Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blessed John Paul II Seminary video

Please check out the following video from the Archdiocese of Washington on its new seminary, Blessed John Paul II.  Shout-out to Andrew Buonopane, GWU '11, who is one of the seminarians at the new house!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Religious map of the U.S.

A friend sent me a map which gives the percentage of Christians and all faiths in each state.  Very cool.  Click on today's title for the map and see the different religions by state and elsewhere by holding cursor over a state.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Homily - 1st Sunday of Advent

Please click on today's title for Sunday's homily.  Once in the GW Catholics site, you might have to click on the smaller homily title twice

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Homily - Solemnity of Christ the King

Earlier this week, I was watching a news talk show. A senator from the "Super Committee" was asked what he really wanted in the whole budget and deficit discussion. He said, "If I was king", and then listed a bunch of things he would do. We see that a king has absolute power and authority in his nation. If he deems X, Y, and Z to be right and just, then X, Y, and Z happen. That's the kind of power a king has.

When we come to this feast of Christ the King, we understand that Christ is the king of not just one nation, but all nations! He is the King of the Universe. He has power over all things..."every sovereignty and every authority and power". That's the kind of power that Christ the King has.

If we look at the life of Christ, there is one event that shows us that he has power over all things. I was just talking with students about this on a few different occasions this past week. It is the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ shows us that he has power over all things...even death. His body had died...and came back to life! He conquered death! No one else in history has had power over death. Christ wins victory over all things!

If we look at the news on the TV or Internet, we might wonder if Christ is really winning. It would seem that death is winning over life. We who defend the culture of life might be asking when do we see victory of the culture of death. When, Lord? It may not be until the end times. The story (of life) ends with good winning over evil. That, we know. We hear this in today's second reading. At the end of the world, the Final Judgment, Christ will "put all his enemies under his feet". He will give back to the Father all that the Father gave him in ruling as King of the Universe.

In our own lives, Christ has power over all things. Many of you students are stressing about going home this week for Thanksgiving...going home to problems in the family, with friends or ex's, etc. Turn to Christ the King and believe in his power. Years ago, just before I was ordained a deacon, we had some bad stuff going on in my (extended) family. During the ordination, I prayed really hard for peace and reconciliation in my family. It was heavy duty stuff going on, so I implored heavy duty Grace. Within a week, there was peace and reconciliation in my family.

He has power over all things and situations! He can win victory over fear, resentments, hatred, sinful habits, whatever. Pray to Christ the King on your flight home or on your way to Thanksgiving dinner for him to help you. Pray that he will bring you victory and that good will win over evil in your lives.

Finally, this Thursday we will give thanks as a country. Every day should be Thanksgiving Day! Studies show that people who give thanks regularly are the happiest and healthiest people in the world. When we come to Mass, we give thanks to God. The word "Eucharist" literally means "thanksgiving". We give thanks for all our blessings, especially the Eucharist and Christ's death on the Cross for us. May each one of give thanks a few times a day, not just on Thursday, but every day this week for all the blessings God has bestowed upon us.

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Sexual Healing"

Check...this...out.  A great video! Thanks for the two students who recommended it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"God is like..."

A friend sent me the following.  It reveals how some fifth graders can creatively express what God is like with the help of common products and companies.  It's a great point to consider: in promoting the good qualities of their products, marketers and advertizers are tapping into the things of God (on a wide but basic level).  Brilliant, kids!

A fifth grade teacher in a Christian school asked her class to look at TV commercials and see if they could use them in 20 ways to communicate ideas about God.

Here are some of the results: scroll down.

God is like. . .
He works miracles.

God is like. . .
He's got a better idea.

God is like. . .
He's the real thing.

God is like. . .
He cares enough to send His very best.

God is like. . .
He gets the stains out others leave behind.

God is like. . .
He brings good things to life.

God is like. . .
He has everything.

God is like. . .
Try Him, you'll like Him

God is like. . .
You can't see Him, but you know He's there.

God is like. . .
He's ready when you are.

God is like. . .
You're in good hands with Him.

God is like. . .
He holds through all kinds of weather.

God is like. . .
Aren't you glad you have Him? Don't you wish everybody did?

God is like. . ..
Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet nor ice will keep Him from His appointed destination.

