Wednesday, July 30, 2014

“Or the devil doesn’t have your accommodations ready!” - Pope Francis joke

The following article comes from and involves a humorous story with Pope Francis that Cardinal McCarrick told to our men's discernment group back in April.

WASHINGTON (RNS) June 16, 2014  The day before a newly elected Pope Francis was to be formally installed at the Vatican in 2013, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica when he passed out at the altar and had to be rushed to the hospital.

It was a scary moment, and especially odd to see McCarrick stricken; even at 82, the energetic former archbishop of Washington always had a reputation as one of the most peripatetic churchmen in the Catholic hierarchy.

Doctors in Rome quickly diagnosed a heart problem — McCarrick would eventually get a pacemaker — and the cardinal was soon back at his guest room in the U.S. seminary in Rome when the phone rang. It was Francis. The two men had known each other for years, back when the Argentine pope was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires. McCarrick assured Francis that he was doing fine.

“I guess the Lord isn’t done with me yet,” he told the pope.

“Or the devil doesn’t have your accommodations ready!” Francis shot back with a laugh.

McCarrick loves to tell that story, because he loves to tell good stories and because he has a sense of humor as keen as the pope’s. But the exchange also says a lot about the improbable renaissance that McCarrick is enjoying as he prepares to celebrate his 84th birthday in July...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Heroic Sudanese Catholic woman meets Pope

Rome (AFP) - A Sudanese Christian woman whose death sentence for renouncing Islam sparked a global outcry that eventually led to an acquittal, met Pope Francis after arriving in Italy en route to the United States.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag and her family were received by the Argentine pontiff at his home for a 30-minute meeting Thursday in which he thanked her for her "courageous testament of faith" and her "tenacity", the Vatican said in a statement.

Ishag and her American husband Daniel Wani in turn thanked Francis for the "great support and comfort" they had taken from "the pope's and many other believers' prayers".
The meeting was "a sign of closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith, in particular Christians who suffer persecution", the Vatican added.
The 77-year-old pope gave Ishag rosary beads after an "affectionate and warm" chat about her plans in the United States, where she is expected to fly with her family in a few days' time, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.
The White House in Washington said it was "delighted" Ishaq is now "safe and free and will soon be traveling to the United States".
"For months, Americans of all faiths kept Ms Ishag in their thoughts and prayers as Sudanese authorities sentenced her to death for the alleged crime of apostasy," read a statement released by President Barack Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice.

Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli, who accompanied the family on the flight to Rome, tweeted a photo of the young mother aboard the plane cradling her infant daughter as her toddler son drank from a bottle.
"Mission accomplished," he wrote.
A global outcry erupted in May after Ishag was sentenced under Sharia law to hang for apostasy.

"Today, she and her family have left Sudan on their journey to freedom. Her departure with her immediate family — including her infant daughter, born in custody — is a testament to her unyielding faith and the support she received from friends and allies, including our Embassy in Khartoum and the broader US government," Rice said.
"We look forward to the day when they arrive in America."
The statement thanked the Italian government for its efforts on Ishag's behalf.

- 'A day of celebration' -

The family flew into a military airport in Rome early Thursday and were greeted by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife, as well as Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.
"Today is a day of celebration," Renzi said.

Days after her conviction, the 26-year-old gave birth to a second child in prison.
Ishag's conviction was overturned in June, but she was immediately rearrested while trying to leave Sudan using what prosecutors claimed were forged documents.
Two days later, Ishag was released from prison and she and her family -- including her American husband Daniel Wani and the two infant children -- took refuge in the US embassy.
Ishag was born to a Muslim father who abandoned the family, and was raised by her Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum says Ishaq joined the Catholic Church shortly before she married in 2011.
She was convicted under Islamic Sharia law that has been in force in Sudan since 1983, and that says Muslim conversion to another faith is punishable by death.
The court had also sentenced her to 100 lashings because under Sharia law it considered her union with her non-Muslim husband to be adultery.
Ishag's case raised questions of religious freedom in mostly-Muslim Sudan and sparked vocal protests from Western governments and human rights groups.
The case has re-focused attention on a country which has slipped from the international spotlight but where an 11-year-old war continues with millions of people in need of humanitarian aid.
Ishag's husband Wani said her family had sought protection at the US embassy because of mounting death threats.
Ishag, Wani and their children are being hosted by the Italian government in Rome for a few days before they fly to New York.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"God never ever tires of forgiving us"

“Let us not forget this word: God never ever tires of forgiving us!”

— Pope Francis

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"You have to go with the Eucharist as No. 1" - MLB pitcher

San Diego Padres’ Pitcher Practices Patience

Joe Wieland looks to recover from arm injury and have a healthy second half of the 2014 season.

by Trent Beattie

Heading into spring training in February, San Diego Padres’ pitcher Joe Wieland was feeling great.

