Friday, October 31, 2014

"Halloween History" video

Happy Halloween!  Click HERE for articles about Halloween from 

Here's a 3 min. video on the history of Halloween from the National Geographic Channel.  Even the video says that Halloween has historically been a "dangerous" holiday.  BE SAFE!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Homily - "Four types of love"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

We have materials in the back of church for the upcoming election.  They are from the Archdiocese of Washington, but can be applied to any election because they address main issues.  It's helpful to have a Catholic guide to vote, not for particular candidates or parties, but on issues. The Church's teachings are based on love of God and neighbor - as we hear in today's Gospel - and are compassionate - as we hear in today's first reading. In 2012, we put out similar materials to help guide GW Catholics.  A young woman contacted me, strongly objecting to what the Church teaches on social issues.  I met with her and listened to her objections.  The more we spoke, the more she realized that the teachings are compassionate and biblically based.  Even in the first reading, we hear a basis for the teaching on immigration: "you shall not oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves".  By the way, she and I have become friends, and she is trying to embrace the Church's teachings.

Christ gives us the greatest commandments in today's Gospel: "you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind...and love your neighbor as yourself". In his encyclical, "God is love", Pope Benedict XVI gave us a beautiful exposition on love.  He began by writing that love is the most overused word in the world.  In our language, we have one word that is used for everything: we love our pets, we love movies, we love our parents.  The Greeks had four words for love.  "Storge" is love within families; "Philia" is love within friendship; "Eros" is passion or desire that normally led to marriage: and "Agape" is self-emptying, sacrificial love.  The Church today defines love as "gift of self" which would be agape love.  The former pope made the point that Greek Old Testament writers only used eros twice, and none in the New Testament.  Philia was used in the New Testament by St. John in his letters to describe the friendship love between Christ and His followers.  So, we can deduce that the love Christ calls us to have for God and neighbor is agape love.

In a tender, non-judgmental way, Pope Benedict examined how eros can be distorted.  Passions and desires are good, and they ultimately lead us to fulfillment.  For example, whenever I preach at a wedding, I ask the couple to look deep into each other's eyes, and say to them, "you are looking at your happiness...really, God's happiness for you through the other". This is all true when eros is joined with agape, meaning that our desires are fulfilled when they are used to serve another.  They become distorted when they are used selfishly.  The most common example of this, unfortunately, is viewing pornography.  This obviously does not constitute love, but lust.  It involves using others to feed our sexual desires in a selfish way.  And, it doesn't lead to fulfillment.  I have worked with many, many people who habitually view pornography, and they are not happy at all.  It’s actually the opposite. We will never be fulfilled by pleasure only.

My favorite quote from the Pope's encyclical is, "love can be 'commanded' because it is first given.  Christ commands us to love God and neighbor with agape love because He first loved us in this way.  He merges eros with agape.  He emptied Himself by becoming man, and showed his intense passion for our love and souls..."I thirst" (for love), He said from the Cross.  The Cross is where eros (horizontal part of the Cross) and agape (vertical part) merged.  Christ emptied Himself for us (horizontal) to God (vertical) in his sacrifice.  He commands us to give ourselves - heart, soul, and mind - to God first and foremost.  Remember what we heard last week: "give to God what belongs to God".  Give him your life! Love means gift of self.  Love means sacrifice.  Give of yourselves to God and neighbor.

Finally, we might say that the Eucharist is the face of eros and agape love merging in our world.  Christ "earnestly desired" to eat with the disciples, and He gave Himself as the food.  He gives us His agape love tonight, saying to each of us, "this is my body, blood, soul, divinity, heart, and mind". In the Eucharist, He lives in us so that we can live out His command to give our body, blood, heart, soul, and mind to God and neighbor.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

St. John Paul II and Eucharistic Adoration (happening now at GW Newman Center)

With Eucharistic Adoration happening right now in the GW Newman Center chapel until 10 pm on the feast day of St. John Paul II, it is fitting to quote him on the importance of Adoration (via 

Pope John Paul II:
Defender and Apostle of Eucharistic Adoration

"I hope that this form of perpetual adoration, with permanent exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, will continue into the future."

