Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Inhuman": a block away from GW Newman Center

For four years, we have been praying the rosary every week during the school year on the sidewalk in front of the Washington Surgi Clinic.  This "clinic" is one block from the Newman Center and adjacent to a GW dorm.  We knew that they performed abortions up to 26 weeks, but didn't know until a video called "Inhuman" surfaced from Live Action this week that shows they practice infanticide. The info below from Live Action's Facebook event about a rally tomorrow there as well as the video is below.  We will continue to pray for the conversion of hearts of those who work there as we have the past four years.

D.C. abortionist Cesare Santangelo is on record supporting infanticide and perpetrating other shocking and illegal acts of inhumanity. If you haven’t see the news, watch our investigation video here: http://www.liveaction.org/inhuman/investigation-2-washington-d-c/

In response Live Action is holding a rally demanding the protection of women, an end to infanticide, and the prosecution of Santangelo.
You don’t want to miss this. Neither will your friends, so bring them with you. Together we will raise a cry against this ongoing injustice. It cannot be discounted, and it will not be ignored.

Speakers include:
-Lila Rose, Live Action President
-Majorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List
-Melissa Ohden, the survivor of an abortion attempt
-Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life
-Jill Stanek, prominent pro-life blogger
-Charmine Yoest, President and CEO or Americans United for Life

Monday, April 29, 2013

Homily - "Christ can make us new!"

Click here to listen to Sunday's homily by Fr. Mark Ivany, the guest celebrant at the 7:30 student Mass.  Below is the text from my homily.
“Behold, I make all things new”. I want to talk with you about this tonight in two senses.  The first sense is that Christ makes all things new for us communally.  He is taking us to a new level.  It is unbelievable.  We are on the verge on a capital campaign in which we will have to raise millions of dollars.  The centerpiece of the campaign will be a new Catholic center.  We are about to begin discussions with a Church on campus that would be a perfect Catholic center!  It’s a big property in a highly visible location. We will be asking students to help a good amount with the campaign; it will take a lot of work from all of us!  But, if God wills this, then He will provide.  We have been pursuing this for a long time, and just recently some doors have opened.  We believe that God is opening these doors for us, and will continue to do so.  This will all be for His glory, not ours, as we hear about in tonight’s Gospel.
So, last Tuesday, we had a big crowd at Tuesday dinner (Chick Fil A will do that!), and filmed the first part of the video for the capital campaign.  It was a blast!  Then, we went into discussion after dinner.  Usually, we get 20-30 students for the discussions, sometimes more.  Last week, 50 students packed the place to listen to our panelists.  Four of our men are applying to seminary, so we asked them to tell their stories.  The scene in the discussion was like something out of the Gospel: standing-room-only, people hanging on the every word of each speaker, laughing, crying, etc.  For most of the students there, these are first men they have known to enter seminary.  It was just an incredible night…the greatest night at the Newman Center in my four years.  Someone asked me later that night, ‘what was that tonight?’ I replied, “that was the Holy Spirit”.

The second sense in which Christ makes all things new for us is personally.  One of our young ladies came to talk to me the day after the Tuesday discussion.  She said that she connected with one of the guys who spoke about being an intellectual and knowing about God and the Church, but didn’t know Christ.  Things turned around in his faith life when he came to know Christ.  She said that’s where she is at; she knows about Christ, but she doesn’t know Him.  I told her that’s my specialty; I’m not an intellectual, but I can help you to know Christ.  When we come to know Him, …..wow, everything does become new.
I remember when I first came to know Christ; I was a junior in college.  It was the happiest time in my life.  Last Tuesday was incredible, especially for me as a priest.  But, the happiest time I’ve ever known was at 21.  I remember talking with my buddy in a Church parking lot and just being blown away about how awesome it is to know Christ.  I had gone after many other sources of happiness…many “buzzes”.  The buzz Christ gave me was new.  It lasted!  I call it the “eternal buzz”.  It was new and different.  It was joy!  Joy lasts, pleasure doesn’t.  It was peace.  It was healing.  My father had died four years ago, and Christ began to heal that wound.  I wasn’t look for it, but it came nonetheless.  It was all so new.  It was happiness!

We had “Theology on Tap” the other night (for 21 and over).  On the heels of last week’s Healing Mass, we talked about miracles and healing.  It was another fruitful discussion that people really enjoyed over a couple of beers.  Two students came up to me after the talk and asked to meet about healing.  Each one of us has wounds; Christ can heal them.  He can make us new!
Finally, the common denominator with each of the four men is love for the Eucharist.  Their relationship with Christ took off when they spent more time with Him in daily Mass or in Adoration.  When we get to know Christ, especially in the Eucharist, we are made new.  May we be open to centering our lives on Christ so that we will experience what He says in our own loves, “Behold, I make all things new!”        

Friday, April 26, 2013

"What about my body?"

