Monday, June 30, 2014

Amy Kovacs and GW Newman Center on EWTN!

Please tune in to EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) tonight for their new program at 6 pm (and repeated at 9 pm) to see an interview with Amy Kovacs, our campus minister.  They interviewed her at the Newman Center this morning about the GW Newman Center and our ministry here, and I'm sure that Amy did an amazing job.  She is incredible!

If you don't have EWTN on your cable TV package, you can:

1)  download the EWTN app and stream the shows live


2) check out the interview on YouTube after tonight.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Clint Dempsey, World Cup Star, Credits Jesus For His Success"

From the Huffington Post (6/24/14):

U.S. World Cup player Clint Dempsey has an impressive record and enough fame and success to make any aspiring player jealous. But the soccer star takes little credit for his own success and insists it's all in service to a higher power, Dempsey said in a recent interview with Sports Spectrum.

"Today, I pray for strength to walk the road before me," Dempsey said. "I play to the best of my abilities and am thankful for the many opportunities and amazing success He has given me. Through it all, I want to do right, not make mistakes, and live a life that is pleasing to Him."

Dempsey grew up in a Catholic family going to church every Sunday with his grandmother. His parents enrolled him in soccer to help him "learn good people skills," Dempsey said. "Little did I know that the sport I loved and the skills I learned would later play a role in my relationship with God."

He began developing his spirituality and at 12 years old had his first experience that would test his faith.
"When I was 12 years old, my life took a turn that would change me forever. My sister [Jennifer] died [from a brain aneurysm] and I was faced with questions about why things happen and what role God played in it all. For a number of years, I struggled and put distance between God and me. But He was faithful and patient and provided gradual healing and strength."
Dempsey went on to attend Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, where he joined a Bible study and continued playing soccer.
"God's Word brought me peace and a desire for a relationship with Him," said Dempsey.
"I found that questioning Him and searching for answers through Scripture helped me grow and gave me direction. Now my faith in Christ is what gives me confidence for the future. I know that through both good times and bad, He is faithful and will watch over me."
Many other athletes have been known to invoke religion for dealing with the successes and failures that necessarily arise in sports. Grand Slam champion Michael Chang famously said in 1989, after becoming the youngest male to ever win the French Open: "I thank the Lord Jesus Christ because without Him, I am nothing."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

GW Catholics in the cave where Jesus was born!

Day 8

The Muslim Dome of the Rock, just beyond the Western Wall and where the Jewish Temple once stood.  The Temple is where Jesus was presented after His birth, and where He visited and prayed later. 

GW Catholics praying at the Western (wailing) Wall, the only remnant of the Temple.

The Church of the Nativity: the crowds waiting to touch the stone that marks where the Savior was born.  At Mass just before this, I said that at the Nativity, God entered our mess.  It's still a mess!  This was the only place we encountered a line or wait or chaos of any kind.  God was speaking to us!

Amy Kovacs, our campus minister, touching the stone of the Nativity!

GW Catholics in the cave where Jesus was born!   This is the "St. Joseph's chapel"; it's much quieter than on the other side of the wall to the left...a wall that was built hundreds of years after the birth of the Lord.  So, it's the (same) cave of His Nativity.

Milk Grotto Chapel...Mary nursed Jesus and some milk spilled...thousands of miracles have resulted from Mary's milk in the past 2,000 years, including the births of babies whose parents were previously infertile.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Corpus Christi homily - "'This is my body' means this is my body"

There is an excellent book out now called, “Chosen to Heal”, by Laura Wright which highlights six Catholics through whom God has worked miraculous healings.  One of them is a priest of Washington, Father Dan.  Years ago, Fr Dan visited a sick infant girl in the hospital.  Actually, she was dying; her heart was failing.  The doctors had given her parents the grim news that she didn’t have much time left.  Three or four nights in a row, Fr. Dan came to see her and placed the Eucharist on the heart of this precious little girl.  Immediately, her heart began to respond and show signs of life.  Not long after, her heart began to beat without the help of machines and she made an incredible recovery.  The doctors themselves called it a miracle. 

The Eucharist that we celebrate today as a Church on the solemn feast of Corpus Christi is the real deal, folks.  It is not just a symbol or representation of Christ’s Body and Blood; it is really Him in the flesh.  I don’t think a symbol would have brought that girl’s heart back to life.  By the way, it’s so beautiful to read in that book what her mother (who became Catholic as a result of her daughter’s miracle) said: “the Lord touched her heart”.  It was truly the Lord.

