholics, the following are excerpts from a Church document approved by Pope John Paul II in 1986 that serve as a good summary of the position of the Newman Center regarding homosexuality. To view the full document, please click on today’s title.

The Newman Center would like to “provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons”; please contact me at if you are interested.


...6. Providing a basic plan for understanding this entire discussion of homosexuality is the theology of creation we find in Genesis. God, in his infinite wisdom and love, brings into existence all of reality as a reflection of his goodness. He fashions mankind, male and female, in his own image and likeness. Human beings, therefore, are nothing less than the work of God himself; and in the complementarity of the sexes, they are called to reflect the inner unity of the Creator. They do this in a striking way in their cooperation with him in the transmission of life by a mutual donation of the self to the other.

In Genesis 3, we find that this truth about persons being an image of God has been obscured by original sin. There inevitably follows a loss of awareness of the covenantal character of the union these persons had with God and with each other. The human body retains its "spousal significance" but this is now clouded by sin. Thus, in Genesis 19:1-11, the deterioration due to sin continues in the story of the men of Sodom. There can be no doubt of the moral judgement made there against homosexual relations. In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, in the course of describing the conditions necessary for belonging to the Chosen People, the author excludes from the People of God those who behave in a homosexual fashion.

Against the background of this exposition of theocratic law, an eschatological perspective is developed by St. Paul when, in I Cor 6:9, he proposes the same doctrine and lists those who behave in a homosexual fashion among those who shall not enter the Kingdom of God.

In Romans 1:18-32, still building on the moral traditions of his forebears, but in the new context of the confrontation between Christianity and the pagan society of his day, Paul uses homosexual behaviour as an example of the blindness which has overcome humankind. Instead of the original harmony between Creator and creatures, the acute distortion of idolatry has led to all kinds of moral excess. Paul is at a loss to find a clearer example of this disharmony than homosexual relations. Finally, 1 Tim. 1, in full continuity with the Biblical position, singles out those who spread wrong doctrine and in v. 10 explicitly names as sinners those who engage in homosexual acts.

7. The Church, obedient to the Lord who founded her and gave to her the sacramental life, celebrates the divine plan of the loving and live-giving union of men and women in the sacrament of marriage. It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behaviour therefore acts immorally.

To choose someone of the same sex for one's sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator's sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.

As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one's own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood.

8. Thus, the Church's teaching today is in organic continuity with the Scriptural perspective and with her own constant Tradition. Though today's world is in many ways quite new, the Christian community senses the profound and lasting bonds which join us to those generations who have gone before us, "marked with the sign of faith".

Nevertheless, increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity. Those within the Church who argue in this fashion often have close ties with those with similar views outside it. These latter groups are guided by a vision opposed to the truth about the human person, which is fully disclosed in the mystery of Christ. They reflect, even if not entirely consciously, a materialistic ideology which denies the transcendent nature of the human person as well as the supernatural vocation of every individual.

The Church's ministers must ensure that homosexual persons in their care will not be misled by this point of view, so profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church. But the risk is great and there are many who seek to create confusion regarding the Church's position, and then to use that confusion to their own advantage.

9. The movement within the Church, which takes the form of pressure groups of various names and sizes, attempts to give the impression that it represents all homosexual persons who are Catholics. As a matter of fact, its membership is by and large restricted to those who either ignore the teaching of the Church or seek somehow to undermine it. It brings together under the aegis of Catholicism homosexual persons who have no intention of abandoning their homosexual behaviour. One tactic used is to protest that any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people, their activity and lifestyle, are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination.

There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil-statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups' concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing. Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved.

The Church can never be so callous. It is true that her clear position cannot be revised by pressure from civil legislation or the trend of the moment. But she is really concerned about the many who are not represented by the pro-homosexual movement and about those who may have been tempted to believe its deceitful propaganda. She is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society's understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy.

10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

11. It has been argued that the homosexual orientation in certain cases is not the result of deliberate choice; and so the homosexual person would then have no choice but to behave in a homosexual fashion. Lacking freedom, such a person, even if engaged in homosexual activity, would not be culpable.

