Friday, March 30, 2012

The beauty of marriage (Part 1)

On Wednesday night, we had another "Theology on Tap" at Tonic.  This was our third time doing it and got another decent showing.  The groups have been excellent - really into the topics and asking penetrating questions.  They seemed especially grateful for Wednesday's discussion on marriage.  Basically, I told some stories from weddings I have officiated, laid out my marriage preparation program, and went through some excerpts from a talk I give to engaged couples, "The Beauty of Marriage".  After all that, I opened it up for questions.  Interestingly, there was only one or two questions about annulments (that usually dominates when talking about the sacrament of Holy Matrimony), none on divorce, and a few on same-sex marriage.  One general point for those who were there (and for all of us) for that intense part of the discussion:  God has said that same-sex relations are sinful, and every sin is hurtful.  So, it is an act of love to defend the Church's teaching about same-sex relationships.

I started the talk with a few stories.  One time, I officiated a wedding in Philadelphia.  At the rehearsal dinner, I was asked to bless the food.  After the blessing, I yelled out to the room of about 80 Philadelphia Eagles fans, "Go Redskins!"  A moment of stunned silence ensued.  Then, a loud chorus of boos..!  In my homily at another wedding, I told the story of how the couple met: at a bar, the groom was filled with "liquid courage" and told the bride that she was the "most beauuuutiful the whoooole world".  I embelished the way he said it, of course, and included a slurring of some words.  Apparently, in telling the story and to the extent that I did, I stole half of the best's toast at the wedding reception!  One time, I started a wedding without the bride.   She was taking forever in the vestibule, and we were on a limited schedule.  So, when I walked into the Church ready to start, she immediately began to process down the aisle.  She joined the groom and me, and I said, "thanks for coming". 

I told one last story which led into a serious point that I would hit later.  One couple who came for marriage prep was extraordinary ignorant about their Catholic faith.  Some of our discussions were painful because they were so clueless.  But, they were like sponges during the whole process..they soaked up everything I said and taught.  So, at their rehearsal dinner, one of the bridesmaids made the comment, "yeah, so, (the bride) told me what you talked about with them, that contraception prevents not only procreation, but union.  I totally agree".  I  could...not...believe it. Wow, awesome, Lord!

I explained my marriage prep program: six meetings with couples.  In the first meeting, I interview each and do the prenuptial questionnaire from the Archdiocese which includes many canonical questions (mainly that each is free to marry the other) while the other takes a survey called "Foccus".  In the next meeting, we review the results of the survery, and the couple is usually crushed to know that they are not as compatible as they thought.  Normally, though, it just reveals all the things that they have not discussed.  And, need to discuss!  In the next meetings, I lead discussions on God's Plan / marriage as vocation and living holiness in marriage, communication / prayer, the good news about sex (a talk I give in the setting of Eucharistic Adoration), the "beauty of marriage", and planning the wedding liturgy.  They also have to attend a "Pre Cana" weekend with the Archdiocese with other couples to go over a lot of this same stuff but also to learn much about Natural Family Planning.  My program is pretty intense and thorough, but it's out of love for marriage and for the couple that I demand six meetings and discuss all these important things.  It's worth it!!

Next week in Part 2, I will post the notes from my talk, "The Beauty of Marriage", most of which I presented on Wednesday night.  To be continued...


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

5th Sunday of Lent - homily

We've had a few problems recently uploading my Sunday homilies; for whatever reason, our website podcasts weren't playing them in full length.  Thanks to Michael Russo and Dave Bentz, though, I think we have the problem fixed. 

Please click on today's title to go into our website and click on the "play" button by the podcast.  We will try to upload my homilies from recent weeks on the site, too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

3-year-old Padre-to-be?

Please pray for all GW Catholics who are discerning a religious vocation.  Currently, it's a few women and a handful of men.  For many of our women, the past year or two has been the first time they have seen or been exposed to religious sisters.  Two Servants of the Lord come to our Tuesday dinners every week and have a blast with us; we serve with the Missionaries of Charity once a month; and, some of our girls have taken an interest in checking out the Sisters of Life.  Most of our active women are freshmen and sophomores, so it is still early in their discernment.  But, they quickly laugh off the idea of becoming a nun when I propose it casually.  They all say they want to have children.  (they eventually get around to saying they want a husband...!).  Ladies, this is a beautiful desire, of course, but every religious sister has the same desire! Jesus has asked them to sacrifice that desire for the sake of the kingdom (Mt 19:12).  He might be asking the same of you, who knows.  Just, please be open to whatever His Will is for you.  You are sooo good and beautiful.