(International Eucharistic Congress in Seville, Spain June 1993)

"Public and private devotion to the Holy Eucharist outside Mass is highly recommended: for the presence of Christ, who is adored by the faithful in the Sacrament, derives from the sacrifice and is directed towards sacramental and spiritual communion."
      (Inaestimabile Donum, #20, 1980)  "The Church and the world have great need of Eucharistic adoration. Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and contemplation full of faith. And let us be ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world. May our adoration never cease."       (Dominicae Cenae: Letter to Priests, Holy Thursday, 1980)  "Closeness to the Eucharistic Christ in silence and contemplation does not distance us from our contemporaries but, on the contrary, makes us open to human joy and distress, broadening our hearts on a global scale. Through adoration the Christian mysteriously contributes to the radical transformation of the world and to the sowing of the gospel. Anyone who prays to the Eucharistic Savior draws the whole world with him and raises it to God."       (Letter to the Bishop of Liege, Reported in L'Osserv. Romano, 1996)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Homily - "Give to God what belongs to God"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

At our grad student Bible study last Monday night, I asked the group what does it mean to do what Jesus says in tonight's Gospel, "give to God what belongs to God". One of the students pensively answered, it means give God your life.  Wow, I thought, good answer! Yes, in general terms, give God your life. But, what does it mean specifically?

Give God your time.  By coming here tonight, you are giving God your time...on His day.  Other students have seen that you give God an hour every Sunday, and they now do the same.  You give God time every Wednesday during ten hours of Eucharistic Adoration at Newman, some for thirty minutes and some for just a few minutes.  Dozens of you give God time every week for FOCUS Bible studies and discipleship.  Almost twenty of you gave early time last Saturday morning to serve breakfast to the homeless. You are the busiest people I've ever met, and yet you give time to God each week.

Give your money to God....ten percent. The biblical formula of tithing is based on Abraham giving ten percent of what he had to the priest, Melchizedek.  As students, you don't have income, so give ten percent of what you spend every week.  If you can drop $50 at dinner or shopping, you can drop $5 in the basket here.

Give your anxiety, stress, burdens, hurts, and wounds to God.  Jesus basically says this in Matthew 11:28 - "Come to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest".  He wants us to give him what's on our, it belongs to Him.   I give you permission to give all of your crud to Him.  He wants it.  You have been open to this with our healing ministry, giving your wounds from relationships or family to Jesus the Divine Physician.   We will have a Healing Mass next month, a great opportunity to give Christ your burdens.

Give your life to God. We normally think of this in regards to vocations.  Several GW Catholics have given God their lives after graduation by entering the seminary, convent, or marriage.

Give God your Confession / Reconciliation.  He gave His life for your sins, so He definitely wants them! GW Catholics regularly go to Confession whether before or after this Mass, or during the week to me or Father Zack on Tuesday or Thursday evenings.  Keep giving your sins to Christ!

Give the sins of others to God.  Forgiveness is so huge in our relationships and families.  Trust me, if you forgive others throughout your lives, you will save a lot of money on counseling.  So many problems result from a lack of forgiveness, especially in marriages.  Small things that aren't forgiven can become big things. Forgive! Just as recently as last week, a student came to talk to me about the rough break-up with her ex...and was open to forgiving. Give God the sins of others...He wants them.

Give God your heart.  Caesar was inscribed on the Roman coin. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Christ is inscribed on your heart.  Give to God what belongs to God.

Finally, give God the credit. For everything good in our lives, the credit belongs to God.  Give Him thanks every day.  I have encouraged you to give thanks for a moment or two after Mass, in imitation of the saints: give thanks to God for all your blessings, especially Jesus in the Eucharist and on the Cross.  So, now at Tuesday night Mass before dinner, I finish Mass and then have to wait a moment or two to greet the 30-40 students.  They are all making their thanksgiving! You do give thanks to God, for you see that all that you have is from Him.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Synod say what?"

