You are Baptized as Priest, Prophet&King

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”

There is much conversation these days about a Catholic’s responsibility to live and practice his or her faith in the world. Popular culture suggests that faith be considered something private. It ought not be discussed or shared outside of a circle of family and friends. All religious traditions share a common insistence that the faith one professes shape a person’s worldview and spill over into every aspect of one’s life. Catholics are no different in this regard and in fact lay women and men by virtue of their Baptismal vocation are specifically called to bring the Gospel to the world—in our homes, our workplaces and in our communities.



At one point in every Baptism, the priest or deacon takes the oil of chrism and anoints the child (or adult) while saying that by Baptism the person shares in the priesthood of Christ. The Catechism teaches “Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers” (CCC, 1268). What this means in a practical way is that as lay women and men our responsibility is to give witness to our faith in the way we live our lives everyday and everywhere. As priestly people, we are called to present the events of our day as an offering to God—in thanksgiving for all that he has given us. (Take a minute to look back over the day thus far, does it make a good gift?)



We share in Jesus’ prophetic ministry by living as witnesses to the Gospel. Having an opportunity to consider in every situation “what Jesus would do” and act accordingly. Catholics do have a unique spin on this popular saying among Christians “WWJD”. Because we believe in the living presence of Jesus among us, in the Eucharist and in one another, our bracelets should read “WIJD.” What is Jesus doing in and thorough us. Giving witness to our faith does not only mean talking about it or praying out loud in your cubicle at the office. Francis of Assisi has a wonderful saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.”



As a people who share in the kingly mission of Jesus we are first and foremost people of hope. We have been promised eternal life as our inheritance, and so we need not fear death. In the age of the Israelites, kings were first and foremost stewards, stewards of the “treasures” God entrusted to them and stewards of God’s people who were in their care. The mandate of the steward king is to cultivate the kingdom for God, to be a partner with God in the transformation of the world in the light of the Gospel. So for Catholic men and women, particularly those with responsibility for leadership, governance, education and care of people there is direct relationship between the practice of our faith and our public life.  We are always and everywhere called to participate in the building of the reign of God.


Let us keep in prayer in the coming week the 150,000 adult men and women in the United States who will join the Catholic Church at Easter and be about the work of bearing Christ to the World.

A Warning to the Church – Distinguished or Dead!

Here’s another Fr. Robert Barron Video where he reviews a recent survey on religion and some of the basic trends. The first half  describes the largest growing category of religious observance: “None.” If this is you or someone you know there are important insights.

The second half of the video however contains a kind of warning for the Church. Many of the Mainline Protestant denominations have lost dramatic numbers. Why? In large part because they are no longer distinguished from the world around them. Once the distinctiveness of the church experience is lost, its adherents begin to say, “Why bother going since I can get the same things from the world?”  Here then is the warning for us: We have been called out of the world, to be in sharp distinction to it values and priorities. Once we lose this distinctiveness we begin to loose numbers, parishes and schools close, and we shrink away. Dinstinguish or die! We’re supposed to be salt and light! So pass the salt and turn on the lights.

Some Old Gospel Wisdom

 Every now and then some one will come past my door and request parish services of some sort. Maybe it’s to plan a wedding, a baptism or a funeral, maybe its for money! And then I look at them and I say, “Who are you?” since I don’t recognize them. “Oh well Father, you don’t know me but my Grandmother goes here, this is our family Church.”  “Oh, I see, but where do yougo to Church?” I usually ask. 😉 The response is usually something like, “Well you Know how it is Father, I don’t get to Church too often….But my mother goes here.”

Well, I got news for you, your Mama’s faith isn’t going to save you. You gotta have your own faith. You have to know Jesus for yourself. There are just some things you can’t borrow. Don’t get me wrong, you depended on your mother and ultimately the Church to announce the True Faith to you. But at some point you have to be able to claim the True Faith as your own. Your mother can’t go to Church for you and she can’t believe in your place.  

Remember the story of the wise and foolish virgins? (Matt 25:1-13)  They were waiting for the groom (in those days you waited for the groom, now days we wait for the bride) to show up for a wedding. Five were wise and brought extra oil for their lamps, but five were foolish and did not not. But the groom delayed his coming and so the foolish ones said to the wise, give us some of your oil. But the wise ones said to the foolish that they could not do this for there was not enough oil for all ten. You see there are just some things you can’t borrow and some things you can’t loan. You can’t loan your readiness to meet God to someone else. You may know what happened. The foolish bridesmaids went off to buy more oil and missed the groom’s arrival and they were not able to enter the wedding feast. In those days when a wedding feast began the doors were locked and no one could enter. Bottom line: You have got to know Jesus for yourself. You can’t borrow your mother’s relationship or readiness. You have to have your own. No one can go to Church for you. You can’t pay to have someone offer your prayers. You can’t borrow someone else’s holiness.

