“I know Him in whom I have believed.”

Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?

Archdiocese of Washington: Year of Faith seriesWritten by:

Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph

You see the computer screen flicker and a blue screen pop up.  You read there has been a fatal error.  Not knowing what to do, you take out your cell phone and call your brother-in-law.

I think we’ve all had this experience before.  In the world today, no one can be an expert in everything.  Whether it’s a plumber, an electrician, a mechanic—or your brother-in-law the computer guru—we need to trust experts in different fields.  Having faith in matters of human expertise is so normal we hardly think about it.  We couldn’t live in society, or pass a single day if we didn’t.

Why does faith make sense?  The answer is fairly simple.  We look for people who are certified, who have experience, and who know how things work.   Since they have “vision” or direct knowledge about their skill or field of expertise, it makes sense to enter into a relationship of trust with them and rely on them.

This is why the Catholic faith also makes sense.  The substance of the Catholic faith is above earthly experience.  We won’t literally “see” the truths of the faith until we are with God in heaven.  But God knows these truths.  God “sees” them.  And in heaven, we will see them finally.  Since we cannot see them now, we have to rely on God’s authority to receive them.  This is what St. Thomas Aquinas is getting at in his famous hymn about the Eucharist where he says, “what God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;/ Truth Himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.”

This shows us the connection between our personal relationship with God and believing all of God’s truth.  This is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that faith is first of all “a personal adherence of man to God,” and “at the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (CCC 150).  Believing in God, we also believe everything He tells us.  So the Catechism says that believing means first believing the Person and then believing the truth, “by trust in the person who bears witness to it” (CCC 177).

Jesus Christ Himself—both God and man— revealed the fullness of the truth of God.  The apostles handed on the truth of Jesus Christ in its fullness, and entrusted to the bishops of the Church in communion with the Pope the authority to teach in their name.  So when we receive the faith of the Church we receive it, “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).  For this reason, our personal faith must always completely acknowledge the Church’s faith to be authentic.  Perhaps this is why St. Cyprian says, “No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother” (CCC 181).


As we gaze upon God in faith, let us exclaim that intensely personal and creedal confession of the Apostle Thomas:  “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28).

The Name Above Every Name

Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?

Archdiocese of Washington: Year of Faith series

Written by:

Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph


Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome is the largest Catholic Church in the world, and it is one of the most beautiful. For centuries, Christian faithful have traveled to Saint Peter’s on pilgrimage. The original Basilica was built in the fourth century on the exact spot where the Apostle Peter – the first Pope – was martyred and buried in Rome. It is no coincidence that the place where Saint Peter was crucified upside down is the site of the largest Catholic Church in the world. It is a testament to faith in the saving power of Christ – that from death comes new life in Christ with the promise of the resurrection.

It never ceases to amaze me that visitors of all faiths – and those with no faith at all – walk into Saint Peter’s Basilica, and it takes their breath away. Saint Peter’s is beautiful, and one feels the awe and wonder of God when entering the church.

A majestic church like St. Peter’s Basilica is huge, shocking and unavoidable. When we encounter it, it overwhelms us with how there and real it is. At the basis of faith is a similar encounter with the immensity and reality of God. Someone said to me once, “I’m trying to discern whether I believe in God.” Isn’t this backwards? Too often we begin thinking of faith as something I do. But faith begins with God. Faith is about a response to what God has done for us.

St. John teaches us that it is not that we first loved God — but that God first loved us and gave His life for us. When this Love pursues and encounters us we are humbled, and overwhelmed. And so St. Paul says that, “it is not that I have already taken hold of it… but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ” (Philippians 3:12).

Since faith is a response to God, the question our hearts ask is, “Who is God?” God told Moses His own name: Yahweh. It means literally, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:13-14). The Israelites held it in such awe that they didn’t speak or even write it. What does it tell us about God?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

“This divine name is mysterious just as God is mystery. It is at once a name revealed and something like the refusal of a name, and hence it better expresses God as what he is – infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the ‘hidden God’, his name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men.” (CCC 206)

Finding ourselves in “the fascinating and mysterious presence” of God, we realize how small and “insignificant” we are—and how great He is (CCC 208). This shouldn’t make us fear Him.  Rather, it should increase our desire to know His mysterious being. It should inflame our hearts to know Him better.  In the heart of every Christian is the desire to “seek His face.”