It has been an interesting experience working with our men in discernment this year.  Several of them have shown the signs of being called to priesthood and/or interest in being a priest.  They are seniors, grad students, and alumni who could enter seminary this fall if it was God's Will.  These are good men!  I have had friends, family, vocations, societies, cloistered nuns, and even Cardinal Wuerl praying for these men. While only one of them is seriously considering entering seminary in the near future, just about all of them have shown signs of growth in holiness and discerning their vocation.  I believe that more than one of them is called to be a priest, so hopefully those who are called will hear God's voice and respond....sooner than later.

Just recently, a few other male juniors and sophomores have shown serious signs that they are called to and/or are interested in the priesthood.  Right now, they are simply living out their Call to Holiness (which Vatican II said we all have!) which is extraordinary to witness.  We are having a men's discernment dinner this Thursday.  Two of last year's stars at the Newman Center and current seminarians, Andrew Buonopane and John Sollee, will be speaking to the guys about their journeys to the seminary as well as life in the seminary.  Please pray that it is a fruitful night for our men.

One thing that Andrew and John might say on Thursday, which is true of most seminarians and priests, is that they practiced saying Mass in their homes at some point growing up.  I know I did.  You might have heard about this before.  But, I imagine you have never seen a video of it, and certainly not of a 3 year old doing it! The video below is such a clip...and it is precious.  The future "Father Isaiah"??

Friday, March 23, 2012

GW Catholics go national!

So, this picture of GW Catholics praying the rosary in front of the White House was on the cover of the Catholic Standard (the Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington) recently!  It's a great pic, and we are so grateful to the Standard for their professional and generous coverage of the event.  But, the story has been picked up by other Catholic news services around the country.  GW Catholics have gone national! And, viral...hopefully; it has been splashed around the internet pretty well.  Thanks to all who have helped to tell others about the amazing witness of the Catholic students at GW!

There's another reason why GW Catholics have gone national.  Our idea to have a rally is being replicated in over 100 places around the country today.  There are rallies to protect religious liberty as a response to the HHS mandate around 12 noon EST throughout the U.S.  Ok, so maybe they thought of this themselves; but maybe, GW Catholics (in particular, our Pro-Life Director, Chris Crawford) gave them the idea...!   However the rallies have come about, praise God that they are!  Praise God whenever good responds to evil, and that "where sin abounds, grace abounds the more". 

Here is the Catholic Standard article; to view the article online, please click on today's title.

In front of White House, G.W. students pray for religious freedom



Their number was biblical, and their message reflected their belief in the Gospel and in the U.S. Constitution. On March 3, Catholic students from George Washington University on short notice organized a Mass of Conscience. Then their group of 12 prayed the rosary outside the White House, as a prayerful witness for the religious freedom that they believe is threatened by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' mandate requiring health insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations and contraceptives.

Standing at a small altar behind a stained glass window that read, "With God, All Things Are Possible," Father Greg Shaffer, the chaplain at George Washington University's Newman Center, celebrated the Mass of Conscience at the center's chapel.

"It (this issue) is not about contraception. It's about being forced to act against our conscience," said the priest, who said the mandate threatens the Catholic Church's charitable, health care and educational outreach in this country. "That's what's at stake."

Father Shaffer said that numbers didn't matter on that day - their witness did, and he praised the students for being catalysts in standing up for religious freedom. He said he hoped their example would spur an archdiocesan-wide movement. "Today we're prayerfully and peacefully making our voices heard," the college chaplain said.

Before walking to the White House, the students ate subs together downstairs at the Newman Center. Lindsay Butkus, a sophomore majoring in communications at nearby George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., was invited by a G.W. student to join the prayer vigil.

"I came out today as a Catholic. Being able to live my beliefs is very important to me. I don't agree with the health care mandate," she said, adding that despite the Obama Administration's announced accommodation, "that money (for those services) is still coming from somewhere. I don't want to give money for something I don't believe in."

Butkus said she hopes the nation's Catholics stand up for their religious freedom and against the mandate. "If we all used the voices we have, we could make a difference."

The student added, "I believe that you have to stand for something, or you can fall for anything. If we let the government control this, who knows what they'll try to control next."

The students then began walking together through the George Washington University campus, toward the White House which is about five blocks away. Three of the women held signs that together read, "PROTECT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY." They walked through the center of campus past other students who were mulling about on a mild Saturday afternoon.

