Friday, January 31, 2014

Top 10 Catholic Heroes of the Super Bowl

1) Ski Retreat for GW Catholics, Feb. 7-9, $20.  Pay by Tues, Feb. 5.

2) Super Bowl Party, Parish Hall, St. Stephen's, Sunday night, 6 pm.  Pizza, chicken wings, $25 Visa gift cards for contest winners. 

 Check out the list of Catholic heroes of the Super Bowl HERE.  It appears to have been made in 2008, so it's not the most current list.  Matt Birk of last year's champion Ravens could be on the current list.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

And the Grammy winner is...Satan?

Christian Grammy Nominee Natalie Grant Walks Out of the Grammys

Christian Contemporary music star Natalie Grant was nominated for two Grammys.

Grant was up for Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance for “Alive (Mary Magdelene),” a song she wrote with her husband Bernie Helms, and Best Christian Music Song for the chart-topping “Hurricane.”

The couple went to the Grammys proud to represent gospel music. Little did they know when they arrived at the Los Angeles Staples Center that they’d be going to church.

To warm up the congregation and open the service, Beyoncé twerked her ample bethonged derriere to the delight of millions. After that, Natalie and Bernie were subjected to Mrs. Carter sitting astride a chair in, shall we say, an extremely come-hither position.

Next the high-powered billionaire, Jay-Z ,and his bodacious bride left little to imagination about what goes on in their boudoir when nobody’s looking.

From there, Natalie got to see pop star Katy Perry, who used to sing about Jesus. However, since crossing over into showbiz stardom she’s been circling the vortex of hellish behavior for years. Katy, wearing an illuminated Knights Templar cross on her chest, pushed the envelope beyond ‘kissing a girl’ in what even the secular media described as a Satanic Ritual, or at best, witchcraft.

Right about that time Natalie and Bernie were probably starting to feel out of place among people winning awards for being “Up all night to ‘Get lucky.’”

It’s unclear which debauched performance prompted Natalie Grant and Bernie Helms to call it a night.

Hopefully, they were already gone and missed the church-like mockery that was overseen by
Reverend Latifah. Wedding music was compliments of a menopausal Madonna on behalf of 34 same- and mixed-sex couples who tied the knot on what’s supposed to be a music awards show.

Refusing to pass judgment on the debacle, after she left Natalie had this to say on her Facebook page, which in a few words said so much:

We left the Grammy’s early. I’ve many thoughts about the show tonight, most of which are probably better left inside my head. But I’ll say this: I’ve never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I’ve never been more sure of the path I’ve chosen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thanksgiving prayer after Mass of St. Thomas Aquinas

Below is the prayer that we distributed this past Sunday after Mass.  It's fitting anytime, but especially as the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas today!
Thanksgiving Prayer after Mass
Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas
I thank you, holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God, who deigned to feast me, sinful and unworthy servant, with the precious body and blood of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, not for any merit of mine, but only because of your merciful goodness. And I pray that this Holy Communion, far from condemning me to punishment, may bring about my pardon and salvation, encompassing me with the armor of faith and the shield of a good will. By it let my vices be done away, all lustful desires extinguished. May it advance me in charity, patience, humility, obedience, and every other virtue. Let it be strong defense against the wiles of all my enemies, visible and invisible, allaying for me every disturbance of flesh and spirit, binding me firmly to you, the one true God, and bringing my last hour to a happy close. I pray, too, that it may be your pleasure to call my sinful self one day to that banquet, wonderful past all telling, where you, with your Son and the Holy Spirit, feast your saints with the vision of yourself, who are true light, the fulfillment of all desires, the joy that knows no ending, gladness unalloyed, and perfect bliss: through the same Christ our Lord.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Homily - "Mass is a re-presentation of Calvary"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

Last week, I gave a talk to the RCIA group (those who are preparing to become Catholic) about the Mass, and went through the parts of the Mass.  I thought it would be good to do that in a homily.  I took another look at today's readings and saw that some of the language describes what happens at Mass.  I'll start with the Gospel.  Jesus says, "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand".  It's one of the first things he says in Matthew's Gospel.  It's one of the first things we say at Mass.  The priest begins Mass by greeting the congregation and then leading the Penitential Rite.  Here we acknowledge our place in the presence of God: that we are sinners.  We need to repent, for Mass is at hand.  Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Then, we sing the Gloria..."Glory to God". We are filled with "abundant joy" and "great rejoicing", as we hear through the prophet Isaiah.  We sing hymns at Mass that are sung in Heaven- "Glory to God in the highest", "Holy, Holy, Holy", etc.  This is what the Book of Revelation tells us.