Today is the first day of the “Year of Faith,” called for by Pope Benedict XVI. Please follow our weekly series — “Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader” — as we delve deeper into the truths of the faith, so we can come to a deeper relationship with the One True God.

Be sure to follow the Are You Smarter series on the Archdiocese of Washington Facebook page.

Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?

Archdiocese of Washington: Year of Faith series

Written by:

Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph

Children love to ask questions.  “Are angels real?”  “Who was Jesus’ daddy?”  “Did Jesus have a doggie?”

I once heard a mother ask her daughter, “Where does God live?”  The little girl immediately reached up with her left arm like she was trying to grab her favorite toy from the top of the refrigerator and pointed straight up to the sky.

Children have great faith.  They are curious about the world, and when you tell them a little bit, they want to know more.

Children also have a great sense of wonder.

I remember the day a fifth grader ran up to me at school, pulled me aside, and wanted to ask me about angels, with a glow in his eye.  We talked for five minutes, but I was on my way that same day to visit an eighth grade classroom.

The response from the eighth graders was very different.  Let’s just say a bit of that childlike wonder had dimmed.  Those eighth graders had already learned how to be tough, and they were surely skeptical.  When I asked how many of them believed in angels, one girl – only one – raised her hand.

Children grow up quickly these days.  Our faith sometimes grows tired and weak as we get older.

We don’t remain children forever.  But, what happens to our faith?  Are we stuck thinking that faith is just a childhood memory?

Have you ever wanted – once again – that same glow you see on a child’s face?

Try this: ask those same questions children ask.

For one year, beginning next week, we’ll help you ask a weekly question.  The questions will be the exact same questions grade-school students are asked in Catechism class.  We’ve taken them directly from the yearly assessments given to second through eighth graders in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

We are calling the series, “Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?”  Let’s see if you can pass the test!

That’s not all.  After you have had a chance to think about the question, we will follow-up with a short, relevant, and hopefully insightful reflection to go along with the answer.

Whether you know it or not, next week begins the Year of Faith, called for by Pope Benedict XVI.  To help celebrate the Year of Faith, the Archdiocese of Washington has asked three young Dominicans – members of the Order of Preachers – to give a weekly series that reflects on the wonderful truth of our faith.

The Order of Preachers was founded 800 years ago by Saint Dominic to help others come to understand the truth of our Catholic Faith and to pass that understanding on to the people of God, so that we all might grow in love for the source of that truth.  While there may not be a written portion on the entrance exam for heaven, a greater knowledge of the faith can only draw us closer to Jesus Christ, who is both the source and the goal of our happiness.

Catholic and American

Fr. Isaac Hecker, a convert and founder of the Society of Saint Paul (Paulist Fathers) once remarked “I am a better American because I am Catholic; I am a better Catholic because I am an American.” He came to the faith and the life of preaching during a time in which Catholics were held in great suspicion and Catholicism was thought to be something from the “old world” that did not really have a place in the new world that was the United States. These words crossed my mind as I prayed and sang and celebrated the gift of faith and freedom with Catholics from all over the archdiocese at the Archdiocesan “Celebration of Freedom” held Sunday, June 24.


The afternoon (and you can see the video that framed our celebration here) was meant to be a reflection on the source and meaning of freedom. One can only be free if freedom is rooted in truth. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it “Freedom accords with the sense of what is true and the good that God has put in the human heart” (CCC, 1742).  Our founding fathers agreed with the Christian principle that the right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person and that natural right has been protected in the First Amendment of the Constitution.


Sunday was a day for me to give thanks that I am a better American for being Catholic. Belonging to a church that is universal makes me appreciate and value the cultural diversity that is woven into the fabric of our country. I want to live in a community that reflects the face of the world. The United States garners enormous respect throughout the world for its generosity to other nations in the face of adversity. Making a contribution to a disaster relief fund or contributing time to a neighborhood project is an opportunity to practice a work of mercy. My Catholic faith is stronger for the commitment of the Christian disciple to service and the United State’s heritage of voluntary service for the greater good of the community. Service opportunities abound and any would agree it is part of being a good citizen.