During our Rosary for Life this past week in which 10-15 students come out every week to pray the rosary in front of the abortion facility on campus (technically just off), we had people on the opposing side show up for the first time in our four years doing this.  They sat in front of us the whole time with signs, listened to the entire rosary, and didn't say a word.  They were among those for whom we offered the rosary.  One of their signs read, "My Body. My Choice".  A student from our pro-life group posted the meme below the picture.  Perfect response.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Four GW Catholic men are applying to seminary!

From left: Nick, Michael, Matt, and Ferdinand
Last night was the best night at the Newman Center in my four years here.  We had a nice crowd for daily Mass, huge and exuberant throng for dinner (Chick Fil A), and a fun scene with tons of students making a promo video for GW Catholics.  And then, we went into our discussion.  Most weeks, we get 20-30 students to listen to a speaker.  Some speakers or topics might get 40 students.  Last night, we had about 50 students!  And, they were hanging on every word of our four panelists.

The discussion was titled, "Look who's going to seminary".  The panelists were the four men from GW Newman Center who are applying to seminary this year: Matt Norwood (freshman), Michael Russo (senior), Ferdinand Mukhar (former grad student), and Nick Lee (FOCUS missionary).  Matt, Michael, and Ferdinand are applying to the Archdiocese of Washington; Nick is applying for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.  These are really solid men who tell inspiring stories of faith and trust in God.  The Lord has blessed us abundantly!

Our students have been rejoicing the past few days after hearing that we have four men applying for seminary.  One of our juniors who is abroad this semester asked me via text message who the four were and then she wrote, "Oh my goodness!!"  To look around the room last night during the talk was an incredible sight: people were everywhere and hanging on every word of their friends and brothers in Christ.  They were so moved, many of them to tears. And, filled with great joy. It was really like a scene out of the Gospel! There was huge applause, sighs, and laughs throughout, and just an overall spirit that was on-another-level good.   One student asked me later in the night, "what was that tonight?"  I replied, "all I can say is that it was the Holy Spirit".

People said afterwards, too, that the students are so excited and moved by this because each man is one of them. They know each one and love him dearly. Multiply that by four and you get the fruitful results of last night: best never ever at Newman! The Spirit is taking us to another level.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Homily - "We are in His hand"

One of our seniors who is from the Boston area wrote a reflection on last week's events. I want to read it to you because her words are better than anything I would say:

“I couldn’t wrap my head around what happened at the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday. I heard the word explosion, and I think I assumed it was some type of mechanical issue. Not something planned. Not something designed to harm. Not something evil.

The more I read, the more I saw, the more sadness and confusion I felt. I reached out to those I knew were there running, watching, or working. After a long day of uncertainty, I found out those I know were okay. Undoubtedly shaken, but okay.

As the day went on, I began to hear more stories of the day’s positive moments.

And that’s what I’ve been trying to focus on. Not the violence. Not the chaos. Not the terror. Not the bad, but the good.

All goodness is a gift, and perhaps this gift holds the greatest weight in the face of a tragedy like this. Because even when our own brokenness results in events such as these, God provides the good.

He provides the good in the form of the first responders and all those lending a hand on the ground. He provides the good in the form of the city residents who opened their homes to runners whose hotels were shut down. He provides the good in the form of generous financial contributions to the cause.

He provides the good in the form of doctors and nurses caring for the wounded. He provides the good in the form of the marathon runners who continued to run past the finish line to give blood.

He provides the good in the form of the faithful around the world offering their prayers. He provides the good in the form of a community of college Catholics coming together for a vigil, to offer prayers and comfort those among them who claim Boston as their home.

And yes, He provides the good in the form of the New York Yankees, as well as teams from around Major League Baseball, playing ‘Sweet Caroline’ during the third inning of Tuesday night’s game to stand in solidarity with the Boston Red Sox.”

She went on to say that she desperately wants to be back home; the best thing she can do is pray. But, as she says, let's focus on the good. Today is "Good Shepherd Sunday". Christ is the Good Shepherd; these are words of one of His sheep. She has heard His voice and she follows Him. She sees the good He has done in the midst of evil. Others will ask, 'how can there be a God when there is so much evil in the world?' We ask, 'how can there be so much good in the world if there is no God?'

Christ the Good Shepherd protects us. He is the guardian of our souls. We hear it a few times in today's readings that He gives us eternal life. He says it in the Gospel. In the first reading we hear that "those who were predestined for eternal life came to believe". If we believe and follow Him, we are in his Hand. "No one can take them out of my hand...no one can take them out if the Father's hand". We are in the hand of the Good Shepherd. He protects our souls. He promises us eternal life.

The Good Shepherd leads us to what is good. He wants what's best for us. A true shepherd always leads his sheep to what is good. That is his job. For the Good Shepherd, the sheep are His whole life. Christ laid down His life for his sheep! If we hear His voice, we hear Him leading us to what is good. The readings today talk about hearing the word of God. "The whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord". The whole city heard the voice of the Good Shepherd! "The word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region". And, the result? "The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit".