And yet, 70% of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is just a symbol.  I was one of them for half of my life.  I have no idea why; it was never taught to me in Catholic schools or from the Bible.  Everything changed when a priest said to me when I was 21, “’this is my body’ means this is my body”.  That’s when I got it.  That’s when God became real.  That’s when our faith became real.  That’s when God became close, and not a billion miles away.  Going to Mass every day helped to enter into the incredible gift of the Eucharist.  Reading and meditating much on John 6 helped.  This is the chapter where the Lord teaches about the Eucharist; we just heard verses 51 to 58 in today’s Gospel.  This is my favorite chapter in all of Scripture.

Many of you know that I just returned from the Holy Land with GW students.  At the start of the trip, students asked me what I most wanted to see.  I said that I didn’t know if we would hit it or if people knew where it was, but I most wanted to see where Jesus taught about the Eucharist (John 6).  One day, our guide took us to Capernaum, and showed us the synagogue.  He said that this is where Jesus taught about the Eucharist.  I fell prostrate on the floor of the synagogue, pretty much in the fetal position, praising God amid tears of joy.  So many of the lines we just heard echoed in my mind and heart: “the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”…“my flesh is real food, my blood is real drink”.  I have prayed over and taught these lines regularly the past twenty years. He said this just a few feet away! In the Holy Land, we weren’t sure at every site if that was really the place that something happened, or how legit it was.  But, this was the synagogue.  This is where it happened.  I posted a picture on Facebook with the caption, “thank you, Lord, for bringing me to site of John 6.  My bucket list is complete. My life is made”.

I beg you to read over John 6 before you go to bed tonight or sometime this week.  They are mind-blowing and life-changing.  “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (v. 51). Jesus is basically saying that the same flesh and blood that were on the Cross are present on the altar.  “The bread that I will give” is the Eucharist. He gave us His flesh for the life of the world on the Cross.  So, the Eucharist = the flesh and blood on the Cross.  The only difference is that the Eucharist is the risen Body of Christ.  “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. I’ve explained this to 10 year olds before.  When they’ve asked me why we need to go to Mass every Sunday, I say it’s to get to Heaven.  Jesus says that we need to receive the Eucharist to get to Heaven; so we need to be at Mass to receive the Eucharist.  They have gotten it, and then not only went to Mass, but dragged their parents there!  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him”.  In John 15, Jesus says, “whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit”.  So, if you want to live a fruitful life, receive the Eucharist often.  If you want to be a saint, go to Mass every day!  Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said that the only way she could serve the poorest of the poor was by receiving the Eucharist every morning at Mass.  “Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever”.  I was speaking with a friend last week who is Baptist. I told him to check out John 6 and to hit a Catholic Mass.  At a Protestant service, the bread that is offered is like the manna: it’s just bread.  But, at a Catholic Mass (and Orthodox service), what is offered is the Eucharist. 

The Jewish crowds were right about two things in John 6: 1) this is a hard teaching, and 2) Jesus was speaking literally.  They heard him literally – He says ‘flesh and blood’ over and over – and then left Him because of it.  Think about that: they left Him over the teaching of the Eucharist after witnessing His miracles and healings and probably believing He is the Messiah.  They left Him, and He let them leave.  He didn’t stop them and say, ‘wait, come back.  You misunderstood me.  I wasn’t speaking literally’.  He didn’t do that because He was speaking literally.  He turned to the Apostles and asked them if they were leaving, too.  Peter responded, “Lord, where are we going to go?  You have the words of eternal life”.

The Church doesn’t understand HOW bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ at every Mass, but she believes THAT it happens.  The reason: well, John 6, definitely.  But, it’s really four words:  “This is my body”.  He doesn’t say at the Last Supper, ‘this symbolizes my body’ or ‘this represents my body.’  And, we can start to get to the WHY.  I took the Eucharist to a friend today who just had surgery, and lost 7 units of blood during and after surgery.  As much as anyone else on this feast understands the importance of blood in life.  He had little or no energy when he was so low on blood.  The body needs blood to live.  So does the soul.  Blood is a symbol of life in the Old Testament.  Jesus talks about life so much in John 6.  Our souls need the Blood and Body of Christ to live.

