Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Calvary and the Mass"

I was just talking with a student about this the other day and gave her a book with basically the same title as this post.  To make the connection between Calvary and the Mass gives us a better appreciation, understanding, and love for the Mass, especially the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Saw this brief reflection from on Facebook, and had to post.  Click HERE to visit the site.

Calvary and the Mass

by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Ph.D., D.D., LL.D., Litt.D.


There are certain things in life which are too beautiful to be forgotten, such as the love of a mother. Hence we treasure her picture. The love of soldiers who sacrificed themselves for their country is likewise too beautiful to be forgotten; hence we revere their memory on Memorial Day. But the greatest blessing which ever came to this earth was the visitation of the Son of God in the form and habit of man. His life, above all lives, is too beautiful to be forgotten; hence we treasure the divinity of His Words in Sacred Scripture, and the charity of His Deeds in our daily actions. Unfortunately this is all some souls remember namely His Words and His Deeds; important as these are, they are not the greatest characteristic of the Divine Savior.
The most sublime act in the history of Christ was His Death. Death is always important for it seals a destiny. Any dying man is a scene. Any dying scene is a sacred place. That is why the great literature of the past which has touched on the emotions surrounding death has never passed out of date. But of all deaths in the record of man, none was more important than the Death of Christ. Everyone else, who was ever born into the world, came into it to live; our Lord came into it to die. Death was a stumbling block to the life of Socrates, but it was the crown to the life of Christ. He Himself told us that He came "to give his life redemption for many"; that no one could take away His Life; but He would lay it down of Himself.

If then Death was the supreme moment for which Christ lived, it was therefore the one thing He wished to have remembered. He did not ask that men should write down His Words into a Scripture; He did not ask that His kindness to the poor should be recorded in history; but He did ask that men remember His Death. And in order that its memory might not be any haphazard narrative on the part of men, He Himself instituted the precise way it should be recalled.

The memorial was instituted the night before He died, at what has since been called "The Last Supper." Taking bread into His Hands, He said: "This is my body, which shall be delivered for you," i.e., delivered unto death. Then over the chalice of wine, He said, "This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins." Thus in an unbloody symbol of the parting of the Blood from the Body, by the separate consecration of Bread and Wine, did Christ pledge Himself to death in the sight of God and men, and represent His death which was to come the next afternoon at three. He was offering Himself as a Victim to be immolated, and that men might never forget that "greater love than this no man hash, that a man lay down his life for his friends," He gave the divine command to the Church: "Do this for a commemoration of me."

"Death is put before us in a symbol, by means of that sacramental parting of the Blood from the Body; but death at the same time already pledged to God for all its worth, as well as all its awful reality, by the expressive language of the Sacred Symbol. The price of our sins shall be paid down on Calvary; but here the liability is incurred by our Redeemer, and subscribed in His very Blood"-Maurice de la Taille, S.J.- Catholic Faith in the Holy Eucharist, p. 115 "There were not two distinct and complete sacrifices offered by Christ, one in the Cenacle, the other on Calvary. There was a sacrifice at the Last Supper, but it was the sacrifice of Redemption; and there was a sacrifice on the Cross, but it was the selfsame sacrifice continued and completed. The Supper and the Cross made up one complete sacrifice."-Maurice de la Taille, S.J., The Mystery of Faith and Human Opinion, p. 232.

The following day, that which He had prefigured and foreshadowed, He realized in its completeness; as He was crucified between two thieves and His Blood drained from His Body for the redemption of the world. The Church which Christ founded has not only preserved the Word He spoke, and the wonders He wrought; it has also taken Him seriously when He said: "Do this for a commemoration of me." And that action whereby we re-enact His Death on the Cross is the Sacrifice of the Mass, in which we do as a memorial what He did at the Last Supper as the prefiguration of His Passion.

Hence the Mass is to us the crowning act of Christian worship. A pulpit in which the words of our Lord are repeated does not unite us to Him; a choir in which sweet sentiments are sung brings us no closer to His Cross than to His garments. A temple without an altar of sacrifice is non-existent among primitive peoples, and is meaningless among Christians. And so in the Catholic Church the altar , and not the pulpit or the choir or the organ, is the center of worship, for there is re-enacted the memorial of His Passion. Its value does not depend on him who says it, or on him who hears it; it depends on Him who is the One High Priest and Victim, Jesus Christ our Lord.

With Him we are united, in spite of our nothingness; in a certain sense, we lose our individuality for the time being; we unite our intellect and our will, our heart and our soul, our body and our blood, so intimately with Christ, that the Heavenly Father sees not so much us with our imperfection, but rather sees us in Him, the Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. The Mass is for that reason the greatest event in the history of mankind; the only Holy Act which keeps the wrath of God from a sinful world, because it holds the Cross between heaven and earth, thus renewing that decisive moment when our sad and tragic humanity journeyed suddenly forth to the fullness of supernatural life.

What is important at this point is that we take the proper mental attitude toward the Mass, and remember this important fact, that the Sacrifice of the Cross is not something which happened nineteen hundred years ago. It is still happening. It is not something past like the signing of the Declaration of Independence; it is an abiding drama on which the curtain has not yet rung down. Let it not be believed that it happened a long time ago, and therefore no more concerns us than anything else in the past. Calvary belongs to all times and to all places.