He thought his previous arm injuries were behind him, and he was hoping, by this time, to have earned a spot on the team’s major-league roster.

Things turned out differently, however. After re-aggravating a tenacious right arm injury, the 24-year-old Reno, Nev., native is now focusing his attention on a successful surgery and recovery. After a March 26 arthroscopic operation, he’ll have to spend three months rehabbing his arm before he has the opportunity to return to the big-league roster.

As the Padres looked to open their season against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 30, Wieland spoke of accepting his recent injury as part of God’s plan.

How has spring training gone, and what are you looking forward to now that the regular season is upon us?

I started last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, where a ligament in my elbow was replaced. Throughout the 2013 season, I endured quite a few setbacks as I tried to get my arm back into pitching shape. We never did find out what was wrong with the arm last year. That was no fun, so coming into spring training this year, my big goal was to stay healthy.

Things turned out differently than I had hoped, though. My first three outings were great, but in the fourth outing, the pain started up again. An MRI last week showed that there was a bone spur, cartilage or scar tissue that has been giving me problems. Being injured is never fun, but it’s a great relief to finally know what the cause of the pain is.

On Wednesday of this week [March 26], I’ll go in for arthroscopic surgery, which is supposed to be quick and easy, as far as surgeries go. Then I’ll have three months of rehab, and I should be back in “game shape” by the All-Star break in July.

It will take some patience, but I just have to accept it as part of God’s plan and try to make small improvements every day. It’s important not to get too caught up in what you’d like to happen in the future, all the while ignoring the good things you already do have. So many people are much worse off than I am. I can walk, talk and do everything else that a healthy person can do; the only thing I can’t do right now is play baseball.

When did you start playing baseball?

I played baseball almost from the get-go. My first toys were a ball and a bat, and I’m told my first word was “ball.” Baseball seems to have always been a part of my life. I remember my dad coaching me in Little League, even though he hadn’t played baseball as a kid himself. Yet he knew what he was doing, and he helped me to become a better player.

I’m a pitcher now, but hitting used to be my favorite thing. I was drawn to any sport that involved hitting, like golf, ping-pong and tennis. I played soccer, basketball and football, as well, but I had always been most into sports that had bats, clubs or rackets.

I fully intended to be a shortstop, until my sophomore year of high school; but that’s when I had a great pitching season. The scouts took notice, and that’s when the transition to pitching started.

Were you able to connect sports and faith while growing up?

When I was really young, they were separate. I went to Catholic schools, so we would pray before games, but I remember wanting to get that part over with so I could run out onto the field and start playing. Yet, as I got older — say, around 13 or so — sports and faith started to come together.
I made the discovery that any talent I had for sports or anything else did not originate from me, but was ultimately due to God’s goodness and generosity. I could then see that sports were not some separate compartment of my life, isolated from God, but were an extension of God’s love for me.

Without God, I’d have no ability to play sports; and even more to the point, without God, I’d be nothing.

My parents and grandparents were huge, as far as making right and wrong clear to me and my younger brother and sister. They were strict, but it was with a good goal in mind, not just for the sake of being strict. They wanted us to become responsible people who do the right thing.
Something else that really helped to shape me as a young Catholic was the availability of retreats. I was able to go on and even lead some retreats while at Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, Nev., so those experiences helped to solidify my connection with God. When I went to the 2012 Catholic Athletes for Christ retreat, I was able to learn even more than I had previously.

That 2012 retreat was where I met Justin De Fratus, a pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies. We discovered that we had a lot in common, so we kind of stuck together that weekend.

You were also able to go on that retreat with Jeff Suppan, who played with you for a year while he was with the Padres in 2012, right?

Yes, Jeff is a great man who isn’t shy about laying out the faith with anyone at any time. There’s a story from the 2012 season, when we were doing pitcher fielding practice. It was after we had been to a Bible study with some other players and were discussing how Catholicism is very biblical.

While the other guys started to become quiet as they did the drills, Jeff kept talking about the Catholic faith. Even as he was going through his pitching motion and scooping up balls in the infield, he was still going on about one aspect or another of Catholicism. I was very impressed with his multitasking abilities, which made it possible to play baseball and evangelize at the same time.

Jeff is an awesome guy who has been a great example to me of how to carry myself as a baseball player and a man. The same is true with Mark Kotsay, whose house I got to stay at last season. Being around Mark and his family was one of the few bright spots from last year, as I was grinding along, recovering from surgery.

What are some of the things you like most about the Church?

You have to go with the Eucharist as No. 1. That’s the greatest thing, and you don’t get that anywhere else. The Church calls it the source and summit of the Christian life, and that’s just what it is. How else can you explain our Savior becoming truly present to us for our consumption? Words can’t adequately describe it.

