Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy Feast of St Andrew, Apostle!!

1) DC ‘Hood vs. St Andrew / St John the Baptist parishes, 7:30 tonight, Wheaton HS. Go ‘Hood!

2) Eucharistic Adoration, 7-8 pm tonight, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!
Happy Feast Day, St Andrew Apostle parish!! The following is an article from about our patron saint:

Andrew was St. Peter’s brother, and was called with him. "As [Jesus] was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is now called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him" (Matthew 4:18-20).

John the Evangelist presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus. "Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day" (John 1:38-39a).

Little else is said about Andrew in the Gospels. Before the multiplication of the loaves, it was Andrew who spoke up about the boy who had the barley loaves and fishes (see John 6:8-9). When the Gentiles went to see Jesus, they came to Philip, but Philip then had recourse to Andrew (see John 12:20-22).

Legend has it that Andrew preached the Good News in what is now modern Greece and Turkey and was crucified at Patras.

As in the case of all the apostles except Peter and John, the Gospels give us little about the holiness of Andrew. He was an apostle. That is enough. He was called personally by Jesus to proclaim the Good News, to heal with Jesus' power and to share his life and death. Holiness today is no different. It is a gift that includes a call to be concerned about the Kingdom, an outgoing attitude that wants nothing more than to share the riches of Christ with all people.

“...[T]he Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word’” (Acts 6:2-4).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Evil is all around us"

This is obviously a very difficult day for all Washington Redskins fans. I'm sure that there are many sports teams who have a familial quality to them, but it seems even more so with the Skins. So, when one of our players dies, it's like a family member dying. Life seems to stop, or at least everything else seems to pale in comparison with the tragedy of the loss of a loved one. And, Sean Taylor was loved.

We don't know yet what exactly happened on Monday morning or the days, weeks, and maybe even years leading up to it, but it is a tragedy. A young man who appeared to be changing his life dies at the age of 24. He showed so much promise in professional and personal ways. He was arguably the MVP of the Redskins; his absence in the past 2 1/2 games has played a major factor in those games resulting in losses. He changed many of the games he played in and probably had the most intimidating presence of any football player on the planet.

The readings at Mass this morning seem to lead in to this, so I told the students and adults who were there that nothing lasts forever in this world except for Jesus. As massive as the Temple in Jerusalem was, it was destroyed. As dominating as the Roman Empire was, it collapsed. As powerful as Sean Taylor was, he died. Only Christ lives forever. It is my great hope that Sean lived with Christ and died with Christ. "I hope he went to Church on Sunday" (the old line from Fr Wells).

It has been great to see the Redskins and their fans turn to prayer in such a strong way. I hope that continues...that we all continue to pray for the Taylor family. Also, we pray for those responsible for his death, and try to forgive them. But, in our grief, let us not get lazy in our theology and blame God for this - "God had other plans for Sean" was a quote I've seen already. Sean Taylor died because someone chose to kill him. God didn't kill him nor did He cause him to die. Sean's death is a part of God's passive will (in which He allows evil), not His active will.

One final thing for all of us to remember, which is another quote from FW: "evil is all around us". We are reminded of this every day, but especially when a direct act of evil takes the life of someone we love.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christ the King - homily

Who is the greatest king? We can look back through history to see great kings who have reigned during different genres and times. I’ll throw out a few examples…the King of…Pop (Michael Jackson)! The King of Swat (Babe Ruth). Of course, the King, himself (Elvis Presley). Even fast food has a king- Burger King! This one might reign supreme because I was reading an article that said the average American purchases fast food sixteen days a month. Home of the Whopper! Anyway, in the United States, we have unofficial kings; other countries have official kings who we read about and have studied.

When does Christ become a king? It’s not at birth – he is born in a stable, in a manger. He’s not a king growing up – he lives a very poor life. It’s not until his final hours that he is treated as a king; and this was done in mocking fashion. He is sarcastically called, “King of the Jews”. His throne is a cross. His crown is made out of thorns. And yet, this is where Christ actually begins his kingship. St Paul reminds us that is through the “blood of the cross” that Christ brings about our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins, thus making him our King.

When we are talking about kings, we are talking about power. If we add up all of the power of all of the kings who have ever lived – official and unofficial – it still doesn’t add up to the power of Christ. No king has the power Christ has: power over death. Power over sin. He is King of the Universe, King of the living and the dead. He is the King of Kings. He has power over all things. He uses his power for us, not against us.