That is why, when our Blessed Lord ascended the heights of Calvary, He was fittingly stripped of His garments: He would save the world without the trappings of a passing world. His garments belonged to time, for they localized Him, and fixed Him as a dweller in Galilee. Now that He was shorn of them and utterly dispossessed of earthly things, He belonged not to Galilee, not to a Roman province, but to the world. He became the universal poor man of the world, belonging to no one people, but to all men.

"He offered the Victim to be immolated; we offer it as immolated of old. We offer the eternal Victim of the Cross, once made and forever enduring.... The Mass is a sacrifice because it is our oblation of the Victim once immolated, even as the Supper was the oblation of the Victim to be immolated." ibid. p. 239-240.

The Mass is not only a commemoration; it is a living representation of the sacrifice of the cross. "In this Divine Sacrifice which takes place at the Mass is contained and immolated, in an unbloody manner, the same Christ that was offered once for all in blood upon the Cross . . . It is one and the same Victim, one and the same High Priest, who made the offering through the ministry of His priests today, after having offered Himself upon the cross yesterday; only the manner of the oblation is different" (Council of Trent. Sess. 22).

To express further the universality of the Redemption, the cross was erected at the crossroads of civilization, at a central point between the three great cultures of Jerusalem, Rome, and Athens, in whose names He was crucified. The cross was thus placarded before the eyes of men, to arrest the careless, to appeal to the thoughtless, to arouse the worldly. It was the one inescapable fact that the cultures and civilizations of His day could not resist. It is also the one inescapable fact of our day which we cannot resist.

The figures at the Cross were symbols of all who crucify. We were there in our representatives. What we are doing now to the Mystical Christ, they were doing in our names to the historical Christ. If we are envious of the good, we were there in the Scribes and Pharisees. If we are fearful of losing some temporal advantage by embracing Divine Truth and Love, we were there in Pilate. If we trust in material forces and seek to conquer through the world instead of through the spirit, we were there in Herod. And so the story goes on for the typical sins of the world. They all blind us to the fact that He is God. There was therefore a kind of inevitability about the Crucifixion. Men who were free to sin were also free to crucify.

As long as there is sin in the world the Crucifixion is a reality. As the poet has put it:

"I saw the son of man go by,
Crowned with a crown of thorns.
'Was it not finished Lord,' said I,
'And all the anguish borne?'
"He turned on me His awful eyes;
'Hast Thou not understood?
So every soul is a Calvary
And every sin a rood.'"

We were there then during that Crucifixion. The drama was already completed as far as the vision of Christ was concerned, but it had not yet been unfolded to all men and all places and all times. If a motion picture reel, for example, were conscious of itself, it would know the drama from beginning to end, but the spectators in the theater would not know it until they had seen it unrolled upon the screen. In like manner, our Lord on the Cross saw His eternal mind, the whole drama of history, the story of each individual soul and how later on it would react to His Crucifixion; but though He saw all, we could not know how we would react to the Cross until we were unrolled upon the screen of time.

We were not conscious of being present there on Calvary that day, but He was conscious of our presence. Today we know the role we played in the theater of Calvary; by the way we live and act now in the theater of the twentieth century. That is why Calvary is actual; why the Cross is the Crisis; why in a certain sense the scars are still open; why Pain still stands deified, and why blood like falling stars is still dropping upon our souls. There is no escaping the Cross not even by denying it as the Pharisees did; not even by selling Christ as Judas did; not even by crucifying Him as the executioners did. We all see it, either to embrace it in salvation, or to fly from it into misery.

But how is it made visible? Where shall we find Calvary perpetuated? We shall find Calvary renewed, re-enacted, re-presented, as we have seen, in the Mass. Calvary is one with the Mass, and the Mass is one with Calvary, for in both there is the same Priest and Victim. The Seven Last Words are like the seven parts of the Mass. And just as there are seven notes in music admitting an infinite variety of harmonies and combinations, so too on the Cross there are seven divine notes, which the dying Christ rang down the centuries, all of which combine to form the beautiful harmony of the world's redemption.

Each word is a part of the Mass. The First Word, "Forgive," is the Confiteor; the Second Word, "This Day in Paradise," is the Offertory; the Third Word, "Behold Thy Mother," is the Sanctus; the Fourth Word, "Why hast Thou abandoned Me," is the Consecration; the Fifth Word, "I thirst," is the Communion; the Sixth Word, "It is finished," is the Ite, Missa Est; the Seventh Word, "Father, into Thy Hands," is the Last Gospel.

Picture then the High Priest Christ leaving the sacristy of heaven for the altar of Calvary. He has already put on the vestment of our human nature, the maniple of our suffering, the stole of priesthood, the chasuble of the Cross. Calvary is his cathedral; the rock of Calvary is the altar stone; the sun turning to red is the sanctuary lamp; Mary and John are the living side altars; the Host is His Body; the wine is His Blood. He is upright as Priest, yet He is prostrate as Victim. His Mass is about to begin.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"The porn industry contributes to (human) trafficking"

Hotels and the pornography plague: an example of moral responsibility from Scandinavia

By Robert P.George
Co-authored with Hamza Yusuf
September 10, 2013

A bit more than a year ago, we made public here on Public Discourse a letter we had sent to the chief executive officers of our nation’s largest hotel chains, respectfully asking them to stop offering pornography in their hotel rooms. We said:
We are, respectively, a Christian and a Muslim, but we appeal to you not on the basis of truths revealed in our scriptures but on the basis of a commitment that should be shared by all people of reason and goodwill: a commitment to human dignity and the common good. As teachers and as parents, we seek a society in which young people are encouraged to respect others and themselves—treating no one as an impersonal object or thing. We hope that you share our desire to build such a society.
Pornography is degrading, dehumanizing, and corrupting. It undermines self-respect and respect for others. It reduces persons—creatures bearing profound, inherent, and equal dignity—to the status of objects. It robs a central aspect of our humanity—our sexuality—of its dignity and beauty. It ensnares some in addiction. It deprives others of their sense of self-worth. It teaches our young people to settle for the cheap satisfactions of lust, rather than to do the hard, yet ultimately liberating and fulfilling, work of love.