God is like. . .
The heart beat of America.

God is like. . .
Good to the very last drop.

God is like. . .
He is the quicker picker upper. . .Can handle the tough jobs. . .
And He won't fall apart on you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Homily - 33rd Sunday

Please click on today's title for Sunday's homily.  Once in the GW Catholics site, you might have to click on the smaller homily title twice.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thoughts on Penn State

The first thing to say about the news coming out of Penn State University this week is that we don’t know for sure what happened. All that we have been hearing has been surrounding allegations that have not been proven in a court of law. But, those at the university who are looking at the evidence and testimony to this point are making decisions which point to the allegations being true. There has to be much credible evidence to them that something seriously wrong did, in fact, occur in order for them to fire the university president as well as the long-time, legendary football coach, Joe Paterno. Anyone who knows how important Paterno is to Penn State knows that this is a knockout punch to the football program and maybe to the university itself. So, we can deduce from the decisions of the university’s board of trustees that the evidence points to the allegations being true.

If what we have been hearing is true, then the first thoughts are with the children (now young adults) who were victims of attacks by a pedophile. It’s unspeakable and unthinkable what they have gone through. Many of the heinous and criminal acts go back several years when the kids were very young. They had serious wounds inflicted upon them for which they have tried to find healing. These wounds have now been reopened with all of the public attention in the past week. And, new developments, statements, actions, and future trials might bring new wounds. Our deep, deep desire is that each and every victim of these and other sexual abuses finds some healing…some light in their darkness. We pray that they find healing.

One of the most pressing questions in all of this is how did nine years (or longer) go by without anyone doing anything about this? My guess at the main answer: pride. St. Augustine once said that, “pride is the root of all sin”, and I believe it. Pride in Penn State football and pride in Joe Paterno – they have become one and the same – is the only explanation, really, for how this can happen. In normal circumstances, there is nothing wrong in taking pride in a sports team, coach, or player. For example, I am proud to be a fan of the Washington Redskins (even though we STINK!). But, pride in college football teams runs deeper than most sports team, especially at Penn State. And, if the same man is coach at a very proud program like Penn State for 46 years and achieves much success, then there will be deep pride in him. This week, many people have described the situation at Penn State as a “cult”. Of course, he can become very proud in his own mind. While I wouldn’t say that Joe Pa is a proud man in general, it appears that his pride blinded him from doing what was right in regard to the sex abuse. Pride in him blinded others in the same way. This might have all been about him from the start. In other words, they were all thinking that if the charges against one of his coaches became public, what would happen to Joe and his legacy? They might have been thinking what would happen to Penn State, but, again, I think that Joe Paterno and PSU became one and the same.

One more thought from all of this is about the morality of our society on sexuality. It’s been intriguing to see how our relativistic society agrees with our Truth-filled Church on one aspect of sex: it’s good in some situations and bad in others. The difference is that society has reduced the amount of sinful sexual acts to almost nothing while the Church has maintained her view (any sexual acts outside of marriage are immoral). So, when society condemns a sexual act like abuse and actually shows an intolerance for evil, it is profound. I have heard the words “moral” and “immoral” on the TV more in the past week than in the past year(s). I just wonder, though: has tolerance of immoral sexual acts and opposition to moral absolutes by our society contributed to the sex scandals of our times?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Homily - 32nd Sunday

Please click on today's title for Sunday's homily.  Once in the GW Catholics site, you might have to click on the smaller homily title twice.

Friday, November 04, 2011

"Jesus of Nazareth, Stand-Up Comic?"

A student sent me the following article on written by Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, culture editor of America magazine, and author of “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life“ (HarperOne). It’s pretty good in offering a different side of the Gospel stories and parables. Whether or not every example is true that Jesus was being funny or ironic, the point that we have being trying to make on different occasions is made: God does have a sense of humor (He’s the one who gives us our senses of humor!):

"Jesus of Nazareth, Stand-Up Comic?"

Was Jesus the Jerry Seinfeld of his day? Not really. His ministry on earth—to announce the Kingdom of God—was more important than being a stand-up comic or poking fun at surly soup vendors. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

On the other hand, the prevailing image of Jesus as the grumpy, dour, depressed prude who spent most of his life suffering is inaccurate. When you look carefully at the Gospels, you find a man with an obvious joie de vivre, a preacher who told funny stories to make a point, a leader who gave his disciples nicknames and a former carpenter who enjoyed a good joke.