At every Mass, a miracle takes place on the altar. We may not see it with our eyes, but bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. That’s a true miracle, so I count myself privileged to be a part of it. Even now, as I’m talking about it, I’m getting goose bumps. It’s a totally amazing gift to have access to the Eucharist.

Another thing I like about the Church is [the sacrament of] reconciliation. We all fall short, so before we can receive the Eucharist, we need to be in a state of grace. That’s where reconciliation is so helpful. Many people are anxious before going, even to the point of skipping out on it, but we should pay attention — not to how we feel before going, but how we feel afterwards.

There’s no feeling like being told by Jesus, through the mouth of the priest, that your sins are forgiven. It’s a very humbling experience, to be honest about how you’ve messed up, but the grace you get in return is more than worth it. Even if you don’t have mortal sins to confess, getting rid of the venial ones that have accumulated is a relief.

Even though I’m one of the people who can get anxious about it beforehand, there’s such vitality to the whole thing. You get to see who you really are and who God really is, a reality check that is irreplaceable.

Since you share a name, do you have a devotion to St. Joseph?

Devotions are a relatively new thing for me. I’m learning more about the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet and the intercession of St. Joseph, whose feast day was March 19.

Jesus and Mary, rightfully, get a lot of attention, but St. Joseph can be passed over a lot. If you just take the time to reflect on his role in the Holy Family — that of protector and provider — it’s just mind-boggling: how holy he must have been. Here, you have the head of a family whose other members are the Son of God and the Mother of God. St. Joseph was given the amazing task of filling the role of father to Jesus as he grew up on earth.

If a short reflection on St. Joseph doesn’t inspire us to look more deeply into his life, I don’t know what will. You can’t pass over someone like him. He has more to teach me about being a true Christian man than I’ll ever understand, but it’s very enjoyable to start understanding it at least a little bit better.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

We are all different people now

Day 10

Mount of Temptation / Jericho...where Jesus prayed and fasted for 40 days and was tempted by the devil (Lk 4).  A Greek Orthodox monastery now sits over the cave where Jesus stayed.

  The view of Jericho Christ had during the temptation.

A GW Catholic touches the rock on which Christ stood while tempted in Jericho.

GW Catholics in the Holy Land '14...what a contrast from the Day 1 pic at the airport!  We are all different people now.

We kiss Israel goodbye, and say thank you to the good people here and Almighty God for an incredible 10 days!!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Celebrated Mass with GW Catholics IN THE TOMB!!

Day 9

In the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, this is Mount Calvary...where Jesus died on the Cross.  We all touched the spot where the Cross went into the ground.  We went up many steps to get to Calvary, and then went down to the tomb where He was buried.  Put us in the footsteps and experiences of the Apostles and disciples - what must they have experienced at both places!  Unimaginable lows and highs.  How blessed are we to be where they were through the Act of Salvation.

The tomb of Christ...celebrated Mass with GW Catholics IN THE TOMB!!

GW Catholics filing in for Mass...they were in the first room through the doors.  Then, I went into the smaller, back room where Jesus's body was laid.  Celebrated Mass on a marble slab where He lay...and rose!!!  Couldn't contain the tears, and had to stop several times just to speak.  Most emotional Mass I've ever celebrated.

From the priest's book of prayers (missal) from Mass at the Holy Seplucher: notice "HERE, I have risen".  No other missal in the world says that.  Wow.

GW Catholic praying at the spot where Mary was born.

Pool of Bethesda (!) where Christ healed a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years...I blessed our pilgrims with holy water there so that they would be healed of whatever paralyzes them in their life with Christ.

The courtyard where Jesus was scourged / whipped over 100 times :(   On to the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering) and the 14 Stations of the Cross.

4th Station, Jesus meets His mother.

8th Station, Jesus meets the holy women of Jerusalem (two holy women of GW in pic).

Near 9th Station, and getting ready to go up to Mount Calvary (in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on left).

11th (right) and 12th Stations (left): Jesus in nailed to the Cross, and dies on the Cross.

Relic of the True Cross...largest in the world, I think.

GW Catholics in the Upper Room!  This is where Jesus instituted the Eucharist and priesthood at the Last Supper, and where the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles at Pentecost...WOW!

Church of the Assumption...the spot where Mary was taken up to Heaven body and soul.

GW Catholics in the tomb of Lazarus!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Amy Kovacs and GW Catholics on EWTN!

Last night, our campus minister, Amy Kovacs, appeared on EWTN's "Nightly News".  The full show is below.  Amy's brief segment starts at 23:33.  Hopefully, they will give her more air time next time.  But, the piece is well done.  And, what a strong, beautiful witness she is!