Sunday, June 30, 2013

Homily - "Freedom is linked with virtue"

"For freedom Christ set us free". Today's readings, especially these words from St. Paul, are timely as we approach the Fourth of July because they focus on freedom.  They give us an excellent opportunity to reflect on freedom and how important it is to our country and in our faith.  Freedom is one of the most refreshing and attractive gifts of our Christian faith. It is the ability to know what is good and to live it. We struggle so much with what St. Paul describes as the "yoke of slavery"; so, when we encounter freedom, it is an overwhelming experience. 

If we look back at how our Founding Fathers viewed freedom, we see that they linked freedom with virtue. Virtue means making a habit of doing what is good. It means living Christ! We were founded as a Christian nation. George Washington said, "Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people". John Adams: "Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without the soul." And, Benjamin Franklin: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters". 

With this in mind, we look back on the historic events of last week. We look at them and ask, 'are we living true freedom? Are we promoting freedom? Virtue?' There are some Yes's and there are some No's. 

Yes, said the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) on President Obama calling for a world without nuclear weapons, something the Church has fought for for a long time. The USCCB also praised the President for his vigorous leadership in peace between Israel and Palestine. 

Yes, on the immigration reform the Senate passed. The bishops are now calling on the House of Representatives to do the same. 

No, on the issue of abortion. You might have seen the fiasco in Texas about the bill that would have ended abortions after 20 weeks. A senator and a raucous crowd of citizens filibustered the bill. The President offered support for the filibuster which even one of his well-known supporters called his support of late-term abortions "sick". I think it's sick in general that we can kill our own babies. One out of every four babies in our country is prevented from having life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

No, per the rulings of the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage. This is mainly because they promote vice, not virtue. Brothers and sisters, God has revealed throughout Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium that homosexual acts are sinful. The Justices even laid out the groundwork to one day take away our freedom of speech to stand up for God and what we believe. And, this includes saying that we love the people involved; we love people with same-sex attraction, but not homosexual acts.

No, per the final revision to the HHS mandate which was issued late on Friday and hasn't changed much since its first draft. This mandate would force religious institutions like the Catholic Church to go against their consciences in providing contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients to their employees. It would take away our religious freedom which is the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

So, how did we get to this point? How have we gotten so far away from the freedom our founders intended in so many ways? I liken it to being in the ocean, and the undercurrent takes us so far away from where we were. The undercurrent in our culture is fear, and it is very strong.  People are so afraid to go against the tide, to go against what's popular and politically correct. It really is what St. Paul calls the "yoke of slavery". We are slaves to approval and popularity. An example would be the now-popular phrase on certain issues, "get with the 21st century". What does this mean? Does it mean we forget 20 centuries of Christian virtue? Like, 'forget freedom, we've moved into license'. St. Paul steers us away from seeing freedom as license, a result of relativism, by saying that we can't just do whatever we want. We can't misuse the gift of freedom for an "opportunity of the flesh". 

How do live true freedom as Americans and as Catholics? It's what we hear from St. Paul: "live by the Spirit". Freedom is to know what is good and to choose it. The Spirit leads us to know the Truth and to live it. It leads us to know what us true, what is good, what is just, and what is right...not just what is popular. Our Lord said, "the truth will set you free".

Finally, my private intention at this Mass - and we should always have an intention on our hearts when we receive Holy Communion - is for our country. My prayer will be for the conversion of our hearts where it is needed...that our No's become Yes's...that we turn from relativism to truth...from flesh to Spirit...from vice to virtue...and from slavery to freedom. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

"God Is Bigger Than SCOTUS"

Out of this World
God Is Bigger Than SCOTUS
By Dr. Edward Mulholland

ATCHISON, KANSAS, June 27, 2013 ( - Last Tuesday my son turned nine and got his first RBI. It happened to be on a walk-off single. He had also pitched for the first time and did very well. A birthday that began in Kansas City's Legoland Discovery Center ended in post-game glory at Dairy Queen. He said it was one of the best days of his life. Out of this world.

