Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Gospel of Judas??

Many thanks to our summer seminarian, Jim, for providing answers to these two questions from bloggers:

1) “What is the Gospel of Judas?”

The Gospel of Judas is a gnostic text that appeared around the second century A.D. It claims that Judas was cooperating with Jesus, and was following directions from Jesus when he handed Him over for His Crucifixion. It also suggests that Jesus taught Judas the true gospel which neither he nor Jesus shared with any of the other Apostles. This book has never been recognized as canonical, which means that it is not considered by the church to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. In fact, St. Irenaeus, in his work Against Heresies, written around 180 A.D., denounced this text as heretical teaching.

Gnostics were people who first appeared around the first century B.C. and believed that there was “secret knowledge” (gnosis is Greek for knowledge) by which mankind could achieve salvation. They believed that the material world was evil, and the spiritual world the only true and good world. Knowledge of the secrets could free one from the corrupt human body and achieve salvation. There are those who still espouse this kind of thought today. Contrary to these beliefs, God created the world and “saw that it was good.” The Catechism, at No. 339, states, “By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth, and excellence, its own order and laws." The fact that sin exists, and that mankind has misused parts of the creation, does not take away its inherent beauty and value. In addition, Jesus lived, died, and rose again to provide salvation for all, so it hardly makes sense that He would deal in secret knowledge, so as to limit those who could be saved.

The National Geographic Society has spent a lot of time promoting the discovery of the small piece of scroll on which is the only available copy of the Gospel of Judas. It suggests that from scientific analysis of the scroll, the Gospel of Judas is “authentic.” The use of this terminology is misleading, and its authenticity only relates to the fact that the scroll is indeed from around the third century A.D., and that the writings are similar to other Gnostic writings of that time. But as to the theological or historical content of the Gospel of Judas, it is completely contrary to the Christian faith.

2) “What is the distinction between vicar, reverend and monsignor?”

Well, reverend is strictly a title for someone who has been ordained, a sign of respect. The distinction between vicar and monsignor depends on whether you're speaking to the vicar or the monsignor, because each would say that he was the one doing all the other one’s work. Seriously though, “parochial vicar” is the canonical term for what used to called a curate, or an associate, or assistant pastor for a parish. A vicar general is a priest appointed by the Bishop to help govern the local church. Monsignor is an honorary title, which, according to the book "Catholicism for Dummies," “has no extra authority, dignity, or salary. It is merely a title of honor given by the pope at the request of the local bishop.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!!
Today is the solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles. The following is from a sermon by St. Augustine, bishop in today’s Office of Readings:

This day has been made holy by the passion of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. We are, therefore, not talking about some obscure martyrs. For their voice has gone forth to all the world, and to the ends of the earth their message. These martyrs realized what they taught; they pursued justice, they confessed the truth, they died for it.

Saint Peter, the first of the apostles and a fervent lover of Christ, merited to hear these words: I say to you that you are Peter, for he had said: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Then Christ said: And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church. On this rock I will build the faith that you now confess, and on your own words: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my Church. For you are Peter, and the name Peter comes from petra, the word for “rock”, and not vice versa. “Peter” comes, therefore, from petra, just as “Christian” comes from Christ.

As you are aware, Jesus chose his disciples before his passion and called them apostles; and among these almost everywhere Peter alone deserved to represent the entire Church. And because of that role which he alone had, he merited to hear the words: To you I shall give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. For it was not one man who received the keys, but the entire Church considered as one. Now insofar as he represented the unity and universality of the Church, Peter’s preeminence is clear from the words: To you I give, for what was given was given to all. For the fact that it was the Church that received the keys of the kingdom of God is clear from what the Lord says elsewhere to all the apostles: Receive the Holy Spirit, adding immediately, whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins you retain, they are retained.

Rightly then did the Lord after his resurrection entrust Peter with the feeding of his sheep. Yet he was not the only disciple to merit the feeding of the Lord’s sheep; but Christ in speaking only to one suggests the unity of all; and so he speaks to Peter, because Peter is first among the apostles. Therefore do not be disheartened, Peter; reply once, reply twice, reply a third time. The triple confession of your love is to regain what was lost three times by your fear. You must loose three times what you bound three times; untie by love that which your fear bound. Once, and again, and a third time did the Lord entrust his sheep to Peter.

Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching and their confession of faith.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Mt 7:21-29

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.

And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

When Jesus finished these words,
the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority,
and not as their scribes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Christ is "our contemporary"

Some recently asked me for my thoughts about Pope Benedict XVI’s document on the Eucharist, “Sacramentum Caritatis”. Unfortunately, I haven’t read it all yet, but hope to do so soon. Archbishop Wuerl, however, has written a beautiful and insightful reflection about it. Here are his thoughts which appeared in last week’s Catholic Standard:

As he concludes his first post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, calls us to reflect on how "the Eucharist makes us discover that Christ, risen from the dead, is our contemporary in the mystery of the Church, his body" (97). Here, three of the great mysteries of our faith are woven together. It is in the Eucharist that we not only encounter Christ, but are invited into his death and resurrection, not as something beyond or outside us, but rather as members of his body in which Christ truly is present today - is "our contemporary."

The Church is the enduring presence of Christ in the world today. Through the celebration of the Eucharist in the Church this central event of salvation becomes truly present and the work of our redemption is carried out. The Lord of history and Savior of the world is at work among us now precisely in his Church.

As our Holy Father reflects on the intimate connection of the Eucharist with the Church, he reminds us that "since the Eucharist makes present Christ's redeeming sacrifice, we must start by acknowledging that 'there is a causal influence of the Eucharist at the Church's very origins.' The Eucharist is Christ who gives himself to us and continually builds us up as his body." (14)

As I reflect, once again, on the incredible gift that is the Eucharist, which our Holy Father describes as the sacrament of charity, my thoughts go back to the Synod out of which the threads of this apostolic exhortation emerged. In October of 2005, the pope convoked and presided over a three-week long world Synod of Bishops whose theme was "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church." I was a participant for this gathering of bishops.

Two things struck me at the opening of that meeting. The first was the universality of the Catholic Church. Of the slightly more than two hundred bishops gathered, representative of the Church throughout the world, it was clear that the Church was present in Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Oceania as well as in Europe and North America. In fact, the majority of bishops were from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The second significant phenomenon was the realization, by the end of the second day as bishops spoke and as we discussed the topic of the Synod, that there was absolute unanimity around the core teaching of the Church on the nature and purpose of the Eucharist.

At first, this oneness of faith may not strike us as particularly noteworthy. We expect that bishops would all believe the same thing about the Eucharist. And they do.

Yet when we reflect that twenty centuries separate us today from the Last Supper and that in those two thousand years the faith has been carried to and accepted and lived by people speaking just about every language and reflecting every ethnic background across the face of the earth, the unity of faith manifested in the bishops is truly an indication of the ongoing action of the Holy Spirit. Here we find affirmation of our belief that the Church is the living body of Christ renewing and making present in each and every age the life-giving grace of redemption precisely because it is truly his body at work in the world.