The phrase “flesh and blood” also helps get to the WHY of the Eucharist.  We use that phrase to connote a really tight bond.  ‘That’s my flesh or blood’…’we’re flesh and blood’.  Jesus wants to unite His flesh and blood to ours.  He wants to be that close to us.  He promises us in Matthew 28 that He would be with us until the end of time; the Eucharist fulfills that.  He doesn’t just want to be with us; He wants to be in us.

Finally, this is a hard teaching.  If you’re having trouble believing in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, ask God to help you.  A priest in Italy many years ago doubted the Real Presence.  He prayed, “Lord, help me in my unbelief”.  One day, at Mass, as He elevated the consecrated Host, drops of blood began to fall from the Host.  It was declared a miracle of the Eucharist.  Ask God to give you a miracle to help you to believe in the Eucharist, the greatest treasure on earth, as the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gethsemane: the most powerful moment of the pilgrimage

Day 7 (June 2)

Chapel of the Ascension, located on the Mount of Olives, believed to be the site where Jesus ascended into Heaven 40 days after His Resurrection.

Stone believed to contain the footprint of Jesus when He ascended into Heaven.

Mount of Olives: where Jesus hid with His disciples, taught them to pray the Our Father, wept over Jerusalem, and entered into His agony in the garden the night before He died.

Pater Noster Church (Pater Noster = Our Father)

The two arches in the middle of the picture are where Christ entered Jerusalem (Palm Sunday).

Church of Dominus Flevit: where Jesus looked upon the city of Jerusalem and wept.  The cross in the middle of the window lines up with Mount Calvary in the distance.

Garden of Gethsemane

Gethsemane: "these trees witnessed the agony of Christ" (our tour guide, RJ).

Church of Agony / Gethsemane: offering the Precious Blood at Mass a few feet from where it was first shed (Rock of Agony).  INCREDIBLE.

View from the Church of the Visitation...Mary traveled 90 miles over rough terrain while pregnant with Jesus to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist.

Church of the Visitation

Friday, June 20, 2014

Jordan River...and on to Jerusalem!

Day 6 (June 1)

At the Jordan River where Christ was baptized...and where we renewed our baptismal promises!

Holy Mass at Shepherd's Field (where the angel appeared to the shepherds about the birth of Christ).  On to Jerusalem!!


Friday, June 13, 2014

"Spiritual bar crawl"

Day 5

We began our "spiritual bar crawl" this morning at the Primacy of Peter (where Jesus gave His authority to Peter: "feed my sheep" - Jn 21).  It is believed that this rock is where the Lord ate breakfast with the Apostles post-Resurrection.  'Mensa Christi': meal with Christ. 

One of the friars, Fr Mark, praying by the Sea of Galilee.  He was just stationed at Catholic U. in DC, and will be stationed at the home parish in the Northeast of one of our pilgrims!  Small, small world.  And, what a shot. 

Then, traveled a couple minutes down the road to Peter's house in Capernaum where Jesus lived during his public ministry.

And, just walk a few steps up to the roof (of Peter's house)...and, it's where the friends of the paralytic lowered him down to be healed by Christ!

And, then, a few steps more to my favorite spot: the Synagogue where Jesus taught about the Eucharist (John 6).  Bucket list is complete! 

Mass at the Sea of Galilee close to where the Lord multiplied the loaves and fish.  Awesome.

Boat ride on Sea of Galilee; "Jesus Jam" broke out with music and dancing

Mount of Beatitudes where we stayed for three nights; walked the grounds each night praying the rosary, and would stop to look down the hill and think, "that's where He preached the Sermon on the Mount".  Wow.

By the Sea of Galilee; the steps lead up to the spot where Jesus was sitting before he healed the man possessed by demons and sent the demons into the swine

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nazareth, Mount Tabor

Day 4

The site of the Sermon on the Mount.  On the left (Mount of Beatitudes) is where we stayed for three nights; in the center is the mountain on which the Lord preached the Sermon; on the right is the Sea of Galilee.
View from up top (Mount of Beatitudes)

Site of the Annunciation.  On the altar, the Latin is translated as "The Word became flesh HERE".  Wow.

Nazareth:  the steps leading to Jesus' home...the steps he went up and down many times living with Mary and Joseph.

View from Mount Tabor.  In the distance was where Jacob's Well was / where Jesus encountered and converted the heart of the Samaritan woman

Mount Tabor - where Jesus was transfigured before some of the Apostles

At Mount Tabor.  "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed..."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Holy Land review

Day 3

Caesarea / Mediterranean Sea - most likely the spot where Christianity went out to the world us!