"This event is important to raise awareness.. (about) the government threatening the religious liberty of a specific group of people," said Michael Russo, the student president of the G.W. Newman Center who is studying history and classics. "It (the students' witness) attaches faces to the issue. It shows people are impassioned about it and willing to stand for the issue, especially on a campus like G.W., which isn't religious."

That point was echoed by Chris Crawford, a G.W. political science major who helped organize the prayer vigil. "We organized this (because) we got upset with the mandate. We saw it as an affront to religious liberty. We're in the middle of a city and a campus where we feel like we're standing alone a lot. This was the tipping point."

The fact that G.W. students were publicly standing up for religious freedom, Crawford said. "sends a good message, that this movement is coming from G.W. We are on a really secular campus."

Prayer, he said, is "very important" in such an effort. "That's at the center of it all. It broadens the message and strengthens it. It brings it beyond politics."

As the students walked closer to the White House, Kara Dunford, a political communications major at G.W., said, "(It's) important for us at the Newman Center, as college students, to get involved in issues that are important to our future as Catholics in the United States. Particularly on this issue, it's important for us to send a message (that) it's not just bishops and priests who care about this HHS mandate, it's us as college students. We realize this encroaches on our liberties as practicing Catholics."

Dunford said the fact their witness was centered on prayer is critical. "What we're trying to show is all Church teaching is rooted in love. It's not bigotry. It's not hate. Starting with a Mass, and ending with a rosary, we can show it. We're not out there screaming with signs."

Holding the sign for "Liberty" was Justyna Felusiak, who is studying political science at G.W. "I just feel like everyone has the constitutional right to religious freedom," she said. "This is beyond me being Catholic. It's what our country was founded on, and why people came here. It's been (our) tradition and our law since the country started."

She too emphasized the importance of prayer in the effort: "As a Catholic, I feel that's a great solution to many situations and problems."

Joining the students was Bryce Garber, a lay missionary from FOCUS - the Fellowship of Catholic University Students - serving at the G.W. Newman Center. "The reason I came out today, (is) I believe in the freedom of religious expression laid out in the Constitution, and I don't think the government has any right stepping into that," he said. "...Up until this time in history, there's never been a point and time where the government has stepped in and tried to direct the practice of faith."

Then the group arrived on the sidewalk in front of the White House, and they quietly prayed the rosary together, as tourists walked by and some people took pictures of them. About a block away, protesters highlighting an international issue used a loud speaker to direct their message toward the White House.

After they had prayed the rosary, the group of George Washington University students and their friends walked together back to campus. Dan Grossano, another FOCUS missionary serving at the G.W. Newman Center, said he hoped their witness would be "the beginning of a great response against this grave violation of conscience."

The young adult said it was "encouraging to see students taking the initiative with this... An attack against one is an attack against all."

Emily Puckett, a G.W. sophomore majoring in international relations, had held the "Religious" sign, and said the students' peaceful witness was important. "We're here to pray," she said. "Everyone was here for the right reason."

She too underscored her concern for protecting religious freedom. "Religious freedom is something our country was founded on. It's so crucial," she said, expressing concern about what might happen if people remain indifferent about the HHS mandate and its future implications. "In the future, there will be no limits," she said. "It's important we stand up now. We need to stop it."

That point was also made by Nicolas Pedreira, a psychology major at G.W. "I think as a Catholic, I have a responsibility to stand up for my religious freedom in this and for the religious liberty of others," he said. "Right now, they're coming for Catholics. Who knows where the government will go next in its breach of religious freedom."

Those moments praying quietly in front of the White House were important, he said. "It's good it's a silent protest, that will catch people's attention. We stood firm in our faith."

George Washington University student Christina Longofono, a history major, also emphasized the importance of prayer in the effort to protect religious freedom. "Jesus said, 'I am the vine, and you are the branches. Apart from me, you can do nothing.' It's very important that we not only acknowledge God, but involve him in our efforts to protect our right to worship him."

On Tuesdays, she joins other Catholic students in praying the rosary outside an abortion clinic on campus, and sometimes people curse at them, so Longofono said she wasn't worried about what reaction their prayer vigil would provoke.

"This isn't an issue that just faces Catholic Americans. It faces all Americans... If the government can take way the (religious freedom) rights of one people, it can take away everyone's rights," she said.