One hotel chain, Marriott, informed us that they were “phasing out” offerings of pornography in their
hotel rooms. Another, Hilton, defended its participation in the pornography business by appealing, dubiously in our view, to libertarian principles. Others, so far as we can tell, have ignored our plea.

We wish to reiterate that plea here, however, by holding up to the American hotel executives the highly laudable actions of Petter Stordalen, owner of Nordic Hotels, one of Scandinavia’s largest chains. Mr. Stordalen, after becoming involved in international efforts to fight the horrific practice of trafficking women and girls into sexual slavery, announced that pornography would no longer be offered to his customers. In a public statement explaining his decision, he said:
The porn industry contributes to trafficking, so I see it as a natural part of having a social responsibility to send out a clear signal that Nordic Hotels doesn't support or condone this.
He’s right. The pornography industry is corrupt through and through—inherently so. It should come as no surprise that it is connected to something as exploitative, degrading, and dehumanizing as human trafficking. Bravo to Petter Stordalen for refusing to continue profiting from peddling the industry’s wares.
Of course, even if trafficking were not part of the reality of the industry, good people should be opposed to pornography and unwilling to profit from it. As we said in our letter to hotel executives:
We beg you to consider the young woman who is depicted as a sexual object in these movies, as nothing but a bundle of raw animal appetites whose sex organs are displayed to the voyeurs of the world and whose body is used in loveless and utterly depersonalized sex acts. Surely we should regard that young woman as we would regard a sister, daughter, or mother. She is a precious member of the human family. You may say that she freely chooses to compromise her dignity in this way, and in some cases that would be true, but that gives you no right to avail yourself of her self-degradation for the sake of financial gain. Would you be willing to profit from her self-degradation if she were your sister? Would you be willing to profit from her self-degradation if she were your own beloved daughter?
The reality is, however, just as Mr. Stordalen depicts it. Human trafficking is part of the reality. And it is time for his fellow hotel executives to face up to that fact.

Indeed, it is time for Mr. Stordalen’s American counterparts to follow his commendable example. If Nordic Hotels can demonstrate this kind of moral and social responsibility, then there is no reason that Hilton Hotels and the other large chains cannot. Let them stop trying to deceive the public—and perhaps even themselves—with rhetoric about respecting or even protecting their customers’ liberty. Pornography is a social plague with horrific real-life consequences for real live people—addicts, spouses, children, communities, girls and women trafficked into sexual servitude.

At this late season of our nation’s experience with the social costs of pornography there is no longer any excuse for supposing that porn is merely a form of harmless naughtiness. Even the socially very liberal nation of Iceland is moving to ban or severely restrict it by law. Whatever one thinks of legal prohibitions or restrictions, everyone should recognize that pornography is a moral and social evil that no decent person would want to profit from or have anything to do with.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is President of Zaytuna College.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Homily - "Humility is honesty"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

Friday, October 25, 2013

DC Priest on TV!

EWTN network, "Coming Home", 10/7/13
Fr. Carter Griffin, former Presbyterian and Catholic convert;
Vocations Director, Archdiocese of Washington


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Catholic World Series Champ

Covering All the Bases With World Series Champion Jeff Suppan  

The 2006 NLCS MVP discusses the MLB playoffs, family, prayer and Catholic media.

by Trent Beattie

With only four teams left in the playoffs, Major League Baseball is heading into the climax of its season, and Jeff Suppan knows exactly what the players are going through.

Suppan initially looked upon the playoffs with awe and trepidation, but, eventually, he gained a more accurate view of the dynamics at play. This helped to bring about a 2006 World Series Championship for him and the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now that Suppan has been away from professional baseball for over a year, he spends most of his time in southern California with his wife, Dana, and their two small children, ages 2 and 4. He makes the Sign of the Cross on their foreheads before putting them in bed, and he even gets a blessing back from his 4-year-old daughter.

Jeff Suppan, the 2006 National League Championship Series MVP, recently recounted this winsome story and many others to Register correspondent Trent Beattie.

You’ve played for three of the teams that made the playoffs this year, and two of them — the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox — are still in contention. Did you have a favorite team going into the postseason?

I’ve played for quite a few major-league teams — seven to be exact — and I like all of them for various reasons. They each had good things going for them, and I was able to make friends from each team I was a part of. Now I look on the playoffs, not from the standpoint of rooting for one team over another, but from an overall standpoint of the game of baseball and then, secondarily, on keeping up-to-date on friends who are still playing.

I can remember playing for the Cardinals in 2006, which was a long, tough season. We had two eight-game losing streaks and a seven-game losing streak as well. Not exactly what you’d expect from a team that went on to win the World Series, but that’s what happened. We didn’t let the setbacks get to us; instead, we kept competing each day, and it eventually paid off.

The Cardinals had a much better regular season this year than in 2006, and it is an interesting matchup now, with them and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. The Dodgers, as you can imagine, are popular here in southern California, and lots of Dodgers fans come into our restaurant, Soup’s Sports Grill. Some people wrote the Dodgers off after the slow start this year, but now they’re right back among the best.