An example of this is from today’s Gospel. While the soldiers and religious leaders are mocking Jesus, they are acknowledging his power. They say to him three times, “save yourself”. These are similar to the three temptations of Satan in the desert. Jesus can save himself in the blink of an eye. But, he uses his power to save us, not himself.

Is Christ the king of our lives? Is there another person or thing who has power over or against us? For our young people, it might be popularity or acceptance. For the adults, it could be success or wealth. For all of us, it might be a bad habit that actually controls us. These things have power against us. Christ’s power is for us. We truly share in his power and kingship. In fact, anyone who is baptized in Christ is baptized as a king.

How do we approach Christ as King? Do we reject and mock him as king like the soldiers and Jewish leaders did? Or, do we believe in him as our king like the criminal next to him who said, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”. If we show that same faith in Christ as our king, we will ultimately hear the same words from our Lord: “Today you will be with me in paradise”. This is a promise that he gives to no one else in the Gospel – not to any of the Apostles or disciples…not even his mother!

We hear almost the same thing from Christ in John 6:53 about the Eucharist. He says, “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. As we receive our King today in Holy Communion – and those who receive in the hand are to make a throne for our king – let us hear him say to our hearts what he said to the criminal next to him: “today you will be with me in paradise”.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A timely reflection

1)Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All those who wish to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are invited!!

2)DC ‘Hood vs. St Andrew / St John the Baptist parishes, Fri., Nov 30, 7:30 pm, Wheaton High School. Go ‘Hood!
The following is a reflection (11/27/94) by Msgr. Thomas Wells from the book, “From the Pastor’s Desk”:

“TBS gives thanks to Clint Eastwood…Parental discretion advised.” I believe these lines faithfully quote part of a widely shown Thanksgiving week advertisement on TV and lets us know to whom the owners of Turner broadcasting, at least, give thanks during this wonderful holiday weekend. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving you may have noticed the Postal Service announcement that either this year or next, they will cease to reproduce Nativity scenes on postage stamps at Christmas. This, I suppose, is because mail delivery has become so efficient that divine help is no longer necessary to enhance service. We have begun what offense avoiding merchants safely call, “the holiday season,” and judging by the parking lot at Montgomery Mall this weekend, our response has been early and fervent. And, oh yes, this is the first Sunday of Advent.

Folks, ours is an increasingly and in some ways, militantly, secular age. TBS can announce an all-day barrage of Eastwood movies by confusing the movie star with God and probably not even realize their blasphemy. How many even spend time at all asking the question, “Thank who?” as they celebrate the fourth Thursday of November? Let us not be naïve; those who have given so much time to eliminating any reference to the birthday of the Lord from school holiday celebrations have been enormously successful. Many children of supposedly Christian heritage have no knowledge of any seasonal story beyond that of Santa.

In the first reading from the Mass of Friday of the first week of Advent, the Prophet Isaiah (Is 29:17-24) says, “Out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.” Certainly our age, as much as that of the prophets, is one of gloom and darkness, but the Advent message will not allow us to lose hope. For any who keep focused on Christ, there will be sureness of vision. But even more importantly, for those of us who have been baptized into Christ, there is a reminder that we – His Church, his people – are empowered by the Spirit to be His light that shines in the fog and gloom of secular unhappiness. It is not enough for us simply to protect ourselves from the darkness of unbelief, but also we must ask Him to use us to light the way for those lost in the darkness of the world’s deceiving message.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Amazing Confirmandi!

On Sunday night, Bishop Holley celebrated the sacrament of Confirmation during the 6 pm Mass. What a night it was! There were over sixty confirmandi, mostly made up of our eighth grade students. As usual, His Excellency took his time with each person while sealing them with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, caking on the chrism oil and looking intently at each young man or woman. This made an enormous impression on our students with whom I spoke yesterday about Sunday night. One of the kids said that "time stood still" as she was up there with the bishop.

The students made quite an impression on the bishop, as well. As he was leaving, Bishop Holley made the point that this is an extraordinary group of students. He cited his ten years of working with those to be confirmed, seeming to rank this group among the best. He said, "they get it". I understand this to mean that they get it about Christ; they get it that He is real and relevant to their lives. Their answers to the bishop's questions reveal that they don't just have the knowledge of Christ in their minds, they have Him in their hearts.