The white thorns were the type used in "crown of thorns" in Christ's Passion

Spectacular view of modern port city of Haifa


Cana: One of the six jars of water that Christ changed into wine 

Each jar contained 20-30 gallons of water ---> wine!

Monday, June 09, 2014

Holy Land Pilgrimage review

Day 1 (May 27) + Day 2 (May 28) - Travel / Arrive in Netanya

Some chipper faces...after 11 hours of flying and 7 hour time change! It's amazing to think how much we have changed since this pic was taken...before our Holy Land adventure.
The gorgeous view of Netanya from our hotel.  We had Mass in my hotel room...the venue for Masses would get significantly more impressive (and intimidating) during the trip! 

Homily - "Pentecost was the first Confirmation"

Nineteen of us from GW just returned from a 10 day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, including seventeen students.  It was AWESOME!  For almost all of us, it was our first time.  God completely blessed our trip, and made each day greater than the one before it.  The first half of our time was spent at the Sea of Galilee which was gorgeous.  This is where Jesus was!  He performed miracles there, walked on water there, and handed over his authority to Peter there (“feed my sheep”).  The views in the morning and evening were especially breath-taking.  So many of us fell in love with the Sea of Galilee.  It was so beautiful and peaceful, and lended easily to prayer.  Think I’ve found my retirement spot!  One morning, I posted on Facebook that I went for a run and touched the Sea of Galilee.  Incredible!

The second half of our pilgrimage was in Jerusalem.  This was much more chaotic, busy, and touristy.  But, the holy sites there were so powerful and overwhelming.  We visited the Church of the Annunciation and the students got that that’s where it all started…the Word became flesh.  The Mass at the Church of Agony at the Garden of Gethsemane was particularly powerful because that’s where Christ first shed His blood that we offer at every Mass.  And, then, we had Mass in the tomb!  I celebrated Mass on a marble slab where Christ’s body laid for 3 days and then was resurrected…!  That was the most emotional Mass I have ever celebrated. 

The theme of the pilgrimage was one word: HERE.  At each of these places, the prayers in the priest’s book (missal) said HERE.  “The Word became flesh HERE”.  “Christ was born HERE”.  “Christ rose from the dead HERE”.  No other missals in the world say that. We were there and celebrated Mass where these major events of our salvation happened!

If you ever get a chance to go the Israel, please do.  First, it was very safe.  At no time was our safety at risk.  Second, it was life-changing.  19 of us went; there were 19 conversions.  We are all different people now.  We spanned the spectrum of faith; some were full of faith, some were doubters going into the trip.  We are all believers now, having had a special encounter with Christ in the Holy Land.

Towards the end of our time there, we visited the Upper Room.  This is a significant site for us for a number of reasons: it was there that Christ celebrated the Last Supper, instituted the Eucharist and Priesthood, and where today’s feast of Pentecost occurred.  At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles as tongues of fire (why the sanctuary and priest are donned with red today).  The Apostles had been afraid to even go outside after Jesus ascended “for fear of the Jews”.  I talked to our students about this on the trip.  It was actually on the feast of the Ascension that I quoted the Gospel: “they worshiped but doubted”.

Think about what that means.  The Apostles were taught by Jesus for three years, got to know him well as a friend, witnessed His passion, death, resurrection, and ascension.  After all that, they doubted and were afraid.  They were at all of the holy sites we were…and they were with Jesus!  I pointed this out to the students, and asked them what changed for the Apostles.  It was the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  The Spirit filled them with faith, not fear.  He filled them with courage, wisdom and zeal to go out and proclaim Jesus.    They did that, and on the first day of going out, three thousand people were baptized.  It was the start of the Catholic Church.  The Spirit spoke through the Apostles that day, started the Church, and has been guiding the Church ever since. 

As I told the students, pray to the Holy Spirit.   If you are doubting or are afraid or feel that God is a million miles away, ask the Spirit to help you know Christ’s presence.  “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful”.  Fill our hearts with your love.  Fill our hearts with your truth, your peace, your joy.  Help us to be filled with faith, not fear.  Help us to go out and proclaim Jesus as the Apostles did.

Pentecost was the first Confirmation.  It was for our own sake that you and I were baptized; it was for the sake of others that we were confirmed.  The purpose of Pentecost was to send the Apostles out; the purpose of our Confirmation was to go out on the mission of the Church.  Do not be afraid.  Do not be afraid to go out and proclaim Jesus with your lives.