Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"My bags were packed!"

Anon asked, “FG- It would be nice to have a brief bio on our clergy here at SAA. I don't know anything about our deacon, and I think most would find yours and Fr. Mike's backgrounds interesting. You are pretty good about speaking at Mass about your life both before you were a priest and now. For those who find it difficult to understand how a priest could relate to ‘normal’ life, it might be helpful to know about what jobs you all had before you were priests, or that Fr. Mike grew up with so many siblings. I know learning that about him made me feel more comfortable to speak with him about problems I might have with my kids, as I knew he'd probably have a wealth of personal experience upon which to draw. Just a thought....”

Thanks a lot, Anon!? I would prefer to post info about Fr. Mike and the deacons, but I haven’t asked them, so here’s mine. I don’t know how “interesting” this will be, but here goes. I actually do appreciate your interest in the clergy here – not so much in us the people, but in whom God calls to be his ordained ministers. I personally enjoy reading and hearing stories about men and women who answered the call to religious life, and to know the lives they led before they put their “hands to the plow” (Lk 9:62) to do the work of the Lord.

I was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Bethesda by my loving parents, George and Veronica Shaffer. I have two older siblings – sister, Kathy, and brother, Gerry. My father was a lawyer and mother was a homemaker (she later worked in personnel for Woodward and Lothrop and then National Library of Medicine). We lived in Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Bethesda, and I went to grades 1-8 in the school there. I graduated from Gonzaga High School in DC, and then the University of Maryland. I entered seminary immediately after UM (literally the next day), spending six years at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg before being ordained May 27, 2006, thanks be to God.

Ok, thanks for asking…

Oh, you probably want a little more than that. That was the "short version"…

I was a pretty happy-go-lucky kid, growing up in a fun and warm home. Everything was great until August, 1988. My father, who said on August 14 after coming back from the beach with my Mom that he had had the “most relaxing weekend” of his life, died suddenly the next day of a heart attack. It was a total and complete shock to us and to our parish community; he was a very popular and loved man. That event sent me reeling for a number of years as I ventured into the darkness of the party scene my senior year of high school and first two years of college.

In the summer of 1992, I was planning a move to California, basically to “start over”. I had been in conversation that summer with a girl I knew from high school. She was voted “Miss San Diego”, and she was inviting me to come out there. My bags were packed! I had been trying to transfer to Maryland (from Loyola College in Balt.) but had been waitlisted. My family and friends objected to my plan, but I kept reminding them that she was Miss San Diego!! Plus, I was looking for the ‘light’ that I thought I would find in California; I was in darkness...

Then, some funny stuff happened. I was accepted to Maryland, and started classes in the Fall of ’92. Also, I began to work as a volunteer with a buddy’s youth group at St. Mark’s in Hyattsville. That’s where everything turned around with regards to my faith. I finally began to hear the Gospel and the Church’s teachings (I went through 14 years of Catholic school with some type of deafness, I guess). I began to know Christ. I finally “got it” about the Eucharist. I began to spend long hours praying in his presence. I began to see that he is the light who pulled me out of the darkness. I began to hear Him calling me to the priesthood.

To be continued...


At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet you've just inflated a few young men's opinion of you (probably a few old men too!). Thanks for sharing.

At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Knowing you arn't perfect helps us talk to you.

At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does the church define doctrines and dogmas? I what I mean is how does somthing get defined as a dogma or doctrine rather then say a dicipline or custom?

At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Kat said...

So Father, the question has been posed ... what? three or four times now?? Once by me and a few by the resident Anons.


At 4:02 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#888-892):

The teaching office

Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task "to preach the Gospel of God to all men," in keeping with the Lord's command. They are "heralds of faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers" of the apostolic faith "endowed with the authority of Christ."

In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a "supernatural sense of faith" the People of God, under the guidance of the Church's living Magisterium, "unfailingly adheres to this faith."

The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:

"The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith—he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed," and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith." This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.

Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent" which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

At 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I know several of us have asked the question, and maybe Kat can figure out the CCC thing, I can't. The reason I asked was because I don't understand how one thing is doctrine and something else isn't (like celebicy). I don't mean to be a pain, I am just wondering.

At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Kat said...


I asked the question because I didn't understand what I found in the CCC soo... I dunno.

At 1:31 AM, Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

My father died when I was eight and it rocked my world as well. Thanks for mentioning the impact it had on you. Strangely enough, it is nice to have 'company'.

At 7:38 AM, Anonymous Was wondering said...

"I began to hear Him calling me to the priesthood."

Some people literally hear Him calling them to the priesthood. Like a voice out loud. Was that your case?

At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Kat said...


I cheated and asked someone else... this is how they answered the Church Doctrine question:

"There are some elements of faith that we have inherited from the Jews,
particularly the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and various
teachings and structures which the new covenant builds upon.

The life and teachings of Jesus Christ form a special focus for our
beliefs and practices. We believed that our Lord instituted the
sacraments. He also established an apostolic teaching authority that
would teach, guide, and determine what is and is not authentic

The New Testament Scriptures represent an important area of God's
revelation to us. We believe that revelation as such ends with the
death of the last apostle.

The early Church and the sacred traditions of faith are also a branch
in the sources for Christian doctrine. We are not just talking about
the traditions of men, but many things going back to ancient times,
mentioned, inferred, but not necessarily explicit in the Bible.
Legitimate traditions do not contradict the Scriptures. They amplify
the biblical message. The lives of the saints and martyrs, the
teachings of the early Church fathers, some who knew the apostles, are
crucially important.

Throughout the centuries, the Church through her lived faith,
theologians, disputes, councils, etc. reflects upon the deposit of
faith entrusted to her and passed down to later generations. Our
understanding of teachings may grow over time, but we cannot create
new doctrines as such. Popes and councils can solemnly define what
the Church believes but they cannot revoke doctrines or dogmas of
faith. John Cardinal Newman spoke about this as an organic
development of doctrine.

In addition, when it comes to social situations and moral problems,
the Church uses what is at her disposal, plus a philosophical
awareness of natural law and a trust in human reason, to resolve new
questions. However, the law of God remains binding in the
commandments and beatitudes."

At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Kat-
Is that what Fr. Greg posted actually meant?!!! Thanks for those of us who are a bit slower. lol

At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Kat said...

I don't know... thats why I had to go ask someone else...

you think you are slow... I stare at the CCC sometimes and wonder if the thing is really in english...when I am reading the english one.

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've often thought of the wonderful priests I know who realize their calling. I can imagine how they, at such a young age, full of promise and enthusiasm, pack their bags and head off to seminary. I'm sure they are really excited and inspired to learn and hear more on how they will put God's word into action. It must have been a tremendous time in their lives. Then... they arrive in class and are required to read vast amounts of the kind of stuff Fr. G posted. I think you'd have to be divinely inspired to endure that! Is that why it took so long to complete seminary, Fr.?

And, Kat- you have to have some kind of inspiration attempt to decipher the CCC (not to mention a big bottle of Advil).

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Kat said...


I had Jesuits at Loyola making us use the CCC in papers and making us decipher it. So some parts of it I can explain because I had to write papers on the subject and I had friends who were Jesuits and bigger nerds then I am to dumb it down for me a bit. The rest of it is confusing. . . they say it is in english but I am not sure I believe them some days.

At 11:16 AM, Anonymous tom said...

Archbishop Wuerl has been pushing the recently-published U.S. Catechism for Adults -- not surprising, since he helped write it.

The CCC is a "universal" catechism, meaning it was written for the whole Church. It was intended, not only to be read as is, but to be the basis for new, "local" catechisms, written with an eye to the specific needs of the local Churches. The USCfA is that local catechism for adults in the U.S.

Where the CCC is hard to digest, you might take a look at the USCfA.


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