As she walked with her friends back to campus, she added, "Culturally, this is not a popular issue. It's important that we do what's right, even when everyone is not on our side."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"St Joe, My Beau"

I have posted a blog or two from one of our former students who has her own blog site.  She sent me her post from Monday which was the Solemnity of St. Joseph. She has been one of the main beneficiaries of his powerful intercession among GW Catholics, so she wanted to write on Monday about his amazing intercession in her life recently.  I preached at Monday's Masses about her and other students who have seen clear and poignant results from doing novenas to St. Joseph. 

The following are excerpts from her account of seeing his loving and merciful work in her life.  To view the full text, please click on today's title.

…I was ready to give up on the whole novena thing. Oh yeah... and I was ready to give up on the whole spiritual dry spell thing, too. My mental yelling at God: You want to keep me in the dark, God? Fine. I'll just do the bare minimum to get by! No, I wasn't angry/frustrated/fed up at all!

Sensing my desperation, my spiritual director urged me to give another novena a shot. He suggested a novena to St. Joseph as our last ditch effort for me to get a job. I'm not kidding when I say "last ditch" either. I was ready to pack up and move home. I begged my way through that novena, yet it still felt pretty empty and bleak. Was someone actually listening in Heaven? I finished that novena, not expecting much to happen.

A few days later, I had a job offer.

Granted, it was for an administrative assistant position for a property management company (i.e. not related to my field at all), but it was a JOB.

…I thought that getting a job would solve all my problems, especially spiritually. I thought that once I didn't have the worry of being job-less looming over me, my spiritual dry spell would dry up and all would be right with my world again. Except it wasn't. I was thankful to have a paycheck every two weeks, but I also knew that my search was not over. It was clear to me that my job was not my calling in life, and I struggled to figure out how to continue discerning the next step. The spiritual dryness still persisted, and while I was starting to accept it, that didn't make the silence and unrest I felt in prayer any better.

…It just so happened that the timing of all of this worked out that I would be finishing up my novena on Ash Wednesday, the unofficial anniversary of my spiritual dry spell. Coincidence? I'll leave that for you, dear reader, to decide.

Knowing that it was probably because of St. Joseph that I got a job before, I tried to pour my heart and soul into my broad novena intention. Throughout the nine days, however, my simple intention evolved into more and more petitions, desires that had been lying on my heart that I had been ignoring. I started to glimpse little flickers of light and feel tiny waves of peace rushing over me when I prayed, but they didn't last very long.

Day nine arrived, and I spent part of my lunch break praying my novena in front of the Blessed Sacrament, begging dear St. Joseph to show me something... anything! Part of me hoped that I would be rewarded with a spectacular vision of my life all laid out, but I left adoration without any new revelations. By this time, I wasn't too surprised. I had become fully accustomed to my dry spell.

It was that night when things started to get weird. One of the intentions that had shoved its way into my nine days of prayer popped up, and I dared to think, "Could this be a result of my novena?"** Not wanting to set myself up for disappointment though, I tried not to read anything into it, and I went to sleep that night still waiting for answers.

**This became the very specific intention of my next St. Joe novena, which I finished today!

The next day was any other day, just a normal Thursday. I'd missed a call while at work, and I finally got a chance to check my voicemail while driving home.

This is [insert name of HR person here] at the US [insert government agency name here] calling to make you a job offer as a [insert job title here]. The salary is [insert number that is way more than I've ever made in my life here]. If you could please give me a call back, I would be happy to give you more details. Congratulations, we're excited to have you join us!

Can you imagine my shock?

But wait, it gets better.

I got home and not only did I have an email from this person with more details, but I had another job offer in my inbox from a company in Ohio.

This is when I started freaking out! After almost a year of job craziness, I suddenly had two job options staring me in the face?!

St. Joseph, I asked you to show me what's next! How are TWO JOB OFFERS showing me what's next? That's making me make a decision! You were just supposed to show me everything... Oh wait.... I get it.

St. Joseph was a father and husband, chosen by God to lead the holiest of families. He lived his life as a faithful servant to Christ, working hard to provide whatever his family needed. He did all of this with humility, despite the suffering he had to have endured throughout his life, and was graced with the privilege of dying in the arms of Jesus and Mary. This same St. Joe has become my Heavenly beau, my cheerleader, my guide. He wants me out of that desert so that I too can live my life as a faithful servant to Christ.

So, don't be surprised if I start hanging out with St. Joe all the time. We do practically everything together now. You might even say we're attached at the spiritual hip. I want to keep my friend with me in my daily life, so that hopefully I will someday get to meet him in Heaven so I can say, "Thank you, St. Joe, my beau!"

