Wednesday, January 31, 2007

St. John Bosco

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. John Bosco who lived in Italy from 1815-1888. His inspiring life as a priest was primarily devoted to the care of youth, especially young boys; he is a patron saint of Catholic youth. He has been described as "always fun, but prayed devoutly". The following is from an online article (click on the title of this post for the address) about his life:

"John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with one’s work, study and play.

Encouraged during his youth to become a priest so he could work with young boys, John was ordained in 1841. His service to young people started when he met a poor orphan and instructed him in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. He then gathered young apprentices and taught them catechism.

After serving as chaplain in a hospice for working girls, John opened the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales for boys. Several wealthy and powerful patrons contributed money, enabling him to provide two workshops for the boys, shoemaking and tailoring.

By 1856, the institution had grown to 150 boys and had added a printing press for publication of religious and catechetical pamphlets. His interest in vocational education and publishing justify him as patron of young apprentices and Catholic publishers.

John’s preaching fame spread and by 1850 he had trained his own helpers because of difficulties in retaining young priests. In 1854 he and his followers informally banded together under Francis de Sales.

With Pope Pius IX’s encouragement, John gathered 17 men and founded the Salesians in 1859. Their activity concentrated on education and mission work. Later, he organized a group of Salesian Sisters to assist girls.

John Bosco educated the whole person—body and soul united. He believed that Christ’s love and our faith in that love should pervade everything we do—work, study, play. For John Bosco, being a Christian was a full-time effort, not a once-a-week, Mass-on-Sunday experience. It is searching and finding God and Jesus in everything we do, letting their love lead us. Yet, John realized the importance of job-training and the self-worth and pride that comes with talent and ability so he trained his students in the trade crafts, too.

'Every education teaches a philosophy; if not by dogma then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere. Every part of that education has a connection with every other part. If it does not all combine to convey some general view of life, it is not education at all' (G.K. Chesterton, The Common Man)."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Questions from a GW student

A GW student asks two questions:
1) "With all this evidence (about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist) why don't the Protestants believe that the bread and wine become the Blood and Body of Jesus Christ?"

Short answer: Because the Protestant Reformers (circa 16th cent.) taught that the Eucharist is only a symbol of Christ's flesh and blood, and changed the translation of our Lord's words at the Last Supper from "this is my body" to "this symbolizes my body".

2)"Is there any scriptures that describes what heaven will be truly like?"

The following are excerpts from a booklet, "Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory", written by Rev. Thomas Morrow:

"Our Blessed Lord refers to heaven using several different terms about 170 times in the gospels. He uses the terms heaven, Kingdom of heaven, Kingdom of God, life, and eternal life to describe the place of eternal reward. He often speaks of the Kingdom of heaven by comparing it to things we are familiar with on earth:

The Kingdom of God is like a buried treasure which a man found in a field. He hid it again, and rejoicing at his find went and sold all he had and bought that field. Or again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant's search for fine pearls. When he found one really valuable pearl, he went back and put up for sale all that he had and bought it. (Mt 13:44-46)

Twice he speaks of the Kingdom as being like a wedding feast (Mt 22:1+, Mt 25:1+), as does the author of the book of Revelation (Rv 19:7+). When Peter asks Jesus what the apostles can expect for giving up everything to follow him, Our Lord replies:

I give you my word, there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children or property for me and for the gospel who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as many homes, brothers and sisters, mothers, children and property-and persecution besides-and in the age to come, everlasting life. (Mk 10:29,30)

Thus, Our Lord clearly speaks of the Kingdom of heaven as something very valuable, worth selling all you have to possess, as a feast celebrating a commitment of love, and as a rich reward for whatever sacrifice we make here on earth.

St. Paul speaks of heaven in glowing terms:

Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Cor. 2:9)

The author of the Book of Revelation promises the end of all physical evils:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heavens had passed away, and the sea was no longer. I also saw a new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God, beautiful as a bride prepared to meet her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne cry out: 'This is God's dwelling place among men. He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people and he shall be their God who is always with them. He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain; for the former world has passed away.' (Rev 21:1-4) ...

Over the years I have often asked my students what they thought heaven might be like, and the answers were frequently something like the following: 'A nice place, with clouds, lots of angels, gold streets, etc.' Not bad, I told them, but we should be able to do better than that. One thing we can be certain of is that Heaven must be better than the most exciting and enjoyable moments we have ever experienced on this earth. I suggested to the students that... no matter what picture they might paint of what they would like Heaven to be, it will surely be better than that. Some spoke of a Disney World, others of a candy tree, and others of a great pizza parlor (that great pizza parlor in the sky). One boy described his ideal as being on a Caribbean Island with lots of native girls feeding him grapes. (!)

Perhaps the best insights as to the joys of heaven are those given by (those) who likened it to being in a perfect marriage with the perfect Spouse. This beautiful image is very much in line with the scriptural themes found in the Song of Songs, a story of passionate love between the Lord and his people, Ezekiel 16, the story of the marriage covenant between God and an unfaithful woman, and Hosea 2, story of God luring back his promiscuous spouse. When we think that the beauty of the most beautiful of God's creatures on earth (both men and women) is only a faint image of the beauty of God, these creatures for whom our hearts burn in this life, it is beyond understanding how deep will be our passionate love for God, our true Spouse in Heaven.

Regarding the different levels in Heaven, the following comparison might be made. If a person were to attend an opera having attended many operas, and having studied opera for many years and come to know it and love it well, he would no doubt be able to appreciate the performance better than someone who knew very little about opera. The capacity to enjoy the opera would be greater in the opera buff than in the other person. So, likewise will our capacity to appreciate the vision of God be greater in Heaven if we come to know Him well while we live on this earth.

What about our loved ones? Will we see them in heaven? Yes, the common theological opinion is that we will know and love all of God's creations, including the angels, saints and those whom we have known in this life. The 'communion of saints' will continue into eternity."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Can you help me?

As many of you know, we started a basketball team of Washington priests and seminarians two years ago called "DC 'Hood" (short for DC priesthood). We have played 11 games against 8 different parish teams of coaches, teachers, and teens. Thanks be to God, it has been growing and growing, averaging about 200 fans a game. The games have been great nights of fun for families while promoting vocations.

The Catholic Standard wrote an article about DC 'Hood a few months ago. The sales manager of the Washington Wizards read the article and generously called the Archdiocese to see if DC 'Hood ever wanted to play at the Verizon Center after a Wizards game. Umm, yeah! Thanks, Wizards!!

So, DC 'Hood will be playing at the Verizon Center (against CYO coaches after the Wizards 3:30 pm game versus the Chicago Bulls) on Sun., April 15. After our game, there will a game b/w CYO 11th and 12th grade co-ed all-stars; the winners of the two (16 minute) games will play in a "championship" game.

This event is intended to a) promote vocations, and b) raise funds for the CYO / OYM(Catholic Youth Organization/Office of Youth Ministry). We are helping CYO to sell tickets to the Wizards game; they receive a generous portion of the proceeds.

I personally will be purchasing a large amount of tickets the week of Feb. 11. Can you help me? The tickets are $ 25 (Upper Level B), $30 (Upper Level A), and $85 (Lower Level). Buying two $25 tickets, for example, would help greatly!! Even if you're not able or interested in going, can you make a donation to our cause? The more tickets we sell, the more we promote the priesthood and raise funds for our youth.

You can order tickets online - please click on the title of this post for the website address. Or, if you'd rather just make a donation, please email me (my address is under my profile page). It would be extremely helpful if we can get our orders in by mid-February.

Please forward this to others who can help.

Thank you all very much!! If you have questions, please call Bill Anderson (Wizards sales manager) at 202-628-3200 ext. 3855 or Deacon Mike Bond (CYO/OYM) at 202-281-2465. May God bless you all.

In Christ,
Fr Greg

Sunday, January 28, 2007

4th Sunday, C - homily

“Love rejoices with the truth”.

A movie came out years ago called “The Truman Show”, starring Jim Carrey. Carrey played the role of “Truman” whose entire life has been a television show. Everyone knew it except for him. He thought that his life was just like everyone else’s. He finally realized as he got older that everyone in his life – his wife, his best friend, and co-workers – were actors. At the end of the movie, the creator of the show reveals that he has deceived Truman since he was conceived. It is one of my favorite movies because it raises questions about truth and reality. How do we know what is true? How do we know what is real? And, how do we know when we are being deceived?

The question, ‘what is truth?’, has been asked by human beings for thousands of years. I find it to be one of the most fascinating questions in the world. What is truth? Truth IS what’s real. Truth is what exists. It’s what out there in the real world. It may appear to be obvious stuff to most people, but there is a huge battle going on in our world between truth and deception. Let me give some examples.