Then, we celebrate the Liturgy of the Word.  Mass is made up primarily of two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  We need to be present for both parts to have attended.  If someone arrives after the Gospel on Sunday, they need to find another Mass to fulfill the Sunday obligation.  

St. Paul writes in the second reading that Christ sent him to "preach the Gospel ".  The primary task of a priest is to teach.  The homily is supposed to teach what God is saying through the readings. The first reading comes from the Old Testament; the second comes from a New Testament letter; the third reading is from one of the four Gospels.  The first reading and the Gospel are always related; the second isn’t always related, and is often continuous from prior weeks.  Our job is to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through the readings at this point in our lives... to hear at least one word or phrase.   The theme might be found in the Responsorial Psalm which is our response to God. We were taught in the seminary that the homily is the bridge between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  I try in every homily to link the readings to the Eucharist.

We sit during the readings to receive God's Word. Sitting is the most receptive position.  We stand for the Gospel and prayers to show more reverence.  Kneeling is the most reverent gesture, so we do that during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

After the homily, we profess our faith during the Creed.  We should think about the words we say...about what we believe and about who God is.  People have given their lives, literally, over the centuries for these words.  We conclude the Liturgy of the Word with the Prayer of the Faithful in which we offer prayers to the Father for the world.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist has many parts and descriptions.  It is called an offering; we offer to God our humble gifts of bread and wine as well as our monetary offerings.  He takes them, blesses them, and makes them holy.

It is called a memorial; we remember how God has saved us in Christ.  Jesus says "do this in memory of me", and when the priest does, Jesus becomes truly present on the altar through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The consecration / transubstantiation occurs when the priest says the words of Institution: "this is my body "...  "this is the chalice of my blood".  At that point, it is no longer bread or wine; it is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

It is also a sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross...the act of our salvation.  "The Lord is my light and my salvation".  Christ doesn't die at every Mass; Scripture says that He died "once and for all". His sacrifice on Calvary is re-presented at Mass.  This is the sacrifice that is offered to the Father "for the forgiveness of sins".  We are all witnesses and participants of salvation! If you want to save the world, go to Mass…or invite someone to Mass! The next time someone says to you that Mass is boring, tell them that Mass is a re-presentation of Calvary; I don't think they would think that event was boring.

It is also a banquet. We receive The Lord in Holy Communion.  We are one with Him and with each other..."united in the same mind and in the same purpose".  As individuals, we have community ("communion") with each other at Mass.  Last week, our campus experienced a tragedy when Sean Keefer, a freshman at GW, died. At the memorial service on campus, Sean's family stressed the importance of community.  They said that Sean went to a dark place alone, and urged GW students to never do that alone.  At Mass, we are reminded that we are not alone.  There are others who can help us in our darkness...and be a light.  In Christ, we are never alone.  He is our light.

During Holy Communion, we reflect on the immense treasure we have been given in the Eucharist.  The Mass ends when the priest gives the final blessing and declares, "the Mass is ended". He sends us out into the world as the Father sent him into the world.  Given all that we just experienced in the heavenly liturgy, we shouldn't be in such a hurry to leave.  We should be like the saints who stayed after Mass for a moment or two to give thanks to God for all that they just received: God speaking to them in the Word and coming to them in the Eucharist.  We are the people in darkness who have seen a great light which is Christ through our participation in Holy Mass.


Friday, January 24, 2014

That's cold, WaPo

The heat must not be working in the offices of the Washington Post.   Yesterday's front section included an opinion piece by Dana Milbank about the March for Life which is as chilly as the weather.  He was being ironic, turning the tables on at least one marcher who had prayed for bad weather on opponents in the past.  But, his suggestions and theories are just downright cold: 

         "(I)f there are weather gods, they may have been making a pointed comment about a movement
          that has become frozen in time". 