Here, the Church's wise moral tradition is necessary since it warns against generalizations in judging individual cases. In fact, circumstances may exist, or may have existed in the past, which would reduce or remove the culpability of the individual in a given instance; or other circumstances may increase it. What is at all costs to be avoided is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behaviour of homosexual persons is always and totally compulsive and therefore inculpable. What is essential is that the fundamental liberty which characterizes the human person and gives him his dignity be recognized as belonging to the homosexual person as well. As in every conversion from evil, the abandonment of homosexual activity will require a profound collaboration of the individual with God's liberating grace.

12. What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross. That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption. While any call to carry the cross or to understand a Christian's suffering in this way will predictably be met with bitter ridicule by some, it should be remembered that this is the way to eternal life for all who follow Christ.

It is, in effect, none other than the teaching of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians when he says that the Spirit produces in the lives of the faithful "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control" (5:22) and further (v. 24), "You cannot belong to Christ unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires."

It is easily misunderstood, however, if it is merely seen as a pointless effort at self-denial. The Cross is a denial of self, but in service to the will of God himself who makes life come from death and empowers those who trust in him to practise virtue in place of vice.

To celebrate the Paschal Mystery, it is necessary to let that Mystery become imprinted in the fabric of daily life. To refuse to sacrifice one's own will in obedience to the will of the Lord is effectively to prevent salvation. Just as the Cross was central to the expression of God's redemptive love for us in Jesus, so the conformity of the self-denial of homosexual men and women with the sacrifice of the Lord will constitute for them a source of self-giving which will save them from a way of life which constantly threatens to destroy them.

Christians who are homosexual are called, as all of us are, to a chaste life. As they dedicate their lives to understanding the nature of God's personal call to them, they will be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance more faithfully and receive the Lord's grace so freely offered there in order to convert their lives more fully to his Way…

15. We encourage the Bishops, then, to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses. No authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin.

We would heartily encourage programmes where these dangers are avoided. But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.

An authentic pastoral programme will assist homosexual persons at all levels of the spiritual life: through the sacraments, and in particular through the frequent and sincere use of the sacrament of Reconciliation, through prayer, witness, counsel and individual care. In such a way, the entire Christian community can come to recognize its own call to assist its brothers and sisters, without deluding them or isolating them.

16. From this multi-faceted approach there are numerous advantages to be gained, not the least of which is the realization that a homosexual person, as every human being, deeply needs to be nourished at many different levels simultaneously.

The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a "heterosexual" or a "homosexual" and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.

During an audience granted to the undersigned Prefect, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, approved this Letter, adopted in an ordinary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and ordered it to be published.)

Given at Rome, 1 October 1986.


Monday, April 11, 2011

5th Sunday of Lent - homily

“If you don’t get it, you don’t get it”.

We all have our morning rituals. For many of us, the snooze button plays a prominent role. A priest once said in a homily that the first voice we hear in the morning is the devil’s: “five more minutes”. My morning ritual has always been two bowls of cereal and the Washington Post sports section. Cereal is basically my coffee; anyone who has seen me before cereal knows that I’m really no good before my two bowls. And, the sports section because it is light news or fun news. I do read the front page, but it’s way too much serious stuff to process as I’m waking up. Now, the sports section is not good news because, well, Washington sports team stink! It’s fun and easy news.

I do find the rest of the paper to be sad or bad news, for the most part. It’s depressing. I wanted to bring an example of this from the Post – by the way, I am not endorsing the Post or any paper – but have found a more relevant one from this Friday’s Metro section. It’s actually being discussed around the Archdiocese this weekend. The Post has reported on a lawsuit against Catholic Charities. The Post doesn’t like the Church, so this article is no surprise. They actually misreported last year with Catholic Charities and the same-sex marriage bill, and they might be doing it again here. They posted the article online on Thursday before ever getting a comment from the Church.

So, the Post bring mostly bad news, but this Catholic paper brings much good news. The National Catholic Register reports on national and international Church-related stories, and it’s really good. This is similar to your diocesan papers back home, but it’s on a broader level. There are good and positive stories in here. For example, there was a recent article about a woman who was a big partier in college and now is a religious sister. She’s seems totally cool and normal. This is inspiring!