Last night, he pitched again and got shelled for 4 runs in the first, and walked in 2 more in the second and got yanked in the third with the bases loaded. They ended up losing 6-0.  
What does a father say to a whimpering youngster who is dragging himself from the same field he floated off a week ago?
Basically, this: “That’s life, and that’s the nature of the game. If you are going to anchor your happiness in things like that, you will not be a happy person, because your priorities are screwed up.”
Reading the Catholic blogs after the Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8, I want God the Father to tussle my hair and put my cap back on and walk beside me as we head for the car.
Yeah, we took a shellacking.  The Culture of Life had a setback that it may take generations to undo. We are called to bring the Gospel to our culture and it is running away like a toddler from broccoli.
But I have felt God’s soft and gentle voice, which threw my own words back to me (or was I using his words all along?): “That’s life, and that’s the nature of the game. If you are going to anchor your happiness in things like that, you will not be a happy person, because your priorities are screwed up.”
My purpose in this world is to glorify Him. He told me to pitch my best and I did. I have had good outings, and now I got creamed. And my Father is just as proud of me. He is so much bigger than this game I consider so important.
Yes, it also means that the world is getting tougher for the kids I am raising. They will inhabit a culture that is more inimical to their Faith.
My oldest three were at the BCYC (Benedictine College Youth Conference) last weekend. Fr. Stan
Fortuna, CFR, in his Bronx accent that sounds more musical to me than his funky bass guitar, told the group of teens and parents at the concluding mass: “Don’t worry so much about the kind of world you are leaving for your kids. Worry much more about the kind of kids you are leaving for the world.”
Jesus has called us. Out of this world. We have to worry about this world, yes. While we are on the field we have to give it our all. But the final analysis will not dwell much on the box score of our lifetime. There is one court that is truly supreme, and it is not in DC.  God’s verdict is the only one that matters.
The enemy of our souls doesn’t care if we are elated or down in the dumps. He cares that we stop giving it our best.
By the way, my son didn’t get on base, either.  The other team had their ace on the mound, a check-the-birth-certificate-on-that-kid heat hurler.  He did draw a walk and then got fanned, mistiming two errant swings and getting fooled for a called third strike.  But the last game he faced the flamethrower he kept edging out of the box. This time he hung in there.  To me, that was glorious; it was out of this world.
So, yes. The heat is on. The culture is beating down on us. We are lucky to get a piece of anything they throw at us lately. They shouted us down in the Texas State House. SCOTUS threw some nasty stuff by us.
And God the Father, who is so much bigger than history, sees that we aren’t moving. That we are staying locked in, not edging out of the box. For Him, that is glorious. For He called us. Out of this world.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Government is ultimately powerless to redefine human nature"

Statement of the Archdiocese of Washington on the Supreme Court Rulings Regarding Marriage


June 26, 2013

Upon initial review, the Archdiocese of Washington finds very troubling that the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and chose not to rule on the question of same-sex marriage in California. The apparent outcome of these decisions is that the federal government may not set parameters for the definition of marriage, but instead must leave that power to the states. The Court, in effect, has pointed out both the power of civil government and its limitations. We believe that although government might choose to use the word marriage to apply to a whole range of unions of people, it cannot change what marriage is in its very

Marriage is not a creation of the state. While a number of states and the District of Columbia have changed the legal definition of marriage, government is ultimately powerless to redefine human nature and what describes the exclusive and lifelong union of one man and one woman with the possibility of generating and nurturing children. Governments have the power to create legal definitions. They do not have the ability or authority to change created human nature.

Despite the unsettling outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the archdiocese is grateful for the ongoing efforts undertaken by those who uphold the authentic meaning of marriage and thankful that the Court’s rulings respect individual states’ right to recognize that true meaning. The archdiocese will continue to educate Catholics and the wider community about the truth of marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

"By their fruits you will know them"

Today's Gospel (Mt 7:15-20):

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but underneath are ravenous wolves.
By their fruits you will know them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Just so, every good tree bears good fruit,
and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire.
So by their fruits you will know them.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"There is no true love without fidelity"

Hey, GW Catholics, how is your daily prayer this summer?  Are you making 20 minutes a day?  If you remember, I actually picked 22 minutes a day.  Basically, whenever you heard the song, "22", it would remind you to pray.  Well, case in point from one of our students:

"So yesterday driving in traffic from work at 11pm, Taylor Swift came on the radio with '22' and after I started singing I realized I forgot to say my rosary so I lowered the radio and did it in the car. Ironically enough Taylor Swift and all you lovely people reminded me to say the rosary."

I started reading what looks like an excellent book on prayer, "Time for God", by Jacques Philippe.  In the first chapter, he writes about mental prayer, and titles it, "Mental prayer is not a technique but a grace".  Here is one of the best passages from the opening chapter in which he discusses the importance of being faithful in prayer:

"Time spent faithfully every day in mental prayer that is poor, arid, distracted, and relatively short is worth more, and will be infinitely more fruitful for our progress, than long, ardent spells of mental prayer from time to time, when circumstances make it easy. After that first decision to take prayer life seriously, the first battle we must fight is the battle to be faithful  to our times of mental prayer, come what may, according to a definite plan we have established. It is not an easy battle. Knowing how much is at stake, the devil wants at all costs to keep us from being faithful to mental prayer. He knows that a person who faithful to mental prayer has escaped from him, or at least is sure of escaping in the end. He therefore does everything he can to prevent us from being faithful.  We shall return to this point later.