So why do we often think of Jesus as gloomy, and why do all those statues, paintings and mosaics portray him as downcast? For one thing, it’s a reflection of the historical emphasis on the Passion and Death of Jesus. For the early Christians, the fact that Jesus was arrested, tried, tortured and crucified was appalling and confusing. So the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) took care to explain this period of Jesus’s life, at great length, to help the early Christians make sense of what transpired before the Resurrection. But as a result, those passages tended to dominate the rest of the Gospels.

Think of it this way: the time from the Last Supper to the Crucifixion represent only about a week in Jesus’s life. Most of the rest of his ministry—which lasted from one to three years–was often spent doing joyful things: sharing meals with disciples, welcoming those on the margins of society, healing the sick and preaching the “Good News.” Along the way, he showed some good humor.

Where? Well, we may not notice it because we’re too removed from it—culturally and temporally. In Jesus’s time, for example, his parables were probably not seen as just clever but, as Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., professor of New Testament of Boston College told me, “hilarious.” For people in first-century Palestine, the idea that someone with a plank of wood in his own eye would critique someone with a speck of dust in his was probably laugh-out-loud funny. “The parables were amusing in their exaggeration and hyperbole,” said Amy-Jill Levine, professor of New Testament at Vanderbilt.

Some of Jesus’s parables are ridiculous in their exaggeration. Take the story of a rich man who gives to his servants several “talents” to keep while he is away. Some of the servants invest wisely; one not at all. It’s usually seen as a serious story about the proper use of one’s gifts in life. But we may overlook the fact that a “talent” represented 15 years of wages. And to one servant the rich man gives five—the equivalent of 75 years of wages–a ridiculous amount, which would have made listeners smile. “Jesus’s parables are witty in their surprise,” said Professor Harold Attridge of the Yale Divinity School. Elsewhere Jesus bestows on the disciple Simon a new name: “Peter” or “Rock.” While most understand this as Jesus designating Peter as the foundation of the church (which he is) another possibility is offered. Peter (Cephas, or stone, in Greek) may also refer to the character of the tough fisherman—angular, sharp, hard-edged. In other words, it functions as a nickname: “Rocky.” And when the mother of James and John, two disciples, bossily ask whether her two sons will sit at Jesus’s right hand in heaven, he demurs. Later on he gives James and John a nickname: “Boanerges,” or “Sons of Thunder.” Is this a comment on their brashness, or perhaps even, as one scholar suggested to me recently, a playful way of referring to their strong-willed mother?

There are more overt signs of Jesus’s appreciation of a sense of humor. My favorite is the story of Nathaniel in the Gospel of John. When he hears that Jesus is from Nazareth he says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” It’s a dig at Jesus’s hometown, which was seen as a backwater. What does Jesus say in response? You would expect the grumpy Jesus to castigate Nathaniel. But he does the opposite. Jesus says, “Here is an Israelite without guile.” In other words, here’s a guy I can trust! And Nathaniel joins the apostles. It’s an indication of Jesus’s appreciation of a sense of humor.

Christians believe that Jesus was “fully human and fully divine.” And being fully human means having a sense of humor. So let’s balance things out a bit and think not only about the “Man of Sorrows” but also the “Man of Joy.”

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Catholic Church on Divorce

There has been much talk online and at the Newman Center about divorce because of a much publicized celebrity divorce of the past week.  I found a good online tract on divorce from the Archdiocese of Denver which is below.  Please click on today's title to view the article in full.

The Teaching of the Catholic Church on Divorce

Among Catholics, one of the most sensitive and often-avoided topics is the stinging reality of divorce and its consequences. While there must be a pastoral response to assist those parties who seek counseling when their failed marriage ends in divorce, one must never compromise the truth of Christ’s teachings for the sake of the pastoral response. The words and teachings of Jesus Christ on divorce are clear, and it is the responsibility of the Church and its pastors to safeguard, proclaim, and defend them. Let us, therefore, turn our attention to the words of Christ Himself recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:

“And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one”? So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’ He said to them, ‘For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.’" [1]

These words sound like a great judgment upon a civilization such as ours, where there is one divorce for every two marriages and many consequent re-marriages after such divorces. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, in his radio series “Life Is Worth Living,” eloquently shows how this teaching is not just for Catholics and other Christians. Divorces, he says, go against everything man and woman were created to be.