Using the deliberations of the synod as a starting point Pope Benedict XVI, who was a part of the weeks of discussion, issued Sacramentum Caritatis, his first apostolic exhortation. In this exhortation, the Holy Father offers us reflections on what the Eucharist means to us today.
While we may be tempted to think of the Resurrection and its relationship to us in terms of the empty tomb in the Easter garden some twenty centuries ago, Sacramentum Caritatis reminds us that the risen Lord is with us now. Through the Eucharist we transcend the limitations of time and place and participate in the events of our salvation. The risen Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father, is truly present in a unique sacramental and real manner, so that in his new body, his Church, he is truly "our contemporary."

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Let us kneel before the Lord who made us"

1) 'was wondering' asked: “Why do we use the host instead of real bread for the body of Christ?”

The following comes from Wikipedia; to view the full text and to see photos of hosts and the instruments used to make them, please click on the title of this post.

A host is a thin, round wafer made from bread and used for Holy Communion in many Christian churches.
The word is from the Latin, "hostia", which means "victim" or "sacrificial animal." The term can be used to the bread both before and after consecration, though it is more correct to use it after consecration - "altar bread" being preferred before consecration.

In the Roman Catholic Church, hosts are often made by nuns as a means of supporting themselves. It is required that the hosts be made from wheat flour and water only (Code of Canon Law, Canon 924). The Roman Church teaches that at the words of consecration the bread is changed into the Body of Christ through transubstantiation...

2) 'Anon': "Why, at some churches, does the host look different?"

If you look at the photos from the wikipedia site, you’ll see that there are different “tongs” within each convent which make the hosts look different. Also, hosts are made at multiple convents, so there are multiple tongs / designs of hosts.

3) 'Short hair': "Why is it that it’s only in the Catholic churches that people kneel?"

I don’t know if this is definitely true or not, but if it is, I would guess it’s because the Catholic Church takes transubstantiation so seriously that she requires her members to kneel in the presence of the Lord, out of reverence for Jesus in the Eucharist. One biblical basis for this is Psalm 95: “let us kneel before the Lord who made us”.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Birth of John the Baptist - homily

Today we celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist. There was a lot going on before and at John’s birth. First, there was the drama involving his parents – they were apparently too old to have a baby. Then, we know the story about when Mary visited John’s mother, Elizabeth, and was carrying Jesus in her womb; John leapt for joy in his mother’s womb as Christ was in his presence. Also, like the prophet, Isaiah, in the first reading, John was given his name in his mother’s womb. At his birth, John was called by God…at birth! He was called by God to be the prophet of the Most High.

For John’s parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, I’m sure it must have been surprising to their family members and friends that they were going to have a baby. They were thought to have been too old to have a baby (maybe in their fifties? We don’t know exactly). It was probably seen as too dangerous for her to give birth. But, they believed, as we do, that “with God all things are possible”. And, we see God’s Plan in John’s birth. He comes into the world to prepare the way for the Christ, and to announce Jesus as the Messiah. John is the sum total of all of the Old Testament prophets who lead us to Christ. Jesus once said that “there is no man born of woman greater than John the Baptist”. We see God’s Plan in the birth and life of John the Baptist; obviously, it was God’s Plan for John’s parents to be open to life.

God’s Plan is for all married couples to be open to life. Does this mean that every couple is to have, like, 15 kids? No. The Church advocates ‘responsible parenthood’. This means that a couple’s resources and situation in life are definite factors in their discernment of how God is calling them to bring life into the world. God’s Plan is for married couples to be open to life, and has given them the natural means to live out His Plan…Natural Family Planning (NFP). This is when the couple communicates regularly, and prays to God about whether or not He is calling them to procreate in a given month. If they are not able to procreate, they can discern whether or not they should adopt a child.

The biggest differences between natural and artificial approaches to family planning have to do with two main points: openness to God’s Plan and openness to life. I have talked with many couples who have tried to use NFP, and they say that it’s much harder than everyone makes it seem. So, for couples who do their best to use Natural Family Planning, the most important statistic I have found has to do with their commitment rate. 96% of married couples who use NFP stay together. This is obviously much higher than the general rate of 50%.

There are several reasons why the divorce rate is so much lower among NFP couples. In my research, I found many of their own insights as reasons. They say that their communication is very strong. They are in constant communication with each other and with God…He is the center of their marriage. They are able to discuss other issues much better; if they can talk about this issue, they can talk about (almost) anything! They report an increase in satisfaction with and appreciation for their spouse. They grow in friendship and in love for the other. They describe a cycle of courtship and honeymoon; that is beautiful!

They grow in love for each other: the sacrificial love they promised on their wedding day where they gave themselves to the other. They grow in respect for the other as a person, and not as an object of the desire only. Pope John Paul II called couples who use the natural methods of family planning as “ministers of God’s Plan”. Artificial means of family planning is a sin against the sixth commandment because it is a sin against marriage. The natural way is from God; the artificial way is not from God, it is from man.

Thank God that Elizabeth and Zechariah were open to life! Because they were, John came into the world and proclaimed Christ his whole life. He points us to Christ, especially in the Eucharist. He said the line we will hear in a few minutes and at every Mass: “Behold the Lamb of God”. As we receive the Eucharist today, let us go forth to be, like John, prophets of Christ’s coming into the world….in the Eucharist. As we receive God’s life and God’s love in the Eucharist this day, may we be open to life and love, through the Grace of this sacrament. May we know God’s love this day, and share His life with those we meet this day.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

"Thank you, consecrated women!"

Anon wrote, “Father, my Mom says that the church does not recognize nuns very much, and that they are sometimes mistreated. Why is that? Why do we still use the Adam and Eve story to blame women? Anyhow, that is what my Mom says.” Thanks, Anon. I’ve asked our seminarian, Jim, to answer your question; he’s given a really good answer:

To start with your last question, the story of Adam and Eve is not meant to blame women, and anyone who uses the story to blame women is forgetting that Adam, too, ate the fruit, and then tried to get out of trouble by blaming Eve. He could have refused to eat the fruit, but did not, and it was the sin of both that brought sin and suffering into the world. The Church has long taught that both men and women were created in the image of God, equal in dignity before the eyes of God. Sometimes people fail to recognize or forget that equality, but ignoring the equal dignity of women is not done as a matter of policy by the Church. Certainly, the honor encouraged by the Church to be given to Mary as the Mother of our Savior should stand as a model of the Church’s esteem for all women.