There is an Old Gospel hymn that says, “Yes I know Jesus for myself.” It’s not enough to quote the pastor, its not enough to say what your Mother said. You have to know him yourself. Do you know Him? I didn’t say, “Do you know abouthim.” This is more than intellectual knowing, this is the deep, biblical, experiential knowing. Do you know the Lord Jesus? Have you experienced that he has ministered to you in the Sacraments? Have you heard his voice resounding from the pulpit and in others you meet? Do you know him? Don’t be satisfied that your mother or grandmother knew him. You are called to know him for your very self.

Here are a couple of renditions of the old Gospel classic I mentioned. The first is from the St. James Mass Choir. But then, lo and behold, the second version is sung by a choir from a Polish Girls School! See the original and then enjoy a very different version as the song leaps the Atlantic Ocean and lands in Eastern Europe. What a wonderful world! Crossing oceans and cultures the message remains the same: Yes I know Jesus for myself.

Good Catholic Reading

Looking for some good Catholic reading for Lent or Easter? Sr. Julia of the Daughters of St. Paul suggests some possibilities for your bookshelf. One of the books she reviews is Fr. Robert Barron’s The Strangest Way. I agree with her, it is a marvelous book. Also reviewed are Balthasar’s  Heart of the World  and Hansen’s The Gospels for Prayer. The books she suggests in this video are primarily spiritual reading (rather than history or theology per se). Note also, this video is edited from a longer one and some of the cuts are abrupt but you’ll get the basic point 🙂  By the way, I tried to link the books above to the Daughters of St Paul Bookstore but, strangely, they do not seem to appear when you place them in the search engine. Thus, the links to Amazon!

Reporting on the Church

One of the biggest obstacles to learning about the Church is the misrepresentation by the secular media of the Church, often by means of pithy soundbites. In the last couple of weeks there have been a number of attacks on Pope Benedict XVI for lifting the excommunication of four bishops who belong to the Society of Pius X. The Society is a group that separated from the Church in 1962 when it chose not to accept the Church’s teaching authority with regard to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The subsequent ordination of these four bishops was not legitimate in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church.

When the excommunication was lifted to make one small step toward the reintegration of the Society of Pius X into the Catholic Church it became public that one of the four bishops in an interview denied the historical reality of the holocaust. “How could the Pope lift the excommunication of a Holocaust denier” was the accusation lobbed at the Pope by the media and even some politicians. Yet, from the perspective of the Church, the lifting of the excommunication had nothing to do with the denial of the Holocaust. Since the Holocaust denial was not the reason for the excommunication, the lifting of the excommunication could not have been withheld because of the denial. It is not the practice of the Church to excommunicate people for lunatic views. Excommunication is reserved for grave sin. For more see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1463).

Yesterday, various papers condemned Pope Benedict’s assertion that condoms were not only unhelpful in the fight against AIDS, but to the contrary could even be harmful. While condemning the Pope for his statement, the mainstream media failed to include that the use of condoms gives only a false sense of security given that the failure rate is higher than many people think. This false sense of security leads to increased promiscuity thus undermining the only true defense against Aids: abstinence. The successful experience in Kenya with a policy focused on abstinence education is one example of this fact.

Both stories are examples of how the secular media fails to appropriately report on the Church’s teaching and practice. It raises the question of where you can find accurate reporting on the Church. It is important for Catholics to know the Church’s teaching and to approach media reporting with a solid foundation and a critical eye. There are a few sources whose mission is to be a daily source of Church news. The Vatican has a news service that can be found at Catholic News Service is a U.S. based Catholic news service. A local arch/diocesan newspaper is a good source of local news. In the Archdiocese of Washington we have the Catholic Standard and and ElPregonero.

There is a large body of Catholic magazines and journals that look at Church life from a wide variety of perspectives. Take a look at your parish reading rack or one of our local Catholic book stores to see what they offer. Newman Books is near Catholic University at St. Paul’s College, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has a book store, and the Catholic Information Center in downtown D.C. are all good sources.

40 Reasons to Come Home – Reason # 19 – Pilgrimages – Annual Seven Church Walk for Young Adults

Like many world religions, Catholicism maintains the practice of making pilgrimages to sacred sites or shrines. In his time, Saint Philip Neri (1515-1595), Patron of Rome, would lead excursions to the four Major and three Minor basilicas of Rome. The day included music, catechetical instruction, and a picnic along the way.


The Pilgrimage to the Seven Churches of Rome included:

San Pietro in Vaticano

San Paolo fuori le Mura

San Giovanni in Laterano

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

San Lorenzo fuori le Mura

San Sebastiano fuori le Mura


Here in the Archdiocese of Washington we have our own Seven Church Walk! The Seven Church Walk serves as a spiritual preparation for Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday and is a unique way to see our historic city and its architectural diversity.