The following is from to provide some clarity to what has been reported on from the Synod in Rome this week.  The best part is the first link below which has the actual text of what was said and written.  I found some of the media's headlines to be misleading, and so getting it "straight from the horse's mouth" is necessary here.  There is different, more positive language and tone from the Church on some modern issues, and that's new(s).  But, doctrine hasn't changed (it can't change), and there is nothing from the Synod that hints at changing doctrine. 

Synod say what?

The document admittedly is far from perfect -- and at times appears contradictory. Perhaps it should be rewritten (as some Cardinals are suggesting), or perhaps it should never have been released.

The truth is the document contains no definitive teaching. It is merely a working summary of discussions that will continue for another week -- and then again next year.

A few things to consider:
  • The Church doesn’t decide what it teaches based on emotions, trends, or whims of the people. Instead, it proclaims those truths found in Scripture (revelation), sacred tradition, and that which we can know by right reason (natural law). Knowing the truth however is not enough. The Church must use prudence to discern how best to lead others to it, especially the truth about human dignity and sexual love. This is what the Synod is really about.
  • The document presupposes that everyone needs God’s mercy. Nobody is perfect. Christ came to save the broken. But this “mercy” or what the media calls a “softening of tone” is only possible in the truth. Real mercy cannot be based on a lie about the nature and dignity of the human person.
  • Is there room for the Church to grow and adapt in the pastoral challenges that surround the difficult situations of our modern world? Absolutely. Is there room for innovation or new ideas on how to best carry the truths of the Church to those in ‘irregular’ situations, or those who mistakenly believe that Catholics hate homosexuals? Yes, indeed. But always in the truth.
  • Pope Francis has called the Church a hospital for sinners. The evidence is clear that marriage and the family around the world are in need of conversion and transformation. How to address these challenges is not easy, and the conversations surrounding it are messy. Efforts to reduce the document or the Synod to a few hot button issues for mass media consumption does a disservice to the conversation occurring in Rome.

So what can you do?

Don’t lose patience or despair. The Holy Spirit isn’t asleep at the wheel. He is working with imperfect people.

And of course, don’t believe everything you read from big media outlets. They lie a lot and have their own agendas.

Pray. Pray extra hard for the Church and for those in Rome during this Synod.

Finally, check out the articles below. Especially the commentary by Fr. Robert Barron.


Helpful Links and Articles:

Relatio post Disceptationem
Having Patience for the Sausage-Making Synod (Fr. Robert Barron)

Catholicism, Sex and Marriage (R.R. Reno)

The Great Catholic Cave-In that Wasn’t (George Weigel)

The Earthquake, the Vacuum, and the Still, Small Voice (Thomas Peters)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Boy Celebrates (Mass) In English/Latin

Gone are the days of private, pretend Masses as boys when no one is home, I guess!  They are now celebrated with the family.  This is an incredible video.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Homily - "You are precious, and I love you"

Please take out your phones...not to go into your email or text messages, but to go into the App Store.  Please download an app called, "Laudate". It's a great Catholic app that contains the Bible, among other things.  We wanted to give you pocket Gospels this year, just like Pope Francis handed out at World Youth Day in Rio last year.  Unfortunately, they really can't be purchased..guess it was a special deal for the Pope.  With this app, though, you have the Bible with you wherever you and your phone go.  You should be reading the Bible every day. The saying is, "ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ". Get to know Christ better through the Word.

Speaking of Scripture, we have cards for you that have a verse from Isaiah 43: "you are precious, and I love you" (v. 4).  Our campus minister, Julie, and our FOCUS missionaries, SJ, Becca, and Jim, are handing out a card to each of you now.  If you're thinking, 'I got this, I know it...  Fr Greg is always saying, "you are good and you are loved"', then listen to a story about Fr Larry Richards who is a well-known priest, author, and speaker in the Church.  He went on a retreat one time, looking forward to going deep with Scripture. The nun directing his retreat told him to meditate on Isaiah 43:1-5 which says God loves you.  He responded by saying, "Sister, I got that.  Can you give me something deeper and more advanced?" She insisted on those lines, and he finally agreed.  He then spent 4-5 days meditating on God's love for him, and it changed his life.  He went to the depths of his heart which rejoiced in being loved by God...who made his heart. So, even if you think you know that God loves you, have this card in clear sight - on your desk or somewhere you will see it - and meditate on the verse this week.