Sometimes recognition doesn’t get publicized the way it should. I’m not sure what your Mom means by nuns being mistreated, whether she means by the Church, or by society in general, or in specific cases where some have been martyred in recent memory. The Church has recognized many nuns by naming them as saints – St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila (these three are Doctors of the Church), Mother Katherine Drexel, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Rose Phillipine Duchesne (these four are American saints) and many other nuns and holy women over two thousand years. Pope Benedict just canonized Mother Marie Eugenie of Jesus, a French nun, on June 3. And it is only a matter of time before Mother Teresa of Calcutta is recognized as a saint. And this is just a small sampling of the women religious who have been declared saints by the Church.

As for nuns who are living today, the Church has also long recognized the invaluable contribution made by women religious in areas such as teaching, healthcare, and work with the poor, as well as in theological, philosophical, and liturgical studies. Pope John Paul II, in his 1995 Letter to Women, wrote, “Thank you, consecrated women! Following the example of the greatest of women, the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, you open yourselves with obedience and fidelity to the gift of God's love. You help the Church and all mankind to experience a "spousal" relationship to God, one which magnificently expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with his creatures.”

Sometimes we take each other for granted, and that happens in the Church as well as outside it. Many times priests, nuns, deacons, and all other religious do not get the recognition they deserve. We should always remember to thank all of those who give themselves so selflessly to others.

Friday, June 22, 2007

"Enemies of Christ...are wide awake"

Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!!
Today is the memorial of one of my favorite saints, St. Thomas More. St. Thomas (d. 1535) was a lawyer in England who was married with four children. He ardently lived and taught the Faith, especially in the situation involving King Henry VIII’s divorce. He defended the Church’s teaching on marriage to death; he was beheaded for not supporting the king. The 1966 movie, “A Man For All Seasons”, is a beautiful and powerful depiction of St. Thomas’s life and death.

The following are excerpts from a letter from St. Thomas to his daughter, Margaret, written while he was in prison:

“I will not mistrust (God), Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.

And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault…”

Our good friend, Fr. Wells, once commented on the life and writings of St. Thomas More:

“As St. Thomas faced his own death, it is no surprise that much of his prayer focused on the passion and death of Christ, but his meditations were not only personal. He saw how the players in the drama of Christ’s death were present in his day – and ours. I was particularly struck by his meditation on the sleep of the Apostles while the Lord was in agony on the garden. He contrasts the sleep of Peter, James, and John with the zeal of Judas who was scurrying about in efforts to betray Christ. As More says, ‘For very many are sleepy and apathetic in sowing virtues among the people and maintaining the truth, while the enemies of Christ in order to sow vices and uproot the faith, are wide awake’.

It becomes difficult to ignore the real hatred of the message of Christianity, and especially the Catholic Church. As a priest, I must examine how hard I work to teach and preach the good, but confrontational, news which is the Gospel. Thomas More recognized how easily fear can influence our living of the faith. He wrote, for example, of Jesus’ fear and dread in the Garden as He contemplated His death. He recognized that fear is, first, a temptation, but like all temptations, can be overcome especially with prayer. Those who oppose the message of Christ are wide awake, just as they were in Thomas’ time. Pray God that those who have the gift of faith will give in neither to sloth nor fear as they are challenged to live fully the Christian life”.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Mt 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray:
‘Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.’
“If you forgive others their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Christian approach to driving

The following are excerpts from a recent Vatican document, “Pastoral Care of the Road”, which reveals the Christian approach to driving. To view the full text, please click on the title of this post.

...18. John's Gospel presents some particularly important expressions regarding the spirituality of the road…

19. Those who know Jesus Christ are careful on the roads. They don't only think about themselves, and are not always worried about getting to their destination in a great hurry. They see the people who "accompany" them on the road, each of whom has their own life, their own desire to reach a destination and their own problems. They see everyone as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God. This is the attitude that characterises a Christian driver…

39. …During the 20th century approximately 35 million people lost their lives in road accidents, whilst around one and a half billion were injured. In 2000 alone, deaths amounted to 1,260,000, and it is also noteworthy that around 90% of accidents were due to human error…

59. Resorting to our Heavenly Intercessors should not make us forget the importance of the sign of the cross, to be made before setting out on a journey. With this sign we put ourselves directly under the protection of the Holy Trinity…

60. During a journey it is also beneficial to pray vocally, especially taking turns with our fellow travellers in reciting the prayers, as when reciting the Rosary[26] which, due to its rhythm and gentle repetition, does not distract the driver's attention. This will help to feel immersed in the presence of God, to stay under his protection, and may also give rise to a desire for communal or liturgical celebration, if possible at "spiritually strategic" points along the road or railway (shrines, churches and chapels, including mobile ones)…

“Ten Commandments for Motorists”

I. You shall not kill.

II. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

III. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

IV. Be charitable and help your neighbour in need, especially victims of accidents.

V. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

VI. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

VII. Support the families of accident victims.

VIII. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

IX. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

X. Feel responsible towards others.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Men and women have obvious...differences"

In response to my post on March 30, “On the dignity of women”, bloggers exchanged some very interesting ideas. For example, Anon wrote, “But didn't Paul say 'there is neither slave nor free, Greek nor Jew, Woman nor Man but all are one in Christ Jesus' so how exactly does one's gender make a difference?” I greatly appreciate the answers of two of our female bloggers:

1) Kelly: This passage (from Gal 3:28) does not remove the fact that men and women have obvious physical, psychological, and social differences. The physical differences are the most obvious, but there is also overwhelming evidence that shows us that the male mind is created and operates differently than the female mind.

Why would any one not want to enjoy God's very unique creation of men and women? Our unique female and male natures do not negate equality. I would like to add a little personal experience here:

I was raised with three brothers (no sisters). My best friend was raised in house of all girls & she is now raising all sons. I am raising a son and 2 daughters. There is absolutely NO denying that God created male and female persons VERY differently. This is not stereotyping either. I am blessed with many friends raising boys & girls. We have hilarious conversations about the differences in them.

2) Mindy: (Gal 3:28) is true, and I understand how one could infer, based on this, that to St. Paul gender is meaningless, but that's not in keeping with his later writings about what each gender should do and even wear in church. St. Paul is saying that there is one Christ, and we all reach God through him, so these differences become unimportant. He isn’t saying there is “sameness” between the sexes.

Additional questions came from an Anon: “Why would a loving God teach some of the things taught in the OT about women? The church doesn't currently support these same teachings- in fact, Jesus even condemned some of them. Did the writers of the OT just get God's word wrong, or were these actually God's teachings?”

Anon, this reminds me of the question (Mt 19) the Jewish leaders asked Jesus about why divorce was legal under the Old Law. Jesus responded by saying that it was because of their hardness of hearts that Moses allowed divorce, “but from the beginning it was not so” (v.8). As with divorce, the mistreatment of women in the OT was a result of the hardness of heart of man. In other words, it was a result of the sinful nature of man, and not God’s design. God allowed it as He allows all evil. As you indicated, He has condemned it in Christ and the Church continues His teaching.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Anon asked, “I had an interesting question from my eldest son who is quite politically active. He was reading about politicians who are considered to be excommunicated from the church as a result of their pro-choice support. He wanted to know if they were formally excommunicated or were they considered to have excommunicated themselves? In addition, if he were to support those politicians, does he, then, excommunicate himself? He also wanted to know if other politicians were also considered excommunicated as a result of their support of the death penalty and support of the war.”