What is important here is that mental prayer that is of poor quality but regular and faithful, is worth more than prayer that is sublime but only now and then.  It is faithfulness alone that enables the life of prayer to bear wonderful fruit. 

Mental prayer is basically no more than an exercise in loving God. But, there is no true love without fidelity.  How could we claim to love God if we failed to keep the appointments we make with him in mental prayer?"  (p.17) 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Homily - "Deny yourself"

We began a summer Bible study for the few GW students and visiting interns who are around the Newman Center this summer. It's a 10 week video series called, "Catholicism", by Father Robert Barron.  If you don't have this series, you should get it.  Father Barron is an excellent teacher of the faith, and the DVDs are beautiful in presenting Catholicism from around the world. So, on Monday nights, we get a little food, watch one of the DVDs, and then discuss. We watched the first one last week on Jesus, a good place to start! One of the things Father Barron said is that we like to domesticate Jesus.  We like to make him cute, cuddly, and comfortable like we would an animal.  But, this is in sharp contrast to the way people reacted to Jesus 2,000 years ago.  Father Barron quoted St. Mark as saying people were "amazed and afraid" at what Jesus said and did.

In whatever way we domesticate Jesus, we are shocked at what He says in today's Gospel.  He reveals that the first two conditions of discipleship are denying self and taking up a cross.  Nothing about being nice or peace or love or anything that our "comfy Jesus" should say we do first.  No, he says that we have to deny ourselves and take up our crosses if we want to follow Him. Yikes.  Who wants to do that? That is tough! And, first thing! "Deny yourself" means to deny your selfishness, your sin, your will, etc.  It's very unpopular in and counterintuitive to a culture which promotes self to the nth degree. It's probably one of the biggest reasons people don't follow Christ; they don't want to give up their lives.

If you hear what He is saying, "do these things and follow me", then you know that He is saying to "follow my lead...follow my example".  He denied himself and took up his cross.  This was central to His mission. The night before He died, He denied himself three times: "not my will, Father, but your will be done". That could be the summary of this homily.  Not my will, but yours be done.  Philippians 2 says that Christ "humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross". Hebrews 5: "he learned obedience through what he suffered". He was humble and obedient in doing the Father's will and fulfilling the mission.

Humility and obedience are two huge virtues in the Christian life, and are central to our mission.  Two of our students have reached out to me recently to talk about these very things in relationship with Christ.  One of them has been trying to go deeper with The Lord, doing things for Him and such.  But, she just hasn't been able to quite get over the hump.  She emailed me last week with a breakthrough. In reading the Old Testament, she found what God says in Samuel, "it is better to obey than to sacrifice". So, she wrote, "Father Greg, I need to work on obedience before anything else". Isn't that what Jesus is saying in the Gospel? Obedience to God and His Will comes first.

I was speaking with another of our seniors the other night, along these same lines. She was wondering what was preventing her from having a strong relationship with Christ. Then, she said it herself: "It's because of my selfishness... my pride".  This is a difficult but necessary realization in the spiritual life. It's so important! I just started reading a book on prayer which puts humility and obedience at the top of the list in starting a good prayer life.  We start to see with all of this how it is that we gain life by losing it.  It seems like such a paradox for the Lord to say, "he who loses his life for my sake will save it". Let me throw in another one: whoever goes out of his comfort zone for Christ will find his comfort (which is Christ).

Finally, I'd like to give a practical example of losing your life in order to save it.  We have a number of people who come to our noon daily Mass at the Newman Center, as does St Stephen's.  They lose part of their lunch hour in order to receive the Word and the Eucharist.  They lose their life in this world (20 or 30 minutes of it) in order to save their eternal save their build up eternal life.  Those of us who come to daily Mass see this paradox play out.  May the grace of the Eucharist help us all...may it help you to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Blessed John Paul II’s second miracle is approved


Theologians approve John Paul II’s second miracle

After doctors and the commission of theologians okayed the second miracle performed by John Paul II, the commission of theologians has also given its approval. All that remains now is for cardinals and bishops to give the go ahead and Wojtyla could become a saint.

Vatican Insider staff
First the doctors okayed it and now the commission of theologians of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has also approved the second miracle performed by John Paul II after his beatification. All that is needed now is for the Congregation’s commission of cardinals and bishops to give their approval, in a meeting which should take place in the next few weeks. 

As Vatican Insider wrote, last April, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints’ medical commission recognised a healing performed on a woman by John Paul II as inexplicable. Thanks to this miracle, John Paul II got the halo in record time, just eight years after his death in 2005.