A mathematical truth is that 2+2=4. I don’t think anyone here would deny that truth! A truth that has moral implications is that a baby in the womb is a person with a body and soul. God tells us in the first reading that he forms us in the womb. A theological truth is that God is Father, Son, and Spirit. These are all things that are objectively true. And yet, many people claim that they are not true. They say that there is no truth, or that we can never know the truth. Let me continue with these examples to show how.

They would say that 2+2 is 3 or 5 or whatever we want it to be. They say that the baby in the womb is a glob of tissue or a bunch or cells or something. They say that either God doesn’t exist, or that he (or she) is whatever we want him to be. This is the philosophy of our modern, secular world. It denies truth. It argues for relativism which says that everything is relative, and nothing is absolute (nothing is absolutely true). Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us of the dangers and errors of relativism.

How do we know that this question of truth is so important? Jesus says so. He says in John 18:37 that the reason he came into this world, the whole reason he was born was “to testify to the truth”. He reveals to the world that he is “the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). People today don’t want to hear that, and people back then didn’t want that. Jesus not only said that he taught the truth, he said he IS the truth! And, what did it get him? Death on a Cross. Jesus died for the truth.

And, his followers have lived and died for the truth ever since. The world hated Christ because he spoke the truth, and it has hated Christians who have continued to speak the truth. Jesus predicted this when he said in John 15:18, “if the world hates you, realize that it has hated me first”. Many people hate the Catholic Church because it speaks the truth on moral and theological issues. But, do they really know what the Church is all about? The old saying goes that “millions of people hate the Catholic Church for what they think it is. But, less than a hundred worldwide hate it for what it actually is”.

Speaking the truth doesn’t mean to hammer it at people in harsh ways. It means to speak the truth in love. Truth and love are inseparable. As Pope Benedict reminded us, God is love. And, God is truth. Christ lived and spoke the truth in love. The Church continues to speak the truth in love. One of my main jobs here is to teach and live the truth in love. It is hard to speak the truth, as any of us know when confronting a friend with the truth. But, it is because we love them that we speak the truth. The truth is not always easy or comfortable but it is freeing, as John 8:32 tells us. At the end of the movie, Truman is very happy to know the truth, and to go out and live it.

When we find the truth, we rejoice! When we find the truth about God, about life, or about ourselves, we rejoice that we finally know what’s real. For years, I didn’t know the truth about my vocation. Now, I know that I have been truly called to be a priest, and I am rejoicing! I have found the love of my life. For all married persons here, I hope that you rejoice that you have found the truth, that you have found your true love. For all young people here, I hope that you realize that God has a plan for each one of you, and when you find it, you will rejoice! It is why you are on this Earth.

Finally, to the truth of the Eucharist. The truth of the Eucharist has been under attack for over 500 years…by Christians! Many non-Catholic Christians (and now many Catholics), whether knowingly or unknowingly, believe and teach that the Eucharist is just a symbol. Jesus never taught this! In John 6, he says it over and over again that it is his flesh and blood that we are to eat and drink. He says at the Last Supper, “this is my body”. The earliest Christians believed and taught the truth that the Eucharist is really Jesus’ Body and Blood. It is really Him! It is really Him who is Truth and Love that we receive in Holy Communion. As Jesus says, when we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have eternal life (see Jn 6:54).

As we receive our Lord today, may we be open to his truth and love. If there is anything that is preventing us from hearing and accepting his truth, let us let it go. If we are open to Christ, he will speak to us. He will show us his truth. He will show his love. May you know his truth and his love this day.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


The following are excerpts from an interesting article written in the National Catholic Register (Aug 6-12, 2006 issue) by Donald Demarco, adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.

Relativism: A philosophy without a foundation

"...It may appear surprising to some that the Catholic Church, known primarily for her foundation in faith, is taking up the role of teaching people how to think. Yet the phenomenon of not thinking, especially about crucial matters, is pandemic — both inside and outside of the Church — and often goes unchallenged.

What, we might well ask, are those people who have not yet learned to think using as a substitute for thinking? In a word, they are reacting. They react affirmatively to the settled opinions of the day that they themselves have not settled in their own minds. They parrot ideas that are trendy, media-approved and politically correct. Not only that, but they bundle their collection of unexamined ideas and wrap them up in a package they claim to be a 'philosophy.'

One such philosophy, that cries out for an urgent reexamination is relativism. According to the tenets of this 'philosophy,' truth either does not exist or is unattainable. As a result, since there is no reliable anchor that can ground opinions in reality, all opinions have equal merit. What is assumed to be the democratization of philosophy is really its destruction.

Relativists, despite their rejection of any sure connection with reality, are not averse to referring to reality in order to buttress their position. Einstein’s theory of relativity is often called upon to substantiate the notion that 'everything is relative.' The media has been more than eager in promoting the contradictory notion that there is an objective basis for asserting that nothing is objective. For example, the Sept. 24, 1979 issue of Time carried a full-page advertisement that stated, in bold-faced letters and under a picture of Einstein: 'Everything Is Relative.'

While we cannot expect people in general to understand the intricacies and complexities of Einstein’s theory, we can know enough about it to be confident that neither Einstein nor his celebrated theory is the least bit relativistic. As the great physicist himself avers, in language that calls to mind Aristotle and Aquinas, 'Belief in an external world independent of the perceiving subject is the basis of all natural science' ...

Pope Benedict XVI has given some popular currency to the phrase 'the dictatorship of relativism.' The true relativist (if there could be one) would have nothing to dictate to anyone. He would be utterly deferential and completely respectful even of opinions that contradicted his own. The fact that relativists can aspire to the role of dictator is a good indication that it is impossible for anyone to purge himself entirely of his connections with reality...

For thinking rightly leads to truth, and truth is the only avenue to peace...

In his book, Truth in Religion: The Plurality of Religion and the Unity of Truth, (Mortimer) Adler offers a crucial message to the world: 'A great epoch in the history of mankind lies ahead of us in the [current] millennium. It will not begin until there is a universal acknowledgement of the unity of truth in all the areas of culture to which the standard of truth is applicable; for only then will all men be able to live together peacefully in a world of cultural community under one government. Only then will world civilization and world history begin.'"

Friday, January 26, 2007

If you build it, they will come

Anonymous wrote, “I am going to be helping a youth director of 12-16 year olds who don't want to be there and the parents make them go but don't participate in anything except driving their kids to and from church. What can I do to make the youth group more lively? Any ideas will be GREATLY appreciated!” Thanks, Anon (for those of you keeping score at home, that’s our 1,738th different Anon on this site…no, but, it has been a lot).

The first question is what is the goal of the group? Is it to get together as a teen club or as a Church youth group? The former is more about getting together for just fun activities and recreation, and planning trips. The latter includes all of that, but also incorporates a spiritual dimension. I will assume that you mean the latter, that it will be a Church youth group. And, for our purposes here, I will go on the premise that it is a Catholic youth group.

One of the first things is to pray to almighty God for guidance and help. Go to Christ, and ask Him to send his Holy Spirit upon you and the director as you plan your activities. Implore the intercession of the Blessed Mother and all the saints and angels. In particular, pray to St. John Bosco and St. Maria Goretti for their intercession; they are the patron saints of Catholic youth. If it becomes a very dire situation, pray to St. Jude for his intercession; he is the patron saint of hopeless causes. Even if it’s just planning fun activities, you will want everything you do in this group to be for the glory of God (AMDG).

Next, you want to know what kind of kids you are dealing with. What is their family situation and background, ethnicity, race, school, etc.? Just like with public speaking, the first rule is to know your audience. It seems as though you have a good handle on this because you are aware that they really don’t want to be there. Btw, I wouldn't be too hard on the parents because at leats they are bringing them there.

Have you assembled a team of adults who serve as leaders? This is so important! If there are adults on the team who are good role models, fun people, and committed to the teens, the youth will respond. Probably the most important adult would be the parish priest. I would argue that youth groups that have an active and committed priest are the most fruitful. Also, when the timing is right, you will want to add solid teens who will serve as leaders on the core team.

So, what activities can you do to make the group more lively? (The first thing might be to do a search on google for “youth group games, Christian”). Before we kicked off our new weekly youth group last Fall, we played flag football during the summer. Then, we began the group with “Fear Factor” which was very popular with the teens. Since then, we have had a couple of “games nights” (Trivial Pursuit, e.g.), “Improv” nights (like the TV show, ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’), Bingo (our most well attended night), and nights when we had parties with karaoke and DDR (Dance Dance Revolution). We had a “Lock In” where the youth came out on a Friday night and couldn’t leave until Saturday morning - we had bingo, movies, and games.

Also, we’ve done some serious stuff geared toward youth. Just before Halloween, we had “Walk with the dead” where we constructed a make-shift cemetery on our grounds, and had characters (angels, demons, saints) discuss life after death. During Advent, we discussed what Advent and Christmas are all about in our “Reason for the season” night. Finally, we have had a few nights of Eucharistic Adoration in the Church to which the teens have responded very well. The more you present Christ as he really is, the more intrigued the youth (and all of us) are with Him!