There is another distinction I’d like to make between these two papers in relation to today’s readings. St. Paul writes about the difference between life in the flesh and life in the spirit in Romans 8. We hear a little of it tonight in the second reading. In their world views, the Washington Post represents life in the flesh and the National Catholic Register represents life in the spirit. The two are diametrically opposed to one another. The Post is on the natural level only – secular and worldly. The Register includes the supernatural as well as the natural and it brings in things of faith and love. The Post had a slogan years ago, “if you don’t get it, you don’t get it.” If you don’t get the Post, you just don’t get it. Brilliant! Life in the flesh doesn’t get life in the spirit and vice versa. The flesh doesn’t get it about God or Christ or the Church or Resurrection or the Cross. I don’t get how some people can live their whole lives without faith. I don’t get how they can do life without faith….all of their troubles…and then all the bad news going on in the world that we read about in the paper. I don’t get how they can deal with death without resurrection.

And, then we get to the scene in the Gospel at Lazarus’ tomb. Jesus brings the life in the Spirit, but he is surrounded by people who are thinking from a life in the flesh world view. He says a few times in different ways that He will raise Lazarus. Yet, no one hears him. They hear the words he is saying, but nothing registers. They continue to focus on Lazarus being dead and how sad it is. Jesus keeps saying that this will not end in death, but no one gets it. This leads Him to get “perturbed”. It’s not too often at all that we hear Jesus getting perturbed in the Gospels. He becomes deeply troubled that no one hears his talk about Lazarus rising that it leads Him to weep. Now, this would be like me talking about the Eucharist and no one here is listening. I say to you over and over again that the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ and that we need the Eucharist to have life. Imagine if people left here, saying, ‘it’s just a symbol’ or ‘I don’t need the Eucharist’. This would greatly distress me. This does distress me greatly because it does happen. People stay away from Mass here for months. By the way, Jesus basically says in John 6, if you don’t get it (the Eucharist), you don’t get it (Heaven).

Please help me to bring people to Jesus so that they get it. Keep bringing them to Mass and to the Eucharist. Help them to get it that all of this stuff is real and important and primary in their lives. Help them to get it about Christ: that He is the resurrection and the life. He is life and life is Christ Jesus! What I am talking about now is the New Evangelization. If you were here in the fall when Archbishop Wuerl celebrated Mass at GW, you remember him speaking much about the New Evangelization – about bringing people to Christ. Well, he has been bragging about you ever since. Apparently, he saw the best example of the New Evangelization that he has seen because he talks about you every time. I’m not making this up. He came here for Mass with a big crowd of students, then went downstairs for pizza and was thoroughly impresses with the crowd and spirit. He asked one student how all this is happening, and the student said, “Father Greg told us to bring people to Jesus, so that’s what we have done”. Cardinal Wuerl has told that story so much that his secretary – a priest who is a friend of mine – is sick of hearing it!

So, keep up the great work! Keep bringing people to Christ so that they get it….so that they get just what they are looking for – His love…His life….happiness…Heaven on earth.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Stations of the Cross (part 1)

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

A plenary indulgence can be gained by praying the Stations of the Cross. A plenary indulgence removes all temporal punishment due to sin which, basically, means a get-out-of-Purgatory free card for someone you know who has died.  So, you can send someone to Heaven tonight by praying the Stations with us and satisfying the following conditions:

"To gain a plenary indulgence you must perform the act (Stations of the Cross, e.g.) with a contrite heart, plus you must go to confession (one confession may suffice for several plenary indulgences), receive Holy Communion, and pray for the pope’s intentions. (An Our Father and a Hail Mary said for the pope’s intentions are sufficient, although you are free to substitute other prayers of your own choice.) The final condition is that you must be free from all attachment to sin, including venial sin."  To view the full article from, click on today's title. 
2) Sunday: Chipotle in Parish Hall after 7:30 pm student Mass, St. Stephen's.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Learn from Confession this Lent (part 2)

Confessions tonight, 8-10 pm, top floor, Newman Center.  "Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20).

Yesterday, I posted an address from Pope Benedict XVI about the pedagogical value of the Sacrament of Confession.  I wanted to unpack it a little bit, mainly with what Confession has taught me as a priest.  "How much the priest can learn from exemplary penitents" is an insight of the Holy Father's with which I wholeheartedly agree.  Teaching the confessor is one of the last things on the mind of a penitent, I would imagine.  And yet, it happens every single time.  I learn something from every person coming to the Sacrament.  From people who come regularly, I learn about perseverance and faithfulness.  From people who haven't come for many years, I learn about courage and trust.  From people who come in the midst of tremendous suffering, I learn about deep union and friendship with Christ.