“They are, indeed, especially wrong for Catholics,” he said. “But they are a violation of the law of God, the Natural Law of God, for everyone, whether he be Tibetan or Moslem, or a so-called Christian. Original Sin and the Deluge did not block out the divinely established order of man and woman. Conjugal love conquered both the deluge and Original Sin and survived both.”

In our article on the theology of the sacrament of marriage, we saw how humanity is part of both a natural order and a supernatural order. Because marriage is a union made by God, it is unbreakable. The Church teaches that the man and woman, who commit the rest of their lives to each other, truly become one. This is the way God intended marriage, and it is important to remember that marriage was instituted by God, not by man. When reflecting on divorce, you must ask yourself whose rules you are playing by when you agree to marry. “Certainly there are judges who will grant divorces, but how does God look upon them?” Archbishop Sheen says. “After the divorce, they are not two separate individuals as they are before the marriage. They are fragments of a joint personality, like a babe who has been cut in two. That is the way God looks upon any divorce, regardless of who the person be.”

One of the great tragedies in our modern culture is that the family is under attack from all sides. Countless movies, television shows and song lyrics depict single-parent families or do not include the parents at all. Commitment is replaced by a distorted notion of love where it is seen as OK to leave a relationship if it’s “not working out.” After all, they say, you only live once and you deserve to be happy. But the true fallout is rarely shown. Despite the reason for any divorce, the impact is almost always traumatic on all parties involved, especially children. In his concluding catechetical talk on the theology of the body on April 8, 1981, Pope John Paul II did not hesitate to use the phrase “plague of divorce” to emphasize the gravity of such an attack on the dignity of marriage.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church Defines Divorce

Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other until death. Sacramental marriage is the sign of the covenant of salvation, to which divorce does incredible injury. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery. If a husband, separated from his wife, becomes involved with another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery; and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another's husband to herself. [2]

Furthermore, the Catechism states that divorce is immoral because “it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.” [3]

But do we really believe that? Do we believe instead that the Church is “out of touch” with relationships and needs to “get with it?” The mentality of civil society challenges the divinely revealed truth that a valid marriage is an indissoluble union between a man and a woman. The Church responds by saying: “The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble. He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law. Between the baptized, ‘a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.’” [4]

Innocent Parties

The Church is also fully aware that there are innocent parties who may be “the victim” of divorce by their spouse. Such spouses are unjustly abandoned and suffer the consequences of a civil divorce and the spiritual and psychological consequences accompanying a failed marriage. Many are concerned in their consciences whether their divorces which have been forced unjustly upon them constitute a gravely sinful act. The Church responds:

“…This spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.” [5]

All Decisions Have Consequences

All decisions have consequences, and divorce is no exception. Divorce is not wrong for Catholics only, but Catholics who are divorced have deeper spiritual consequences surpassing the civil responsibilities following civil divorce. It is critical for all who have undergone a civil divorce to understand that the Church still recognizes the validity of a marriage, even if it is a dissolved union at the civil level; for marriage is first and foremost a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman. The words of Jesus Christ, echoed in the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, remain unambiguous:

“Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ—‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery’ [6]--the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence. [7]

“The remarriage of persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse contravenes the plan and law of God as taught by Christ. They are not separated from the Church, but they cannot receive Eucharistic communion. They will lead Christian lives especially by educating their children in the faith .” [8]

The Church teaches that the separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases. The Catechism states: “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.” [9]

Showing Sensitivity to the Divorced

In The Catechism of the Catholic Church (n.1651), the Church stresses that the community of the faithful should exercise a sensitivity to the divorced through works of charity.

Toward Christians who live in this situation, and who often keep the faith and desire to bring up their children in a Christian manner, priests and the whole community must manifest an attentive solicitude, so that they do not consider themselves separated from the Church, in whose life they can and must participate as baptized persons:

They should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts for justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace. [10]