We are filled with joy and the Holy Spirit because we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and believe that our souls are protected by Him. He will give us eternal life. It's not that we don't care about violence or chaos…or terror....or bad in Boston or Texas or China. Of course we do. But, "our citizenship is in heaven". Even when we are confronted with evil - and evil is all around us - whether it's moral evil or natural evil or physical evil, we know that we are protected by our shepherd. It’s like what a philosopher once said: “the problems ahead of us are never as great as the Power behind us”.  God is behind us.  He will protect us.  He is the guardian of our souls and He will give us eternal life.

Finally, we hear specifically from the voice of the Lord that we have eternal life in the Eucharist. All last week in the daily Mass readings, we heard from John 6 (my favorite chapter in Scripture). Jesus says specifically that "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life...and will live forever". We hear His voice and believe that we will never perish. We are his people, the sheep of His flock. We are in His hand, and no one can take us out of His hand. No one can take us out of the hand of the Father.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"(Prayer) is one way I can help (back home in Boston)"

I couldn’t wrap my head around what happened at the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday. I heard the word explosion, and I think I assumed it was some type of mechanical issue. Not something planned. Not something designed to harm. Not something evil.

The more I read, the more I saw, the more sadness and confusion I felt. I reached out to those I knew were there running, watching, or working. After a long day of uncertainty, I found out those I know were okay. Undoubtedly shaken, but okay.

As the day went on, I began to hear more stories of the day’s positive moments.

And that’s what I’ve been trying to focus on. Not the violence. Not the chaos. Not the terror. Not the bad, but the good.

All goodness is a gift, and perhaps this gift holds the greatest weight in the face of a tragedy like this. Because even when our own brokenness results in events such as these, God provides the good.
He provides the good in the form of the first responders and all those lending a hand on the ground.

He provides the good in the form of the city residents who opened their homes to runners whose hotels were shut down. He provides the good in the form of generous financial contributions to the cause.

He provides the good in the form of doctors and nurses caring for the wounded. He provides the good in the form of the marathon runners who continued to run past the finish line to give blood.

He provides the good in the form of the faithful around the world offering their prayers. He provides the good in the form of a community of college Catholics coming together for a vigil, to offer prayers and comfort those among them who claim Boston as their home.

And yes, He provides the good in the form of the New York Yankees, as well as teams from around Major League Baseball, playing “Sweet Caroline” during the third inning of Tuesday night’s game to stand in solidarity with the Boston Red Sox.

I think perhaps what I have been struggling with in the aftermath of Monday’s events is the feeling of helplessness. I want so badly to be back home, helping in whatever way I can.

But, it is through God’s grace that I’ve come to realize how crucial the power of prayer is in these situations.

This is one way I can help.

Because in praying, I am uniting my own suffering to that of all those affected, in ways large and small, by this tragedy, which in turn is united to Christ’s suffering on the cross.

Prayer is one of the ways God provides us with His grace. While it may not eliminate suffering, the endurance prayer supplies is surely one of God’s greatest gifts. It allows us to carry on. It allows the good God wills from suffering to come about.

In times like these, we must give greater thought and belief to the power of God’s love than to the power of our own weakness, as Mother Teresa once said.

“Boston is a resilient city, as are its people.”

This refrain has been repeated time and again the past few days.

I believe through prayer, God will supply us with the grace to stand united in the midst of suffering and tragedy, the grace to recognize the power of His love, the grace to remain Boston strong.

Kara Dunford
GW Catholic
Class of 2013
Quincy, Massachusetts

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Cardinal's Homily at GW

On Sunday, April 14th, we were honored to have Cardinal Wuerl celebrate the the 7:30pm Student Mass at GW. Below is the text of the homily he gave:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is always a pleasure for me to come to this campus ministry program Mass here at Saint Stephen’s Church that serves all of you who are part of the George Washington University family.

In a particular way, I want to offer a word of support and encouragement to your chaplain, Father Greg Shaffer.  All of us have come here this evening for two purposes: to celebrate Mass and to stand in solidarity with a good priest.

I am inspired by the ministry here.  I often use Father Shaffer and you students of the Newman Center as examples of the New Evangelization.  In fact, my recent book entitled New Evangelization: Passing on the Catholic Faith Today begins by describing my visit here and witnessing the vitality of this chaplaincy.
In today’s Gospel, we are reminded of two very important elements in the life of the Church, foundational elements: that Jesus is risen from the dead and offers us a whole new way of life, and that Jesus chooses, appoints and empowers shepherds of his flock.

In the encounter between Jesus and Peter, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” and in answer to the affirmative response of Peter, Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

For 2,000 years Successors to Peter and those who work with the bishops – priests all over the world – have that same charge, feed Jesus’ flock.