I went to Confession sometime ago to a priest friend of mine.  I confessed my sins, and the first thing he said was, "thank you for coming to Confession".  Now, before you think that he was saying this because my sins were so huge and he was expressing relief (!), know that it was a very gentle but potent statement.  It wasn't strong in that it confirmed that, "oh, I'm so great because I am coming to Confession".  It was powerful because here was the priest, after I had just handed him all of my dirty laundry, saying, "thank you".  And, he was completely sincere.  It was like the Lord saying, "thank you for bringing this to me." 

I have repeated that phrase to many a penitent since then.  It is on behalf of Christ that I thank them.  But, it is also from what I personally have received from them.  It's kind of like, "thank you for coming here and teaching me".  GW Catholics have taught me a lot in Confession! Certainly, there have been many specific insights into sin and the moral life that students have offered, almost inadvertantly, in Confession.  And, they have made connections between Scripture, the teachings of the Church, or the lives of the saints that apply to their lives in college that I never considered.   But, more than anything, it's been the witness of GW Catholics that has educated me the most....the witness to virtues like humility and docility.  While so many college students are absorbed in doing things their own way, many of our students are concerned with doing things Christ's way.  How edifying!

Recently, I have spoke with some students who have major personal problems with which they are dealing -  major stuff involving serious sins commited against them, sometimes going back many years.  They have come to me to discuss this and to see what they can do.  The focus of my message: forgiveness.  Forgiveness, as challenging and grueling as it might be, is the right thing to do.  And, it brings true healing.  Students (or Catholics in general) who frequent the sacrament of Confession are more open to this, at least initially, than those who don't.  Why?  Because a frequent confession leads us to more readily forgive others.  If we go regularly to God and humbly ask His forgiveness, then we acknowledge our own sinfulness and need for God's mercy.  We see ourselves as sinners, just like anyone else who has sinned against us.  If God regularly forgives us (seventy times seven times), then we are more apt to forgive others regularly.  Similarly, if God has forgiven our mortal sins, then we are more apt to forgive the mortal sins of others.  So, one of the biggest things that Confession teaches us is to forgive others!

Every GW Catholic should go to Confession at least once during Lent.  Take me up on my offer to come anytime (24/7).  It's an offer to reconcile with God and the Church.  It's an offer to receive God's infiinite love and mercy.  It's an offer to hand your dirty laundry to Christ and cleanse your soul.  It's an offer to learn more about God and yourself.  And, as you can see, it's an offer to teach me or any confessor about Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Learn from Confession this Lent (Part 1)

Papal Address on Sacrament of Reconciliation

"How Many Conversions ... Began in a Confessional"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2011 ( Here (are excerpts from) a L'Osservatore Romano translation of Benedict XVI's March 25 address to participants in a course on the internal forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary. (Italics added; to view the full address, click on today’s title)

* * *

Dear Friends,

…I would like to reflect with you on an aspect not sufficiently thought about but which is of great spiritual and pastoral importance: the pedagogical (teaching) value of Sacramental Confession.

Although it is true that it is always necessary to safeguard the objectivity of the effects of the sacrament and its correct celebration in accordance with the norms of the Rite of Penance, it is not out of place to reflect on how much it can educate the faith of both the minister and the penitent. The faithful and generous availability of priests to hear confessions - after the example of the great saints of the past from St John Mary Vianney to St John Bosco, from St Josemaría Escrivá to St Pius of Pietrelcina, from St Joseph Cafasso to St Leopold Mandi - shows all of us that the confessional may be a real "place" of sanctification.

How does the sacrament of Penance educate? In what sense does its celebration have pedagogical value, especially for ministers? We may start by recognizing that the mission of priests is a unique and privileged observation point, from which it is daily granted to contemplate the splendour of divine Mercy. How often in celebrating the sacrament of Penance the priest witnesses real miracles of conversion which, in renewing "the encounter with an event, a person" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 1), reinforces his own faith! Basically, hearing confession means witnessing as many professiones fidei as there are penitents, and contemplating the merciful God's action in history, feeling tangibly the saving effects of the Cross and of the Resurrection of Christ, in every epoch and for every person.