It all took place in utmost secrecy and confidentiality. In January the Postulator for the Cause, Mgr. Slawomir Oder, asked the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for a preliminary opinion on a presumed miraculous healing performed by Wojtyla. After one miracle is approved for an individual’s beatification, canonical proceedings require the approval of a second miracle, which must be performed after the beatification ceremony.

Two doctors from the Vatican’s medical commission had given their approval after a previous examination. The dossier containing the medical records and witness reports was presented officially to the dicastery and the cause was added to the list of causes to be examined.

The steps taken are a clear demonstration of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints’ eagerness to move things along quickly, as they did with John Paul II’s beatification, which Benedict XVI celebrated on 1 May 2011. The preferential treatment given to Wojtyla indicates that Francis is also in favour of the Polish pope’s canonization.

It is still early to talk about dates for the canonization, but the speed at which the examination of the miracle process is proceeding, means it could be celebrated on Sunday 20 October, just two days ahead of the feast day of the Blessed John Paul II, on 22 October.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Four Reasons I Think Jesus Really Existed"

We began our summer Bible study this week which consists of viewing and discussing the video series, "Catholicism", by Father Robert Barron.  What a great series of DVDs which explain Catholic belief and culture!  We watched the video on Jesus which prompted the question in our discussion of how to explain to atheists or others that Jesus really existed.  One of our participants sent me a link to the following pertinent blog:

Four Reasons I Think Jesus Really Existed

A small handful of scholars today, and a much larger group of Internet commenters, maintain that Jesus never existed. Proponents of this position, known as mythicists, claim that Jesus is a purely mythical figure invented by the writers of the New Testament (or its later copyists.) In this post I’ll offer the top four reasons (from weakest to strongest) that convince me Jesus of Nazareth was a real person without relying on the Gospel accounts of his life.

4. It is the mainstream position in academia.

I admit this is the weakest of my four reasons, but I list it to show that there is no serious debate among the vast majority of scholars in the fields related to the question of the existence of Jesus. John Dominic Crossan, who co-founded the skeptical Jesus Seminar, denies that Jesus rose from the dead but is confident that Jesus was an historical person. He writes, “That [Jesus] was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be" (Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, p. 145). Bart Ehrman is an agnostic who is forthright in his rejection of mythicism. Ehrman teaches at the University of North Carolina and is widely regarded as an expert on the New Testament documents. He writes, “The view that Jesus existed is held by virtually every expert on the planet” (Did Jesus Exist?, p. 4).

3. Jesus’ existence is confirmed by extra-Biblical sources.

The first century Jewish historian Josephus mentions Jesus twice. The shorter reference is in Book 20 of his Antiquities of the Jews and describes the stoning of law breakers in A.D. 62. One of the criminals is described as “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James.” What makes this passage authentic is that it lacks Christian terms like “the Lord,” it fits into the context of this section of the antiquities, and the passage is found in every manuscript copy of the Antiquities. According to New Testament scholar Robert Van Voorst in his book Jesus Outside the New Testament, “The overwhelming majority of scholars hold that the words ‘brother of Jesus, who was called Christ,’ are authentic, as is the entire passage in which it is found” (p. 83).

The longer passage in Book 18 is called the Testimonium Flavianum. Scholars are divided on this passage because, while it does mention Jesus, it contains phrases that were almost certainly added by Christian copyists. These include phrases that would never have been used by a Jew like Josephus, such as saying of Jesus, “He was the Christ” or “he appeared alive again on the third day.”
Mythicists maintain that the entire passage is a forgery because it is out of context and interrupts Josephus’ previous narrative. But this view neglects the fact that writers in the ancient world did not use footnotes and would often wander into unrelated topics in their writings. According to New Testament scholar James D. G. Dunn, the passage has clearly been subject to Christian redaction, but there are also words Christians would never use of Jesus. These include calling Jesus “a wise man” or referring to themselves as a “tribe” which is strong evidence Josephus originally wrote something like the following:

“At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who received the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians (named after him) has not died out” (Jesus Remembered, p. 141).

Furthermore, the Roman historian Tacitus records in his Annals that after the great fire in Rome, Emperor Nero fastened the blame on a despised group of people called Christians. Tacitus identifies this group thusly: “Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius.” Bart D. Ehrman writes, “Tacitus’s report confirms what we know from other sources, that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, sometime during Tiberius’s reign" (The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to Early Christian Writings, 212).