Tom responded, “No American politicians have been formally excommunicated for their support of legal abortion.More common than the argument that they have excommunicated themselves is the argument that they should be denied Communion. (Excommunication and denying Communion are two different things, though they're often confused.)There is a fundamental difference between abortion and things like the death penalty and the war. Catholics may legitimately hold the opinion that the death penalty and the war are moral; they may not legitimately hold the opinion that abortion is moral.”

Also, our summer seminarian, Jim, helped to offer this about excommunication, Canon Law, and the Eucharist:

To start with, one can assume that everyone who is excommunicated excommunicates themselves, because it is their actions that incur the penalty of excommunication. Formal excommunications are public, and are imposed after determination of either the negligence or the malicious intent of the person committing the offense. Automatic excommunication occurs when someone knowingly and maliciously commits one of the offenses enumerated in the Code of Canon Law. Secondly, excommunication is a punishment that the Church imposes through the authority granted by Christ and it is used as a “medicinal” penalty, with the hope that the offender will cease his wrong behavior. Thirdly, excommunication means removal from communion with the Body of Christ, the Church, and, as such, means that the person can no longer receive the sacraments, the sources of sanctifying grace, and also loses the spiritual support that flows from them.

This should not be confused with the spiritual punishment for the offense itself, the separation from God that is the result of mortal sin, a result that is incurred automatically by the person’s willingness to commit a serious sin. Excommunication is the Church’s way to draw special attention to the offense, to encourage the person to change his ways, because his soul is at risk of eternal punishment. It is actually a loving action, although the way it’s portrayed is more often as an act of revenge.

While Canon Law states “a person who procures a complete abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication” (Canon #1398), it does not specify that those who advocate abortion, vote for laws making access to abortion easier, or campaign for abortion rights are excommunicated. The person (e.g., a politician) who advocates abortion can be guilty of scandal, and as such is also responsible for all evil that he directly or indirectly causes. Also, this person, by presenting himself to receive the Eucharist, again risks causing scandal, because believers might see the giving of the Eucharist to such a person as either a desecration of the Eucharist, or tacit approval of that person’s advocacy, or as a sign of weakness of the Church and its clergy. Canon Law dictates that the Eucharist may be denied to an individual for their own protection, because their actions have demonstrated a disregard for the teachings of the Church. St. Paul cautions the Corinthians that receiving the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily, that is, not in a state of grace, is a profaning of the Sacrament and invites judgment on the person receiving. In general, extreme caution is taken when denying someone Communion because we never know what it in a person’s heart; only God and the person knows.

Support of the death penalty or any war is not included in the eight types of offenses which under Canon Law incur the penalty of excommunication. One can, in good faith, disagree over the need for the death penalty in individual cases or whether the conditions for a just war are met. But to willingly go against the Church on a grave matter of dogma can incur the penalty of separating one from the love of God and condemning that person to eternal punishment. For example, voting for someone who advocates abortion because that person advocates abortion is a grave sin, and if it is done with full knowledge and full consent, it is a mortal sin.

There are many other considerations involved in the matter of either excommunication or the withholding of the Eucharist, but the most important thing to remember is that each of these are evidence of the Church’s loving concern for the souls entrusted to her, and her desire to lead all to eternal union with God.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day!!

Happy Father’s Day!! The following is a reflection written by Msgr Thomas Wells on June 8, 1997. It comes from the book, “From the Pastor’s Desk”, which is a collection of his writings.

“ The Wells are morning people. I call the homes of my family with reluctance after nine in the evening, but at seven in the morning, I can be certain of wide-awake receptions. This we get from my father. Any day, by 4:30 or 5:00, he would be at the breakfast table reading the morning paper before he went off to 6:30 morning Mass. I often chuckle about it now.

Many mornings I would wake up early and come downstairs just to be with him. How he must have enjoyed the peace and quiet, and how he must have dreaded hearing my footsteps, since he knew the non-stop questions and comments that would break his morning quiet. But I guess, in the mysterious ways of growing up, I must have sensed this was one time I could have time alone with him.

As he grew older (and probably read the magazine articles telling him how he should have been ‘father’) my father would sometimes say that he regretted that he rarely did the things fathers are “supposed” to do with their children: we never fished and we rarely played catch or took hikes together. He did try to help with homework; that was a disaster as he, the engineer, tried to help me, who even today cannot count beyond the number of my fingers, with math. What he tried hardest to do was to teach us how to think. The dinner table, especially as I got into junior and senior high school age, was torture. Nightly, we would be questioned (interrogated, I thought at the time) about what we learned in school and how this knowledge fit into the larger picture of life. Actually of course, my father’s questions were only props to enable him to launch into a nightly session into one or another aspect of life. Since he spent most of his day in the car going from one construction site to another, I suppose he had much time to reflect on various lessons needed to be learned by his children. It was awful!

I suppose our utter lack of response to or appreciation for his lectures must have frustrated my father from time to time; but, let me assure you, he was never deterred. The marvelous joke of it all, of course, is that, ultimately, he won. Unappreciated lectures are a big part of my job. I only pray that they are delivered with some of the love and concern for his children’s growth that motivated my teacher.”

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Immaculate Heart of Mary - Gospel

Gospel - Luke 2:41-51

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are welcome!!
Today is the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Following is an article from about devotion to the Sacred Heart:

"This devotion, promoted especially by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (d. 1690), was and is a way of softening the image of God as primarily lawgiver, judge and punisher.

The Scriptures use those images of God, but they also give ones less threatening. Devotion to the Sacred Heart says two things at the same time: Jesus is indeed fully human (people regard the heart as the seat of human emotions) and God forgives those who repent.

This devotion does not suggest that God is indifferent to good and evil. Jesus' description of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46) and the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) remind us that God takes our choices very seriously. Heaven is full of people who cooperated with God's grace, using their freedom wisely.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart started to become popular in the late 1600s in France, perhaps as God's answer to Jansenism, which had begun there earlier in that century. In A Concise Dictionary of Theology, Gerald O'Collins, S.J., and Edward Farrugia, S.J., describe Jansenism as "a theological and spiritual movement, characterized by moral rigidity and pessimism about the human condition" (Paulist, rev. ed., 2000).

Devotion to the Sacred Heart can foster repentance and hope among people who might otherwise despair of ever pleasing God.

Like all popular devotions, this one is optional. You could be saved without ever saying a prayer to the Sacred Heart or even believing that Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque*.