What advice would you give to the players left in the postseason?

Growing up as a baseball player, I imagined what it would be like to play in the MLB postseason. I thought of it as being magical — just a dreamy, fantastic experience. When I finally got there with the Boston Red Sox in 1995, however, there was nothing dreamy about it.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the game of baseball, and it was fun to be in the playoffs, but I had played hundreds of games before that, and the games in the playoffs are just like those games. The rules don’t change. The ball doesn’t morph into a different shape. The strike zone doesn’t get smaller. It’s all the same game. The only thing that’s different is the increased noise around the game, which makes people think the game itself is different.

It’s funny, because, sometimes, you’ll hear announcers say things like, “[The pitcher] must have hopes of victory racing through his head in this all-important at-bat. This is what he’s prepared for all these years: this big moment. You can see it in his eyes.” The reality is, that is (or at least it should be) the last thing on the pitcher’s mind. If he’s doing his job, he’s just thinking about that one pitch. That’s the only pitch there is in the whole world, and you’re not thinking about all the results — you know, the pluses and minuses — of what might happen.

So players would do well to remember it’s the same game; take one pitch at a time and — as I would try to do — maximize those things you have control over. I would call it “controlling the controllables.” You really only have control over your own preparation and performance. Outside of that, you have to learn to let go and let God.

How do you spend most of your time today?

It’s funny, because when I was still playing baseball, I would think of how, when I retired, I would be able to attend daily Mass, go on lots of retreats and do all kinds of great spiritual things with all the free time I’d have.

Once I got out of baseball in 2012, I actually got up early and went to daily Mass at 6:30am. That lasted for about six months; but then I got caught up in some of the activities around Christmas — those that aren’t directly church-related, like assembling toys — and I haven’t gotten back into a regular routine yet of making Mass a daily thing. It’s more sporadic than it could be.

Now I see that, as a baseball player, I really had more alone time than I do now as a full-time father of two small children. What’s even more amazing is that I’m more tired after a day with the kids than I was after a day of baseball.

At the end of the day, my wife and I pray with our kids, and we bless them before putting them to bed. After we make the Sign of the Cross on their foreheads, it’s funny to see my 4-year-old bless us back.

What do you appreciate most about marriage and family life?

The thing I appreciate most about married life is that it completes me. Some people are called to celibacy, but others are called to be married. I’m definitely in the second group, because I sense a necessary completion of my personality through my wife. She balances me and makes me more in tune with aspects of life that are just not my specialty.

Probably the most noticeable instance of this is with our kids. I loved my wife before we had kids, of course, but after we started having kids, I was able to love her even more profoundly. She has an amazing motherly ability to interact with babies and kids in a very compassionate and tireless way. It’s an aspect of her personality that I wasn’t able to witness for years, because we took a long time to get pregnant.

Before kids, we both thought I was the one in the marriage with patience. Not much would ruffle me, and I was able to wait for things well. Once we had kids, however, that was completely reversed. I realized that my patience did not include things related to kids and that my wife had patience specifically for those things involving kids.

It’s such a joy to see my wife relating so well to the kids and providing the needed patience that I can’t. Her aptitude for this is saintly. At the same time, it’s a joy to be a protector for my family — a quality that was brought out after the birth of our first child four years ago.

Now that you have kids, do you also have a better take on what your parents did for you and your four siblings?

No question about it. As you’re growing up, you can’t really understand all that goes into parenting. It’s just not possible. Even when you’re older, you can get it better, but there’s no replacing actually having kids of your own.

My parents were married for almost 50 years before my mom died from pancreatic cancer in January of 2008. They showed us how a marriage should work — that it’s about the long haul and that little things shouldn’t prevent you from moving forward. They took their sacramental vows seriously, which is an irreplaceable thing.

My dad enjoys being a part of my kids’ lives today, and I know my mom is still a part of their lives, too — just not in the same way. She was a prayer warrior on earth, so I don’t expect that has changed much after her death. She was always quick to say that we should pray about something, and she was part of Magnificat, the Catholic women’s group, which emphasizes prayer.

You mentioned in our last interview that you were going to look further into the life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. How has that come along?

It hasn’t. I still have a respect for her and know about her role in the 2003 World Series, but as I look at my Catholic library, I’m reminded of how many books I still need to read. You can get pieces read here and there, but I need to just bear down and get through one whole book at a time. I see The Story of a Soul on the shelf and plan on reading it. By our next interview, I should be able to tell you about that.

One book I have read through is The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn. Reading this book was a wonderful way to deepen my understanding of the most important part of our faith: the sacrifice of the Mass, where we receive the very body and blood of Jesus Christ.

There’s also a book called Building Catholic Family Traditions by Paul and Leisa Thigpen that we’ve used. We have other printed resources, some of which come from Ignatius Press. The lives of the saints, Church doctrine, family life — all those things are presented well by certain publishers, so you just have to make the effort to get them.

We also enjoy watching EWTN and listening to Catholic radio — especially programs like EWTN Live and Catholic Answers Live. What a blessing it is to have these resources, where you can learn more about the most important things in life. I would watch and listen to Catholic TV radio as a player, and I continue to do that in retirement. This helps to bring me the truths of Jesus Christ and his Church, along with that peace which surpasses all understanding.

What advice would you give baseball players — or any adult — about the spiritual life?