I gave them (and their parents) major "props" yesterday in their religion classes. But, I also acknowledged in a significant way their religion teacher, Mrs. Regan. I told them that I have been in a lot of schools the past fifteen years, and I think Mrs. Regan is one of the best, if not the best, junior high religion teachers that I've known. It's not just what she teaches, but how she teaches: with profound love.

Now, here's the really amazing part. Yesterday, Mrs. Regan asked her students to write down some of their thoughts about Sunday night. Five minutes or so later, she asked them to share with the class what they wrote. Here are the powerful words of one of them:

"The Holy Spirit's Gift"

Your Spirit came upon me
In streams of candlelight
With a moment of silence
Making everything feel right
Words were whispered softly
Solemn promise made
A Confirmandi's wish
Granted all a daze
7 spirits all rushed through
I had so much time with you
November 18th was the night
I finished my baptismal rite
As now an adult of the church
I must say
The Holy Spirit came on me
Completing me in every way

Sunday, November 18, 2007

33rd Sunday - commentary

The following is a commentary on today's readings by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, as provided by

This Sunday's Gospel is one of the famous discourses on the end of the world, which are characteristic of the end of the liturgical year. It seems that in one of the first Christian communities, that of Thessalonica, there were believers who drew mistaken conclusions from these discourses of Christ. They thought that it was useless to weary themselves, to work or do anything since everything was about to come to an end. They thought it better to take each day as it came and not commit themselves to long-term projects and only to do the minimum to get by.

St. Paul responds to them in the second reading: "We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food." At the beginning of the passage, St. Paul recalls the rule that he had given to the Christians in Thessalonica: "If anyone will not work, let him not eat."

This was a novelty for the men of that time. The culture to which they belonged looked down upon manual labor; it was regarded as degrading and as something to be left to slaves and the uneducated. But the Bible has a different vision. From the very first page it presents God as working for six days and resting on the seventh day. And all of this happens in the Bible before sin is spoken of. Work, therefore, is part of man's original nature and is not something that results from guilt and punishment. Manual labor is just as dignified as intellectual and spiritual labor. Jesus himself dedicates 17 years to the former -- supposing he began to work around 13 -- and only a few years to the latter.

A layman has written: "What sense and what value does our ordinary work as laypeople have before God? It is true that we laypeople also do a lot of charity work, engage in the apostolate, and volunteer work; but we must give most of our time and energies to ordinary jobs. If this sort of work has no value for heaven, we will have very little for eternity. No one we have asked about this has been able to give us satisfactory answers. They say: "Offer it all to God!" but is this enough?

My reply: No, the value of our work is not only conferred on it by the "good intention" we put into it or the morning offering we make to God; it also has a value in itself, as a participation in God's creative and redemptive work and as service to our brothers. We read in one of the Vatican II documents, in "Gaudium et Spes," that it is by "his labor [that] a man ordinarily supports himself and his family, is joined to his fellow men and serves them, and can exercise genuine charity and be a partner in the work of bringing divine creation to perfection. Indeed, we hold that through labor offered to God man is associated with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ" (No. 67).

The work that one does is not as important as that for which he does it. This re-establishes a certain parity, beneath distinctions -- which are sometimes unjust and scandalous -- in position and pay. A person who has done the most humble jobs in life can be of greater "value" than those people who hold positions of great prestige.

It was said that work is a participation in the creative action of God and in the redemptive action of Christ and that it is a source of personal and social growth, but we know that it is also weariness, sweat and pain. It can ennoble but it can also empty and wear down. The secret is to put one's heart into what one's hands do. It is not so much the amount or type of work done that tires us out, as much as it is the lack of enthusiasm and motivation. To the earthly motivations for work, faith adds eternal motivations: "Our works," the Book of Revelation says, "will follow us" (14:13).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ice Skating Benefit for Life

The following is from a friend of mine, Tod Sloan, who is inviting St Andrew's families to participate in an ice skating benefit sponsored by Life Force, Inc.:

Announcing ...The 3rd Annual Christmas Ice Skating Benefit

You are invited to join us for the popular CHRISTMAS ICE SKATING BENEFIT set this year for Saturday, December 1st, from 5:30–8:00 pm. It will be held at the Rockville Ice Arena, 50 Southlawn Ct., Rockville, MD ( This is the same location as last year. There is no charge for admission and we'll have a whole rink to ourselves.