2. The Early Church Fathers don’t describe the mythicist heresy.

Those who deny that Jesus existed usually argue that the first Christians believed Jesus was just a cosmic savior figure who communicated to believers through visions. Later Christians then added the apocryphal details of Jesus’ life (such as his execution under Pontius Pilate) in order to ground him in first century Palestine. If the mythicist theory is true, then at some point in Christian history there would had to have been a break or outright revolt between new converts who believed in a real Jesus and  the “orthodox” establishment view that Jesus never existed.The curious thing about this theory is that the early Church fathers such as Irenaeus loved to stamp out heresy. They wrote massive treatises criticizing heretics and yet in all of their writings the heresy that Jesus never existed is never mentioned. In fact, no one in the entire history of Christianity (not even early pagan critics like Celsus or Lucian) seriously argued for a mythic Jesus until the 18th century.

Other heresies, such as Gnosticism or Donatism, were like that stubborn bump in the carpet. You could stamp them out in one place only to have them pop up again centuries later, but the mythcist “heresy” is nowhere to be found in the early Church. So what’s more likely: that the early Church hunted down and destroyed every member of mythicist Christianity in order to prevent the heresy from spreading and conveniently never wrote about it, or that the early Christians were not mythicists and so there was nothing for the Church Fathers to campaign against? (Some mythcists argue that the heresy of Docetism included a mythic Jesus, but I don’t find that claim convincing. See this blog post for a good rebuttal of that idea).

1. St. Paul knew the disciples of Jesus.

Almost all mythicists concede that St. Paul was a real person, because we have his letters. In Galatians 1:18-19, Paul describes his personal meeting in Jerusalem with Peter and James, “the brother of the Lord.” Surely if Jesus was a fictional person then one of his own relatives would have known that (note that in Greek the term for brother could also mean kin). Mythicists offer several explanations for this passage which Robert Price considers to be part of what he calls “The most powerful argument against the Christ-Myth theory.” (The Christ Myth Theory and Its Problems, p. 333).
Earl Doherty, a mythicist, claims that James’ title probably referred to a pre-existing Jewish monastic group who called themselves “the brothers of the Lord” of which James may have been the leader (Jesus: Neither God nor Man, p. 61). But we have no corroborating evidence that such a group existed in Jerusalem at that time. Furthermore, Paul criticizes the Corinthians for professing allegiance to a certain individual, even Christ, and as a result creating division within the Church (1 Corinthians 1: 11-13). It is unlikely Paul would praise James for being a member of such a divisive faction (Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd, The Jesus Legend, p. 206).
Price claims that the title could be a reference to James’ spiritual imitation of Christ. He appeals to a nineteenth-century Chinese zealot who called himself “Jesus’ little brother” as proof of his theory that “brother” could mean spiritual follower (p. 338). But such a far removed example from the context of first century Palestine makes Price’s reasoning pretty hard to accept when compared to a plain reading of the text.

In conclusion, I think there are many good reasons to think that Jesus really did exist and was the founder of a religious sect in first century Palestine. This includes the evidence we have from extra-Biblical sources, the Church Fathers, and the first-hand testimony of Paul. I understand much more can be written on this subject but I think this is a good starting point for those who are interested in the (largely Internet-based) debate over the historical Jesus.
(P.S. If you think Jesus was just a rip-off of pagan religions (such as the Egyptian God Horus), then please see my colleague Jon Sorensen’s magnificent takedown of that hypothesis.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"I didn't want to be pope"

Francis gets personal: 'I didn't want to be pope'
By NICOLE WINFIELD | Associated Press – Fri, Jun 7, 2013

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis revealed Friday that he never wanted to be pope and that he's living in the Vatican hotel for his "psychiatric" health.
Francis showed a personal and spontaneous side as he met with thousands of children from Jesuit schools across Italy and Albania. Tossing aside his prepared remarks, Francis surprised the kids by asking them if they'd like to ask him some questions instead.

"Yes!" they shouted to cheers and applause — and the concern of teachers who fretted that no one had prepared anything.
Answering their questions one by one, Francis told them the decision to become a priest had been difficult and that he had suffered "moments of interior darkness" when "you feel dry, without interior joy."

But he said he went ahead because he loved Christ.

One of the most touching moments came when Teresa, a bright-eyed redhead no more than six, asked Francis flat out if he had wanted to be pope.

Francis joked that only someone who hated himself would ever want to be pope. But then he became serious: "I didn't want to be pope."

Someone else asked him why he had renounced the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace in favor of his spare suite in the Vatican hotel, where he has been living ever since the March conclave that elected him the first Jesuit pope and first pontiff from the Americas.

It wasn't so much a question of luxury as personality, he said. "I need to live among people," he said. "If I was living alone, isolated, it wouldn't be good for me. A professor asked me the same question, 'why don't you go and live there (in the Papal apartments)'? And I replied: 'Listen to me professor, it is for psychiatric reasons,'" he said chuckling.