Prayer is the No. 1 thing for everyone. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you need to pray every day. Communication with God is an essential aspect of Christian life. There’s no replacement for it. Saints have said things like “A soul out of prayer is like a fish out of water” or “To stop praying and to lose the life of the soul are one and the same thing.”

For those who travel a lot, like baseball players do, the universal necessity of prayer becomes even more obvious, because you often have fewer faithful people and places to rely upon. You’re away from your family and oftentimes away from a nearby church, so the importance of prayer takes on a new meaning.

I’d also recommend getting an orthodox spiritual director. That’s huge. I’ve benefitted from having a director for years. It’s so much easier to see things clearly when someone else is there with you. Without the influence of that other person, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll have inaccurate perceptions about yourself and others, so then you’ll make bad decisions. Having a knowledgeable director prevents a lot of bad moves and gives you opportunities to do great things that you otherwise would not have.

I started seeing a director shortly after high school, but I think it would have been even better to have started seeing him in high school. That’s something I plan on telling the kids about at my high school, Crespi Carmelite in Encino (or any other high school I speak at). I’ve spoken at Crespi after my graduation at different times, and now I help out with the school’s baseball program.

So, spiritual directors and constant prayer are two huge things, especially the prayer. You don’t always have access to a director, but you do always have access to God. You have to take advantage of that continual, freely given, grace-filled audience and stay in touch with the source of Divine life.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Homily - "Pray every day"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Catholic Tim Tebow?

Amukamara says he hasn’t had alcohol or sex

Darin Gantt
September 19, 2013

At the time of the videotaped cold tub incident from training camp last year, (New York) Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara seemed a bit removed from some of his teammates.

Now we know he’s very different from many, if not most or all of them.

Amukamara said in a Q and A with Muscle and Fitness magazine that he’s yet to have his first taste of alcohol, and remains a virgin.

(There was a lot of other stuff in there too, like how much he could squat and what he eats before a workout. But we’re all adults here, let’s not kid ourselves.)

Amukamara said he might have a drink someday at his bachelor party, but made a conscious decision as a youth to abstain from alcohol.

“I grew up Catholic, so it just started out as one of those things. I’d think, ‘If I do this, maybe I can get to heaven,’ so I said no drinks, no sex, all the big things,” Amukamara said. “As I grew up, I realized that’s not what it’s about. It’s about having a relationship with Jesus. It’s not about ‘Don’t do this. Don’t do that.’

“But still, it’s just one of those things I haven’t done, and I don’t see any benefit to doing it. You’re always reading about people getting DUIs. So many bad things that happen and wind up in the paper are alcohol-related, so by not drinking, it saves me, my team, and my family a lot of trouble.”

Amukamara joked that some people call him “the black Tim Tebow,” but discussed his choices with no shame. He’s engaged, and said he was hesitant to tell his fiance he was a football player at all.
While his lifestyle choices will make him ripe for mockery by some (the same way A.C. Green became a punchline for declaring himself a virgin during his NBA career), Amukamara’s choices aren’t easy ones.

But the challenging and impressive part might be the fact he hasn’t made a spectacle of himself by putting them on parade already.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Homily - "Christ can heal you"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

Two themes from tonight's readings: thanksgiving and healing.  First, thanksgiving. In the first reading, Naaman gives thanks to God for being healed of his leprosy through the man of God, Elisha. He offers Elisha a gift, but for whatever reason he refuses it. I have been like Elisha the past four years in terms of not accepting financial gifts from GW Catholics for all of the free food we offer you. Well, this year, I think I will accept gifts of thanks from you / your parents.  It's going to be a great challenge to raise enough money to meet our largest budget to date, and  I need your help.
A couple of weeks ago, parents of a student sponsored a Tuesday dinner for $300. If your parents can do the same or at least partially sponsor a dinner or Food After Mass (which costs us between $300-$500 each time), that would be a huge help.  If they are coming for Parents Weekend next weekend, they can drop a check in the special collection for the Newman Center at the 11 am Mass.  If not, they can mail a check to us made out to the Newman Center.  I give thanks for your thanksgiving!

Healing. We hear amazing stories of healing of leprosy. The cool thing about the Gospel story is that Jesus heals the lepers on their way to the priests. It was Old Testament ritual that when lepers were cleansed, they would show themselves to the priests to be brought back into the community. Lepers were cast out of society; they were outside of the community.  Priests brought them back into the community.  This is similar to when we are outside of the community through mortal sin.  Mortal sin excommunicates us; it takes us out of the community. Confession brings us back through the priest; it reconciles us to God and to the Church. It is one of the healing sacraments.

There are so many forms of healing in the Church, and we have been introducing you to many of them the past few years.  We have has Healing Masses once a semester when we bring in a priest, and he and I pray over students at the end of Mass.  We have the same healing power as Christ as a result of our ordination.  It's been new for students to be prayed over, and it might seem a bit hokey, but it's the same healing power that we read about in the Gospels.  It is possible to be healed by Christ physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in the 21st century.

Students I've worked with have experienced healing in these areas. It's happened in the chapel when I've prayed over them and blessed them with the Holy Eucharist in the monstrance.  Emotional or spiritual wounds have been healed.  It's happened for other students on our retreats. We use the story of the woman with the hemorrhage (Luke 8) who was healed by Christ after going to doctors and counselor for 12 years.  She simply touched Christ's garment and her wounds were healed. So it has happened for students here who have wounds from family, relationships, addiction, etc.