One last idea to help get the teens “in the door”: gift cards to local restaurants and shops. Every other week, we raffle off (it’s a free raffle where the kids sign their names on pieces of paper, and we pull the names out of a hat) about three of these gift cards which the teens really enjoy! Starbucks cards have been the most popular. It takes time, obviously, to go around to local vendors to amass these “prizes”, but well worth it.

If the teens see that you are trying to meet them where they are, and are committed to them, they will come regularly. The biggest challenge in our youth group has been the competition with all of the activities that our teens have in their lives. Many of them make coming to youth group a priority, but many also just come when they don’t have anything else going on. We have gone out of our way to make them feel welcome whenever they come. If you build an open, warm, fun, and loving community, they will come!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

Reading 1 - Acts 22:3-16
Paul addressed the people in these words:(I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia,but brought up in this city.At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral lawand was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.I persecuted this Way to death,binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.Even the high priest and the whole council of elderscan testify on my behalf.For from them I even received letters to the brothersand set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalemin chains for punishment those there as well.“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’And he said to me,‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’My companions saw the lightbut did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus,and there you will be told about everythingappointed for you to do.’ Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light,I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.“A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law,and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,came to me and stood there and said,‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him.Then he said,‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will,to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice;for you will be his witness before allto what you have seen and heard.Now, why delay?Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away,calling upon his name.’”

Responsorial Psalm - Go out to all the world and tell the Good News

Gospel - Mk 16:15-18
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:“Go into the whole worldand proclaim the Gospel to every creature.Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;whoever does not believe will be condemned.These signs will accompany those who believe:in my name they will drive out demons,they will speak new languages.They will pick up serpents with their hands,and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

St. Francis de Sales

Today is the memorial of one of my favorite saints, St. Francis de Sales. Below are excerpts from an online description of his inspiring life (to see the full text, click on the title of this post). I highly recommend his book, "Introduction to the Devout Life" to everyone. St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!
Born in France in 1567, Francis was a patient man. He knew for thirteen years that he had a vocation to the priesthood before he mentioned it to his family... Perhaps he was wise to wait, for he wasn't a natural pastor. His biggest concern on being ordained that he had to have his lovely curly gold hair cut off. And his preaching left the listeners thinking he was making fun of him. Others reported to the bishop that this noble-turned- priest was conceited and controlling.

Then Francis had a bad idea -- at least that's what everyone else thought. This was during the time of the Protestant reformation and just over the mountains from where Francis lived was Switzerland -- Calvinist territory. Francis decided that he should lead an expedition to convert the 60,000 Calvinists back to Catholicism. But by the time he left his expedition consisted of himself and his cousin. His father refused to give him any aid for this crazy plan and the diocese was too poor to support him.

For three years, he trudged through the countryside, had doors slammed in his face and rocks thrown at him. In the bitter winters, his feet froze so badly they bled as he tramped through the snow. He slept in haylofts if he could, but once he slept in a tree to avoid wolves. He tied himself to a branch to keep from falling out and was so frozen the next morning he had to be cut down. And after three years, his cousin had left him alone and he had not made one convert.
Francis' unusual patience kept him working. No one would listen to him, no one would even open their door. So Francis found a way to get under the door. He wrote out his sermons, copied them by hand, and slipped them under the doors. This is the first record we have of religious tracts being used to communicate with people.

The parents wouldn't come to him out of fear. So Francis went to the children. When the parents saw how kind he was as he played with the children, they began to talk to him. By the time, Francis left to go home he is said to have converted 40,000 people back to Catholicism.

In 1602 he was made bishop of the diocese of Geneva, in Calvinist territory...

It was in 1604 that Francis took one of the most important steps in his life, the step toward holiness and mystical union with God...Three years after working with Jane (de Chantal), he finally made up his mind to form a new religious order...the Visitation nuns...

Francis was overworked and often ill because of his constant load of preaching, visiting, and instruction -- even catechizing a deaf man so he could take first Communion. He believed the first duty of a bishop was spiritual direction and wrote to Jane, "So many have come to me that I might serve them, leaving me no time to think of myself. However, I assure you that I do feel deep-down- within-me, God be praised. For the truth is that this kind of work is infinitely profitable to me." For him active work did not weaken his spiritual inner peace but strengthened it. He directed most people through letters, which tested his remarkable patience. "I have more than fifty letters to answer. If I tried to hurry over it all, i would be lost. So I intend neither to hurry or to worry. This evening, I shall answer as many as I can. Tomorrow I shall do the same and so I shall go on until I have finished."

At that time, the way of holiness was only for monks and nuns -- not for ordinary people. Francis changed all that by giving spiritual direction to lay people living ordinary lives in the world. But he had proven with his own life that people could grow in holiness while involved in a very active occupation. Why couldn't others do the same?...

For busy people of the world, he advised "Retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart, even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others and talk to God."

He believed the worst sin was to judge someone or to gossip about them. Even if we say we do it out of love we're still doing it to look better ourselves. But we should be as gentle and forgiving with ourselves as we should be with others. ..He died on December 28, 1622, after giving a nun his last word of advice: "Humility." He is patron saint of journalists because of the tracts and books he wrote.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Open for Confession 24/7

“Anonymous” asked, “Incidentally when did confession come about? You don't hear about it in the bible or do you? Just interested from a historical perspective.” Thanks, Anon. Christ instituted the Sacrament of Confession (also known as Reconciliation or Penance) when he gave the first priests - the Apostles – the power to forgive sins in John 20:20-23. Also, Christ gave Peter and the Apostles the “keys of the kingdom” (Mt 16 and 18), in which the absolution of sins is included.

For more of the historical perspective of Confession, the following are excerpts (pp. 121-122) from the book, “We Believe” by Oscar Lukefahr, C.M., which we use for our RCIA class here:

“The sacrament of penance has undergone many developments. The earliest evidence indicates that those who sinned after baptism were reconciled to the Church through the bishop. Some heretical groups denied that serious sins such as adultery, apostasy, and murder could be forgiven, but this opinion was condemned by the Council of Nicea in 325, which taught that Christ pardons all repentant sinners. At this time, as a matter of fact, the sacrament of penance was used primarily for the forgiveness of serious sins. Penitents would go through a long period of public penance, particularly in Lent, and were then reconciled to the Church at Easter. In the sixth century, through the influence of Irish monks, penance became generally more available for less serious sins, and private penitential practices replaced the rigorous discipline of earlier times.

In the twelfth century the theology of penance took on dimensions that shaped usage of the sacrament to our own day. Theologians explained that penance included contrition (sorrow and conversion), confession of sins to a priest, satisfaction (doing penance for one’s sins and making up for any harm caused by those sins), and absolution (declaration of forgiveness) by a priest. These four elements were affirmed by the Council of Trent in1551 after the sacraments were questioned by Protestants. By the twentieth century it was common for Catholics to go to confession quite frequently, usually following a set pattern for the sacrament.

Vatican II called for a revision of penance in order to express more clearly its nature and effects. A new Rite of Reconciliation was established in 1974. It expanded the use of Scripture, emphasized the role of the priest as healer in Christ’s name, pointed out the importance of the Church in reconciling us with God, and offered options for the reception of the sacrament”.

On the back of the holy card I made for ordination, it read:
“ ‘Praised by God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation! He comforts us in all our afflictions and thus enables us to comfort those who are in trouble, with the same consolation we have received from Him’ – 2 Cor 1:3-4

Gregory William Shaffer
Ordained a priest forever
May 27, 2006
Open for Confession 24/7”

Monday, January 22, 2007

Deacon Mike's homily from Sunday

Maybe you folks didn’t hear me. I said that today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in you hearing. I imagine that Jesus pretty much got the same reaction when he said it in Nazareth. This assembly, in Silver Spring, the men and women and children who were old enough to understand, is looking at me just as the one in Nazareth looked at him. Like them, you’re saying to yourself “I know Deacon Mike isn’t telling us that he is Jesus Christ”. He’s been coming to St. Andrew’s almost twenty years. Many of you have seen me trying to sing in the choir, or with the Knights, or with the youth ministry, or serving as a Eucharist minister, in a prayer group, and hopefully, standing in line for confession.

But I say to you again; today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing. The spirit of the Lord is upon me, unworthy as I am, and upon each of you as well. Through the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ, the anointed one is here, physically in this place. Did you not hear me say “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many are one body, so also Christ?” Since Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, our very presence as part of the body of Christ reaffirms and proclaims the sanctity of life.