Bring the whole family and if you can’t make it, send the kids! I know there are car pools forming. Non-skaters are welcome. There is a full service restaurant/snack bar/Starbucks, The Village Grill. This will be open and is on the premises. Santa will also be making a visit (but maybe not on skates)! This event will bring new meaning to our rallying cry, skate for your life!

ANY monetary donations will be accepted with ALL proceeds going to our local St. Catherine Laboure Gabriel Project (, Wheaton, MD, 301-946-4815) and local Birthright (, Wheaton, MD, 301-946-3339) and Project Rachel (, 301-982-2008) organizations. Gabriel Project assists women and families facing crisis pregnancies by providing practical, emotional and spiritual support. After the baby is born, they continue to help as long as there is a need and stay in touch their mothers indefinitely. Birthright is an inter-denominational crisis pregnancy center. They give free pregnancy tests, plus non-judgmental and confidential guidance to woman. After a pregnancy test, they do as much follow up, to include material aids, with the woman as she desires. Project Rachel is a post-abortion healing ministry that offers compassionate help to men and women who have experienced emotional and or spiritual pain after abortion. This is available regardless of his or her faith background.

Please respond by November 30th to or (301) 438-8447 with number of skaters in your family or extended family so we can get a head count. Bring your own skates if you have them. Otherwise, skates can be rented at the rink. Ice skate rentals and number of skaters on the ice is limited so please respond and get there on time. Last year, we did max out with the number of skaters on the ice. For now, feel free to send this invite to other friends and family. Our goal is to have as many families as possible. Merry Christmas!

For a family donation whether you skate or not, make check payable to: Life Force Inc.

c/o Mary Sloan, 2307 Pondside Ter, Silver Spring, MD 20906.

Note “Christmas Ice Skating Benefit” in the memo field.

Friday, November 16, 2007

General absolution??

1) Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited.

2) DC ‘Hood vs. SE parishes, tonight, 7:30 pm. The ‘Hood will take on a team consisting of players from nine parishes from Southeast Washington. Go ‘Hood!!

3) Parish penance service: Tues, Dec. 18, 7:30 pm, SAA Church.
‘Yet another Anon’ wrote:
“I recently went to confession for the first time in many years. I had no problems being honest about what I had been doing in that time (hadn't been to Mass in as long as I hadn't been to confession), and the priest I confessed to was really wonderful and very kind. I think the "face to face" setting made things easier to discuss than with the privacy screen (I've always hated that thing). The priest asked me some questions to help probe my memory for any additional sins, but it was done very gently. I wasn't lectured, didn't get yelled at, and the penance (20 Hail Marys) was a lot less than I expected (or deserved). The priest welcomed me back to the church and I walked out of there feeling much lighter and happier than I had in eons. So very glad I decided to bite the bullet and go!”

Great story! I’ve always been encouraged and inspired by stories like these. I have another story about Confession that may not be as uplifting but is good for us to know about. At last weekend’s youth group retreat, I celebrated a Penance Service and gave our teens an opportunity for individual confessions. Several of them went (that was inspiring) but some didn’t. When I was talking with some of them later that night, a couple of them initiated a discussion on Penance. They indicated that they have experienced Penance at their school or (another) parish differently than the way we did at the retreat.

The teens explained that at these other Penance Services, they were invited to write their sins on a piece of paper. Then, they take the papers to a grill and burn them. I have seen this done before but always in the context of individual confessions. They told me that they didn’t go to Confession (earlier that day on the retreat) because it is much easier to just write their sins down and burn them than to say them to a priest. ‘Of course’, I said, ‘but what about absolution of your sins?’ They responded by saying that the priest gave a general absolution to everyone as they held up their pieces of paper and before they burned them.

This was a tough pill for me to swallow because of I know of what the teens (through no fault of their own) are being deprived: true healing and freedom that comes with individual confession. Yes, it’s easier for everyone involved (penitents and priests), but the teens really haven’t gotten their sins “off their chests”. I have been thinking about this and how crazy it would be if we treated reconciliation with our friends this way. Can you imagine writing the sin you had committed against your best friend on a piece of paper, and then handing it to them? Your friend might think that was as bad as the sin itself! While I know that some people confess their sins against others on emails, text messages, and letters, we all know that the best way to reconcile is by going to that person face-to-face, telling them what we did wrong, and saying that we’re sorry. When they forgive us, we walk away knowing that we’re forgiven. That brings great peace and begins the healing process. Anything short of that and we still carry the burden of those sins with us.