Now, our crew will pass out envelopes which have five of these cards in them.  A couple of weeks ago, I spoke about starting a campaign on campus as a result of the “hate preachers’” visit to Kogan plaza.  That motivated us to do this.  And then, we had yet another tragedy on our campus with the student jumping from Shenkman Hall on Thursday.  It’s a miracle that she survived, and we are praying for her recovery.  On Friday, we printed out 5,000 of these cards; tonight we launch this campaign of love through you.  Please give these cards to five people you know who need to hear the message from God that, “you are precious, and I love you”.

You are essentially sending out invitations.  Tonight’s Gospel is a parable of a king who sends out his servants to invite guests to his banquet.  It really tells the story between God us over the course of time.  God has invited his guests to a banquet which is his kingdom.  He has sent out prophets, apostles, and disciples to invite his sons and daughters.  You are modern-day apostles.  The word “apostle” means “one who is sent”.  God is calling you to invite people to receive his love through this campaign. 

Please don’t be afraid to give this card to five people who need to read it and think about it.  You could save a life.  You could save a heart.  You could save a soul. The message on this card is real.  It is really good.  We need to get it our real quick.  Many people on this campus – maybe even some of you here tonight – are hearing a different message in their heads every day, maybe even every hour.  It’s a message that says, “you are not precious.  You are a piece of trash.  God doesn’t love you, he is not even there.  No one loves you.  You are all alone”.  These thoughts are garbage.  They are not true.  They are not real.  “You are precious” is real! An “I love you” from God is really good.  We need to get this our really quick.

Today, I preached at a couple of different parishes about invitations.  I spoke about you, and how effective you have been at inviting other students to good events.  Through your invitations, almost twenty students came out yesterday morning in the cold and rain to serve coffee and breakfast to homeless men and women.  Through the attractive invitation of a student leader to Wednesday Adoration one week, we had several students every hour come to adore our Lord.  The best example, of course, has been narrated many times by Cardinal Wuerl: you have invited other students to Sunday Mass, and our Mass attendance has quadrupled in the past five years.  A Pew Research poll found that the number one reason students go to Mass during college is because they were invited by other students.  So, your personal invitation is powerful indeed.  Please don’t be afraid to invite others on our campus to receive God’s love.

Finally, if this initial invitation leads to another conversation, then great.  They might ask where these cards came from, and you can say that you received them at Mass from the GW Catholics.  You can invite them to the feast of “rich food and choice wines” that is Holy Mass.  You can invite to go to Confession or prayer or Bible study.  Invite them through your witness which means tell them of your experiences there, and the peace and joy you have experienced.  It is powerful indeed!  But, for now, I send you out tonight to give these invitations of God’s love.  This the message of Jesus Christ that is real, is really good, and needs to get out real quick: “you are precious, and I love you”.  


Friday, October 10, 2014

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

"Tommy and God"

Father John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago, writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy:

Some twelve years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of  Faith. That was the day I first saw Tommy. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long.  I guess it was just coming into fashion then. I know in my mind that it isn't what's on your head but what's in it that counts; but on that day, I was unprepared and my emotions flipped. I immediately filed Tommy under "S" for strange... Very  strange. Tommy turned out to be the "atheist in residence" in my Theology of Faith course. He constantly objected to, smirked at or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father/God. We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit he was for me at times a serious pain in the back pew.

When he came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam, he asked in a cynical tone, "Do you think I'll ever find God?" I decided instantly on a little shock therapy. "No!" I said very emphatically. "Why not," he responded, "I thought that was the product you were pushing."

I let him get five steps from the classroom door and then I called out, "Tommy!  I don't think you'll ever find Him, but I am absolutely certain that He will find you!"  He shrugged a little and left my class and my life.

I felt slightly disappointed at the thought that he had missed my clever line He will find you!  At least I thought it was clever.

Later I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was duly grateful. Then  a sad report came. I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to see me.   When he walked into my office, his body was very badly wasted and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm, for the first time, I believe.