Today, God reveals to us that everyone, born and unborn, is called to be one in Christ. Everyone, born and unborn, is created for a purpose. Every life is called to holiness. Now is the acceptable year of the Lord. What does scripture mean by “the acceptable year”? Some biblical scholars suggest that it refers to the year of Jubilee. Leviticus 25 says that after forty-nine years (a “week” of seven seven-year periods), the fiftieth year will be a year of glad tidings, atonement and forgiveness of sins, freedom from all debts. It also says that the year of jubilee will start on the tenth day of the seventh month of the fiftieth year. I will always remember that passage, because the first time that I ever read it was on my fiftieth birthday. My birthday is July 10, 1950. That’s right; the tenth day of the seventh month of the fiftieth year. God has never been subtle with me. That was the day that God laid it on my heart to discern the call to the Permanent Diaconate.

And here I am telling you that today’s Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. I am telling you to proclaim the sanctity of life. Now is the acceptable time to liberate to those held physically, emotionally, and psychologically within a culture of death. Now is the acceptable time to bring glad tidings to the poor mothers of the unborn considering abortion so that they may choose life. Now is the acceptable time to protect those vulnerably residing captive and oppressed within the womb. Now is the acceptable time to be the voice and the advocate of the unborn and free them from sin of abortion. Now is the acceptable time to give sight to those seeking to help women through Pro-Choice organizations see that abortion hurts women, not help them.

Now is the acceptable time to pray and ask for the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, and all the angels and saints, to save from Hell all those souls responsible for the martyrdom of the unborn victims of abortion, who are most in need of God’s mercy. They regard life in the womb as a crime of residence. Now is the acceptable time, not to judge or condemn, but to give comfort and show compassion to those who have had abortion, as well as their friends and families affected by it and to bring them to a new life in Christ. Now is the acceptable time to make abortion unacceptable at anytime.

Paul reminds us that we are all one in the spirit of Jesus Christ. Not all will march or attend rallies. Some will write letters. Some will give of their time, their talent and their treasure. Some will hear the call to vocation. All will pray. If you truly believe that today’s Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing, come to the cross to be united in death with Christ and rise with him to new life, and when this mass is ended, proclaim and promote the sanctity of life and the good news of life everlasting in Christ.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

3rd Sunday - Deacon Kevin's homily

We hear in today’s Gospel that after reading the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Messiah, Our Lord tells his neighbors that He is the Christ.

Imagine their shocked. How could this son of a carpenter claim to be the Messiah? Where were his troops to drive out the Romans?

Their image of the Messiah was dominated by their worldly desires.

Our Faith in Christ is not shaped by the world, but our
Faith does define us to our society in which we live.

St. Paul tells us today in his letter to the Corinthians, who we are. Corinth was a Roman colony, materially prosperous, but morally corrupt.

St Paul writes that each of them have marvelous and different gifts, but these gifts are not for their own benefit or glory. That is the world’s view.

They are special. They are members of the Body of Christ and each are given gifts to work together to build up the Church.

We also live in a materially prosperous, but morally challenged society.

One obvious example is that our society permits the killing of the most defenseless, the unborn, and thousands will march on Monday in an attempt to correct this injustice, including many from our parish.

But we are special. Through Baptism, Almighty God has called us by name to be members of the Body of Christ.

With Christ as the head, the Body of Christ is made up of three groups—the Church triumphant—those in heaven—the Church suffering—those souls in Purgatory—and the Church military—those living today on their early journey to heaven.

As members of the Body of Christ, we derive great benefits.

We have Christ who feeds us with his Body and Blood and forgives our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We have the Church triumphant—the multitude of saints in heaven, who are constantly interceding on our behalf.

We have the Church suffering—those souls in Purgatory who can do nothing to hasten their purification before entering heaven, but who continue to ask Almighty God to shower us with His blessings.

We have the Church militant—those who are journeying with us on earth—our moms, dads, grandparents, husband, wives, brothers, sisters, friends—who give us spiritual, material and emotional assistance throughout our lives.

As members of the Body of Christ, we have real support from so many and we can relay on that support throughout our lives.

But as important members of the Body of Christ, we have important responsibilities.

We have marvelous and different gifts, but these gifts are not for our own benefit or glory, but to use with others to build up the whole Church.

I know people who used their gifts to accumulated tremendous wealth, possessions, prestige. They have every thing our society tells you what will make you happy. Yet they are unfulfilled and miserable.

It is not that wealth, possessions, and prestige are bad in of themselves, but when ones hordes their gifts for their own selfish benefit, then they become part of the world rather than part of the Body of Christ, and are on a path that leads to death rather than life.

Sin causes disease to enter the Body of Christ and makes it less effective.

Mortal sin not only destroys the individual’s relationship with Almighty God, but the person’s important gifts are lost to the entire Body of Christ until restored through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

This is one more reason to encourage those who have left the Catholic Church to return and let them know that their gifts are necessary for the entire Body of Christ.

If we are full and participating members of the Body of Christ;
¨ who unite our efforts with the saints in heaven,
¨ who remember in our prayers and offerings the poor souls in Purgatory,
¨ who use our gifts to assist others and build up the Church on earth,
¨ who make use of Christ’s power through frequent reception of the sacraments,

Almighty God will shower our families and us with His grace, give us His true peace and joy, and eternal happiness in heaven.

How privileged we are to be members of the Body of Christ!!!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

"See you at the March for Life"

This Monday, over a hundred thousand people will participate in the annual March for Life downtown. It really is a great day for all who attend, whether it's with the 20,000+ teens at the Verizon Center for Mass and a rally, or with the huge crowd at the March itself. It began the year after abortion was legalized in this country (Jan. 22, 1973), and continues on or about the tragic anniversary each year. Here is a column written by my good friend, Msgr. Thomas Wells, about the March titled, "The March for Life - Why I Go" (1995):

"From a political or purely human point of view, the past year was both very good and very bad for the pro-life movement in the United States. Even though it has not been too widely reported, the recent elections brought dozens of new pro-life senators and members of Congress to Washington and, most wonderfully, not one pro-life national legislator or governor lost in the entire country. The bad news, of course, involved the murders by two fanatics at abortion clinics in Florida and Boston. While both killers seem to be somehwat unbalanced, their crimes remind us of the danger of violence begetting violence and that we cannot assume that hating the sin but not the sinner is always easy to do.

Monday's Right to Life March, then, will be held in an atmosphere that is hopeful and sober. Hopefuly because, against all that media wisdom had told us, the Amercian people seem to be saying something important about the value of human life; but there is a sadness as we reflect that some who may have marched with us in earlier years have resorted to evil comparable to that which we protest.

Such reflections aside, the March for Life is one of my favorite events of the year. Of course, I know how important it is that the pro-life community demonstrate against what is the great evil in our society. I truly believe that any complaint by this country against supposed abortion rights abuses in other nations smacks of hypocritical cynicism as long as we as a nation allow - even encourage - the killing of the unborn. To be honest, though, I have to confess that these reasons of high principle are probably not the main reasons I go year after year to the March.

Do you remember reading about the joyful and enthusiastic crowd that greeted the Pope in Denver? That is the same type of people that come each year, from all over this country and Canada, to the March. It is wonderful to get off our convenient subway and to run into high school students from Scranton, young families from the South and members of parishes who have been on buses for twenty-four straight hours from God-knows-where in the Mid-West and who get back on these buses immediately after the March to return home. Frankly, it is also a wonderful time to see people from this area whom I have known over the years from previous parishes; people who are, really, the heart of the Catholic communities from which they come.

Yes, I go to the Right to Life March to protest abortion; of course, I do. However, I go primarily for myself. I need the encouragement and hope, the joy and the laughs that come from spending and afternoon with people of faith who love life at every stage and who, quite simply, want the unborn to have the same chance to love and live as they have had. See you at the March for Life".

Friday, January 19, 2007


Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!! Young adults: we'll meet up after Adoration in the Gathering Space to go out to dinner.
Here are two recent stories involving parishioners at either end of the spectrum of life.

1) At the children's Christmas Eve Mass, I invited all the kids to come up to the sanctuary for the homily. At the end of the homily, I asked them to return to their pews. A few moments later, I noticed that one of the little ones wasn't going anywhere. His older brother was trying to get him to leave, but this (three year old) boy wouldn't budge. I saw this happening, and left my cordless mic on. I asked the two boys what was going on, and the older brother told me that the young one wanted to stay in the sanctuary.

So, I asked the little boy, "do you want to stay up here?" "Yes", he said, as his older brother left the sanctuary. "Ok, you can sit in any of these three chairs, except the big one. That's mine". The three year old boy proceeded to sit in the deacon's chair!

So, I sat next to him, and asked, "what is your name?" "AJ", he said. "Hi, AJ, I'm Father Greg". "Hi", he said. "So, AJ, you want to stay up here with me the rest of Mass, huh?" "Yes". "Ok, great". Seeing as how AJ wanted to actually be in the sanctuary at such a young age, I said to the crowd, "I think he will be Fr. AJ some day!"