In this type of situation, the true peace of Reconciliation is missed. So, the Church has laid out strict guidelines for general absolution (which our Archbishop does not grant). It is to be a rare occurrence – for example, in the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. One of the key points in the following canons of Church law is that, if general absolution is given, grave sins need to be confessed privately to a priest as soon as possible (one month, per the Church). I’m guessing that our teens have never been told this because they didn’t mention it in our conversation. Please pray for the priests and teachers in our schools!

Can. 961
§1 General absolution, without prior individual confession, cannot be given to a number of penitents together, unless:

1° danger of death threatens and there is not time for the priest or priests to hear the confessions of the individual penitents;

2° there exists a grave necessity, that is, given the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors available properly to hear the individual confessions within an appropriate time, so that without fault of their own the penitents are deprived of the sacramental grace or of holy communion for a lengthy period of time. A sufficient necessity is not, however, considered to exist when confessors cannot be available merely because of a great gathering of penitents, such as can occur on some major feastday or pilgrimage.

§2 It is for the diocesan Bishop to judge whether the conditions required in §1, n. 2° are present; mindful of the criteria agreed with the other members of the Episcopal Conference, he can determine the cases of such necessity.

Can. 962
§1 For a member of Christ's faithful to benefit validly from a sacramental absolution given to a number of people simultaneously, it is required not only that he or she be properly disposed, but be also at the same time personally resolved to confess in due time each of the grave sins which cannot for the moment be thus confessed.

§2 Christ's faithful are to be instructed about the requirements set out in §1, as far as possible even on the occasion of general absolution being received. An exhortation that each person should make an act of contrition is to precede a general absolution, even in the case of danger of death if there is time.

Can. 963 Without prejudice to the obligation mentioned in can. 989, a person whose grave sins are forgiven by a general absolution, is as soon as possible, when the opportunity occurs, to make an individual confession before receiving another general absolution, unless a just reason intervenes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Prayer: "putting on the mind of Christ"

1) Thanks to Eileen Mooney and all who helped plan Friday night’s concert. One blogger said, “What a wonderful evening Friday's adoration was. Thanks to whoever booked the Cowan's celebration. What a gifted family, not to mention the turnout of observers. Keep coming back, our Lord is awesome and healing!”

2) Thanks to all who prayed for last weekend’s youth group retreat. Thanks be to God and your prayers, it was a fruitful weekend!
Speaking of prayer, an anonymous blogger wrote the following:

“I have a hard time believing in intercessory prayer. It's obvious that God does not grant all prayers; He does for us what we need and not necessarily on a time line that we like. Like the parent who refuses to give the kid a candy bar but gives a carrot instead. The child's prayer was not granted, but something was done for the child that was good for him. So what role does praying for a certain thing play in all this? It seems like the role of prayer is to discern how God is acting in our lives, not to get God to act in a certain way.”

I think it’s important that when we discuss the things of prayer it is with the understanding that prayer is a habit that one develops, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Christian prayer is a way of life and not just isolated moments when we ask God things. As I told the teens this past weekend, I used to only “pray” when I needed something - a passing grade on a test that I didn’t study for, for example. I also explained that there was no real relationship there between me and Christ at that time. There was no real prayer going on.

If prayer becomes a way of life and a habit in our lives, then we begin to see things differently. The Holy Spirit helps us to see things as God sees them. So, then, when specific things arise for which we would like to pray, we begin to see them as God sees them. Since God is love, we can say that we begin to see these things through the lens of love. One definition of love is to want what’s best for the other. So, when we begin to take certain things to prayer and consider what we should ask for specifically, we are trying to see what’s best for whoever is involved.

Here’s an example: some of our seniors have asked me to pray that they get into specific colleges to which they are applying. The temptation is to pray that they get into the most prestigious and successful schools out there. But, if I really want what’s best for them, I will pray that they get into the schools that God wills them to get into. That will be best for them. One teen did ask me to “pray that I get into the school I’m supposed to go to”.

So, yes, prayer in general means to discern how God is acting in our lives and what His Will is. Praying for specific things is asking that God’s Will be done (we say “thy will be done” in the Lord’s prayer) in our lives and in the lives of those for whom we pray. Prayer, then, unites us with the mind and heart of God.