A crowd of 250,000+ people (not the number of 25,000 that he mentioned), most of whom are young, in sub-zero weather does not signify "a movement that has become frozen in time".

         "So the weather was whipped up by Washington? For the antiabortion marchers, this theory
          beat the alternative: that it was the wrath of an angry God."
If Time Magazine's "Person of the Year" was with us Wednesday, God was not against us.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Homily - "Loving (your) life!"

Yesterday, I celebrated the wedding Mass of a couple I have known from the start of their relationship. Eight years ago when they were in high school, their families and a few others joined me for Eucharistic Adoration once a week during Lent.  I knew how she felt about him because...well, all the girls were in love with him. I didn't know how he felt about her until last year when they were providentially reunited at a bar...God is cool like that! They started dating; their first date was at Mass! They fell in love, and they asked me to do their wedding.  It was such a beautiful wedding.

One of the things that I said at their wedding is what I say at every wedding: when God created you, He had your wedding day in mind.  When God conceives any of us, He has our vocation in mind.  We hear a lot about calling and vocation in today's readings. And, marriage is a vocation! What we hear from the prophet Isaiah serves as the basis for what I was saying: "The Lord formed me as his servant from the womb". It is from the womb that God forms us as a servant, husband, wife, priest, and nun.  There is so much at work in the womb! God has created a body and a soul.  One priest said that the world is changed forever when someone who didn't exist is created...and lives forever.

Looking ahead to this Wednesday, what God says through Isaiah is one of the main reasons we attend the March for Life.  We recognize that God is at work in the womb. So many more young people are pro-life now because they see what we have believed for so long: that life begins at conception. Technology shows that there is DNA at conception, a heartbeat at 17 days, and brain waves at 21 days. God has created a little baby...a little person.

It was estimated that 650,000 people attended the March last year, most of whom were young.  They come from all over the country to celebrate and defend life, and make many sacrifices to attend. I am asking each of you to make a sacrifice or two for life on Wednesday.  If this means missing a class or two (that big sacrifice!) and making up the work, please do it.  It is one of the best days of the year as a Catholic!

One of the most inspiring groups at the March is women who have had abortions and are now pro-life. They regret their choice (sometimes it's not even a choice for women because they are forced into it).  My guess is that most of them have received healing from the Lord through the Church.  I ask you to be open to this.  If you or a friend has had an abortion, please come to me...for healing and mercy.  Not judgment, but the Lord's mercy.  Please be open to that.

So, there is a lot going on with conception.  Conversely, there is a lot going on against conception.  I ask you to be open to a CD that I've brought tonight.  It's called, "Contraception: Why Not" by Dr. Janet Smith.  You get inundated with so much information and resources for contraception, so it's good to get some from the other level the playing field somewhat.  I have many copies of this CD tonight and ask you to take one and listen to it.  It is excellent.  It is chalked full of really good information of how contraceptives affect women, relationships, and marriages.  Her talk has been around for the past 20 years or so, but this latest version has updated info that I didn't even know. Like, during a woman's cycle, she says that fertility lasts only 12 hours...12 hours! And, the pill can affect the type of men women attract. Studies have shown that women who use chemical contraceptives don't attract the men that they want, but do attract the ones they don't want.  There is also a probable link between divorce and contraception. Before contraception became widespread in the 60s, the divorce rate was 25%; ten years later it was 50%. I know that you all want to prepare for marriage and not divorce, so you want to know if there is an alternative to the 1 in 2 divorce chance.  She offers an alternative: Natural Family Planning.  The divorce rate among couples who use NFP is less than 5%.

I am offering all this to you to give you every resource possible to make informed make good choices...choices that will bear fruit.  God says it's not enough just to be a servant, but to be a light.  I want you to be lights.  I want you to be fruitful in your vocations. I try to give you the best resources and well as everything I have.  If you come by Newman at 11 or 12 at night, chances are that my light will be on and door open.  If I were to close my door at 9 pm and say, 'no more students, no more kids ', that would be spiritual contraception.  But, I am open to your life and won't you to shine like a light.  I love your light! I love your life!