We have many resources on healing for you.  One book called "Holy Hands" tells amazing stories about healing through priests. Another is called "Healing of Families" which helps people to work through family bondage or family tree wounds. I will order another one about a priest who has the gift of healing the diseases of babies which is the coolest thing. Our man on Thursday nights, Brother Richard, will focus his Bible study on healing for several weeks, starting a week from this Thursday.  He will present how the Word of God can heal us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  I just ask you to be open to all of this, and how Christ can truly heal you like He heals people in the Gospel.

Finally, back to thanksgiving. Only one out of ten lepers returns to give thanks to The Lord.  This is about the same percentage of college students that go to Mass.  When we come to Mass, we give thanks to God; the word, "Eucharist", literally means thanksgiving.  The Lord was so happy to see the one leper give thanks that he said, "your faith has saved you". How happy is The Lord to see you here tonight! Give thanks to God every day of your lives. You have so much for which to be thankful.  Studies show that people who give thanks regularly are the happiest and healthiest people on earth.

Give thanks to God throughout and after Mass. What happens on the altar is the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover in which the Israelites gave thanks to God for all their blessings, and particularly for saving them. Give thanks to Jesus for saving you on the Cross. He went through hell for that you might go to Heaven.  Say, "thank you, Jesus" often. And, then, when you receive the Eucharist - His Body and Blood! - give thanks throughout Holy Communion for this incredible gift. And, really, give thanks after Mass for all that you just experienced.  One saint said, " if we really understood what happens at Mass, we would die of joy".  In your thanksgiving, may you hear The Lord say to you, "your faith has saved you. Your thanksgiving has saved you".

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Catholic Mass

The following video is always timely, but it's especially good for GW Catholics to view as preparation for Msgr. Pope's talk on Tuesday night, "The Mass Explained".


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

GW Catholic: Pope Francis "acting as the world's shepherd"

For Pope Francis and Church, The Greatest Challenge Lies Ahead

By Chris Crawford
The George Washington University Class of 2014
September 20, 2013

It’s official: the world is in love with Pope Francis. From the moment that he waved to the masses in St. Peter’s Square last March, the Pope has energized faithful Catholics, recaptured the attention of lapsed Catholics, and has earned praise – and even downright fawning – from those who do not believe in God.

Perhaps the most surprising fact of Pope Francis’ early papacy is that the secular media has covered him in such a positive way. Even though the Pope is preaching the same teachings as his predecessors, the media are encapsulated by his humble style and his energetic tone. It would be difficult to say that Pope Francis is more eloquent than Pope John Paul II, or that he possesses an academic knowledge that is more brilliant than Pope Benedict, but the world still hangs on his every word, eager to approve of the speeches and writings of Pope Francis.

Perhaps they love Pope Francis because his humility gives him credibility. In a world full of hypocritical political leaders, perhaps they’ve been hungry for a leader of consistency. In a world of self-centeredness, perhaps people have longed for a humble leader. Or, perhaps the world was hungry for the Gospel all along, and was eager to give a new Pope a new chance to win them over.

Pope Francis has fed this hunger plentifully. The New York Times, Washington Post, and other traditionally anti-Catholic publications have sung his praises on their editorial pages and have covered him in a positive way in their news divisions. Throughout the world, atheists and homosexuals have simply proclaimed, “We love your Pope.” And many lapsed Catholics have said, “We love our Pope.”

In many ways, Pope Francis has created the very cult of personality that he wanted to avoid. While the secular media has praised Pope Francis, they have stopped short of praising the Church. And while non-believers are drawn to this joyful leader, they have not yet turned themselves toward the cross.

This is not a criticism of Pope Francis. He is actually doing exactly what he is supposed to do; he is acting as the world’s shepherd. In the very first answer of his famous interview on Thursday, the Pope primarily defined himself as a “sinner.” He declared himself a sinner who has found God, and invited the world to follow him.

Yes, this is exactly what a shepherd is supposed to do. With his eyes fixated on the cross, he has outstretched his arms to the world and said, “Follow me.”

Therein lies the Pope’s biggest challenge – and it’s a challenge he shares with the whole Church. It is not enough to bring people to the Pope; we must bring them to Christ. Pope Francis has called the world to the doors of the Church, and they have responded to that call. It’s up to all Catholics to get them inside.

We can do this by following Pope Francis’s example. We must live humbly, we must show love, and we must remain rooted in the truths of the Gospel. The Pope has taught us that we do not need to change the words of the Gospel; we need to follow them. The values that Pope Francis preaches are not “new”, they are as old as the faith itself.

It is not enough for us to rely on positive editorials and favorable news coverage of the Pope, because we know that they will not always be there. We must be the postmasters of the Gospel. With the confidence and joy embodied by the Holy Father, we must take the extra step to bring people through the doors of the Church and into a relationship with God.

Together with the Holy Father and in Communion with Christ himself, it’s time for Catholics to embrace this watershed moment of the New Evangelization. Pope Francis has assembled the flock; it’s up to all of us to lead them home.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Homily: "Increase our faith...through the Eucharist"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

Three stories tonight.  The first involves a friend of mine who is about my age. She is married with kids, and is a devout Catholic.  A few years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer.  This devastated her family and friends.  We took serious prayers to the Lord, asking for the cancer to be removed and she be restored to good health.  God answers every one of our prayers.  It’s one of the three answers: 1) Yes, 2) not right now, or 3) I have something better in mind.  God answered our prayers, and the cancer has been in remission ever since, and she is in good health. Her prayers, though, were answered a bit differently, I think.  I picture her in the initial days praying like the prophet Habukkuk in the first reading: “Lord, I cry for help but you do not listen.  I cry out to you, ‘Cancer!’ but you do not intervene.  Where are you in all this?  Answer me”.  God’s answer to her was His answer to Habakkuk and all of us: “The vision still has its time”.  In other words, God’ answer will come in time….at the appointed time.  God will bring good out of bad…in fact, a greater good.  We can’t always see it at the time, but we see it in time….at the appointed time. 