We are often faced with true and proper existential and spiritual dramas that find no answer in human words but are embraced and taken up by divine Love, which pardons and transforms: "though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (Is 1:18).

If, on the one hand knowing and, in a certain way, visiting the depths of the human heart, even its darkest aspects, tests the humanity and the faith of the priest himself, on the other, it fosters within him the certainty that it is God who has the last word over human evil and history, it is his Mercy which can make all things new (cf. Rev 21:5).

Then, how much the priest can learn from exemplary penitents: through their spiritual life, the seriousness with which they carry out their examination of conscience, the transparency with which they admit their sins and their docility to the Church's teaching and to the confessor's instructions.

From the administration of the sacrament of Penance we may draw profound lessons of humility and faith! It is a very strong appeal to each priest for knowledge of his own identity. We will never be able to hear the confessions of our brothers and sisters solely by virtue of our humanity! If they approach us, it is only because we are priests, configured to Christ the Eternal High Priest, and enabled to act in his Name and in his Person, to make God who forgives, renews and transforms, truly present. The celebration of the sacrament of Penance has a pedagogical value for the priest, as regards his faith, as well as the truth and poverty of his person, and nourishes within him an awareness of the sacramental identity.

What is the pedagogical value of the sacrament of Penance for penitents? We should state beforehand that first and foremost it depends on the action of Grace and on the objective effect on the soul of the member of the faithful. Of course, sacramental Reconciliation is one of the moments in which personal freedom and an awareness of self need to be expressed particularly clearly. It is perhaps also for this reason, in an epoch of relativism and of the consequent attenuated awareness of one's being, that this sacramental practice is also weakened.

Examination of conscience has an important pedagogical value. It teaches us how to look squarely at our life, to compare it with the truth of the Gospel and to evaluate it with parameters that are not only human but are also borrowed from divine Revelation. Comparison with the Commandments, with the Beatitudes and, especially, with the Precept of love, constitutes the first great "school of penance".

In our time, marked by noise, distraction and loneliness, the penitent's conversation with the confessor can be one of the few - if not the only - opportunities to be truly heard in depth.

Dear priests, do not neglect to allow enough room for the exercise of the ministry of Penance in the confessional: to be welcomed and heard is also a human sign of God's welcoming kindness to his children. Moreover the integral confession of sins teaches the penitent humility, recognition of his or her own frailty and, at the same time, an awareness of the need for God's forgiveness and the trust that divine Grace can transform his life. Likewise, listening to the confessor's recommendations and advice is important for judging actions, for the spiritual journey and for the inner healing of the penitent

Monday, April 04, 2011

4th Sunday of Lent - homily

Years ago when I was out of the seminary, I lived in a parish in Maryland. A priest from the parish who is a good friend of mine asked me to give a talk on chastity to his men’s group. It was their first meeting; he was hoping for 5 or 6 guys. I told him yes and asked what day and time. He said it was that Saturday morning at 7:30. I replied, “7:30? Isn’t that a little early? Ok, I’ll do it”. So, I drove up that Saturday morning and there were tons of cars in the parking lot. I was thinking, ‘what else is going on at this parish at 7:30 in the morning?’ I walked in to the meeting room – there were 75 men there! I couldn’t believe it and neither could the priest. So, I gave my talk on chastity. I was very direct and specific about the struggles that men have in living sexual purity. The guys who ranged in age from 15 to 70 had their jaws on the ground. They couldn’t believe that we were discussing these things and that they were not alone in their struggle. This group was so good for them to get stuff out into the open; to bring what was in darkness to the light.

When I was at my last parish, several women came to me for spiritual direction or guidance or advice. Almost all of them were in very tough marriages. A couple of them were being verbally abused every day by their husbands and sometimes physically abused. I told them a few times to get out for their safety and the safety of their kids. But, they stayed, mainly thinking that was better for their kids. I decided to get them together for a woman’s prayer group. We met once a month, and just like the men’s group, it was very helpful and healing for them. It was so good to talk to others about their darkness and to hear from the other women.