Private devotions approved by the Church, however, can help us recall fundamental gospel messages—in this case, God's unquenchable love and willingness to forgive.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart reminds us that repentance, not despair, is the proper response to sin. No one can commit a sin exceeding God's ability to forgive."
*These are some of the revelations given to St Margaret Mary by our Lord:

"And He showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin into which Satan hurls such crowds of them, that made Him form the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which it contains, in order that those who desire to render Him and procure for Him all the honor and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which this Heart is the source.

He should be honored under the figure of this Heart of flesh, and its image should be exposed...He promised me that wherever this image should be exposed with a view to showing it special honor, He would pour forth His blessings and graces. This devotion was the last effort of His love that He would grant to men in these latter ages, in order to withdraw them from the empire of Satan which He desired to destroy, and thus to introduce them into the sweet liberty of the rule of His love, which He wished to restore in the hearts of all those who should embrace this devotion.".....

"The devotion is so pleasing to Him that He can refuse nothing to those who practice it."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Mt 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,and whoever says to his brother,
Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

St. Anthony of Padua

The following are excerpts from an online article written about today's saint, St. Anthony of Padua. To view the full text, please click on the title of this post.

"The list of human concerns for which Anthony is the patron is amazingly varied. The array of wonders attributed to Anthony in story and legend is equally astounding in its variety. He was in two places at the same time; at his prayer, a donkey knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, after a dare by an unbeliever; fishes lifted their heads above the water to listen as he preached to them, after bored believers turned away; a foot severed by an ax was rejoined to its leg. Are these legends true? Let us first see if we can trace the line of facts regarding this immensely popular saint...

Anthony was born in 1195 (13 years after St. Francis) in Lisbon (now Portugal, then a part of Spain), and given the name of Fernando at Baptism. His parents, Martin and Mary Bulhom, apparently belonged to one of the prominent families of the city. At the age of 15 he entered the religious order of St. Augustine. Monastery life was hardly peaceful for young Fernando, nor conducive to prayer and study, as his old friends came to visit frequently and engaged in vehement political discussions…Fernando was… ordained a priest …After some challenges from the prior of the Augustinians, he was allowed to leave that priory and receive the Franciscan habit, taking the name Anthony…

Anthony saw that words were obviously not enough. He had to show gospel poverty. People wanted more than self-disciplined, even penitent priests. They wanted genuineness of gospel living. And in Anthony they found it. They were moved by who he was, more than what he said. Despite his efforts, not everyone listened. Legend has it that one day, faced with deaf ears, Anthony went to the river and preached to the fishes. That, reads the traditional tale, got everyone’s attention.

Anthony traveled tirelessly in both northern Italy and southern France—perhaps 400 trips—choosing to enter the cities where the heretics were strongest. Yet the sermons he has left behind rarely show him taking direct issue with the heretics. As the historian Clasen interprets it, Anthony preferred to present the grandeur of Christianity in positive ways. It was no good to prove people wrong: Anthony wanted to win them to the right, the healthiness of real sorrow and conversion, the wonder of reconciliation with a loving Father…

Back in Padua, he preached his last and most famous Lenten sermons. The crowds were so great—sometimes 30,000—that the churches could not hold them, so he went into the piazzas or the open fields. People waited all night to hear him. He needed a bodyguard to protect him from the people armed with scissors who wanted to snip off a piece of his habit as a relic. After his morning Mass and sermon, he would hear confessions. This sometimes lasted all day—as did his fasting.

The great energy he had expended during the Lent of 1231 left him exhausted. He went to a little town near Padua, but seeing death coming close, he wanted to return to the city that he loved. The journey in a wagon weakened him so much, however, that he had to stop at Arcella. He had to bless Padua from a distance, as Francis had blessed Assisi.

At Arcella, he received the last sacraments, sang and prayed with the friars there. When one of them asked Anthony what he was staring at so intently, he answered, "I see my Lord!" He died in peace a short time after that. He was only 36 and had been a Franciscan but 10 years. The following year, his friend, Pope Gregory IX, moved by the many miracles that occurred at Anthony’s tomb, declared him a saint.

Anthony was a simple and humble friar who preached the Good News lovingly and with fearless courage. The youth whom his fellow friars thought was uneducated became one of the great preachers and theologians of his day. He was a man of great penance and apostolic zeal. But he was primarily a saint of the people.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


A blogger asked this past weekend about "JustFAITH", a program that the parish is promoting. The following response was written by Lorraine Priestley, one of our parishioners who helps out with this social justice program:

"JustFaith is an adult formation program for those interested in social justice ministry. JustFaith provides a program for the participants to grow in their faith commitment to the gospel message to care for the poor and the vulnerable and to become advocates of justice. (Psalms 82:3-4)

It is a program to prepare us to apply the basic seven themes of Catholic teaching on social justice which is focused on:

- the dignity of the human person,
- the family as the central social institution,
- protection of human rights and our responsibility to one another
- reaching out to the poor and vulnerable (Mt 25:31-46),
- the dignity of work and the rights of the worker,
- solidarity with our neighbor and
- stewards of God’s creation.

It is a planned 30 session curriculum with a syllabus which includes, books, videos, discussion, prayer, two retreats and four immersion experiences. It is structured very similarly to the successful RCIA program and combines the features of long term process to allow change and growth to occur, access to education and strong emphasis on community building. It is now in its fifteen year and is sponsored by Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Relief Services.

For more information go to"

Also, this info was on the bulletin insert about JustFaith:

When is it?
Monday evenings, Sept 07- June 08 (except holidays + school vacations)
Other groups may meet during the day and on different evenings if there is sufficient interest

What is involved?
-weekly 2 hour meetings
-retreats in September and May
-four visits with people who have experienced injustice
-about two hours of reading / wk
-Cost: $145 per person for books (in installments; also, scholarships available)

If interested, contact Mary Tull, St Andrew parish Religious Education Office at 301-649-3555 or

Monday, June 11, 2007

"The Seed"

The following is a modern day parable that an Anon posted recently. It speaks to us about virtue and vice, especially in the corporate world (although the real hero might be the spouse of the new CEO):

"The Seed"

A successful Christian business man was growing old and knew it was timeto choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.

He said, "It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you. " The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. "I am going to give each one of you a SEED today -one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO"

One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.

Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn't have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by--still nothing in Jim's pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn't say anything to his colleagues, however. He justkept watering and fertilizing the soil - He so wanted the seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Jim told his wife that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick at his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful--in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him!

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his youngexecutives. Jim just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants,trees, and flowers you have grown," said the CEO. "Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!" All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the financial director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, "The CEO knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!"

When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed - Jim told him the story. The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, "Behold your next Chief Executive! His name is Jim!"

Jim couldn't believe it. Jim couldn't even grow his seed. How could he be the new CEO the others said? Then the CEO said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead - it was not possiblefor them to grow. All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive!"