Her appointed time came sooner than most of us.  She sent all of us an incredible email.  She wrote that the cancer forced her to take a step back from her life.  And, what she saw was that she had been very impatient with her little kids, yelling at them for the smallest things.  Her kids are her life.  She realized what is really important around her home, reprioritize, and be more loving and patient with her kids.  She and her husband have had a few more kids, and it is now a very loving home.  She sees the cancer as a gift that changed her life as a mother.  God allowed something bad to bring about a greater good.

The second story is about a student who came to me years ago as a senior.  She emailed me to ask if we could meet up.  We went to lunch, and she told me that she had been away from the Church, and wanted to know what she needed to do to come back.  I told her the first thing is to go to Confession.  She said, “who goes to Confession anymore?  And, where is that in the Bible?”  I answered, “Actually, many of our students go to Confession.  And, John chapter 20, verses 20 to 23 is where Jesus gives the Apostles the power to forgive sins.  She replied, “oh, I didn’t know that”.  She admitted that she didn’t know much about the faith, so she asked to meet with me regularly. We met every week from the fall until graduation in May, and her knowledge of the faith grew immensely.  So, her faith grew immensely.  By the time she left GW, she was rock solid in her Catholic faith and knowledge of it.

The Apostles say to the Lord in the Gospel, “Increase our faith”.  We can’t increase our own faith; it is the “help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us”.   One of the ways that the Holy Spirit increases our faith is to increase the knowledge of our faith.  When I began meeting with the student, she basically admitted her knowledge of the faith was the size of a mustard seed (an image that the Lord gives in today’s Gospel).  Jesus says elsewhere in the Gospel that the mustard seed is the smallest seed, but can become the largest bush.  Her faith grew to be large because her knowledge grew so much.  It can really help to increase your faith meeting with me, especially if you feel like your knowledge of the faith is the size of the mustard seed.  If you think, “I don’t know anything about the Bible or the Holy Spirit or Mary” or whatever,  that’s okay.  We’ve all been there.  I would be happy to meet with you to help grow your faith.

The third story is about GW Catholics in general.  Thanks be to God, our faith has increased significantly in the past few years.  The reason?  The Eucharist. It really is so simple as Catholics: if we want to increase our faith, we go to the Eucharist.  Especially daily Mass.  The more we receive the Eucharist at Mass, the more grace we receive.  Grace is what grows our faith.  When people ask me what is the best way to grow spiritually as a Catholic, I say daily Mass.  Something special happens when we choose to go during the week– and not just do ‘what we were obliged to do’ on Sundays.  It’s only 20-25 minutes, and more personal and intimate.

Because we have centered our community on the Eucharist, we have seen an increase of faith across the board.  A few years, less than 10 students were going to daily Mass; not it’s about 50.  Sunday Mass attendance has increased significantly, as well as reverence for the Eucharist among students.  Dozens come to Adoration on Wednesday.  Confessions are way up, Bible studies are everywhere on campus, and we have almost 30 men and women discerning religious life and priesthood.  We truly believe this is all a result of the grace of the Eucharist.  Our faith has been increased, our knowledge of Christ and the Church has grown, and so our love for Christ and the Church has grown, with the help of the Holy Spirit.


Friday, October 04, 2013

Christ-centered NY Yankee

While this bothers me in some ways to post it (I grew up a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and NOT a fan of the Yankees, here is an impressive story.  And with the baseball playoffs underway, it's a timely article from

Perseverance Pays Off for New York Yankees’ Pitcher  

Former Notre Dame star David Phelps’ determination brought him a wife and a greater understanding of the Catholic faith.
by Trent Beattie
David Phelps knew he was meant to marry a woman in his international relations class at the University of Notre Dame. The only problem was, that special woman was completely unaware of it.
Phelps (no relation to former longtime Notre Dame basketball coach Richard “Digger” Phelps), started off on the wrong foot with the classmate who had caught his eye. However, through prayer and humble perseverance, he eventually gained her respect and her appreciation of the Catholic faith.
Now David and Maria Phelps are happily married, with Jesus as the center of their lives. This holy cohesion provides the foundation for stable living in an oftentimes stressful job.

Pressure is the norm when playing for the New York Yankees, and, this season, injuries have been added to the equation for Phelps, who has spent many days on the team’s disabled list.

Phelps spoke with the Register in time for his return to the Yankees’ active roster on Sept. 14. The Yankees are currently four games out of a playoff position, with 12 games left in the regular season.

What do you think of this season for the Yankees?

It’s been an up-and-down season for the team and for me personally. There have been injuries, including my own (an elbow flexor strain), and now we’re fighting to get a wild card berth into the playoffs. I’m so happy to be back with the team, because I’ve spent so much time rehabbing my injury and preparing to contribute in any way I can. I’m so grateful to be back in a position to help out.

I have loved playing for the Yankees, ever since my first action in early 2012. It was April 8 in the last game of a series against the Tampa Rays, in the bottom of the eighth inning. [Manager] Joe Girardi called me in, I threw warm-up pitches, picked up the rosin bag from behind the mound, and tossed it back down. As I came back up, I was surprised to see Derek Jeter in my face. He put his arm around me and said, “It’s the same game we’ve been playing, but with a few more people here.”