Remember, most pure spouse of Mary, ever Virgin, my loving protector, Saint Joseph, that no one ever had recourse to your protection or asked for your aid without obtaining relief. Confiding, therefore, in your goodness, I come before you and humbly implore you. Despise not my petitions, foster-father of the Redeemer, but graciously receive them. Amen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"The true center of my Catholic faith is rooted in service"

Last week, thirteen of us had an amazing week of service during our Alternative Spring Break in Appalachia.  One of our students has blogged about the trip and gave me permission to post it here.  I'm not surprised knowing her and so many of our other superstar college students here, but it's still kind of mind-blowing that the following comes from the beautiful heart and intellect of a 20-year-old!

Whenever I tell people that I’m Catholic, they usually come to one of two conclusions: either they think that I’m just a casual church-goer who only hits the pews when I feel apologetic about living a typical college lifestyle or that I’m a hardcore, Bible-thumping maniac who judges everyone in my sight. However, neither of these assessments are accurate. Over the years, my faith in God has manifested itself through a love of both the consecrated Eucharist (the actual body and blood of Christ) and a passion for service to my fellow man; while I do believe in the seemingly crazy Catholic doctrine on the life and divinity of Jesus Christ, I choose to demonstrate His love and light through my actions and service for the world around me. Cue my alternative spring break trip down to West Virginia with the GW Newman Center:

In Mount Hope, WV, lives a Vietnam War veteran named Carl Taylor whose mobile home burned down in an electrical fire a few weeks ago. Since the accident, the organization West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps has been sending volunteers to demolish, rebuild and clean up his home. For a week, 13 GW Catholics, including our chaplain Father Greg Shaffer and campus minister Amy West, put up dry wall, installed new windows and painted Carl’s entire home. We spent the week rolling up our sleeves and giving of our time, effort and (sad day for a particular sophomore) blood in order to restore both Carl’s living conditions and hope for the future. With only a few family members to support him, our care, love and tireless effort helped him to grab a toe-hold in the middle of this tumultuous time and know that, no matter how hopeless his situation might seem, there are people who genuinely care for him and will be praying for his and his home’s full recovery.

The heart of the Catholic Church is the person of Jesus Christ. To be Catholic means to live out His teachings and His beautiful dedication to humility, passion and above all, love. The true center of my Catholic faith is rooted in service - to Christ and to my neighbor. Saint Francis urged Catholics to, “at all times, preach the Gospel and when necessary, use words”; even though there are so many amazing passages in the Bible that speak to God’s unending love, it is infinitely better to demonstrate that love by sacrificing of yourself for the good of others and experience that glowing joy within your own heart as well. The thirteen of us were so blessed to be able to work with WVMAW and Carl this past week because it opened our eyes to this service-based approach to faith and rededicated our hearts to the humility and passion of sharing God’s love. No matter what alternative spring break GW students went on this past week, whether it be Kansas, NOLA, my beloved West Virginia or any other, I’m confident that we all, religious or not, experienced the same thing: that when our lives and hearts are truly dedicated to service, we allow our light to shine through and positively impact everyone we encounter.

Friday, March 09, 2012

"We have to prepare for tough times"

The following are excerpts from the most recent letter of Cardinal Dolan to all U.S. bishops regarding the HHS mandate. His words are strong and clear. How good God is to give us such solid leadership when we need it most! To read the full letter, please click on today’s title.

Have a great Spring Break! We pray that you will be safe, good, and holy.

March 2, 2012

My brother bishops,

...When the President announced on January 20th that the choking mandates from HHS would remain, not only we bishops and our Catholic faithful, but people of every faith, or none at all, rallied in protest. The worry that we had expressed -- that such government control was contrary to our deepest political values -- was eloquently articulated by constitutional scholars and leaders of every creed.

On February 10th, the President announced that the insurance providers would have to pay the bill, instead of the Church’s schools, hospitals, clinics, or vast network of charitable outreach having to do so. He considered this “concession” adequate. Did this help? We wondered if it would, and you will recall that the Conference announced at first that, while withholding final judgment, we would certainly give the President’s proposal close scrutiny. Well, we did -- and as you know, we are as worried as ever.

For one, there was not even a nod to the deeper concerns about trespassing upon religious freedom, or of modifying the HHS’ attempt to define the how and who of our ministry. Two, since a big part of our ministries are “self-insured,” we still ask how this protects us. We’ll still have to pay and, in addition to that, we’ll still have to maintain in our policies practices which our Church has consistently taught are grave wrongs in which we cannot participate. And what about forcing individual believers to pay for what violates their religious freedom and conscience? We can’t abandon the hard working person of faith who has a right to religious freedom. And three, there was still no resolution about the handcuffs placed upon renowned Catholic charitable agencies, both national and international, and their exclusion from contracts just because they will not refer victims of human trafficking, immigrants and refugees, and the hungry of the world, for abortions, sterilization, or contraception. In many ways, the announcement of February 10 solved little and complicated a lot. We now have more questions than answers, more confusion than clarity.