"Tommy, I've thought about you so often;  I hear you are sick," I blurted out. "Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It's a matter of weeks."  "Can you talk about it, Tom?" I asked. "Sure, what would you like to know?" he replied. "What's it like to be only twenty-four  and dying?  "Well, it could be worse."  "Like what?”  "Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals, like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real biggies in life.”

I began to look through my mental file cabinet under "S" where I had filed Tommy as strange. (It seems as though everybody  I try to reject by classification, God sends back into my life to educate me.)

"But what I really came to see you about," Tom said, "is something you said to me on the last day of class." (He remembered!) He continued, "I asked you if you thought    I would ever find God and you said, 'No!' which surprised me. Then you said, 'But He will find you.’ I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time. (My clever line. He thought about that a lot!) "But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, that's when I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of heaven. But God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened. Did you ever try anything for a long time with great effort and with no success?  You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying. And then you quit."

"Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there, I just quit. I decided thatI didn't really care about God, about an afterlife, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable. I thought about you and your class and I remembered something else you had said: 'The essential sadness is to go through life without loving.’ But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them."

"So, I began with the hardest one, my Dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him. "Dad."  "Yes, what?" he asked without lowering the newspaper.  "Dad, I would like to talk with you."  "Well, talk.”  "I mean. It's really important."
The newspaper came down three slow inches. "What is it?"  "Dad, I love you, I just wanted you to know that." Tom smiled at me and said it with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt a warm and secret  joy flowing inside of him. "The newspaper fluttered to the floor.  Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing
before. He cried and he hugged me. We talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning. It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me."

"It was easier with my mother and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other, and started saying real nice things to each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years. I was only sorry about one thing --- that I had waited so long."

"Here I was, just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to. Then, one day I turned around and God was there. He didn't come to me when I  pleaded  with Him. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop,  'C'mon,  jump through. C'mon, I'll give you three days, three weeks.'  Apparently God does things in His own way and at His own hour. But the  important thing is that He was there.  He found me! You were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for Him."

"Tommy," I practically gasped, "I think you are saying something very important and much more universal than you realize.  To me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make Him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love. You know, the Apostle John said that. He said: 'God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living  in him.’
"Tom, could I ask you a favor? You know, when I had you in class you were a real pain. But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now.  Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what  you have just told me? If I told them the same thing it wouldn't be half as  effective as if you were to tell it.” "Oooh.. I was ready for you, but I don't know if I'm ready for your class." "Tom, think about it. If and when you are ready, give me a call."

In a few days Tom called, said he was ready for the class, that he wanted to do that for God and for me.  .So we scheduled a date. However, he never made it. He had another appointment, far more important than the one with me and my class. Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or the ear of man has ever heard or the mind of man has ever imagined.

Before he died, we talked one last time. "I'm not going to make it to your class" he said. "I know, Tom."  "Will you tell them for me?  Will you...tell the whole world for me?"  "I will, Tom. I'll tell them. I'll do my best."

So, to all of you who have been kind enough to read this simple story about God's love, thank you for listening.   And to you, Tommy, somewhere in the sunlit, verdant hills of heaven --- I told them, Tommy, as best I could.

If this story means anything to you please pass it on to a friend or two.
It is a true story and is not enhanced for publicity purposes.

With thanks, Rev. John Powell, Professor, Loyola  University, Chicago

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Homily - "Here"

“The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” ( Phil 4:6-9). In my time as  chaplain here, I have wanted you to experience the peace of God…the grace of God.  It’s what is best for you, and like any parent, I want what’s best for my (spiritual) kids.  We have tried just about everything in order for you to have an experience with the peace of God – on campus and elsewhere.  We have done many trips and pilgrimages – to World Youth Day in 2011 when we went to Madrid and stopped by Rome, Paris, and Lourdes; on mission trips and service trips over spring break in Appalachia.  These have all been good and grace-filled, and given GW Catholics an experience of the grace of God.