The whole world watched one month ago as the Church chose the most recent Successor to Peter – Pope Francis. He continues to do the same work that was assigned to Peter – to every priest.  “Feed my sheep!”
With what is the flock to be fed?  There are two great sources of nourishment for those who claim to be a part of the flock of Jesus, those who wish to be associated with the risen Lord, those who have encountered Christ alive in their hearts,   in the world, in the Church today.  Those two sources are the Word of God and the sacraments – the Eucharist.

But before we even begin to talk about the Word of God and the sacraments of the Church as that substance with which the flock is fed, we have to ask, who are the members of this flock?  Who are the sheep of Jesus’ flock?

If anything is clear from the Gospel, it is that some have chosen to follow Jesus.  Jesus has chosen some to work with him in guiding his flock.  But the choice to follow Jesus and his visible presence in the world today, that is, the Church, is rooted in the free will of people who say, “I would like to be your disciple.  I want to be with you.  I want to be a part of your Church.”

Not all who hear the words of Jesus, not all who hear the words of the Church, not all who hear the words of the Gospel, the Word of God, choose to follow.

With respect to those who do not choose to follow, we do not impose those words of the Church on anyone.  We propose the ways of the kingdom of God in terms that the world can understand and examine, in terms they may freely accept or reject.

There are recorded in the Gospel many episodes of those who found what Jesus said to be simply “hard sayings” and they would no longer walk with him.

When Jesus was proclaiming his teaching that his own Body and Blood would be food for his flock, that the Eucharist that he would establish the night before he died would be the sustenance of his family, there are those who simply walked away.  They said we cannot take this, we cannot accept this, we are not going to follow this.
Jesus did not respond by changing the teaching.  Even when they said to him you need to be current, you need to be contemporary, you need to be politically correct, you need to be with the times, Jesus did not say, “Oh, then, I will change my teaching.”  He simply said, “No, this is my Body, this is my Blood, this is food for you, this is sustenance for eternal life.”  And some simply walked away.

Jesus continued to be a countercultural voice.  Jesus did not change his teaching – indeed he could not change his teaching because what he teaches is truth.

He announced with firmness that he had come from God, that God loves us, that there is a way to live that is in conformity with God’s plan and will.  He proclaimed that he had come to confirm the commandments of God.  He proclaimed that he had come to bring us new life and a way of walking with him. He announced the Beatitudes. He announced his law of love.

All of this Jesus offers to us.  What he does not offer to us is the right to change his words, his vision, his revelation, his teaching of truth and love to conform with any particular cultural demand today.

Priests, your chaplain, pastors all over this diocese, bishops all around the world are trying to be faithful to that Gospel teaching.  That is what they announce.  This is who they are – preachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They cannot change our Lord’s message.  They pass on the Good News.

Yet, there are those who claim that voices for the Gospel should be silenced, that we should be silenced.  There are those who say there is no room for any other view but their own.  As the first reading for the liturgy today reminds us, “When the captain and the court officers had brought the apostles in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, ‘We gave you strict orders, did we not, to stop teaching in that name?’” (Acts 5:27-28).  But the text goes on to point out, “But Peter and the apostles said in reply, ‘We must obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29).

We are not talking about ancient history and faraway lands.  We are talking about our own lived experience in our country.

The Church’s long history recounts many examples of efforts to silence her teaching.  Pope Francis is the 266th Pope.  Nearly all the first 60 Popes were put to death for the faith – by those in political power who disagreed with Jesus, his Gospel, and therefore his Church’s shepherds.

We have seen this over and over again, in various forms of narrow-minded discrimination and blind bigotry.

Catholics have suffered at the hands of all kinds of movements, the Ku Klux Klan, the Know Nothing Party, the burning of Catholic churches and convents in various parts of the then-Protestant colonies.  This history teaches us that, like any freedom, religious liberty requires constant vigilance and protection, or it will disappear.

And so, here we are.

The idea that the pastor of a parish today or the chaplain of a religious community and campus ministry today should simply be silenced because he faithfully announces the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that he should not be allowed to engage in dialogue with our culture, even in a place that is dedicated to the free and diverse expression of ideas – may seem somewhat radical today, but you have to remember there have always been those who try to force their totalitarian views on all of us.

When we talk about marriage, when we speak about the dignity of human life, when we teach about the natural moral order, these are all elements that we find deeply rooted in the consciousness of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  Just because someone wants to change all of that today does not mean that the rest of us no longer have a place in this society.

Remember after someone says you cannot speak here, then comes the sentence, “And you do not belong here.”

I want to make something very, very clear.  Our response must be the response of Jesus Christ, the response of his Church, a response rooted in love. When we are attacked, there will always be the temptation to respond in kind. But we must respond out of who we are. We are followers of Jesus Christ.
But we also need to remember that we all know people – homosexual and heterosexual alike – who may disagree with particular teachings of the Church, but do not express that disagreement by demanding that the Church and her ministers be silenced.