Finally, Fr. Wells (who experienced much dryness in prayer, but prayed faithfully every day) once wrote: “There are many reasons why people do not pray. One of them of course, is what has been called “practical atheism”, acting as if God does not exist, no matter what a person might say he believes. But, believers, too, often give up on prayer. Their problem, though, concerns what they expect to get out of prayer. In a society that is so preoccupied with feelings, many expect that prayer will result in feeling close to God. In fact, though, the great fruit of prayer is virtue. Putting ourselves into the presence of God opens us to the power of the Spirit that orders our priorities to see as Jesus sees and to desire what He desires…Prayer gives us the grace to move beyond preoccupation with self and, little by little, to put on the mind of Christ.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

32nd Sunday - homily

“He is a God not of the dead but of the living”.

I had two experiences last week that speak to this. The first was on a convocation of all the priests of the Archdiocese. Fr. Mike and I went down to Cambridge, Maryland for three days with over two hundred priests for fellowship, prayer, and conferences. It was a great opportunity to be with our brother priests! It hit me that there is a great spirit among these priests. Some people might think that there isn’t much liveliness among priests, but there is great life in this fraternity.

The second experience was on the youth group retreat this past weekend. We took about a dozen teens down to Mattaponi retreat center and had a great weekend! These are really good kids. It hit me there, too, that these teens have a great spirit about them. I told them that they are signs to us adults that God is a living God. If they believed in a God of the dead, then they would be walking around sulking and all sad and stuff. But, they exude great joy and happiness, and this shows us that they believe in a God of the living not the dead.

Today’s readings speak to us about life, especially eternal life. The questions for all of us are, ‘do we believe in eternal life? Do we believe in life after death? Do we believe in the resurrection?’ Unfortunately and for whatever reason, the Sadducees didn’t believe in life after death. They ask Jesus about it and if there is marriage in Heaven. Jesus says that there are some things in this life that point to eternal life. Marriage between a man and a woman is one of them; it points to our marriage with God in Heaven.

Marriage between a man and a woman is only for this life; in Heaven, we will be married to God. We will be united with true happiness and peace and joy. We will be in union with the deepest desires of our hearts. We are all looking for happiness and peace, and in Heaven we will find them in their fullness. I told the teens at the retreat that this is the reason that they went on the retreat – because they are looking for something more, they are looking for happiness and peace. They are looking for God.

Like our teens, are we witnesses to a living God? Do our lives point to eternal life? We see great witnesses in the seven brothers and mother in the first reading. They believed so firmly in eternal life that they were ready to die for what they believed, confident that there was life after death. Are we witnesses to eternal life? Do others see through our happiness and joy that God is a God of the living, not the dead?

The greatest sign on earth that God is a living God is the Eucharist. In fact, Jesus says in John 6 that the Eucharist is “living bread come down from heaven”. This is nor dead bread or bread only. It is living bread. There is something there that has life. The more we go the Eucharist, the more we experience and receive life. Hopefully, we go out from this place and be living signs to others of eternal life and that He is a God the living.

Finally, Jesus says in John 6 that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. This is not just a blueprint on how to get to Heaven. This means that in a few minutes we will have eternal life dwelling within us. As we receive our living God today, let us be signs to others that He is a God not of the dead but of the living.

Friday, November 09, 2007

"On the pastoral care of homosexual persons"

1) Live concert at St Andrew's tonight! Jim and Michele Cowan, a father and daughter who travel across the country glorifying God through music are playing live during Eucharistic Adoration in the SAA Church tonight at 7 pm. The Cowans have invited us to "come join us in worship and in adoration of our Lord, as we gather around His glorious presence in the Blessed Sacrament". There are no tickets or admission fees, but we will take up a free will offering for the Cowans.

2) Youth group retreat this weekend. Please pray for the 16 teens and 3 adults who will be on retreat this weekend.
Responding to my Aug. 29 post, “Homosexuality and Hope”, Anon wrote the following: “I thought the church's opinion was that the church didn't know why people were gay and that being gay was not the problem, that the actions of homosexuality were. Can I ask why you didn't bring up church teaching and church documents?”

Thanks, Anon. In my post, I explained that the Church doesn’t know definitively why some people are homosexual and I referenced the Catechism on that point. The main point of the post was that the Church is studying the genesis of homosexuality, and finding that the overwhelming evidence points to environmental factors rather than genetic factors.