So the important question arises: What to do now? How can we bishops best respond, especially united in our common pastoral ministry as an Episcopal Conference? For one, under the ongoing leadership of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Bishop Blaire and Bishop Lori we will continue our strong efforts of advocacy and education. In the coming weeks the Conference will continue to provide you, among other things, with catechetical resources on the significance of religious freedom to the Church and the Church’s teaching on it from a doctrinal and moral perspective. We are developing liturgical aids to encourage prayer in our efforts and plans on how we can continue to voice our public and strong opposition to this infringement on our freedom. And the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, that has served the Conference so well in its short lifespan, will continue its extraordinary work in service to this important cause.

Two, we will ardently continue to seek a rescinding of the suffocating mandates that require us to violate our moral convictions, or at least insist upon a much wider latitude to the exemptions so that churches can be free of the new, rigidly narrow definition of church, minister and ministry that would prevent us from helping those in need, educating children and healing the sick, no matter their religion.

In this regard, the President invited us to “work out the wrinkles.” We have accepted that invitation. Unfortunately, this seems to be stalled: the White House Press Secretary, for instance, informed the nation that the mandates are a fait accompli (and, embarrassingly for him, commented that we bishops have always opposed Health Care anyway, a charge that is scurrilous and insulting, not to mention flat out wrong. Bishop Blaire did a fine job of setting the record straight.) The White House already notified Congress that the dreaded mandates are now published in the Federal Registry “without change.” The Secretary of HHS is widely quoted as saying, “Religious insurance companies don’t really design the plans they sell based on their own religious tenets.” That doesn’t bode well for their getting a truly acceptable “accommodation.”

At a recent meeting between staff of the bishops’ conference and the White House staff, our staff members asked directly whether the broader concerns of religious freedom—that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption—are all off the table. They were informed that they are. So much for “working out the wrinkles.” Instead, they advised the bishops’ conference that we should listen to the “enlightened” voices of accommodation, such as the recent, hardly surprising yet terribly unfortunate editorial in America. The White House seems to think we bishops simply do not know or understand Catholic teaching and so, taking a cue from its own definition of religious freedom, now has nominated its own handpicked official Catholic teachers.

We will continue to accept invitations to meet with and to voice our concerns to anyone of any party, for this is hardly partisan, who is willing to correct the infringements on religious freedom that we are now under. But as we do so, we cannot rely on off the record promises of fixes without deadlines and without assurances of proposals that will concretely address the concerns in a manner that does not conflict with our principles and teaching.

Congress might provide more hope, since thoughtful elected officials have proposed legislation to protect what should be so obvious: religious freedom. Meanwhile, in our recent debate in the senate, our opponents sought to obscure what is really a religious freedom issue by maintaining that abortion inducing drugs and the like are a “woman’s health issue.” We will not let this deception stand. Our commitment to seeking legislative remedies remains strong. And it is about remedies to the assault on religious freedom. Period. (By the way, the Church hardly needs to be lectured about health care for women. Thanks mostly to our Sisters, the Church is the largest private provider of health care for women and their babies in the country.) Bishop William Lori, Chairman of our Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, stated it well in a recent press release: “We will build on this base of support as we pursue legislation in the House of Representatives, urge the Administration to change its course on this issue, and explore our legal rights under the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Perhaps the courts offer the most light. In the recent Hosanna-Tabor ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously defended the right of a Church to define its own ministry and services, a dramatic rebuff to the administration, apparently unheeded by the White House. Thus, our bishops’ conference, many individual religious entities, and other people of good will are working with some top-notch law firms who feel so strongly about this that they will represent us pro-bono. In the upcoming days, you will hear much more about this encouraging and welcome development.

Given this climate, we have to prepare for tough times. Some, like America magazine, want us to cave-in and stop fighting, saying this is simply a policy issue; some want us to close everything down rather than comply (In an excellent article, Cardinal Francis George wrote that the administration apparently wants us to “give up for Lent” our schools, hospitals, and charitable ministries); some, like Bishop Robert Lynch wisely noted, wonder whether we might have to engage in civil disobedience and risk steep fines; some worry that we’ll have to face a decision between two ethically repugnant choices: subsidizing immoral services or no longer offering insurance coverage, a road none of us wants to travel.