This week, the Vatican confirmed that Francis wouldn't vacation at the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolofo, in the hills south of Rome, and would instead remain in the Santa Marta hotel with a reduced work schedule. Francis' predecessors have all decamped for at least a few weeks each summer to the estate, where the lush gardens, lakeside perch and cool breezes provide a welcome respite to the oppressive summer heat of Rome. The estate, which by acreage is bigger than Vatican City, is entirely walled in, making it a perfect escape for a pope who wants isolation and solitude — but not one who wants to eat breakfast each morning with a group of fellow priests, as Francis does in the communal dining room of the Vatican hotel.

Francis has shown himself to be remarkably comfortable around children, taking up to an hour each Wednesday to greet mostly young people in the crowds at his general audience: He caresses and kisses the dozens of babies handed to him by his bodyguards; and he tousles the hair of older teens and pats them on the back, asking them to pray for him.

He showed a similar ease on Friday as he engaged in a good 30 minutes of banter with the schoolchildren, casually making the points he has made in his homilies and speeches: about the "scandal" of poverty and how the world frets when the stock market dips but cares nothing when a homeless person dies, and how everyone should learn a lesson from the poor.

Once or twice a year, Pope Benedict XVI would take questions from young people, but the questions were always submitted in advance so he could prepare a response.

The questions on Friday were clearly spontaneous. One little boy from Sicily asked Francis if he had ever visited Sicily. (No, Francis said, but he recently saw a beautiful film about the island.) A teacher from Spain asked the pope about "compromised" politicians. (Francis said all Christians had an obligation to be involved in politics.)

His final message to the kid was upbeat: "Don't let anyone rob you of hope."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Homily - "Your sins are forgiven"

Happy Father’s Day to all of our fathers, grandfathers, and godfathers.  “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin”.  “Your sins are forgiven”.  We hear this incredible words in today’s readings.  David hears them in the first reading, and the woman in the Gospel hears them…”your sins are forgiven”.  Oh, to hear these words!  They change everything.  Pope Francis, in one of his first addresses as Holy Father, said, “mercy changes everything”.  We see this play out in the life of the woman in the Gospel.  Her life changed in receiving the mercy of God.  And, Jesus pointed to her love.  Forgiveness helped her to show “great love”.

I want to plug Confession briefly for two reasons.  The first reason is to hear the healing words, “your sins are forgiven”.  It is so healing for us to hear these words from our Lord through the priest in Confession.  People ask, ‘why do we need to go to Confession?’ One reason is to hear that we are forgiven.  We can have our venial sins forgiven at Mass in the Eucharist, but even then we don’t hear that we are forgiven. 

The second reason is for love, and to grow in love.  Yes, we don’t want to do what the second reading is talking about that “Christ died for nothing”, and if we don’t go to Confession, we risk Christ dying for nothing and that we can “nullify the grace of God”.  We want to honor the Lord’s sacrifice.  We want to honor His mission.  But, the main point we go to Confession is because we love him and through His forgiveness, love him more.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

DC Priest Ordinations tomorrow

The following is from the website of the Office of Priest Vocations which you can check out HERE. Please pray for the men to be ordained tomorrow. 


              2013 Ordinations to the Priesthood

At 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 15, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Cardinal Wuerl will ordain six men to the priesthood for our archdiocese!  Click here to learn about a Holy Hour to be held with our six ordinandi at St. Jerome's in Hyattsville, Maryland on Friday, June 14.  Please consider coming to St. Jerome's where Fr. William Byrne, pastor of St. Peter's on Capitol Hill, will lead us in prayer and adoration of our Most High Priest for the intentions of Deacon Francisco Aguirre, Deacon Rafael Barbieri, Deacon Mark Cusik, Deacon Sean Foggo, Deacon Scott Holmer, and Deacon Samuel Plummer.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Pro-life NFL player

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | | 6/6/13

Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Matt Birk is pro-life — so when it came time for the Ravens to visit President Barack Obama for the annual congratulations to the Super Bowl winners, he decided not to go.