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Corpus Christi - homily

I am in a great mood today! Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, one of my favorite feast days of the year. I am in such a good mood that I am going to give out some money. I have a stack of bills here - $ 20, $ 50, and $ 100 bills. Ok, so it’s Monopoly money, but it’s still money! You can still use it as money, right? It looks like money and feels like money. You can take it down to the mall or the grocery store and use it to buy what you need, right? No? So, what you’re telling me is that this money is not real, and is worthless in the real world.

Does anyone know why I would talk about Monopoly money on the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ? It’s because many people – even many Catholics – say that the Eucharist is just Monopoly money. They say it’s not real, and it’s a symbol only. Monopoly money represents money only; it is only a symbol of money. But, it’s not real, and is worthless in the real world. If the Eucharist is only a symbol of the body and blood of Christ, then it’s not real and worthless in the real world.

To those who say that the Eucharist is only a symbol, I ask this: where in the Bible is this taught? Does Jesus teach that the Eucharist is only a representation of his Body and Blood? No! In fact, he teaches the opposite. In John 6, Christ says over and over again that this teaching is for real: “the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you…my flesh is real food, my blood is real drink…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever”.

Now, the people who heard this discourse heard him literally. How do we know? Because they said, “this is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” And, they left Jesus. They had been following him every day; they had seen his miracles and healings, heard his teachings, and witnessed his cures. But, they left him over the Eucharist. And, this is a big point, he didn’t stop them! He didn’t say, ‘hey, you all misunderstood me. I wasn’t speaking literally’. He didn’t do that because he WAS speaking literally! Jesus taught about the Eucharist in John 6, and then instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, as St Paul reminds us in today’s second reading.

The Apostles and disciples took him literally also, and centered their lives on the Eucharist (Acts 2:42). The early Church began to develop a theology of the Eucharist, actually naming it the Eucharist (which means ‘thanksgiving’)around 100 AD. Throughout the history of the Catholic Church is the strong and unwavering teaching that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ under the signs of bread and wine.

I have experienced a daily encounter with Christ in the Eucharist for the past 15 years, thanks be to God. It is really Him! Many of the kids from our school have come to Adoration on Friday nights, where we bring the Eucharist out of the tabernacle onto the altar. Ask the 3rd graders who were here- they’ll tell you they had a real experience of the presence of Jesus, especially when I processed the Eucharist through the Church. Each one of you is invited to experience the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist – certainly in this and every Mass -but, every Friday night here in the Church from 7-8 pm for Adoration… it’s really Him.

Just before Holy Communion at every Mass, I give the invitation for ‘all faithful Catholics come receive our Lord’. I say this, mainly because of what St Paul writes in the few lines after what we hear in the second reading. He says that whoever receives the Eucharist unworthily “brings judgement on himself”. I don’t want anyone receiving unworthily and bringing judgement on himself. That is serious business! To receive worthily means to be in a state of Grace. If we have stepped out of Grace through mortal sin, we can’t receive the Eucharist until we’ve gone to Confession. It itself is a mortal sin to receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. I know we worry about what people will think if we don’t receive, but we should be primarily focused on what He thinks. Above anything else, we should respect the Eucharist! It is out of love for Him and for you that I say what I say before Holy Communion.

I preach on the Eucharist so much because it is the love of my life. It is the greatest treasure on Earth! I have experienced so much joy and peace from the Eucharist, and I want to pass that on to you. It’s like what Jesus says in John 15:11: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete”.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

True love through chastity

We had two interesting but contrasting comments recently about chastity. The first one presents the sad effects of a culture which actively promotes false love through unchastity, especially to our young people. The other one shows the Christian approach to true love through chastity:

1) Mindy: “Several years ago, I believe it was the National Institute of Child Health & Development who conducted a study about the sexual behavior of 12th grades in different places in America. The purpose of the study was to determine whether or not kids were more sexually active in urban or suburban areas, and their findings were really disturbing. (This was about 2 years ago, so my numbers may not be exact, but I'm confident they are close- it made a big impression!):

45% of suburban kids and 40% of urban kids have sex, defined as actual intercourse, outside of any romantic relationship. The study didn't even consider any stats on the teenage practices of "hooking-up", and I can only imagine what those numbers would be.

If our youth, almost HALF, are acting with such disconnect between body and heart, we are miserably failing our kids. One generation may have started the sexual revolution, but look who is paying the price for it. I welcome more talks on chastity…”


Jesus taught us by His death and resurrection: True love always comes by way of the cross.

Being chaste until and within marriage, committing day in and day out to the self-giving and self-denial that life-long marriage and childrearing require of us, being open to God's gift of new life in a generous and responsible way, and in this day and age, even carrying to term an unexpected child - these are difficult tasks, and our fallen nature rebels against them. The world recognizes this natural rebellion, our desire to express human love in sexual intimacy, to seek pleasure and run from pain, to fulfill our own needs and desires while giving ill-attention to the needs and desires of others - in a word, to live our lives for ourselves. Mistaking these desires for human nature - rather than fallen human nature - the world's response is to laugh at Church teaching, to make a mockery of the Church and her seemingly archaic rules on sex and marriage, because they are so difficult, because they require so much of us.

Yet those who seek to follow the way of Our Lord understand that much is required of us. This is precisely the point. God calls us out of our fallenness, out of our self-centeredness and pleasure-seeking, to follow the way of perfection, to live in a way that is, by natural means, difficult - at times, even impossible. Many complain that Church teachings on sex and marriage are unrealistic, that the Church is out of touch. If we were meant to live by human means alone, to follow these teachings on our own strength, I would say the world's complaints were absolutely right. Indeed, by my own strength, I failed at almost every one of them.

But God demands perfection of us - perfect chastity, perfect purity, and perfect love - not only because it is the way of life that will fulfill our deepest desires, but just as importantly, because when we fail at living this perfection (and we will fail) our heavenly and merciful Father wants us to fall to our knees, to realize our own human bankruptcy, and rely on Him and His grace to live and to love.


Friday, June 08, 2007

FW's anniversary

It was seven years ago today that our good friend, Msgr. Thomas Wells, was found dead in his rectory in Germantown. A man who was drunk and high broke into the rectory and stabbed Fr Wells to death the night before. The people gathered for daily Mass on June 8, 2000, and when Fr Wells didn’t show up in the chapel at Mass time, they went looking for him in the rectory. I can’t imagine the horror they must have experienced when they found his body lying motionless on the floor of his ransacked bedroom.