Just then, I noticed his mortified mother approach the sanctuary. "AJ, come here, now". "Noooo!", AJ replied. "Oh, AJ, it's ok", I said. After a few moments of trying to stay where he was, AJ finally went with his mother back to his pew, saying "noooo" the whole way. "See ya later, AJ. Thanks for sitting with me!", I said, saying goodbye to my newest friend. I have seen his parents since then, and they seem to have relished the experience. Same here!
2) I visited the home of an elderly parishioner last week who may be in her last days. This is a woman of great faith with whom I've been visiting regularly since I've been here. At the urging of a close friend, I anointed the woman and gave her Holy Communion. Although she has been much less lucid recently, she was very attentive and responsive during the Rite of Anointing. At the end of the Rite, I gave her the Apostolic Blessing which removes all temporal punishment in this life and the next.

When we finished, I told she was "good to go", which carried more than one meaning. I explained that in just twenty minutes, we had done a whole lot for her soul - gave her two sacraments and a blessing that would expedite her journey to Paradise. "Twenty minutes? Wow, that's all". She summed it all up with exceptionally profound words: "twenty minutes to get to Heaven!"

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thursday's Mass readings

Reading 1- Heb 7:25—8:6
Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him,since he lives forever to make intercession for them. It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day,first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.

The main point of what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throneof the Majesty in heaven, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. Now every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus the necessity for this one also to have something to offer. If then he were on earth, he would not be a priest, since there are those who offer gifts according to the law. They worship in a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary,as Moses was warned when he was about to erect the tabernacle. For God says, “See that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” Now he has obtained so much more excellent a ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises.

Responsorial Psalm - Ps 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Gospel - Mk 3:7-12
Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him.He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseaseswere pressing upon him to touch him.And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, “You are the Son of God.”He warned them sternly not to make him known.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"Keep holy the sabbath"

This Friday (1/19): Adoration, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. Young adults are invited to join us for Adoration, and then meet in the Gathering Space. We'll go out for dinner afterwards.
Anon wrote, "Jesus never talked about all this obligation stuff. He said that the Sabbath was for man and not man for the Sabbath." Thanks, Anon, and you're right that Jesus probably never used the word obligation. But, are you suggesting that Christ was abolishing the Jewish law, and Third Commandment, to "keep holy the Sabbath"? This is what the Pharisees accused him of. "Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day" (CCC, #2173). In the passage to which you refer (Mk 2:27-28), "Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing" (#2173). The question raised in Mk 2:27-28 is specifically about doing works on the Sabbath, and not about gathering at the Temple (or Church, now). Doing the latter was never in question.

In his apotolic letter Dies Domini (1998), Pope John Paul II wrote about "the day of the Lord". Here are some excerpts; to view the full text, please click on the title of this post:

"'Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, it is the day of Christians, it is our day' (St Jerome). For Christians, Sunday is 'the fundamental feastday', established not only to mark the succession of time but to reveal time's deeper meaning. The fundamental importance of Sunday has been recognized through two thousand years of history and was emphatically restated by the Second Vatican Council: 'Every seven days, the Church celebrates the Easter mystery. This is a tradition going back to the Apostles, taking its origin from the actual day of Christ's Resurrection — a day thus appropriately designated "the Lord's Day".'...

All human life, and therefore all human time, must become praise of the Creator and thanksgiving to him. But man's relationship with God also demands times of explicit prayer, in which the relationship becomes an intense dialogue, involving every dimension of the person. "The Lord's Day" is the day of this relationship par excellence when men and women raise their song to God and become the voice of all creation. This is precisely why it is also the day of rest. Speaking vividly as it does of "renewal" and "detachment", the interruption of the often oppressive rhythm of work expresses the dependence of man and the cosmos upon God. Everything belongs to God!

The connection between Sabbath rest and the theme of "remembering" God's wonders is found also in the Book of Deuteronomy (5:12-15), where the precept is grounded less in the work of creation than in the work of liberation accomplished by God in the Exodus: "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with mighty hand and outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day" (Dt 5:15).

Because the Third Commandment depends upon the remembrance of God's saving works and because Christians saw the definitive time inaugurated by Christ as a new beginning, they made the first day after the Sabbath a festive day, for that was the day on which the Lord rose from the dead...

Since the Eucharist is the very heart of Sunday, it is clear why, from the earliest centuries, the Pastors of the Church have not ceased to remind the faithful of the need to take part in the liturgical assembly. 'Leave everything on the Lord's Day', urges the third century text known as the Didascalia, 'and run diligently to your assembly, because it is your praise of God. Otherwise, what excuse will they make to God, those who do not come together on the Lord's Day to hear the word of life and feed on the divine nourishment which lasts forever?'.

In his first Apology addressed to the Emperor Antoninus and the Senate, Saint Justin proudly described the Christian practice of the Sunday assembly, which gathered in one place Christians from both the city and the countryside. When, during the persecution of Diocletian, their assemblies were banned with the greatest severity, many were courageous enough to defy the imperial decree and accepted death rather than miss the Sunday Eucharist...

Sharing in the Eucharist is the heart of Sunday, but the duty to keep Sunday holy cannot be reduced to this. In fact, the Lord's Day is lived well if it is marked from beginning to end by grateful and active remembrance of God's saving work. This commits each of Christ's disciples to shape the other moments of the day — those outside the liturgical context: family life, social relationships, moments of relaxation — in such a way that the peace and joy of the Risen Lord will emerge in the ordinary events of life...

This aspect of the Christian Sunday shows in a special way how it is the fulfilment of the Old Testament Sabbath. On the Lord's Day, which — as we have already said — the Old Testament links to the work of creation (cf. Gn 2:1-3; Ex 20:8-11) and the Exodus (cf. Dt 5:12-15), the Christian is called to proclaim the new creation and the new covenant brought about in the Paschal Mystery of Christ..."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Christ is our hope

Anon asked, "Why do some say that despair is a sin? It doesn't make sense to me. A person does not will or intend it." Thanks, Anon, for your question and comment. The Catechism defines despair as one of the "sins against hope" (presumption is another). It explains: "By despair, man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God's goodness, to his justice - for the Lord is faithful to his promises - and to his mercy" (#2091).

So, objectively, despair can be a serious sin. It is a grave offense against God. Now, in relation to individual persons and situations, you raise a good point regarding a person's will or intention. Are they actively willing it? Do they intend to lose hope? As with all sins, the degree of culpability of the sin of despair on the part of the individual depends on two things: 1) what he/she knows, and 2) how free he is in his choices.

Regarding what he knows, does he know about Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven? Does he know the hope that Christ brings? Does he know that Christ promises eternal life to those who are faithful to Him? Does he know that God is all merciful, and that he offers forgiveness of sins through Christ? Does he know that there is no sin or circumstance that God does not have power over? The more that we know about Christ and his Gospel of Hope, the more we are culpable if we lose hope.

The rector in my seminary once said, "The greatest tool of the Devil is discouragement". This leads us to the second thing that can make a person more or less guilty of despair: how freely they are choosing to lose hope. The Devil wants each of us to think and believe that there is no hope. He tempts us with this lie; those who fall for this are being deceived by the Father of lies. Does he deceive us by putting thoughts in our minds like, "there is no God" or "there is no Heaven"? Absolutely. But, he can also be much more cunning.

When I think about the way that the devil discourages us, I think about all the things or people other than Christ in which people hope. Many, many single people put their hope in falling in love, that finding the right person will complete them. Many people put their hope in stars - rock stars, movie stars, musicians, celebrities, politicians, etc. Sometimes, people wil out their hope in fictional characters! Now, there's nothing wrong with finding hope in other people, as long as it is hope based in Christ. My point that is that many people will put their faith and hope in man instead of God.

Also, we see all the things to which people go when they are suffering. They often go to alcohol, drugs, fornication, pornography, gambling, adultery, etc. as ways to escape the darkness in their lives. While they may not label these vices as "hope", they are obviously attracted to them in some way, and see some kind of light in them. For many people - many believers even - the road to despair may start with these things. I believe it is the Devil at work from the start - with the lie that they will find "hope" or "salvation" in a bottle or in another person. This may lead to years and years of habitually sinful behavior that we might call "addictions"; with this type of behavior, we might question how much a person is freely choosing anything at that point.

In general terms, I would say that despair is a temptation from the Devil in order to have us lose our hope in Christ. He tempts all of us with thoughts of despair, at one time or another. If we let those thoughts go as soon as they enter, then we commit no sin. We didn't will them. But, when we start to entertain them and pursue them, then we begin to take ownership of them, and are culpable of the sin of despair. If we fully know that Christ is our hope, and freely choose to reject Him as our hope, then our offense against the First Commandment is a mortal sin, and we break our friendship with God.

If we know anyone who is in despair, one fo the best things we can do - other than pray for them - is to live as persons of hope. If we truly believe in Christ and his resurrection, then we will live as men and women of hope. Others will see that, and want to have the same hope.