We all struggle to live up to the demands of the Gospel – even when we fail – because we know that what Jesus and his Church teach are the words of everlasting life.

The Church calls us to keep trying to draw closer to Christ.  This we do – not because we are perfect – but because he is the way, the truth and life.

We must be inclusive, we must recognize the bonds of mutual charity and we must continue to reach out to all of those brothers and sisters who come to Mass to be with us.  We must be allowed to do so freely.

The Catholic Church welcomes everyone and tries to walk with them on life’s journey while at the same time upholding a moral law by which we are all obliged to live.

We have so much more to offer and so does America.  There should be tolerance and respect among all people.  There has to be room enough in America in a society as large, as free and pluralistic as ours to make space for all of us.

Dear brothers and sisters, never be ashamed of Christ, his Gospel, his Truth – or your identity as Jesus’ disciples.  Always be proud of who you are.

Thank you for standing up for the freedom to speak our faith and thank you for standing up for your chaplain.

God bless him and all of you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"On the Tragedy in Boston"

On the Tragedy in Boston
Joseph McHenry
Chairman- GW Catholics at the Newman Center Student Board
from Stoneham, MA
I read somewhere once that for the saints- the holy men and women of God- no sin, no act of evil can be scandalous because they have full knowledge of Christ's victory over the powers of evil. Yet, for those of us who are not yet at that perfect level of trust in the Lord, yesterday's explosions left us asking how such evil can take place in a supposedly redeemed world.
As I reflected last night, I was struck by how few places we have left where we can feel safe. Since 9/11, we have witnessed acts of terror on planes, at schools, and in theaters. But yesterday, innocent people were killed and maimed as they ran in the open streets of Boston. Where can we run to, when the very act of running is not safe anymore?

For many on GW's campus last night, the running led them back to God, to our Newman Center's chapel for 10PM Mass and the candlelit prayer vigil that followed on the steps. Our running to God does not bring us answers, because it is our own broken humanity that renders the harm and terror from which we seek refuge. We all have a capacity for evil; in small ways daily and sometimes in large ways like we witnessed yesterday. None of us are exempt from falling, and senseless destruction reminds us how necessary is God's redemption and salvation.

What were we able to offer to the 70 who came to us last night?

Nothing but Jesus Christ.

He provides His love, exemplified by His Cross, His body and blood, and the fellowship of the Church. Last night we were a place of comfort and consolation because He is comfort for the weary and consolation for the broken-hearted. As I stoop on the steps after "Amazing Grace" had been sung and people milled about in silence, simply seeking to be together in Christ's love and friendship, I could almost hear the soft whisper of the Paschal Lamb, saying:

"Be not afraid. The world will try you and leave you at the brink of despair, but take heart, for I have overcome the world."

That, my brothers and sisters, is the peace of Christ; the peace the world cannot offer. Run to it and He will welcome you home.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A reflection on last night with the Cardinal

Cardinal Wuerl delivers outstanding homily in support of embattled Newman Center chaplain

by Dawn Eden
April 14, 2013

Tonight I was proud to witness Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl deliver an outstanding defense of Father Greg Shaffer, the George Washington University Newman Center chaplain whom gay-rights activists are seeking to have removed for upholding Catholic teaching on homosexual acts.

The defense came within a homily at a 7:30 p.m. student Mass that Wuerl concelebrated with Father Greg (as everyone calls him) and two former GW Newman Center chaplains at Washington, D.C.’s St. Stephen Martyr in Washington, D.C., the chaplaincy’s parent parish. The pews were packed with hundreds of students, the most I have ever seen at a campus Mass anywhere.

I hope Cardinal Wuerl posts the homily on his blog. In the meantime, I will share here what I can remember of it (adding references in parenthesis where they are relevant). It was a real keeper.
In speaking about the effort to remove Father Greg, the cardinal wasn’t detracting from his episcopal duty to preach on the Sunday readings. Just the opposite, in fact: as he noted, the universal Church’s readings for this Third Sunday of Easter seemed divinely chosen for the occasion.

Wuerl began by stating his admiration for Father Greg, saying that he had highlighted the chaplain’s work in the first story he tells in his new book The New Evangelization. In that work, he shares how impressed he was to see the large turnout at a previous GW Newman Center Mass. When he asked the students why so many of them came to Mass, they explained that Father Greg had recommended they be apostolic, inviting friends to join them in worship—and so they did.

Discussing the Gospel, the cardinal pointed out how apt it was to be reminded on this day of Jesus’ words to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” Peter’s successors have been feeding Jesus’ sheep for two thousand years, a responsibility in which the shepherds of dioceses and priests such as Father Greg participate.
And what, he asked, does the Church feed Christ’s sheep? The Word of God and the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist (cf. Dei Verbum 21).