Brothers, we know so very well that religious freedom is our heritage, our legacy and our firm belief, both as loyal Catholics and Americans. There have been many threats to religious freedom over the decades and years, but these often came from without. This one sadly comes from within. As our ancestors did with previous threats, we will tirelessly defend the timeless and enduring truth of religious freedom...

With prayerful best wishes, I am

Fraternally in Christ,

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Catholic Trivia!

Last night, we played "Catholic Trivia" after the Tuesday dinner. We did this two years ago with the same questions, but almost all of our active students are freshmen and sophomores.  Unless they read my blog from Jan, 2010, they hadn't heard the questions.  I was hearing confessions during the game, but popped my head in for part of it; they all seemed to enjoy it very much.  And, they did quite well from what I have heard (I don't think as well as the group two years ago who got every question correct except for one - the first question of Round 2).  Each player on the winning team took home a $25 gift card!

These are not the most difficult questions in the Catholic trivia world, but they did get the students thinking. Here are the questions and answers; see how you do!

Catholic Trivia

Round 1

1. All the following are sacraments of initiation except:
a. Baptism
b. Confession
c. Eucharist
d. Confirmation

2. Which pope issued Humanae Vitae:
a. JP II
b. Pope St. Pius X
c. Paul VI
d. John XXIII

3. The first five books of the bible are called the:
a. Pentecost
b. Pentathlon
c. Pentateuch
d. Pentagon

4. The book of prayers used at Mass is called:
a. Missal
b. Missalette
c. Lectionary
d. Sacramentary

5. All the following were Apostles except:
a. Matthew
b. Paul
c. Luke
d. John

6. What year was Jerusalem destroyed:
a. 70 BC
b. 44 AD
c. 70 AD
d. 68 AD

7. Drunkenness is a sin against which commandment:
a. First
b. Fifth
c. Seventh
d. Eighth

8. Which saint translated the bible from Greek into Latin:
a. Augustine
b. John Chrysostom
c. Jerome
d. Hilary

9. In the Beatitudes, Jesus promises that this group of people will see the “beatific vision:”
a. Peacemakers
b. Merciful
c. Pure of heart
d. Meek

10. In which Marian Apparition did the Blessed Mother ask all Catholics to pray the rosary daily for the conversion of sinners:
a. Lourdes
b. Fatima
c. Madjugore
d. La Salette

Round 2

1. Who is the second longest reigning pope:

2. In the gospel of John what is Jesus’ first miracle:

3. The Summa Theologica was written by:

4. What is the name given to the series of 129 Wednesday Audiences delivered by JPII on the meaning of human embodiment:

5. Who administers the sacrament of holy matrimony:

6. How many books are there in the Catholic Bible:

7. The four cardinal virtues are justice, fortitude, prudence and

8. What was the name of the papal bull issued in response to Martin Luther’s criticisms of the Church:

9. What is the name of the 20th C Italian Saint who sacrificed her own life for that of her child and is now the patron St. of the pro-life movement:

10. The first Catholic Church in the United States was founded where:

Final Round

1. At Mass, when does the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Christ?

2. What are the three conditions of a mortal sin?

3. What was the heresy that the Church fought against which said that Jesus was not truly God?



Round 1
1 b
2 c
3 c
4 d
5 c
6 c
7 b
8 c
9 c
10 b

Round 2

1 Pius IX
2 Changing water into wine (wedding feast at Cana)
3 Thomas Aquinas
4 Theology of the Body
5 The man and woman
6 73
7 Temperance
8 Exsurge Domine (Rise up Oh Lord)
9 St. Gianna Beretta Molla
10 St. Augustine

Final Rd

1 When the priest says the words, “This is my body”…”this is the cup of my blood”
2 Grave matter, full knowledge, full consent
3 Arianism

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

"Abortion, Birth Control Pills Raise Breast Cancer Risk"

I guess it’s because of all the talk going on in our country about contraception, but lately I have been bombarded with information that links birth control with cancer. A friend of mine sent me this:

Here are some sites I found on Birth Control and cancer...interesting they are finding a link between birth control and prostate cancer...

www.nationalcancerinstitute/riskoforalcontraceptives,, linkbetween birthcontroland prostate cancer

I had heard of the increased risk between the birth control pill and breast cancer before, but didn’t know about the link between the pill and prostate cancer or lupus. Why do we not hear about these connections? With all of the trillions of warnings of health risks on every possible medication and with how frequently birth control pills are prescribed, why do we NEVER hear of the health risks of the birth control pill?