The pro-life NFL player explained his decision:
“I wasn’t there,” Birk told The Power Trip. “I would say this, I would say that I have great respect for the office of the Presidency but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, ‘God bless Planned Parenthood.’”
Birk, who also took a public stance during the recent gay rights movements that swung through our country last year, is a very open and public Catholic and claims that he took offense to these comments that were made by President Obama. So much so, that he declined a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet and be honored by the President at the White House.
“Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year,” Birk explained. “I am Catholic, I am active in the Pro-Life movement and I just felt like I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t endorse that in any way.”
Planned Parenthood is one of the nations leading sexual and reproductive health care providers.
Their stances on birth control, abortion and the morning after pill have often pinned the in a head on clash with many Catholic and Conservative Christian groups across the nation.
“I’m very confused by [the President's] statement,” Birk questioned. “For God to bless a place where they’re ending 330,000 lives a year? I just chose not to attend.”
Birk is a longtime pro-life advocate who has a thoughtful position against abortion and a family story to share.
Birk grew up in St. Paul Minnesota, where Planned Parenthood did abortions for decades and then the godfather of one of Birk’s five children opened a pregnancy center across the street from the abortion facility. Adrianna, Birk’s wife, volunteered at the center, and eventually the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic closed.Birk was a featured speaker at the Maryland March for Life previously and he said his Catholic faith and being a father are two of the big reasons he is pro-life and he shared how he was overwhelmed to hold his first child.“It was unbelievable the love that I felt for her,” he said in a prior interview, “and any parent knows exactly what I’m talking about. At that point, you know it’s not a choice. Life is a gift that’s given to us. We are supposed to accept it. It’s not our choice whether we decide a baby lives or not.”Birk said participating in the March for Life is “one of the coolest things I’ve done.”“It seems like our society and media want to push pro-lifers to the side and hope that we would shut our mouths and go away quietly,” said Birk. “Let’s not do that.”
“We all need saving,” he said, “and there’s one thing that can save us all, and that’s prayer,” he added.

“I don’t think I’m a superstar by any means,” Birk said, “but I’m glad (for) the platform that football allows me. I’m glad to use it to support causes that I passionately believe in and this is one of them. For me, it comes down to what’s right and what’s wrong – what’s God’s will and what’s not.”

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

"Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist"

Many thanks to Dan Grossano who sent me a message on the feast of Corpus Christi about a book and presentation, "Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist" by Dr. Brant Pitre.  As Dan recommended this to me, I recommend it to you (kinda what we heard from St. Paul in the second reading on Sunday..."I handed on what I received"!).  As Dan said, "I was just listening to his presentation about it and it is dynamite. It would be well worth your time and can be found here:".

When you click on the link above, you can listen to or watch the presentation by clicking on the audio file or video file (under the download section as it appears below).  Understanding the Jewish roots of the Eucharist truly helps us to appreciate the richness and depth of the greatest treasure on earth.


Download Dr. Pitre's presentation in MP4 or MP3 format by clicking the links below:

MP4 - Video file that can be played across computers and mobile devices.
*iPhone Tip* The MP4 can be added to your iTunes video library then synced onto the iPhone, iPod & iPad.
MP3 - Audio file that can be played across computers and most mobile devices.

Audio File - MP3 format - 65 MB
Video File - MP4 format - 385 MB
Text Outline - PDF format - 1 MB

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Homily - "Top 10 reminders about the Eucharist"

I have found that laying out specific guidelines and principles is helpful for people to follow the Lord, especially with regard to the Eucharist. So, on this feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, here are some specific guidelines and principles. I am calling them, the "Top ten reminders about the Eucharist and Mass. 

Number 1. A question I am asked often is, "why do we have to go to Mass every Sunday?" First, it is the third commandment to keep holy the Sabbath.  The Christian Sabbath is Sunday.  Second, the main point of coming to Mass is to receive the Eucharist.  Jesus teaches in John 6:53-54 that if we want to get to Heaven, we need to receive the Eucharist:  "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks has eternal life". If we want to get to Heaven, we need to come to Mass every Sunday to receive the Eucharist, whether we are home or away. Between the teaching of John 6 and the Last Supper accounts in which Jesus says, "this is my body", we can know with certainty that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ. "This is my body" means this is my body.

Number 2. When does Mass start and end? Mass starts when the presider makes the sign of the Cross and greets the people. We need to be here for the start of Mass and be prepared to enter into the sacred mysteries. We definitely need to be present in time for the Gospel.  If we miss the Gospel, we have missed Mass and need to find another Mass to fulfill our Sunday obligation. We need to be here for the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Mass ends when the presider gives the final blessing and says, "the Mass is ended" (duh!). It is a venial sin to arrive late or leave early without a good reason.

Number 3.  Does God care how we dress for Mass? I think so.  He says in the first Book of Chronicles and in Psalms 29 and 96, "worship the Lord in holy attire".  We come to the house of God for a "sacred banquet", as the Church puts it.  Blessed John Paul II described the Mass as a "sacred banquet in which the simplicity of the signs conceals the unfathomable holiness of God". Does the way we dress celebrate the "unfathomable holiness of God"? We primarily dress nicely to show reverence for the Lord,  but we also dress modestly to help each other.  We don't want to distract members of the opposite sex by what we wear. It's better to wear more than less in donning our "Sunday best".