The Word of God has always included what are for some “hard truths,” Wuerl observed. Christ’s words about the Eucharist were considered a “hard truth” by the people of his time: John 6: “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Wuerl pointed out that when Jesus said those words, people urged him to retract them. They told him he needed to be more “contemporary,” needed to alter his teachings to fit the prevailing culture. And what did Jesus say then? Did he thank them for the correction and change his message? No! He repeated, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
Jesus wouldn’t change His teachings—and in fact, the cardinal added, he couldn’t, because His teaching was not his own, but that of the One who sent him (John 7:16). Likewise, the Church must preach what Christ has taught; she does not have the authority to change his teaching.

Many people stopped following Jesus because of being unable to take his “hard sayings,” Wuerl observed. Those who continued to believe in Christ did so through an act of their free will, just as we do today in assenting to faith. The Church imposes nothing; she proposes (cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio 39).

Wuerl went on to talk about the first reading, from Acts 5, in which St. Peter says, “We must obey God rather than men.” He pointed out that we are part of a church of martyrs; of the first sixty popes, more than half were martyred. Likewise, we must be prepared to bear witness to our faith in the face of a hostile culture that tries to silence the Church.

When someone tries to silence you, Wuerl said, when they tell you, “You may not say that,” their next words are, “You don’t belong.” But in a great free country such as ours, there should be enough room for all to have freedom, including the Church.

Toward the end of the homily, the cardinal emphasized that we must follow Christ’s example in our witness, reaching out with love to draw people into the Church. He said more things about this; I confess, to my shame, that my memory does not do justice to the emphasis he put on sharing Christ’s love. But here is the last thing I do remember from the homily, and this is a direct quote:

“The Church respects everyone. And she expects respect from everyone.”

At the end of the Mass, when Father Greg expressed his thanks to Cardinal Wuerl for coming to the campus parish to celebrate the liturgy, those hundreds of GW students and I gave our archbishop a standing ovation. Everyone was overjoyed that Cardinal Wuerl showed outstanding backbone, speaking the truth in love and defending a brave priest of his diocese for doing the same. May other shepherds of the Church follow his example.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cardinal Wuerl to celebrate GW student Mass this Sunday night

Cardinal Wuerl , Archbishop of Washington, is coming to GW this weekend to celebrate the 7:30 pm student Mass at St. Stephen's! The students and I are so excited to welcome back His Eminence. 

The following is an editorial from the Catholic Standard, a publication of the Archdiocese of Washington. The students and I are so grateful for the full support of the Archdiocese.

Editorial: GW Gay Students' Protest Against Chaplain Threatens Religious Freedom on Campus

During an Easter Sunday appearance on a nationally televised news program, Cardinal Donald Wuerl was asked how the Catholic Church responds to Catholic homosexuals who attend Mass and seek to be part of the life of the Church. Cardinal Wuerl responded by saying that the Church welcomes everyone and tries to walk with them on life's journey while, at the same time, upholding a moral law by which we are all obligated to live. He also expressed his concern that, in light of efforts to change the definition of marriage, there will be pressure to label the Christian belief in marriage and sexual morality as bigotry or hate speech. He called for tolerance and respect among all people. "There has to be room enough in a society as large, as free and as pluralistic as America, to make space for all of us," he said.

Recent events on the campus of the George Washington University (GW) suggest that the Cardinal's concerns are well-founded.
According to reports in the student newspaper, The Hatchet, two students who identify themselves as homosexual have embarked on a campaign to silence and remove the Catholic chaplain, Father Greg Shaffer, for simply teaching the tenets of the Catholic faith on sexual morality and the right to life. Since 2009, Father Shaffer has served as chaplain at the Newman Center there, a place for Catholic students and those interested in learning more about the Catholic faith, to attend Mass and participate in other religious activities and discussions. Judging from multiple accounts - including those shared on a student-initiated blog, "The Chaplain We Know" - Father Shaffer is a welcoming presence on campus, and his ministry has inspired a deeper appreciation for the faith among the students, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

In addition to their efforts to force Father Shaffer off campus, the two students who have filed a complaint against the Catholic priest with the university's administration have demanded that GW initiate an approval process for determining who may serve in Catholic ministry there. What they are essentially asking is for the university to sit in judgment of Catholic teaching.

The radical intolerance of this effort to dictate what a particular religious group may and may not teach - and how students of a particular denomination may practice their faith - should concern all of us. Any university worth the name should not engage in this style of thought control. Today, we face an increasingly aggressive movement in our culture which seeks to marginalize people of faith and diminish the role of religion in society. This has become increasingly true for the Catholic Church, in particular, including individual Catholics who strive to live and express their faith in the public square.

It should never be acceptable - and certainly not at a university - to silence opposing views. The spurious claim that people who voice the Church's teachings on moral truth and the nature of the human person engage in hate speech should never be used as justification for attempts to silence and exclude from public life religious institutions and people of faith. Sadly, the GW case is only the latest example of this phenomenon. This type of censorship of religious ministers and their beliefs and teachings is contrary to the principles of fundamental liberty that our nation has historically valued and for which George Washington himself fought.