My Mom called me later that day; I was in India on a seminary mission trip. I had just talked with her a few days prior, so I knew there was something wrong. When she told me the awful and horrific news, I almost keeled over. The priest who was with me and the two other seminarians in India was a good friend of Fr Wells. I asked to go pray in the chapel of the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity. Thankfully, he led me there, and persuaded the sisters to let me use the chapel (a no-no after hours in the motherhouse). The next sixty minutes or so was heart-wrenching, but also amazing. There I was, praying in the presence of Christ, one floor above the tomb of Mother Teresa, about my good friend who had just been killed. Basically, I was talking to Jesus about one saint with the body of another saint just below me.

Thankfully, the director of the mission trip flew me home for the funeral. It was an enormous crowd of people who came to the funeral at Sacred Heart in Bowie (one of the parishes where FW served). Estimates said there were 3,000 people there. My good friend, Fr Jim Stack, gave an incredible homily, thanks to the Holy Spirit. He focused on three things that summed up FW: family, life, and the Eucharist. Fr Stack used the same three points of emphasis at my first Mass of Thanksgiving last May.

As I said at Mass this morning, the peace I get in the wake of Fr Wells’s death is that he gave his life to Jesus Christ. He lived with such extraordinary faith. He had an alarm system at the rectory at Mother Seton in Germantown, but chose not to use it because he said “there are too many buttons”. I think it was for a far greater reason: he wasn’t worried about what would happen to him in this life. It’s not that he didn’t care about his body or this life; he did. But, he lived in this world with his heart and soul focused on Heaven. He often railed against a culture which put total stock in this life only, and that we need to live to be 100 or something. He lived for Heaven, and wasn’t worried if his time on Earth came up short (it did; he lived 56 years only).

Finally, I remember talking with Fr Wells about a statement my father once made: “I’d rather live half a life doing the things I want to do than live a full life without them”. This came true in my Dad’s life because he died at 51. The discussion with Fr Wells was a fruitful one because it showed me that my Dad’s approach was not entirely selfish; in fact, Fr Wells said that it could be seen as Christian in nature. In other words, God wants us to enjoy this life (in moderation, of course), and not worry about when we are going to die. If we have our eyes on Heaven, like Fr Wells did, we will not worry about tomorrow so much that we fail to enjoy today.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Mk 12:28-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
He is One and there is no other than he.
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

On the lighter side

This might be a good time to lighten up things on this site. The following are tidbits of humor. They are excerpts from “Catholic humor” and “Kids and Church”. Both of these sources of fun were emailed to me by my Mom a while ago. Thanks, Mom!
AMEN: The only part of a prayer that everyone knows.

BULLETIN: Your receipt for attending Mass

JONAH: The original "Jaws" story.

JUSTICE: When kids have kids of their own.

MAGI: The most famous trio to attend a baby shower.

PEW: A medieval torture device still found inCatholic churches.

PROCESSION: The ceremonial formation at thebeginning of Mass consisting of altar servers, thecelebrant, and late parishioners looking for seats.

RECESSIONAL: The ceremonial procession at theconclusion of Mass led by parishioners trying tobeat the crowd to the parking lot.

RELICS: People who have been going to Mass for so long, they actually know when to sit, kneel, and stand

Six-year-old Angie and her four-year-old brother Joel were sitting together in church. Joel giggled, sang, and talked out loud. Finally, his big sister had had enough. "You're not supposed to talk out loud in church." "Why? Who's going to stop me?" Joel asked. Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, "See those two men standing by the door? They're hushers."
A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5 and Ryan 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'" Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus!"
A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?" "I wouldn't know what to say," the girl replied. "Just say what you hear Mommy say," the wife answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Open to correction like anyone else

“In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on course”. – St. Boniface (saint of the day)
Does every priest offer proper correction in the confessional? Unfortunately, no. But, because priests act in the person of Christ in the Sacrament of Confession, the chances are very good that it is Christ who is offering the correction. And, if it’s Christ offering correction, then it’s what the person needs to hear, and will lead to his peace.

Monday, June 04, 2007

"No other path to peace"

A priest or religious is obligated to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or “the Office” several times every day – morning, daytime, evening, and at night. It consists mostly of psalms, prayers, and readings. The following is from today's Office of Readings and is a timely reflection for us, especially with regard to the comments under Saturday's post. It is taken from the teachings of St. Dorotheus, abbot:

“Let us examine, my brothers, how it happens that many times a person hears something unpleasant and goes away untroubled, as if he had not heard it; and yet on some occasions he is disturbed and troubled as soon as he hears such words. What is the cause of this inconsistency? Is there one reason for it or many? I recognize a number of them, and one in particular is the source of all the others. As someone has put it: Occasionally this results from the condition in which the person happens to be.

If a person is engaged in prayer or contemplation, he can easily take a rebuke from his brother and be unmoved by it. On other occasions affection toward a brother is a strong reason; love bears all things with the most patience. Another reason may be contempt; if a person despises the one who is trying to trouble him and acts as if he is the viliest of all creatures and considers it beneath his dignity even to look at him, or to answer him, or to mention the affront and insults to anyone else, he will not be moved by his words.

The result of this, as I have said, that no one is disturbed or troubled if he scorns and disregards what is said. But on the other hand, it is also possible that a person will be disturbed and troubled by his brother’s words, either because he is not in a good frame of mind, or because he hates his brother. There are a great number of other reasons as well. Yet the reason for all disturbance, if we look to its roots, is that no one finds fault with himself.

This is the source of all annoyance and distress. This is why we sometimes have no rest. We must not be surprised when we are rebuked by holy men. We have no other path to peace but this.

We have seen that this is true in many cases, and, in our laziness and desire for rest, we hope or believe that we have entered upon a straight path when we are impatient with everyone, and yet cannot bear to blame ourselves.

This is the way we are. It does not matter how many virtues a man may have, even if they are beyond number and limit. If he has turned from the path of self-accusation, he will never find peace. He will always be troubled himself, or else he will be a source of trouble for others and all his labors will be wasted."

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Trinity Sunday - homily

A mother was talking with her three-year-old son about God one day. The little boy said, “oh, you mean, Harold”. “No, son, we’re talking about God”, she said. “Yeah, Harold”, the boy responded. “Why do you call God ‘Harold’?”, she asked puzzily. “Mommy, we all do. ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven, Harold be thy name”…! Ok, so that one looked good on paper, at least.

Who is God? This is a question that has been on our minds and hearts ever since we’ve existed as a race. And, for thousands of years, we didn’t know who God is. God remained invisible and silent for so long. We see in the Old Testament that God begins to slowly reveal to us who He is. And, then, of course, with Jesus, God reveals Himself fully to us. Christ reveals that God is Father, Son, and Spirit. Three persons, one God. It is a great mystery, of course – one which we cannot grasp fully. We can’t understand how this is true but we believe that it is true. We’ll profess who God is in a few minutes in the Creed, and hopefully ponder the amazing words we say.

God is Father. God is a loving Father…he loves us. He loves us unconditionally. He loves us for who we are. He sees us as very good; He created us that way. He is always there for us, and will never leave us. He always keeps his promises to us. He is our Father who loves us, and we are His children.