Finally, one other thing I say at each wedding: if you want a fruitful marriage, center your new life together on the Eucharist. If we want to know the best resource for bearing fruit, John the Baptist points it out in today's Gospel: "Behold, the Lamb of God".  Jesus promises many fruits from the Eucharist.  It is the best way to do God's Will, to live holiness, to find our vocations and to live them out fruitfully.  It is the best way to be the people that God created us to be.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Religious life after high school

St. Mary's Ryken seniors plan to enter religious life after graduation

Catholic Standard staff

Two seniors at St. Mary's Ryken High School in Leonardtown (MD) plan to enter religious life at the end of the school year. Emma Madden (pictured right), 18, will begin discernment with the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, and Meagan Schreyer (pictured left), 17, will enter the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia of Nashville, Tenn.

"I was 11 when God first placed the call in my heart. I had this knowing and understanding that my entire life was created by Him (God) and for Him," Madden said. "I can do nothing better than giving my everything to Him."

For Schreyer, the call to religious life also came at a very early age.

"I first knew God was calling me in the fourth grade, but I put it off until first year of high school," she said. "It was then I felt the call so strongly that I knew I could not put it off any longer, and I could not ignore it."

Both say they were supported in their decisions by attending Catholic school.

"Being in a Catholic school made it easier to discern my vocation. God has put wonderful people in my life, and at Ryken I have grown so much in my faith," Madden said. "This school radiates an authentic Catholic beauty."

Schreyer said her classmates have encouraged her in her religious vocation.

"The kids here at Ryken are intrigued by the idea of giving your life to God," she said. "They are excited and happy for me."

Both Madden and Schreyer have attended St. Mary's Ryken High School for all four years of their high school careers. The school is sponsored by the Xaverian Brothers.

"It is truly a very blessed time for our St. Mary's Ryken community," said Mary Joy Hurlburt , president of the school. "We have witnessed Meagan's and Emma's courage and wisdom as they heard and accepted God's calling them to a religious vocation. Throughout their four years, they have opened their hearts and minds to the grace of falling in love with the service of God."

Madden, the daughter of Stephen and Laura Madden of Leonardtown, said she chose to enter Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara because "one of my teachers introduced the order to me and it felt as close to home as I could imagine."

"All religious orders are beautiful, but God shows you where He wants you," she said. "There is an active and a contemplative branch (to the order), and I am still not yet sure what God is calling me to. I have no doubt He will make all things known to me."

Schreyer, the daughter of Michael and Laura Schreyer of La Plata, said she chose the Dominican order because "my spiritual director suggested the Dominicans, and I fell in love with everything about them."

"They are teachers, and I would love to be able to teach theology or English or music, but I would teach whatever they ask me to teach - I'm putting that part in God's hand," she said.

She added that her family and friends "are very excited for me."

"My parents were a little surprised because they did not see it coming, but they are both very supportive. They are both joyful," Schreyer said. "All my friends have been very supportive, but some of them who are not Catholic say to me, 'You would be a good mom', and I say, 'Thank you - that is what being a sister is - being a spiritual mother to those around you.' "

Madden also said she has the support of her family and friends.

"My parents have had a while to digest it. At first I think it was kind of a shock to the system for them, but over time and through prayer, they have come to love it," she said. "And my closest friends are all very authentically loving and supportive of what I am doing."

The two seniors also have advice for others considering a religious vocation.

"Do not be afraid of the love that God is calling you to. The world will try to draw you away from Him and tell you that you can live a happy life without God, but He is the only one who can ever make you happy," Madden said. "If anyone thinks they may have a religious call, I say let it grow in silence. Trust in God - He will lead you where He wants you to be."

Schreyer suggested that those discerning a vocation should pray frequently.