But, I appreciate your comment because it gives us a chance to read a letter by then-Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), "On the pastoral care of homosexual persons" . Along with Archbishop Alberto Bovone, His Holiness wrote the letter in 1985 as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To view the letter in full, please click on the title of this post.

3. …In the discussion which followed the publication of the (Congregation's "Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics" of December 29, 1975), however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not…

10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered…

12. What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross. That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption…

Just as the Cross was central to the expression of God's redemptive love for us in Jesus, so the conformity of the self-denial of homosexual men and women with the sacrifice of the Lord will constitute for them a source of self-giving which will save them from a way of life which constantly threatens to destroy them.

Christians who are homosexual are called, as all of us are, to a chaste life. As they dedicate their lives to understanding the nature of God's personal call to them, they will be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance more faithfully and receive the Lord's grace so freely offered there in order to convert their lives more fully to his Way.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Live concert this Friday, etc.

1) Fr Mike and I will be away this week at a convocation with all of the priests of the Archdiocese. It's a chance for all of us priests to get together for a few days and enjoy some fellowship, prayer, and conferences. Please pray for priests!

2) Live concert at St Andrew's! Jim and Michele Cowan, a father and daughter who travel across the country glorifying God through music are playing live during Eucharistic Adoration in the SAA Church this Friday at 7 pm. The Cowans have invited us to "come join us in worship and in adoration of our Lord, as we gather around His glorious presence in the Blessed Sacrament". There are no tickets or admission fees, but we will take up a free will offering for the Cowans.

3) DC Hood vs. St Andrew's / St John the Baptist, Nov 30, 7:30 pm. The site of the game has changed to WHEATON HS, 12601 Dalewood Drive, Wheaton, MD 20906 (it was previously advertized as being at Kennedy HS).

4) Youth group retreat this weekend. Please pray for the 16 teens and 3 adults who will be on retreat this weekend. The theme will be, "I have called you friends" (Jn 15:15).

Sunday, November 04, 2007

31st Sunday - homily

I am preparing a couple for marriage who are friends of a friend. I recently did with them what I do for all couples in marriage prep: interview them separately by going through a questionnaire. When I got to the questions about practicing our Catholic faith with the man, he candidly revealed to me that he really struggles with the whole question of who Jesus Christ is. He said something that we normally hear from people of non-Christian religions: Jesus was a great teacher and prophet, but I don’t think that he is the Son of God.

I began to talk about the resurrection because that is the main event when it comes to knowing that Jesus is the Son of God. I used the famous quote from CS Lewis: “If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, he is a liar and a blasphemer”. When I said that, the man was clearly affected, and said, “Gee, I never thought about it like that”. The point being that Jesus said he would rise, and if I didn’t he is a liar. Also, he called God, ‘Father’; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then he is just a man and not God’s Son. This man seems to be right where he needs to be: seeking to see who Jesus is.

Zacchaeus is in the exact same point in today’s Gospel. Scripture says that this rich tax collector was “seeking to see who Jesus was”. Whatever is going on in Zacchaeus’ life, whatever led him to climb a tree to see Jesus, he is truly intrigued by the person of Christ. Hopefully, we are all that point or at least have had Zacchaeus moments where we are seeking to see who Jesus is. The question of who Jesus is one of the most important, if not the most important, questions in our lives.

The study of the person of Jesus Christ is called Christology. It is one of the most fascinating subjects. It is ultimately dealing with a mystery: Christ is one divine person with two natures. Christ is fully human and fully divine. This “hypostatic union” is a mystery – two distinct natures in one divine person. And yet, we can approach the person of Christ and gain some real insights about God an ourselves. For example, Christ reveals the Father and He reveals man.

Anyone who sees Christ sees the Father. He or she sees the Father’s love, sees the Father’s mercy in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. The Son reveals to us who the Father is and offers us everything the Father has given Him. Anyone who knows Christ knows the Father. Also, anyone who sees Christ sees themselves. In other words, when we get to know Christ, we get to know ourselves. It is in Christ that we are most ourselves. Whenever we are Christ-like – when we are kind or generous or forgiving or loving – that’s when we see who we are and what we truly desire to be. We have all been created through Christ; he gave us our hearts. Our hearts truly desire him. It’s what St Augustine once said, “our hearts are truly restless until they rest in Him”. That’s exactly what’s going on with Zacchaeus, with the young groom-to-be, and with each one of us.