The Father loves us so much that He sent His only Son to us: God’s Son comes down to Earth! What was the whole reason of Christ’s mission? To reveal the Father and the Father’s love. The Father and the Son are one. As Christ says in today’s Gospel, “everything the Father has is mine”. The Son has the Father’s love and brings it to us so that we may share in it. The Son is the Father’s love in the flesh…the Father’s love Incarnate. The Son is the Father’s love personified; when we see the Son, we see the love of the Father.

The Son reveals the infinite love the Father has for us. He tells stories about the Father’s love. He says that even if we leave the Father’s love by squandering His inheritance on a life of dissipation, as soon as we turn back toward the Father, He will embrace us with His love. The Son not only teaches us about the Father’s love, he shows us the Father’s love on the Cross. The Cross is the greatest sign of God’s love in the world.

The Son sends his Spirit to us so that we may receive the Father’s love in a real way. We may have a hard time picturing or imagining the Holy Spirit. The best analogy I’ve ever heard about the Holy Spirit has to do with coffee. Imagine a coffee cup overflowing with coffee. This is the love between the Father and the Son. They have infinite love for one another that overflows and generates a third divine person, the Holy Spirit. It’s like a husband and wife whose love overflows and creates a third person, a baby. The baby is then the love between his father and mother. So, too, the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son.

When we receive the Spirit, then, we receive the love of the Father and the Son. This happens in very real ways – first at Baptism, then the Eucharist, Confirmation, and all the sacraments. Even if we leave the Father’s love, we can receive it in the Spirit through Confession. The Father invites us to a relationship with Himself, and gives us the Spirit to receive His love. A life in the Spirit is a life in the Father’s love.

Whenever we come to Mass, we see the Trinitarian life at work. The whole Mass is a prayer to the Father through the Son and in the Spirit. The Eucharist is a sacrifice offered to the Father through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we leave this place, we are to live our lives in the Trinitarian formula. Having received the Father’s love, we offer it back to Him through the Son and in the Spirit.

May each one of us know the love of our Heavenly Father. May we live in His love…bask in His love…be soaked in His love. May we offer our love back to Him through the Son and in the Spirit.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Saturday's Gospel + commentary

Congratulations to our extraordinary eighth graders who graduate today!! We are all very proud of you all!

The following is today’s Gospel reading from Mass. Below it is an excerpt of a commentary from Wikipedia; to view the full text, please click on the title of this post.

Gospel - Mk 11:27-33

Jesus and his disciples returned once more to Jerusalem.
As he was walking in the temple area,
the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders
approached him and said to him,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
Or who gave you this authority to do them?”
Jesus said to them, “I shall ask you one question.
Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.”

They discussed this among themselves and said,
“If we say, ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say,
‘Then why did you not believe him?’
But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”–they feared the crowd,
for they all thought John really was a prophet.
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”

Then Jesus said to them,
“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
The priests, teachers, elders, Pharisees and Herodians are described as coming up to Jesus, and questioning his authority to do the things that he is doing; John makes it clear that they are referring to his actions in scattering the livestock and overturning the tables of the moneychangers, but the synoptics imply that it is in reference to his teaching. The synoptics recount that Jesus tricked them by calling into question their own authority or allegiances.
First he asks his opponents to say whether John the Baptist’s authority to baptize was divine or human. They do not believe John had divine authority, and so wanting to answer that he was just baptizing as a man—but this would run into conflict with the crowd, who believe in John's divine authority. Since the Temple authorities care so much about what the crowd thinks, this leaves them unable to answer truthfully, and so they are forced to claim that they don't know, exposing their divided loyalties and making them look incompetent. Jesus responds that in consequence he won't tell them what his authority is.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Christ is real

1) Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are welcome!!

2) Our summer seminarian, Jim Boccabella, arrived this morning and will be here for about two months. We will introduce him this weekend at the Masses. If you get a chance, please extend to him a warm greeting of welcome!
Recently, we had an exchange of comments based on my post about chastity and St. Joseph. In it, Anon wrote the following: “I don't mean to sound combative or inconsolable, and I guess I come on to this blog site because I have some hope, but it is a tortuous mystery to me why so many people do not experience what you (i.e., Tom and Fran) describe. We're out here in large numbers. Some people can't bring themselves to pray because they have absolutely no sense that there is anyone to pray to. I know that there are no real answers to this - I say it here because this is not something one can talk to people about in regular social situations.”

Thanks very much, Anon – great comment! While I am sorry that you are experiencing the life of faith as a “tortuous mystery”, I am grateful for your openness and candor. In particular, your line, “We’re out here in large numbers”, struck me. I am aware that many people who come on this site find it difficult to relate to those who have lived or are living a devout life. One of the main reasons of having this site is to reach out to the “large numbers” who struggle with their faith and / or morals. I am passionate about this outreach because I have been among the “large numbers” at different points in my life, and others have reached out to me to help me in my faith.

We all have to start somewhere in our lives of holiness. Yes, it started when we were baptized and received the life of God within us. But, it’s when we get older that we either make the choice to follow Christ or to reject Him. For many years, I rejected the life of holiness because I was more interested in doing what I wanted to do. My choice to reject Christ constantly was probably more indirect than it was direct, but it was still a choice that I knew wasn’t right. In looking back on those years, I realize that it’s because that I really didn't know Christ. I knew about Him but I didn’t know Him. I didn’t really pray because, like so many, I had “absolutely no sense that there is anyone to pray to”.

Anon, the best thing I can say to you or anyone who is having a hard time living the Christian life is to get to know Christ. People in my life, in different ways, said the same thing to me, and it dramatically changed my life for the better. I don’t just mean to go to Christ indirectly through others or through this site (hopefully!). I mean go to Him directly. Get to know the person of Jesus Christ as you would get to know a new friend. The best way to get to know someone is to spend time with them…to be in their presence. Jesus is present on Earth in the Eucharist. He is really there in the tabernacle! He is as real in Church as your best friend is in his/her home.

Holy Mass is the best way for us to be in the presence of Christ because He comes within us during Holy Communion. You can’t get any closer than that! The next best way is to pray in the Presence of the Eucharist. You (or anyone) can make a visit to a chapel for a few minutes, or even longer – for example, we’ll have a Holy Hour tonight at St. Andrew’s from 7-8. If praying in Church is not possible, you can open up Scripture to get to know Christ; reading a chapter of one of the Gospels each day is very helpful for many people.

I truly believe with every fiber of my being that if you (or anyone) go to Christ in these ways, you will have a strong sense that there is someone there. I guarantee it. How? Because I (and so many others) have done this and experienced that Christ is there. For anyone who has tried to get to know Christ in these ways but has not experienced his presence, I would ask them to please try again. He is there. He is real. He is as real as the nose on your face. He is as real as your best friend. He is as real as anything in life.