The most fruitful trip we have taken was our pilgrimage to the Holy Land this past May.  19 of us went for 10 days just before the trouble and bombings began.  It was an awesome trip…awesome!  It’s been interesting telling friends and family about it.  So many people said, “I want to hear all about it”, but then about 30 seconds into telling them all about it, they don’t want to hear any more.  It’s either that they aren’t interested anymore, or they say to stop talking about it because they are jealous and probably won’t ever go.  It is one of those “you had to be there” trips, and it’s hard to fully describe it, but I will try over the next few  minutes.

We spent the first few nights in Galilee on the “Mount of Beatitudes”.  This is where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, and it overlooks the Sea of Galilee.  It’s not a huge body of water, so we could look out over it and think, “this is where Jesus walked on water or called Peter or did this or that”.  This is where it happened!   This is where He was!  Going for a walk at night on the grounds, it was amazing to think, “this is where he preached the Sermon on the Mount”. We couldn’t believe where we were.  “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel”.  We were in the vineyard!  It was a good primer for when we went up to Jerusalem.

For the 17 students, the pilgrimage really began in Nazareth at the Church of the Annunciation.  On the Church’s façade is a Latin phrase that meant, “the Word became flesh here”.  “Here” became a theme for the trip.  In many of the missals that I used at Mass at different sites, it said that (such-and-such) happened HERE.  I’ve never seen that in any of the prayer books at Mass.  We went into the Church, and down to the grotto of the Annunciation.  This is the cave where the angel appeared to Mary at her house when she was a teenager and revealed God’s Plan for Mary to conceive the Savior.  Mary said yes, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit…  “the Word became flesh”.  The students were so moved by this, and were saying, “this is where it all began”.  I was so psyched as a chaplain, firstly, because they are pro-life!  Life begins at conception, so the Word became flesh at conception.  December 25 is great and all that, but the Word became flesh at the Annunciation on March 25.  Secondly, the students were theologically accurate that God became man when Jesus was conceived at the Annunciation.

The most powerful moment was at Gethsemane where Jesus had his agony in the garden the night before He died.  We walked through the garden and saw the 2,000 year old trees that have been described as the “silent witnesses” of Christ’s agony.  We talked about the agony Christ went through; Mother Teresa said that he went through the worst human pain there is…loneliness, rejection, isolation.  He also sweated blood. Then, we went inside to the Church of Agony for Mass.  In the Church, there is a huge rock at the base of the altar.  It is believed that that rock is where Christ agonized and sweated blood.  It’s where He first shed His blood for us.  In thinking about his suffering – with which we could all identify – and the blood He shed, we heard the words at Mass that we probably take for granted: “this is my blood…poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”.  The whole experience was so powerful…overwhelming, really.  It was the only Mass that I thought to suggest confessions after Mass because there were other priests there.  But, I totally forgot to announce it.  After Mass, I made my thanksgiving and went out to meet the group.  No one was around.  I was thinking, “where did they go?”  They were all in line for Confession.

The most emotional Mass we had was in the tomb.  IN. THE. TOMB.  Our guide hooked us up with an early morning Mass in the tomb where Christ was buried and rose.  It is in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  We first went up to Calvary which is the highest point in the Church.  We learned that at the time of the Crucifixion, Calvary was just outside of the city line, so as today’s Gospel says, “they threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him”.  We then went down to the floor of the Church to the tomb.  The students were in the front area, and I went alone to the small back area to celebrate Mass.  Our guide had said that he’s been to Mass in the tomb 50 times, and 3 times the priest cried.  No pressure!  Well, when I began Mass, the water works started immediately and continued all Mass.  It was literally Niagara Falls for me and all the students. We could barely talk.  I was offering Holy Mass on a marble slab where He lay…where He was buried…where He rose.  I was thinking the entire time, “who am I to be here doing this?”  We also thought of Mary Magdelene and the Apostles, and all the events of Holy Week that we celebrate so reverently every year.  We were right there where it all happened!

Many of the students who went were looking for an experience of the presence of God…of the peace of God.  Among the 19, we had some doubters.  We came back 19 believers.  There were 19 conversions in the Holy Land.  One of the graduating seniors quite her well-paying job in a law firm after the trip to work for the Church.  It was that powerful for all of us.  “Then the God of peace will be with you”.  The God of peace was with us.