"The most important thing is to pray and to just keep in mind that a vocation is not a job or a career - it is falling in love with God the way He wants you to," she said. "It is beautiful and not something to be afraid of."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Homily: "Healing those oppressed by the devil"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.
I hope that you all had a blessed Christmas and New Year’s.  It has been a quiet last few weeks around here while GW has been on winter break.  I took a vacation to Florida last week as the extreme cold moved into DC. Don’t hate me too much…even though it was close to 80 degrees, we had only a few hours of sun all week (but still squeezed in 3 rounds of golf).  The week before Christmas, I made a 5 day silent retreat up north (where it was cold).  This was my fifth retreat with “hermits” (priests and nuns who live in solitude).  It is an amazing experience! We meet up for Mass each morning, then take our food back to our huts (hermitages), and spend the day in silence.  One can pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (I had the Eucharist in my hut!), take walks through the rustic, serene setting, or get some “holy rest” (which I did much of). 

There’s a sign on the grounds that quotes the Old Testament: “God speaks to us in silence”.  This has been my experience there.   In the past, it’s been mainly God speaking through His Word.  It’s been unbelievable the insights about Scripture, my ministry, and my life that have come from the Lord in the silence.  And, it happened again this year.  But, the predominant experience was the presence of God.   Just to be in His presence, and to feel His presence was overwhelming.  It’s like the cold that we (ahem, you) just experienced. You could feel it as soon as you went outside.  You could feel it in your bones…it was literally bone-chilling.  Or, during the summer, we feel the oppressive heat and humidity as soon as we venture out.  Of course, with God’s presence, it’s not a bad thing to feel like extreme cold or heat.  In fact, as the Psalm says, “the Lord will bless his people with peace”.  It was an overwhelming experience all week in prayer, rest, and exercise of the peaceful and healing presence of God.  We feel peace and healing in our souls.

I experience the presence of God each day during my “mini-retreat” of a Holy Hour in the Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. But, it’s much more palpable when getting out of noise of life and entering into a silent setting.  I highly recommend that each of you make a retreat this year.  It doesn’t have to be five days like for us priests.  But, try to make a weekend or day retreat in silence.  God will speak to you in silence and make His presence known to you….as strongly as the cold made its presence known to you last week.   

Speaking of oppressive, tonight’s second reading says that Jesus healed all those “oppressed by the devil”.  This is a real spiritual condition for many people.  There are three types of demonic activity in the world: 1) temptation which happens to everyone, 2) oppression which happens to many, and 3) possession which happens to a few who invite it.  Think again of the heat we get in the summer.  We use the term “oppressive” to describe that: it’s an external force hovering around us that affects us internally.  In spiritual terms, oppression can be defined as “sorrow of spirit” or “sadness of spirit”.  It can affect us emotionally, psychologically, personally, and spiritually.  When students come to me and say that they are in a funk spiritually or personally, or they don’t feel the presence of God anymore, or that they don’t get anything out of prayer anymore, or just something is wrong and they don’t know what, I will often diagnose it as oppression.  College campuses can be rampant with oppression because serious sin invites it. Sin brings sadness; serious sin brings serious sadness.  The devil tries to keep people mired in their sin; college campuses can be a devil’s playground. But, oppression can also happen to people who are trying to live holiness.  To whomever it occurs, the devil tries to weigh people down with discouragement, despair, minor depression, or sadness….an oppressive spirit.  This is of what Jesus healed people.  He continues to heal people of oppression through his priests.  If you are experiencing oppression this semester, come to me or your spiritual director to be prayed over, to receive a blessing with oil, or to go to Confession.  The Lord will cast out the sadness and bless you with his peace. 

Finally, as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord today, we recall our own baptism when we first received the presence of the Lord in our souls – Father, Son, and Spirit.  It’s when we first received the Kingdom of God within us.  The light of Christ cast out the darkness of Original Sin and our dignity was restored.  Why was Jesus baptized? Not for himself, but for us.  To show us the way.  Just like with the cross, he shows us the way to salvation through Baptism. He shows us the way to healing from oppression.  And, at our baptism, a minor exorcism was done to protect us from the evil one!  And, being baptized in Christ assures us of one more similarity to the Lord: God said about us what He said about His Son, “this is my beloved son…this is my beloved daughter…with whom I am well pleased”.