"Don't ever get so sad that you lose sight of the Resurrection" - Blessed Theresa of Calcutta

Monday, January 15, 2007


Today, as we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday, we thank God for this spiritual and patriotic giant. We pray for an end to all forms of discrimation, especially against those of different race or ethnicity, the poor, the unborn, the elderly, the handicapped, and the weak. Thank you, Dr. King, for your unwavering faith and heroic courage in fighting for true justice through means of peace.

Here are excerpts from his famous "I have a dream" speech in 1963:

"... In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice... Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children...

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone...

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive...

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring'...

And when this happens, When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'

Sunday, January 14, 2007

2nd Sunday - homily

Next month, our youth group will be attending a retreat at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg called Mount 2007. There’ll be around 1500 teens there from all over the country – it really is a great weekend. The theme for the retreat will be “Do whatever he tells you”. We just heard these five words in the Gospel. Mary says this to the waiters at the wedding feast at Cana. They are words for all of us to live by.

I was officiating a wedding last summer, and the couple picked this Gospel. They are two people who, shall we say, enjoy a party! At one point in the homily, I looked at them and said, “Do whatever he tells you”. Then, people in the congregation began to laugh. I thought to myself, ‘wait, that wasn’t a punchline’. Then, I said, “wait, that wasn’t a punchline”. Then, I realized that they all thought I was saying to the bride, ‘do whatever HE (the groom) tells you’. So, I quickly corrected it: ‘do whatever Jesus tells you!

We can take these five words in two ways. First, we can apply it to each one of us, and take the ‘you’ to be singular. “Do whatever he tells you” – like, ‘what is Jesus telling me to do?’ It is one of the great questions in life, and one of the biggest mysteries: how can I hear God speaking to me? It can be in general terms, like, ‘what is God calling me to do with my life? What is His Plan for me?’ It can involve specific situations at home, work, school, or with relationships. I have found that God speaks to each of us in four ways: 1) in prayer, 2) in Sacred Scripture, 3) through our experiences, and 4) through other people. If each of us is open in one of these ways, God will speak to us, to our hearts. St Theresa of Avila once said, “Jesus is always speaking to us. The question is, ‘are we listening?’”

We can also take the ‘you’ to be plural, and that the five words apply to all of us. Jesus speaks to all of us through Sacred Scripture – especially the Gospel – and through Sacred Tradition – through the Church. He tells us how to worship: ‘take this all of you and eat it…do this in memory of me’. He tells us how to live: ‘love God with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself’. He tells us how to love: ‘deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me’.

When we hear Jesus speaking to us, the question is, do we do whatever he tells us or do we do whatever others tell us? Oftentimes, others tell us something that is in conflict with what our Lord tells us. The world has a different gospel than Christ’s. An example of this would be with abortion. Many times, when a young woman becomes pregnant, other will tell her to have an abortion. It might be people close to her- a boyfriend or spouse, family members, friends, a coach, even a doctor. They might pressure her – maybe even force her – to abort her baby.

We hear so much about a woman’s right to choose. But, so many times, it is not a free choice for the young mother. Others are telling her something that is the total opposite of what God is telling her. Throughout Scripture, God says, “Choose life”; specifically, in Deuteronomy 30:19. The Church continues the teaching that human life should be respected and defended from conception until natural death. Next Monday, we will march for life downtown- our youth and many parishioners will join over 100,000 people to witness to the dignity and sanctity of all human life, in all it stages…from womb to tomb.

Finally, about this miracle at Cana. We don’t doubt that it happened. We don’t doubt that Jesus has the power to turn water into wine. We don’t doubt that he has the powe to rise from the dead. Why do we doubt that he can turn bread and wine into his Body and Blood? And yet, it happens at every Mass. We don’t see a miracle, we don’t see a change. But, we believe that a change takes place. Jesus says, “this is my body”, and we believe him.

So, as we receive the Eucharist today, let us be open to the grace of this sacrament. There is real Grace here. It helps us to believe in Jesus, to believe in his power, the power of his words, and to do whatever he tells us.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Living out Baptism

Anonymous asked, "How can you live the promise of your Baptism each day?" Great question, thanks! Easy answer: live out the Gospel! Oh, you were looking for a little bit more. Ok. Much of this goes back to what I posted on yesterday: Grace. Sanctifying Grace, which we first receive at Baptism, is what we need to have eternal life. Each time that we receive the sacraments, we renew the Sanctifying Grace that we received at (and, with the possibility of mortal sin, maybe lost since) Baptism. The best way, then, to live out our Baptismal promises is to live a sacramental life.

What are these promises? At the Masses every Easter, we publicly renew our Baptismal promises by answering 'I do' to each of the following questions:

Do you reject Satan? And all his works? And all his empty promises?
Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

The Catechism gives us some general guidelines on how to live out our Baptismal promises:

"Having become a member of the Church, the person baptized belongs no longer to himself, but to him who died and rose for us. From now on, he is called to be subject to others, to serve them in the communion of the Church, and to "obey and submit" to the Church's leaders (see Heb 13:17), holding them in respect and affection . Just as Baptism is the source of responsibilities and duties, the baptized person also enjoys rights within the Church: to receive the sacraments, to be nourished with the Word of God and to be sustained by the other spiritual helps of the Church...Reborn as sons of God, [the baptized] must profess before men the faith they have received from God through the Church" and participate in the apostolic and missionary activity of the People of God" (#1269-70).

And from #2340:

"Whoever wants to remain faithful to his baptismal promises and resist temptations will want to adopt the means for doing so: self-knowledge, practice of an ascesis adapted to the situations that confront him, obedience to God's commandments, exercise of the moral virtues, and fidelity to prayer. "Indeed it is through chastity that we are gathered together and led back to the unity from which we were fragmented into multiplicity" (St. Augustine).

Each of us became a "new creature" at Baptism. Every time we renew our Baptism through the Eucharist, Confession, or the other sacraments, each of us becomes a "new creature", thanks to God's Grace. Awesome!

Friday, January 12, 2007

It's all about Grace

Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited.
Last month, I posted on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Here are two comments from anonymous bloggers:

1) "How frequently are Catholics required/expected to go to Confession?"

Required: Once a year
Recommended: As one priest’s father told him when he was young, “when it’s time for a haircut, it’s time for Confession”

2) "While I don't think going to Confession should be traumatic, I don't object to a little bit of 'You did what?' or a brief lecture on how and why your sins are wrong and should be avoided. Sometimes I confess things that the Church says are sins but which don't seem to me to cause a lot of damage to anyone (getting drunk, missing Mass). It helps me get turned around to hear someone with authority, other than words in a book, tell me that I have to knock it off. Also, in my Confessions, I have not left feeling like I really nailed it because I do not feel I really put words to what I am doing that really keeps me away from God. It's not specific acts or omissions - it's just a general failure to stay Christ-focused. Should that be confessed?"

Yes, it's a good idea to mention this to the priest that you have that general feeling, but keep in mind that you've just told him specifically how you failed to be Christ-focused. If you've examined your conscience as well as you can, and confessed as much as you can remember and as specifically as possible, then you don't need to confess a general failure. God knows we are all sinners, and we all fail in general. The Sacrament clears up the specific ways that we fail.

Also, and this is probably more important, Confession is not about what we's about what God does! In other words, we don't need to make a perfect Confession for God to forgive us. Yes, we do our part, and examine our conscience and confess what's on our minds and hearts. But, it's all about the Grace of the Sacrament! Each of us makes an imperfect Confession each time; none of us "really nails it". The only thing we nail is our sins to the Cross. Christ's perfect sacrifice on Calvary washes them clean.

At this morning's Mass, we heard the beautiful Gospel story of the paralytic man (Mk 2:1-12) who is lowered down through the roof of a house by his friends to be healed by Christ. What good friends! The urgency of this man's friends to get him healed has always struck me. Their faith struck Jesus immediately. Do we have the same sense of urgency with our friends or family members who are paralyzed by sin to bring them to Christ for healing? Do we encourage them to come to Confession, even though it has been a while since they've been away? Do we invite them to join us for Mass or Adoration? If we truly believe that Christ can heal them through these two sacraments, then we will follow the example of the paralytic's friends and bring them to the Divine Physician.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Attention all bloggers!!

Here are a couple of ideas I have for our online community. Let me know what you think:

1) Let's build our community! Every blogger emails the address of this blog site to three (3) friends or family members, and encourages them to check it out!