It is important to affirm that the Catholic Church is and always will be welcoming of any person who seeks a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. We are called to live and to share the truths of our Catholic teaching, and to do so with love. According to the many students who have spoken out in Father Shaffer's defense - including those who do not embrace all of the Church's teachings - he has demonstrated this through his ministry. "Through Father Greg I met God's love and forgiveness," says one person who initially took exception to him defending the Church's teaching. "Father Greg's kindness changed my life. . . . I still don't fully agree with or understand all of the teachings from the Church, but I will always stand for Father Greg, because I know that he would never disrespect or discriminate against anyone based on his or her beliefs....[H]e is the most compassionate non-judgmental person that I have ever met." Another writes, "Father Greg is one of the holiest, kindest, most devoted priests I have had the privilege to meet." Indeed, there has been a marked increase in Catholic students' participation at the Newman Center during his tenure, and the sacramental life has been greatly expanded.

Those who are in positions of authority, including in higher education, should resist the increasing demands to silence the voices of faith or to otherwise assert control over the Church's ministries on campus and in the world. In our country, there should be room for all of us to live our faith freely. The Church not only has the fundamental religious liberty to engage in the public square, but by doing so, we contribute greatly to the common good - as Americans, and as people of faith.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Homily - "Mission of mercy"

Click here to listen to Sunday's homily.

When adversity hits or when things get tough, you find out who your true friends are.  Well, things have gotten tough, and I have found out who my true friends are.  So many of you GW Catholics have given me so much support, encouragement, and love.  Words cannot express my gratitude. I am so thankful, and so is my family for all that you have done recently.  Jesus said to the Apostles, “I have called you friends”.  From the Book of Sirach, “a faithful friend is a sturdy shelter.  He who finds one finds a treasure”.  I have found a treasure in all of you.

There is so much to celebrate tonight!  It’s the eighth day of celebrating the Resurrection.  It’s Divine Mercy Sunday which the Church has celebrated on the second Sunday of Easter since 2000.  And, there is so much incredible stuff in the readings.  The line that struck me in my prayer last week was, “as the Father has sent me, so I send you”.  Think about why the Father sent the Son into the world.  He was sent to save the world!  He was sent by the Father on a mission of mercy, a mission of love, a mission of peace, a mission of Truth….to heal the sick…to serve the poor…and so on.  He wants us to be at peace.  Three times He says in tonight’s Gospel, “peace be with you”.  And, listen to how many times the word ‘peace’ is used at Mass.  He wants us to be at peace.

And, then, the Son sends the Apostles on the same mission. He gives them the power to forgive sins in tonight’s Gospel; the forgiveness of sins is primary in Christ’s mission.  He gives them the power to consecrate the Eucharist at the Last Supper: “do this in memory of me”.  He gives them the power to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”…to anoint…to heal the sick…to drive out demons.  And, we hear them doing this in the first reading (Acts of the Apostles).  The Acts of the Apostles is commonly referred to as “the Gospel of the Holy Spirit”.  Amazing stuff happens in this book!  We hear tonight that the Apostles cured the sick…some even were cured by their shadows (3rd class relics?!). 

Jesus gave them the order to continue His mission and they did.  By the way, it’s not like He just left them on their own to do this.  After He ascended into Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit upon them.  The Spirit has been guiding the Church for 2,000 years.  And, human reason tells us that Jesus didn’t intend for His mission to continue only through the first priests and their generation only; He intended it to continue until the end of time.  So, the Apostles passed down their mission and power to the next generation of priests who passed it down…to now where priests like me have the mission.  Jesus sent me to GW to continue His mission.

It is a mission for all of us: priests, religious brothers and sisters, married, and single persons.  In the 19th century, He appeared to Sister Faustina in Poland and sent her on a mission of mercy.  He appeared to her in the image you see in the Church (Divine Mercy image) and told her to bring His
mercy to the modern world in very concrete and specific ways.  One of them is simply looking at the image; He gives graces to those who look at even a small card of the Divine Mercy image.  The big one, though, is the grace He offers today: a plenary indulgence.  Any Catholic who goes to Mass today can gain a plenary indulgence.  I did a wedding this weekend and was explaining this to some young adults.  I told them this is a really good deal and they were into it.  It is a good deal!