My hope is to go deeper into the person of Christ with a series of reflections in Advent during Friday night Adoration. I would like to offer a few reflections on who Jesus is; we’ll advertise it the same way that we’ve advertised the concert this Friday night during Adoration: as a flyer in the bulletin.

Finally, Zacchaeus seeks Christ but Christ seeks Zacchaeus, too and enters his house. We will have the same opportunity to welcome Salvation into our houses in a few minutes with the Eucharist. Jesus will enter our hearts and bodies and souls in the Eucharist. Let us welcome Him, let us welcome Salvation as Zacchaeus did: let us welcome Him with joy.

Friday, November 02, 2007

All Souls Day

Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All those who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!
Yesterday, we celebrated all the saints in Heaven (Church triumphant) as well as the saints on Earth (Church militant). Today the universal Church prays for all souls in Purgatory (Church suffering). The following write-up about All Souls Day comes from

The Church has encouraged prayer for the dead from the earliest times as an act of Christian charity. "If we had no care for the dead," Augustine noted, "we would not be in the habit of praying for them." Yet pre-Christian rites for the deceased kept such a strong hold on the superstitious imagination that a liturgical commemoration was not observed until the early Middle Ages, when monastic communities began to mark an annual day of prayer for the departed members.

In the middle of the 11th century, St. Odilo, abbot of Cluny (France), decreed that all Cluniac monasteries offer special prayers and sing the Office for the Dead on November 2, the day after the feast of All Saints. The custom spread from Cluny and was finally adopted throughout the Roman Church.

The theological underpinning of the feast is the acknowledgment of human frailty. Since few people achieve perfection in this life but, rather, go to the grave still scarred with traces of sinfulness, some period of purification seems necessary before a soul comes face-to-face with God. The Council of Trent affirmed this purgatory state and insisted that the prayers of the living can speed the process of purification.

Superstition still clung to the observance. Medieval popular belief held that the souls in purgatory could appear on this day in the form of witches, toads or will-o’-the-wisps. Graveside food offerings supposedly eased the rest of the dead.

Observances of a more religious nature have survived. These include public processions or private visits to cemeteries and decorating graves with flowers and lights. This feast is observed with great fervor in Mexico.

Whether or not one should pray for the dead is one of the great arguments which divide Christians. Appalled by the abuse of indulgences in the Church of his day, Martin Luther rejected the concept of purgatory. Yet prayer for a loved one is, for the believer, a way of erasing any distance, even death. In prayer we stand in God's presence in the company of someone we love, even if that person has gone before us into death.

“We must not make purgatory into a flaming concentration camp on the brink of hell—or even a ‘hell for a short time.’ It is blasphemous to think of it as a place where a petty God exacts the last pound—or ounce—of flesh.... St. Catherine of Genoa, a mystic of the 15th century, wrote that the ‘fire’ of purgatory is God’s love ‘burning’ the soul so that, at last, the soul is wholly aflame. It is the pain of wanting to be made totally worthy of One who is seen as infinitely lovable, the pain of desire for union that is now absolutely assured, but not yet fully tasted” (Leonard Foley, O.F.M., Believing in Jesus).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Feast of All Saints

Today is the solemnity of All Saints, a Holy Day of Obligation. The remaining Mass at St. Andrew's is at 7:30 pm.

The following is a homily excerpt for November 1st by Fr. Tommy Lane (who I know from MSM seminary):

The day before All Saints is called Halloween in the secular world. The name is Christian, Halloween means the eve of All Hallows, the eve of All Saints, but that is the only Christian element in it. All the rest that accompanies Halloween is of pagan origin so it goes back to the time before Christianity. It was a pagan Celtic feast. They believed that after sunset on Samhain, which we now called Halloween, the spirits of the dead and evil spirits roamed the skies seeking to harm humans, especially if the dead had been harmed by them. To protect themselves people disguised themselves by dressing up in costumes and carried lights inside in turnips. In order to turn a pagan feast into a Christian feast the Church placed the feast of All Saints on 1st November, to coincide with the pagan celebration. Children have fun on Halloween now and it is OK but it would be a pity if children did not know the Christian feast at this time, the feast of All Saints.

So if your children are celebrating Halloween and know nothing about All Saints, please explain All Saints to them. We are Christians now, so let us not celebrate as pagans. The Church has tried to turn a pagan celebration into a Christian celebration. Is the reverse happening again now? Let us celebrate All Saints.

This homily was delivered when (Fr Lane) was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.