2) Let's get together! We have a get-together at St. Andrew's for all bloggers of our site(s). For example, we could meet on a Friday night for Adoration, and then have a social gathering of some kind.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"God wills everyone to be saved"

Dovetailing on my post from yesterday about who can and can't receive the Eucharist, here are some comments from bloggers in response to my post on November 29:

Anon (11): "My question is I have strong doubts that I am one of those that God has elected to give the grace of persistence. I was OK with this concept and was happy to serve God anyway through the mass prayer and good towards my fellow man just realizing that sometime in the future something will happen that will block the goal of heaven because it is Gods decision and if I am wrong then all the better. But at Fathers talk on Eucharist I realize that I have committed grave sin in receiving the host at mass (almost daily) as the Eucharist is reserved for the chosen. But now I feel incomplete in my attendance at mass. What council can you offer that will help me get more out of the mass without receiving the Eucharist?"

Anon (12): "to anonymous 11: God is already telling you in you discomfort stop going to mass. Mass is for the faithful"

Hoping FG will answer: "To anon (11), I am trying to understand why you feel unworthy of going to daily mass. Persistence or fortitude is a gift of the Holy Spirit? Unless you are in a state of mortal sin, I have never heard that receiving the Eucharist daily is only for the 'select.' Sorry just not sure what you mean."

Firstly, God "wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4). This is the God in whom we believe. Christ offers salvation to all people, and died on a Cross for the salvation of the world. At Mass, this is played out; the Mass is a re-presentation of Calvary. To suggest that Mass is for some and not others is to say that Salvation is for some and not others (along the lines of the Protestant teaching of "predestination"). That is not the God in whom we believe.

Secondly, while Mass is open to everyone, there are restrictions on who can receive the Eucharist at Mass, as I've pointed out yesterday and many times. The Church has said that if you're baptized and in the proper state (State of Grace), you can and should receive the Eucharist often. If we fully know that we have freely chosen to commit a grave sin, then we should not receive until we've gone to Confession. But, I've never read anywhere where the Church has said that we shouldn't receive Holy Communion if we have just a "feeling" of total unworthiness or not being among the "elect". None of us is truly worthy, but Jesus commands all of us to "take this, all of you, and eat this is memory of me".

Lastly, there are countless examples from the Gospel of God offering Salvation to all peoples. We just celebrated Epiphany when the three wise men who were from a country outside of Israel were led by a light to be among the first people to adore the Christ child. Jesus reaches out to poor, rich, men, women, children, sinners, saints, Jews, Gentiles, etc. We recall at every Mass (just before receiving our Lord in Holy Communion) what the Roman centurion said about Jesus coming into his house: "Lord, ... I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof" (Lk 7:6).

None of us is worthy to receive the bread of life and cup of eternal salvation. And yet, Jesus commands us to do so.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

"Do not give what is holy to dogs"

In late November, an anonymous blogger wrote:
“On another note, how does one tell a non-Christian that they can not recieve the body of Christ? My sister- in -law (non-Christian) really wants to accompany me to Midnight Mass because she has heard from me and other Catholics how beautiful it is. I have no problem with her watching, listening, singing etc but I know she will go up and recieve the Eucharist. My brother and I have tried to explain it to her why she can't but she is determined to recieve it anyway. Should I just skip the Mass? This is one of the few Masses that my husband attends and we have had a tradition since we were married to go together. Any ideas anyone?”

Anon, thanks for the comments and questions, and I’m sorry that I didn’t respond before Christmas. I have a long list of questions from bloggers (which is great), and it has taken me this long to get through the queue to yours. I hope that Christmas went well with your family, especially with the Midnight Mass situation.

I had an excellent discussion with some parishioners and their friends one night over Christmas. One of the friends is a non-Catholic Christian who is in RCIA at another parish. He was asking why he couldn’t receive the Eucharist right now. He didn’t see any difference between the Eucharist and what Protestant churches offer in Communion. The more we talked about it, the more he saw the difference, and relented on his complaints. By the end of the conversation, he vowed to read John 6 -where Jesus teaches about the Eucharist- again to understand the Church’s teaching better.

One of the things that I mentioned to him was that as early as 100 A.D., the Church had laid out the rules for receiving Holy Communion. In “the Didache”, one of the earliest Christian documents, it made a statement that was mainly addressed to those who had not been baptized:
“Let no one eat or drink of this Eucharist with you except those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord; for it was in reference to this that the Lord said, 'Do not give that which is holy to dogs'” (c. 100 AD).

If your sister-in-law persists in her disobedience to the Church’s rules, you may want to use that command from our Lord (which is from Mt 7:6). It is powerful language which is mainly for those who are obstinate in their contempt for Christianity. But, the Eucharist is a powerful reality!

The best thing you can do is sit down with your sister-in-law – and have your husband present as well, especially if he skips Mass regularly – and discuss the Eucharist. Explain to her a) what Jesus teaches in John 6, b) that “this is my body” means “this is my body”, c) read with her 1 Cor 11:23-34 (“whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for body and blood of the Lord”), and d) what transubstantiation means – the substances of bread and wine become the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Or, you could just contact me or another priest and we could explain that to her. Just like the friend of the parishioners, I would bet that she really doesn’t know the full teaching on the Eucharist, and how significant a claim we make when we say we believe Jesus when he says, “this is my body”. It truly is Christ’s flesh and blood in the Eucharist. It’s the same flesh and blood that was on the Cross – John 6:51 tells us that. It is the flesh and blood of our Salvation. “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgement on himself” (1 Cor 11:29).

Monday, January 08, 2007

Baptism of the Lord Jesus

Today is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The Christmas season officially ends tonight. Here is the address that Pope Benedict XVI gave last year on this feast:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters!

...we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which ends the liturgical time of Christmas. Today we contemplate Jesus who, at the age of about 30, had John baptize him in the Jordan River. It was a baptism of penance, which used the symbol of water to express the purification of heart and life.

John, called the 'Baptist,' that is, he who baptizes, preached this baptism to Israel to prepare for the imminent coming of the Messiah; and he told all that after him another would come, greater than he, who would not baptize with water but with the Holy Spirit (cf. Mark 1:7-8). When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended, rested on him with the corporal appearance of a dove, and John the Baptist recognized that he was the Christ, the 'Lamb of God,' who came to take away the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29).

Therefore, the baptism in the Jordan is also an 'epiphany,' a manifestation of the messianic identity of the Lord and of his redeeming work, which will culminate with another 'baptism,' that of his death and resurrection, through which the whole world will be purified in the fire of divine mercy (cf. Luke 12:49-50).

On this feast, Pope John Paul II usually administered the sacrament of baptism to some children. For the first time, this morning, I also had the joy of baptizing 10 newborns in the Sistine Chapel. I renew with affection my greeting to these little ones, to their families, as well as to the godfathers and godmothers.

The baptism of children expresses and realizes the mystery of the new birth to divine life in Christ: Believing parents take their children to the baptismal font, representation of the 'womb' of the Church, from whose blessed waters the children of God are begotten. The gift received by the newborns calls for its being accepted by them, once they become adults, in a free and responsible way: This process of maturation will lead them later to receive the sacrament of confirmation, which in fact will confirm their baptism and will confer on them the 'seal' of the Holy Spirit.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, may today's solemnity be a propitious opportunity for all Christians to discover the joy and beauty of their baptism that, lived with faith, is an ever present reality: It continually renews us in the image of the new man, in holiness of thoughts and deeds. Baptism, moreover, unites Christians of all creeds. Insofar as baptized, we are all children of God in Christ Jesus, our master and Lord. May the virgin Mary obtain for us the grace to understand ever more the value of our baptism and to witness to it with a worthy conduct of life...

Today's celebration of the baptism of our Lord is a joyful reminder of the gift of our own baptism! Grateful for the new life given to us in this sacrament, may Christians always bear witness in the world to the values and truths of God's kingdom!"

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Feast of the Epiphany - Homily

Today begins National Vocations Awareness Week. In praying over this Gospel for the Feast of the Epiphany, I thought it was fitting to briefly tell my own vocations story. There are similarities between the three wise men and myself (not about being wise, though). They saw a star which led them to Christ. It has to be night –has to be dark- in order to see the stars. So, we understand that these men were in darkness when they saw the light that leads to Christ, their Messiah and King.

In spiritual terms, for the first twenty years of my life, I lived in darkness. I knew ABOUT Jesus, but I didn’t know Him. I grew up in a good, Catholic home…a home of love. For whatever reason, and it was my own fault, I didn’t really listen to the Gospel…I didn’t listen to the teachings. So, especially in high school and college, I made choice that were very sinful. I have been a great sinner. I remember being 20 years old on a college campus, and thinking, ‘I’m in darkness’. We hear in the first reading that “darkness covers the earth”. It’s talking about sin, and how we are all sinners. I realized that my sin led me to darkness, and I was looking for the light. I didn’t know that Christ was the light.