A plenary indulgence removes all temporal punishment due to sin.  Let’s say I commit the sin of gossip and confess it.  I am forgiven for it, but for the sake of justice, I need to serve a punishment for it (just like in society if we commit a crime, we have to serve a punishment).  Let’s say the punishment is one day in Purgatory for gossip.  Then, add up all of the times I’ve gossiped in my life, and the punishment seems big.  Then, bring in all the sins I’ll commit in my life, and I’m looking at a huge amount of time in Purgatory!  It’s okay, though, because if I make it to Purgatory, I’m going to Heaven.  But, a plenary indulgence removes all that time in Purgatory!  It’s one of the amazing graces that God has given the Church.  To gain the indulgence, we have to satisfy three conditions within a week before or after the act of indulgence: 1) go to Confession (where I lost the young adults), 2) receive Holy Communion, and 3) pray for the Holy Father (usually on Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be).  You can apply the indulgence to yourself and the sins you’ve committed to this point or to someone who has died and is in Purgatory.  The indulgence would send them to Heaven! It’s like a get-out-of-Purgatory-free card.  They will be so psyched that you did this for them! I am available all week for Confession.  When I was ordained, I said that I am available 24/7 for Confession.  This doesn’t mean that I am looking for a call at 2 or 3 am after a bar crawl.  It means that I am a minister of mercy…always offering you Christ’s mercy.  

Finally, the last three lines of John’s Gospel are huge to understand why we even have the Gospels: “But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name”.  

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Divine Mercy Sunday!

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday!  Catholics can gain a plenary indulgence by simply attending Mass and fulfilling the three conditions of going to Confession, receiving Holy Communion, and praying for the Holy Father within a week.  A plenary indulgence removes all temporal punishment due to sin.  Basically, it's a get-out-of-Purgatory-free card for someone who has died or for yourself (for the sins you've committed and been absolved for to this point).  This is one of the many incredible riches of mercy that God has given the Church! 

A write-up from a Catholic radio station (Relevant Radio) explains further:

Jesus said to Saint Faustina, “I want the image to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it. By means of the Image I shall be granting many graces to souls; so let every soul have access to it.” (Diary 341, 570)

Jesus promised extraordinary graces on Divine Mercy Sunday: “I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My Mercy.”(Diary 1109)

The Holy See also officially decreed that a Plenary Indulgence can be obtained on the Feast of Mercy:

"A plenary indulgence, granted under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in You!)..."

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Monday, April 01, 2013

Easter Sunday homily - "He lives!"

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!! This is how early Christians greeted one another on Easter Sunday. One person would say, "Christ is risen!" The other person would respond with, "He is risen indeed!!" The Resurrection brought incredible joy to the early Christians, mainly because they were very close to the events of Holy Week. Any Christian who has gone to the depths of the Cross goes to the depths of the Resurrection.

Many of you went deeply into Holy Week. A parishioner of St Stephen's who has been here for many years remarked about how she had never seen so many students here for Holy Week services. You went to the depths of Holy Week in liturgy and prayer, but you also lived Holy Week. Last week was difficult to be a GW Catholic on campus; this week might be the same. We are simply standing up for what we believe. We are not afraid to be faithful to Christ and His Church even if it means persecution. Jesus says, "if the world hates you, realize it hated me first".

The Apostles and disciples went to the depths of the Cross. They witnessed Christ's brutal Passion and Death. It was unspeakably brutal and torturous. We showed "The Passion of the Christ" on Friday night; in just about every scene, there were winces and cries. He went through hell and then he died. This was their leader...their master...their friend...their savior. And, he was gone. For three days, they were in complete darkness.

If someone close to you has died, then you know how unbearable it is. It is overwhelming sadness and grief. They had that plus all of the incredible promise of who Jesus was to humanity. Remember, he would read scrolls from the prophets about the Messiah - majorly revered texts for Jews - and say, "this is fulfilled in your hearing". They heard this and saw all of his miracles and healings, and thought that he was the Messiah. But, for three days, he was dead. So was there no hope. Jesus brought hope for eternal life; but that was dead for three days. What utter despair and depression they must have experienced.

But, then on the third day, there was news that he might be alive. A woman brought this good news to the men. By the way, where were all the men? There were women at the tomb and at the Cross, but only one man, John, was there. Then, Mary Magdelene brings news of the empty tomb, and the men don't believe her! Peter decides to check it out. He and John run as fast as they can to the tomb. All of that enormous negative emotion which they had for three days has been transformed into enormous excitement.

They get to the tomb and see the burial cloths. They saw and believed. What did they see? First, the tomb was empty. Second, the burial cloths were flat. Christ went through them! He was literally raised up out of them and then they fell flat. He truly transcended the laws of nature. This is different from Lazarus who basically woke up from sleep and had to have his bandages removed.

One other thing about the burial cloth which we believe to be the "Shroud of Turin": tests done on it have revealed traces of radiation. Something nuclear happened in the tomb. Something heavenly happened. Christ was truly raised from the dead! This was apparent to the disciples when they first arrived; they saw the evidence of this, and believed.

We still see the evidence of this because Christ is raised. He lives! We see His risen Body and Blood in the Eucharist and believe. We see His joy and love in the saints and believe. Hopefully, others see our joy and love and come to believe. I have seen this happen many times in my four years at GW: students see that Christ lives through you, and they believe. May the Eucharist help us this week to be witnesses to the Resurrection. Even in the midst of persecution, let us show His joy, His love, His kindness, and His mercy. Let us show that He lives!