Number 4. Participate! Vatican II calls for "full and active participation" among the faithful. Let's hear what this sounds like. Can you give me an amen? "AMEN!" Imagine that kind of participation in every response and hymn during Mass. 

Number 5. Transubstantiation. This means that the substances of bread and wine change to become the Body and Blood of Christ.  Transubstantiation also takes place with the priest.  It is no longer the priest who is celebrating the Mass; it is Christ. That's why we hear the words, "this is my body" and not this is his body. The priest acts in persona Christi - in the person of Christ - at Mass and in the other sacraments. 

Number 6. When does the Consecration actually take place? When the words of Institution are said, "this is my body...this is the chalice of my blood".

Number 7.  We can receive Holy Communion either in the hand or on the tongue. People receive on the tongue because they believe it is the most reverent way to receive, or they think only the priest should touch the sacred Host, or they don't want any particles of the Host falling to the ground in the transfer from hand to hand or hand to mouth. But, as early as the fourth century, the tradition of the Church has allowed for receiving in the hand. St. Theodore of Mospsuestia (c. 350 AD) instructed people who receive in the hand to "make of your left hand a throne for your right as it is about to receive your King, and receive the Body of Christ in the fold of your hand, responding 'Amen'. 

Number 8. Who may receive the Eucharist? Catholics who in a state of grace. I say before Holy Communion at every Mass, "let all faithful Catholics come receive our Lord". If you are not Catholic or not in a state of Grace, you are encouraged to remain in your pew to make a spiritual Communion. Forget what others might be thinking or if they are judging you. Be respectful of the Eucharist and if you need yo go to Confession before receiving, please do. You can also come up for a blessing by crossing your arms. 

Number 9. The Communion of saints. This is one of the most beautiful teachings of our Church. The Eucharist is where heaven and earth unite. Where there is the Son, there is the Father and the Spirit and all the angels and saints. During Mass, the Church is like a chamber of Heaven where the saints on earth are joined with the saints in heaven. All of our loved ones who are among the saints in heaven are with us at every Mass, even though we can't see them.

Number 10. Thanksgiving. The word Eucharist literally means, "thanksgiving". We come to give thanks to God for all that He has done for us. We especially give thanks to Jesus for His sacrifice on the Cross. I invite you to join the saints in the practice of making a prayer of thanksgiving after Mass.  Spend a moment or two to digest all that you just received in this heavenly banquet. Give thanks to The Lord for all that He has given you. And especially, thank Jesus for His sacrifice on the Cross for you and the gift of the Eucharist - the Body of Blood of Christ, the greatest treasure in the world. 

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Holy Hour with the Pope tomorrow!

From The Word Among Us (
On Sunday, June 2, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Pope Francis is presiding over a special worldwide Eucharistic Adoration. It will take place at 5:00 PM, Rome time (11:00 AM Eastern time). Dioceses and parishes all over the world will join in simultaneously, or, depending on the time zone, with a Holy Hour at a more convenient time that day.
To learn more about this special Year of Faith event and to find a Holy Hour near you, visit (click on “Events” and then “Adoration in the World”). Of course, you can join in by doing your own hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Prayer Intentions. As you pray, keep in mind Pope Francis’ special prayer intentions for the month of June:
  • That a culture of dialogue, listening, and mutual respect may prevail among peoples.
  •  That where secularization is strongest, Christian communities may effectively promote a new evangelization.

And Pray with Faith! Remember the gospel passage where Philip invites Nathanael to come meet Jesus with him? He tells his friend: “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” When Nathanael scoffs and asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip replies simply, “Come and see.” Nathanael does just that, and within the first few moments of his conversation with Jesus, he declares, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:45-46,49).

What happened to Nathanael can happen to us! When we “come and see” Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, he will convince us that he is the Son of God, that he is our Savior, and that he is our Lord. The same Jesus who changed Nathanael can change our lives as we spend time in his presence.

But it won’t happen as if by magic. Of course, God will bless us if we just show up and sit passively before him, but there is so much more available to us than a general blessing from God. We open ourselves to receive it when we use our intellect in prayer, holding fast to the truths of Christ’s presence and telling ourselves to expect Jesus to touch us and teach us. Jesus promised that “all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life” (John 6:40). That active belief is what will bring us into contact with Jesus. It will open the floodgates of his blessing and his love for us.

So when you go to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, ask him to reveal himself to you. Listen for his still, small voice in your heart. After all, prayer is conversation with God—conversation with a God who loves to talk with us and to embrace us with his love.