Below are two sources that make the link between birth control and breast cancer. The truth needs to get out there so that people can make the right choices about their lives, their families, and which movements to follow. The first is an online article,  "Abortion, Birth Control Pills Raise Breast Cancer Risk", I found on the link between birth control and breast cancer from The second is a video by Fr. John Hollowell; the youth to whom he ministers are devouring his pamphlets on the truth about the birth control pill.  I hope to find some pamphlets for GW Catholics so that you can know the truth in clear terms, too.

In 2003, the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) sought to reassure women that using birth control pills would not raise their risk for breast cancer. NCI also told women that having an abortion was not a risk factor for breast cancer. Now it turns out that a study published in April 2009 by Jessica Dolle and other researchers of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center appears to show just the opposite: oral contraception (OCs) is linked with an increased risk for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) in women who are 45 years old and younger. The research paper, "Risk factors for triple-negative breast cancer in women under the age of 45 years," was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. This research paper features a table of risk factors, which includes oral contraception use, tobacco and alcohol consumption, number of births, breastfeeding, and induced abortion.

Dolle's research shows that if you started taking birth control pills before age 18, your risk for TNBC is increased by 3.7 times. If you've been using The Pill within the last one to five years, your TBNC risk is raised 4.2 times. Triple-negative breast cancer is aggressive and strikes women who are under 40, and many victims are African Americans. Survival odds for TBNC are lower than average, compared to other types of breast cancer.

As if that news were not alarming enough, a statement in this paper refers to induced abortion as a factor that is associated with an increased breast cancer risk. One of the study co-authors, Louise Brinton, spearheaded the 2003 NCI workshop about the abortion-breast cancer link (referred to as ABC). That workshop made every effort to assure women that having an induced abortion was not linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, and that research did not support an ABC link. Keep in mind that this paper discusses only one study.

Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2002, I took birth control pills for about 5 years. They prevented conception, made me a little queasy, but seemed otherwise harmless. In those days, the hormones in The Pill were lower than contraceptives that were produced in the 1980's, so I thought they were safe. After all, a doctor prescribed them for me - so no health risk, right? Maybe they were wrong! As soon as my breast lump was detected on a mammogram, when I was 46 years old, I was told to stop taking The Pill. That was one year before NCI told us that The Pill would not raise my risk for breast cancer. Now, I wish I'd never taken it. Perhaps one's risk is not as simple as taking The Pill, or eating a healthy diet, or having a genetic mutation - but if my risk is lower now because of being off contraceptives and never having had an abortion, I'm glad there's something I can do. I just wish we could have as much information as possible, to reduce our risk of breast cancer.

Friday, March 02, 2012

College Mass of Conscience / Rally at White House tomorrow

Cardinal Wuerl just started a blog! Check it out at:

A few weeks ago, our Pro-Life Director at the Newman Center came up with a brilliant idea. He suggested that we have a Mass and rally of conscience to protest the HHS mandate. I thought his idea was so good that I called the Archdiocese immediately; they voiced approval with great enthusiasm. So, the first (I believe there will be more of these this year) Mass and Rally of Conscience will be tomorrow (March 3) at the GW Newman Center. It reminds me, of course, of the March for Life which has ballooned into a major event for the Church in the U.S. It’s always so good to be proactive with major causes…and proactive in such a solid, positive, communal way. This is what we need!

Tomorrow’s event is primarily for college students from around the area, but as the ad below says, others are invited. My guess is that the Archdiocese will hold a bigger one of these later in the year which hopefully will bring a huge presence to DC and the White House. If you cannot join us tomorrow, please pray for its fruitfulness.

Thanks to the recent Health and Human Services mandate, religious freedom is under attack in the United States. Weeks ago, The President changed the wording of the Mandate in an attempt to silence Catholics. The verbal adjustment did nothing to change the policy. The verbal adjustment did nothing to change the policy. We need to unite to send a message to our government:

People of faith are not backing down, we are doubling down!

On Saturday, March 3, 2012, college students from the greater Washington area will be joining together for a Mass for religious freedom at the GW Newman Catholic Student Center. We are encouraging college groups and people of all ages to attend this Mass and to show their solidarity with the Catholic Church in their fight to protect religious liberty.

After Mass, we will have a quick bite of lunch, then march to the White House for a short rally and to prayerfully pray the rosary outside the White House. 

Please email Chris Crawford today if you are attending –