That greeting from someone who embodies the spirit of the Yankees as well as anyone has meant so much to me. Derek is an amazing baseball player, not just from the standpoint of personal statistics, but also from one of teamwork. A perennial All-Star could easily ignore the new guy, but Derek went out of his way to make me feel welcome.

Have you always wanted to play in the major leagues?

Ever since I can remember, that’s been my dream. When I was 6, my older brother and I would play Whiffle ball in the backyard. We would imitate various players from our hometown St. Louis Cardinals, such as 15-time All-Star Ozzie Smith.

That major-league dream was always there, but as more of an ideal, rather than a practical plan. It wasn’t until the last two years of high school that I realized it really could happen. I was recruited by a number of college teams and ended up choosing Notre Dame.

There were good things about the other schools, from an academic and athletic standpoint, but Notre Dame was in a class by itself. I visited the South Bend campus on the weekend the football team defeated rival Michigan in 2004. That was a big boost, but everything else about the campus that I would see on a daily basis stuck with me — the buildings, the history, the people. They all came together to form an atmosphere I couldn’t find anywhere else.

What are some of your top memories from Notre Dame?

There are so many good memories, and some of the best ones would have to involve my future wife, Maria. We had some great days at Notre Dame, and we have a great relationship now, but it didn’t start out that way in the spring of 2007, my sophomore year and her freshman year.

Because our last names were next to each other alphabetically, we were paired up in an international relations class. We were going to be called upon to discuss our reading assignment with the rest of the class. However, I had not done the required reading, so I told her that I hoped she had. She was very put off by that, and understandably so.

Even though things almost couldn’t have started off worse, I asked Maria out a few weeks after we first met. She immediately rejected the idea. I deserved the rejection, but didn’t give up. I just knew, somehow in my soul, that we were meant to be together.

How long did it take for Maria to see you in a different light?

I asked her out at least 10 more times in the next year, but she said No each time. There was no sugarcoating it either. She didn’t want to have anything to do with me. Some of our mutual acquaintances would tell her she should give me a chance, that I was a great baseball player, etc. That year (2007) I was throwing one of the best seasons any pitcher from Notre Dame had ever thrown, but Maria didn’t care. Her lack of interest was refreshingly humbling for me.

In 2008, I began to realize that God deserved far more attention than I had been giving him. Instead of going to Mass more regularly, though, I started going to an Assemblies of God church with my roommate. I thought all you needed was to accept Jesus as your Savior, and everything would be fine. Church attendance was seen as nice but not necessary.

Maria would help me grow in my understanding of everything Jesus has to offer us and what we’re called to give back to him. After she finally said Yes to me in the spring of 2008, she would ask me what I believed, I would reply, and she would ask more questions. Instead of a one-dimensional, oversimplified, linear way of thinking, Maria had a three-dimensional, vibrant and comprehensive way of thinking.

Maria’s influence and that of her family had such an effect on me that, by the fall of 2009, I came to realize what I was missing out on. There are so many great things in the Catholic Church, but the most desirable one is the Eucharist. It had been so long since I had received Jesus sacramentally, and I knew it was time to start doing so again.

I wanted to meet up with a priest in order to discuss my concerns and to be reconciled with the Church. Even though I was drafted in 2008, I would return for the fall semester at Notre Dame three consecutive years in order to finish my degree. This is how I was able to get in touch with Father Paul Doyle, a Holy Cross priest at Notre Dame, in the fall of 2009.

We discussed my concerns, and he heard my confession. All the obstacles that had kept me back from being totally united to Jesus were removed, and I was able to receive him in the Eucharist again. It was a great relief to be back in the Church.

Have Maria and her family continued to influence you?

They have, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for their witness. It is because of them that I now fully participate in the Mass, go to Eucharistic adoration and pray the Rosary. The Rosary is something Maria suggested I start doing as part of my pre-game preparation. It helps to calm my nerves by drawing down grace and reminding me that there’s more to life than baseball.
Another thing I’ve gained from the Church is an understanding of the theology of the body, a topic I’ve found to be life-changing. To know not just the biological significance, but the theological significance of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman is incredibly helpful. It puts individual actions in the greater context of an all-encompassing divine Providence.

Maria is one of nine children, and her mother is one of 13. Our own marriage has already been blessed with a beautiful child, our daughter Adeline, who was born on March 22, 2012. This was only days before I was first called up to the majors. That call is special for any player, but when it happens so quickly after the birth of your first child, you think of how work is done for the purpose of providing for that child and your wife. Work and family life are supposed to be integrated like that, under the umbrella of faith.

How has your faith affected your work?

I understand the importance of work in providing for my family, but I also know that I won’t be playing baseball forever. So whatever work I’m engaged in, it should have God as the primary focus. Our daily actions should be a communication with God, a living prayer.

I’m incredibly blessed to be a member of the Catholic Church, the body of Christ. The Church is amazing, and I love everything about it. When I’m on the road, I search for a parish near our hotel. When I walk inside, I can feel the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Regardless of which city we’re in, Jesus remains the same, and his Church does as well.

Since there’s so much joy to living a Catholic life here on earth, I sometimes think of how tremendous heaven will be. As long as we persevere in the practice of the faith, we will encounter the reality of the words from 1 Corinthians 2:9: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

"Perfect" ESPN video

Powerful witness to life and love from ESPN videos HERE.