This year, the pilgrimage will be held on Saturday March 28 from 9:30am – 4:00pm. The day will begin with 9:30am Mass at St. Patrick’s Church (619 Tenth Street NW) and will include the Litany to St. Joseph, Stations of the Cross, Rosary, a meditation, prayers for Pope and Bishops, Divine Mercy, and Eucharistic Adoration.


The sites for the Seven Church Walk include:

St. Patrick

Immaculate Conception

St. Aloysius

St. Joseph

St. Peter

Holy Rosary

Mary Mother of God


Join more than a hundred young adults from across the Archdiocese as we visit and pray at these seven churches in downtown Washington, DC. Please bring water, a bag lunch (or money for lunch), a rosary, and a contemplative spirit. You must wear good walking shoes because we will be walking about 6.5 miles!


RSVP to [email protected] 



40 Reasons to Come Home: Reason # 15

Reason # 15: E Pluribus Unum (from the many there is one). I was at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last Sunday afternoon as the Archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl,  greeted men and women preparing to enter the Catholic faith this Easter.  The Basilica is one of the 15 largest churches in the world, and is surely the largest Catholic Church in this fair city.  It seats well over 3000 and was filled.  What was amazing, though, was the diversity manifested in those who were gathered.  Quite literally, there were people from all over the world: Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, the Philippines, Japan, China, and of course, from right here in the USA.

 The word “catholic” is actually an adjective that means “universal.”  Christ had told the apostles to make disciples from all nations.  That is what I saw last Sunday afternoon.  All of humanity was represented.  I saw that day young and old, rich and poor, famous and not so famous, clergy and laity, and religious brothers and sisters. It is clear that all are invited; no one is excluded who will accept Jesus and his teachings. 

All of this diversity makes for a rich experience in Church life. We all celebrate the one true faith and are united in the celebration of one liturgy, but there is a great diversity as to things such as music, language, preaching style, etc.  Some people say they have left the Catholic Church because of boredom. But my challenge to you is that if you don’t find a parish you like in your own immediate neighborhood, look around!  You’ll be surprised at what you see. Some of our downtown city parishes feature very formal liturgies, wonderful choirs, and traditional music.  Our African-American Catholic parishes feature dynamic gospel choirs and exuberant preaching.  One of our largest and most diverse parishes is St. Camillus in Silver Spring which features, among other things, a large multicultural choir. We have  Korean parishes and Hispanic and Latino parishes. Several of our parishes also have a large Filipino communities.  Mass is celebrated in over a dozen languages in the Archdiocese every Sunday.  Some of our parishes also celebrate the ancient form of the Latin liturgy.

If you think every parish is the same, look again! E pluribus (and there’s a lot of pluribus) unum: “among the many there is one.” There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; but all of it is manifest in the rich tapestry that is the Roman Catholic Church. Come on home—you might be surprised what you find if you’ve been away for a while!

I’ve  featured this video before, but it makes sense to do so again in this post.

Back to Basics!

The following comment and question came in from a reader and presents a very soul-searching insight.

I am a Catholic in my mid thirties, raising a family and faithfully attending Mass. But I must admit I have some concern that the Church is missing the mark in reaching out to people my age and younger. It seems that all the concerns of the Church are about internal things like translations and where tabernacles should be. Don’t get me wrong, as a faithful Catholic those things are important to me. But these discussions take all our time, and, meanwhile, the world around us gets more and more secular. Many young people I know are practical atheists; God and the Church aren’t even on their radar. Yet we continue to go on and on with our internal preoccupations. Any comments?

Yes, this is a very important insight. There is always the temptation for any organization with humans involved to become primarily inward-looking and to lose sight of its essential mission. Obviously our fundamental mission is to announce Jesus Christ, to go to all the nations and teach them what the Lord Jesus taught for our salvation. We are to bring people into living, conscious contact with Jesus Christ; to bring them into a transformative relationship with Him through Word, Sacrament, and witness. But too easily we can spend all our time consumed with internal procedures and policy, debates about furniture and buildings, etc.

As you point out, some attention has to be paid to internal issues; there can be some very important theological and faith-related issues in such details. But the danger is that this becomes all-consuming. Meanwhile we have lost the culture around us, and even more sadly, many indviduals.

What to do? I would answer that we as a Church should continue the very discussion you have begun. As we both seem to agree, the answer is not simply to disregard internal issues, but rather to continue to summon the Church to her fundamental mission. Your insight is powerful and is a profound call to awakening. If we do not listen to your wake-up call, we risk the proverbial fate of “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” Some will counter that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against the Church, hence we could never be the Titanic. True, but no such promise is given to our western world, which increasingly has lost its way through secularism. Souls are being lost and error is spreading. We have to renew the good fight and take our message back out into the world as never before. That is one hope that underlies both this blog and the fundamental question asked by our Archbishop: Longing for something? Maybe it’s God!

Fr. Robert Barron struggles with the very problem you have raised in the following video—one of his best commentaries ever. He also has proposed some solutions.