There was one who was not happy with these two groups: the devil. He doesn’t want us talking about our darkness…our sin…our problems. He wants us to keep them in private and in secret…keep them swept under the rug. He knows that if we remain in darkness, we will die. Picture a greenhouse that has no light coming in. The plants will die! It’s not just that they won’t grow, they will die. So, it is with our souls – if we remain in darkness, our souls will die along with our spirits and our hopes. This is what the devil wants. He doesn’t want our “acts of darkness…exposed by the light”, as St. Paul writes in tonight’s second reading. He doesn’t want us to bring our darkness to the light which is Christ. He doesn’t want us going to prayer groups or discussion groups or FOCUS Bible studies. He certainly does not want us going to Confession. All of these are ways to bring our darkness to Christ. “The light (Christ) produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth”.

Each one of us either has our own significant acts of darkness or is dealing with them from others. We might be inclined to ask, “why?” For our own acts of darkness, we might ask, ‘why do I keep choosing to do this?’ or ‘why is this in my life?’ In dealing with darkness in general, we might ask, ‘Why is God allowing this to happen?’ The Lord gives a poignant answer to all of these questions in the long form of today’s Gospel. The disciples ask Him if the man is born blind because of his sin or because of his parents’ sin. Basically, they are asking, ‘why is he this way?’ “Jesus answered, ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him”. So that the works of God may be made visible through him. The works of God are made visible through the blind man and in a big way. His blindness is cured and he can see! God works a miracle before him and so many others. This work of God led the man to believe in Jesus…hopefully led others who witnessed it as well. The man believed because he witnessed a work of God. He knew he didn’t do it. It was the power of God made visible through him.

It happens in the same way with us. When we bring the darkness we are dealing with to the light, big things can happen….the works of God can be made visible through us. When an alcoholic starts living sobriety, it is the work of God. When a frequent pornographer and masturbator starts living chastity, it is the work of God. When persons in same-sex relationships start living chaste celibacy, it is the work of God. When an abused woman brings her darkness to the light, it is the work of God. These people don’t have the power to do these huge things on their own. This is what the blind man realized, and this is what we realize when it happens to us. God allows acts of darkness so that His power will be made visible through us when we bring them to the light.

Finally, spiritual darkness. Some of the saints have experienced this on a deep level; it’s called the “dark night of the soul”. But, for many people, spiritual darkness means coming to Mass and feeling nothing. Some of you might come to Eucharistic Adoration or Confession and nothing happens internally. Now, folks, it’s not about feelings. We don’t come here to get a particular feeling; we come here to worship God. But, if this is what’s going on with you, I ask you to keep coming to the light. Keep coming to the light, and I promise you, God will make His light and presence visible to you in some way. Keep coming to the light so that God’s works may be made visible through you, especially His works of love and mercy during Lent.

Saturday, April 02, 2011


Yesterday's post was an April Fool.  I was surprised how many people were fooled by it.  To several students here at the Newman Center and a few bloggers who emailed or texted I said throughout the day, "Gotcha!"

The best was with Amy.  I had left a message on the Newman Center's voice mail in the morning, disguising my voice as someone from the Archdiocese.  The message confirmed that she and I would be going to American U.  She was running errands all day and didn't get the message until late afternoon.  By then, everyone knew about the blog post, and so they were in on fooling Amy.  They led her to listen to the voice mail to which she had a panicked reaction.  She came to see me immediately. 

She told me what the message said, and asked, "are we moving?"  By then, her face was beat red, and it was time to bring this to a close.  I said, "yes, but we have to keep in mind what today is."  "April first", she said, thinking that it gives us three months to get ready for the move.  "Yes, April first....April Fools!"

Here's the video of her reaction.

Friday, April 01, 2011

GW-AU Newman Center swap

Lenten practices, tonight:  1) Stations of the Cross, 5:30 pm, and 2) Eucharistic Adoration, 6-7 pm, Newman Center chapel, 3) Chipotle burritos, 7 pm ("Jesus and Burritos").

I had just started telling people that if I make it past July 1 (and start my third year), I will have been here longer than any chaplain in the past ten years.  But, then, a call from the higher-ups has come this week.  Apparently, they want to do a swap between the chaplains and campus ministers at GW and American University.  This is very preliminary, and I'll find out more details soon.  But, it looks like July 1 is when this will happen. This is all very raw, and there's not much for me to say right now. Just wanted to get this to you asap... today.. April 1.