A year later, I transferred to the University of Maryland, and began to help out with the youth group at St. Mark’s Church in Hyattsville. That’s when my life of faith began to change. I remember one conversation, in particular with my good friend, Fr. Wells (the pastor at St Mark’s at that time). Fr. Wells was a ton of fun! He and I would go out and play golf together, and talk about everything under the sun. He joked about almost everything, except for the Eucharist. We were talking about the Eucharist one day in his office, and I said, “well, you know, Father, the Eucharist is a symbol”. He said, “What?” “It’s uh, a symbol?”, I said. He said, “Greg, this is my body means this is my body”. I thought to myself, “really? We really believe that as Catholics?”

So, I began to go to daily Mass at St. Mark’s. I went to hear the words I had heard hundreds of times before, and to see the actions of the priest. I realized that the bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus at each Mass. This was my epiphany – the light went on…finally! God became real to me; He is present on Earth, especially in the Eucharist.

At that time, St. Mark’s had what’s called Perpetual Adoration. They exposed the Eucharist 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a chapel. People visited the chapel all during the day and night and prayed in the presence of the Lord. I signed up for the 6-7 am hour on Thursdays. That was early! When I first started going, I had no clue what I was doing – I had never done Adoration before. I remember in those first few weeks, as I was alone with Jesus, looking at the Eucharist, and saying, “Jesus, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. All those years I thought it was just a symbol, just a piece of bread. All those times I went to Mass without having the proper respect and reverence I should have. While I was filled with regret and sorrow, I was also filled with great joy and peace. We hear that the wise men were “overjoyed” in their epiphany experience. As I was coming into the light, I, too, was filled with tremendous joy.

In time, I would start praying about my vocation in Adoration. I started to say to the Lord, “Lord, I’ll do whatever you want me to do with my life. Whatever you’re calling me to, I’ll do”. I have to admit that I added, “except be a priest. Other than that, I’m all yours”. (But, the Lord took that little opening and began to show me that he was calling me to be a priest.) It was mainly that, “Lord, you gave me your life. Let me give you my life”. I felt that there were some rumblings going on about a vocation to the priesthood, so I entered the seminary right after college at the age of 23.

As I’ve told you before, seminary was a challenge for me. I enjoyed it over all, but I struggled. It was all so new. To give up your whole life for something…and all of the sacrifices that went along with priesthood. I left the seminary twice which is not normal. It took me 12 years to finish when it normally takes six! But, during that time, I realized that a) priesthood is my vocation, and b) it is a great gift. I’ve said before that it’s a great gift to be here with you, to be a part of your lives, your families, and your kids’ lives. Since being ordained in May, I have found my fulfillment, my happiness.

Every person in this Church, in this parish, in the world has a vocation. Each of us is called either to 1) marriage (which most people are called to), 2) religious life, or 3) single life. Our job is to go to Christ and ask him what is our vocation…what is the Father’s will for us? When we find our vocation, we find the reason we are here on this earth. We find our happiness, we find our fulfillment.

People will ask, ‘what can I do to support vocations’. Two things especially: 1) Pray for vocations. Every day. Pray that young men and women will hear the call and answer it. God is calling men and women from this parish to serve as priests and nuns. Guarantee. 2) We can increase our devotion to the Eucharist. It is proven that parishes that have Perpetual Adoration have men in the seminaries and women in convents. We have Adoration here Friday nights from 7-8 pm. You can join us and pray for vocations. Each vocation starts with the Eucharist. Fr. Wells once said: “As long as we are a community that is centered on the Eucharist, there will never be a shortage of men and women who give their lives in service to the Church”. We pray that men and women will hear the call and answer it. It is a call to love, service, and sacrifice. It is a call to be a light those in darkness.

I close with a quote from St. Augustine which is how I feel about all of you. “For my own sake, I was baptized. For your sake, I was ordained”.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Saturday's Mass readings

Reading 1: 1 Jn 5:5-13

Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and Blood.
The Spirit is the one who testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.
So there are three that testify,
the Spirit, the water, and the Blood,
and the three are of one accord.
If we accept human testimony,
the testimony of God is surely greater.
Now the testimony of God is this,
that he has testified on behalf of his Son.
Whoever believes in the Son of God
has this testimony within himself.
Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar
by not believing the testimony God has given about his Son.
And this is the testimony:
God gave us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son.
Whoever possesses the Son has life;
whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you so that you may know
that you have eternal life,
you who believe in the name of the Son of God.

Responsorial Psalm - Ps 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

R. (12a) Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.

Gospel - Mk 1:7-11

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Friday, January 05, 2007

Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. Adoration is every Friday from 7-8 pm, unless otherwise noted.

Miracles of healing

"Kelly" wrote, "I am reading a book about eucharistic miracles. It is so amazing! I love it! What about other kinds of miracles? Science/Medicine can not explain them. Yet they are given very little media attention. When a cancer is found and then during a second surgery it is no longer there - would one of faith call this a miracle?!!? How does the church address such miracles of healing?"

Thanks, Kelly. The Church has a very strict process when it comes to proclaiming modern-day miracles. This usually happens during the process of beatification and / or canonization of saints. Just like when the Church investigates other miracles (of the Eucharist, e.g.) or apparitions, the process involves witnesses, testimonies, and a Devil's Advocate who argues against the miracle or apparition. So, when we hear (mostly through ecclesial media, not secular) the Church proclaim that God has worked a miracle through the intercession of one of his saints, we can be assured that it truly was a miracle. The Church approaches the possibility of miracles in faith: Jesus can work miracles today just like he did 2000 years ago.

The Catechism (#548-549) says, "... miracles strengthen faith in the One who does His Father's works; they bear witness that He is the Son of God. But His miracles can also be occasions for "offense" (Mt.11:6); they are not intended to satisfy people's curiosity or desire for magic. Despite His evident miracles some people reject Jesus; He is even accused of acting by the power of demons...

By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness, and death, Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless He did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God's sons and causes all forms of human bondage."

Pope John Paul II said the following in his weekly audience on Jan, 13, 1988:

"After the resurrection, ascension and pentecost, the 'miracles-signs' performed by Christ were continued by the apostles, and later by the saints from generation to generation. The Acts of the Apostles offer us numerous testimonies concerning miracles worked 'in the name of Jesus Christ' by Peter (cf. Acts 3:1-8; 5:15; 9:32-41), Stephen (Acts 6:8) and Paul (e.g., Acts 14:8-10). We also see it in the lives of the saints, the history of the Church and in particular, the processes for the canonization of the Servants of God. These constitute a documentation which, when submitted to the most searching examination of historical criticism and of medical science, confirms the existence of the 'power from on high' which operates in the natural order and surpasses it. It is a question of miraculous signs carried out from apostolic times until the present day. Their essential purpose is to indicate that the human person is destined and called to the kingdom of God. These signs therefore confirm in different ages and in the most varied circumstances the truth of the Gospel, and demonstrate the saving power of Christ who does not cease to call people (through the Church) on the path of faith. This saving power of the God-Man is manifested also when the 'miracles-signs' are performed through the intercession of individuals, of saints, of devout people—just as the first sign at Cana of Galilee was worked through the intercession of the mother of Christ."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Harry Potter books

An anonymous blogger recently asked, “What about Harry Potter books?” in a comment under my post on “Horoscopes and magic” (Nov. 14). The Church has not made an official statement about the Harry Potter books that I have seen, and probably won’t. But, there have been many personal opinions given on the incredibly popular series. I have listed some below. I have not read the Harry Potter books because they are based primarily in fantasy and magic. Personally, I like to deal with reality. The world of fantasy, while appearing fun and exciting, can be very dangerous and seductive.

Please keep in mind two things:
1) Harry Potter books are fictional.
2) The statements below are personal opinions

In a letter written in 2003, then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote the following to a German critic of Harry Potter:

“It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.”
"I like Harry Potter, a more pleasant escapism for me, but also much more superficial, predictable and sentimental than Tolkien's world... The Harry Potter series are brilliantly written children's books, which many adults enjoy."
- Archbishop Pell of Sydney
"There's only one reason the Harry Potter books are in the least bit controversial. Just one. Wicca. That's it. If we didn't have this ridiculous little 'religion' bustling around, forming 'covens' in dorm rooms and getting army chaplains, I doubt one parent in a million would even think to waste even a minute being concerned about these books. . . .
- Amy Welborn, Catholic author of “Sorting Through Harry Potter
"I was not impressed by the four books in Rowling's series…The Potter series takes the old Gnostic worldview and makes it look glamorous and exciting, in a way proving to be far more seductive and successful than similar books in this field of children's literature. Early Gnosticism was a combination of cult and heresy that came very close to undermining Christianity during the first few centuries of the Church. It was only defeated by the efforts of the Church Fathers as they taught, corrected, exhorted and debated with the naive devotees of this perversion of genuine faith. And here it is again, popping up with unprecedented force, but now aimed at the most vulnerable, most impressionable part of the Body of Christ - our children."
- Michael O'Brien…. the author of eleven books, including several best-selling Catholic novels, notably, Father Elijah. He has authored children's books as well...