And I am a better Catholic for being American. I was raised in an era in American history in which communities of faith were free to publicly practice the faith. May Processions wound through the church neighborhood. Public displays to celebrate certain feasts were never questioned. At community events at where people of different faiths and Christian communities were present, prayer was welcomed. It seems a natural part of life to practice one’s faith publicly and so today, I both welcome the opportunity to do so and want to live in a community in which people of every faith can do the same.

I have lived in countries in which class distinction, even among people of the same faith, colors relationships both professionally and personally. In Italy, I remember the shock of an electrician who was finishing work in our house around lunch time and we invited him to have lunch with us. He commented that this kind of thing would not happen in an Italian household. My Christian sense of hospitality and my American sensibility of the unimportance of class distinction made the invitation a natural response.

As I watched the video that traced the story of the Catholic Church in the United States, I appreciated that it was the promise of freedom that brought the first Catholics to the U.S. It is the protection of freedom that drove and drives Catholics to serve in every branch of the armed services and fight in every conflict. American Catholic faith was strengthened in the face of discrimination and perhaps made Catholics all the more desirous of  opening the doors of our schools, hospitals and social service agencies to anyone seeking our services, not because they are Catholic but because we are Catholic. Catholics have made huge contributions to every aspect of American life, and our faith is what gives us the courage today to stand for religious freedom..

During the afternoon we asked people to tweet what religious freedom means to them. We are still asking people to tell us what religious freedom means to you!  You can add your thoughts via a tweet at #SacredProperty

Sacred Heart of Jesus

This entry was written by Sr. Mary Dolora Keating, R.S.M., Delegate for Consecrated Life, Archdiocese of Washington.

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Blessed Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

I would like to present 3 points for your reflection as we participate in the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland:  1) the Theme of the Eucharistic Congress for this Solemnity; 2) Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and 3) Devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist.

The Theme

Today is the 5th Day of the Eucharist Congress in Dublin, Ireland which, as you know, has the theme of, “Communion in Suffering and in Healing.”  The daily congress theme informs both the presentation/workshops and Liturgies of each day.

In his words of Welcome at the Opening Mass, His Excellency Most Reverend Diarmud Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland said that “. . . the Church in Ireland is suffering” and that each member may, in this time of prayer at the Congress, turn to the Lord who will renew, heal, and strengthen them in their faith.  He reminded us that the graces flowing from this Sacrament would offer the members of the Catholic Church in Ireland the love, peace, hope and courage to accept their own share in suffering at this time.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,

And let the one who believes in Me drink.”  John 7:37

The mystery of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is both gift and choice.  This gift given by Jesus Christ requires an assent of faith both to come to the Sacred Heart and then to drink of the Precious Blood pouring forth from His Pierced Heart on the cross.  Will we allow Christ and His Love to be the primary Mover in our heart?  Will we allow Him to reveal all that hinders this intimate exchange and then do all we can to protect, preserve and nourish this life of grace within us?  May all else be secondary to receiving Christ’s Love from this wondrous Fount of our Salvation!

Pope Pius XII wrote in the Encyclical, Haurietis Aquas, On Devotion to the Sacred Heart, of 1956 the following:

 “. . .it is beyond question that this devotion is an act of religion of high order; it demands of us a complete and unreserved determination to devote and consecrated ourselves to the love of the divine Redeemer, Whose wounded Heart is its living token and symbol” [P. 6].

It is a great gift that this Solemnity occurs during the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland.  Through the fervent participation in this marvelous devotion, may many graces be bestowed upon the Church of Ireland.  At His General Audience on Wednesday, June 13, 2012, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, asked all members of the Church to pray for the success of the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin as he said,

“I invite you to remain spiritually united to Christians in Ireland and the world, praying for the work of the congress, that the Eucharist may always be the pulsating heart of all church life.”

 Devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist

Because the Congress Theme of this day is “Communion in Suffering and in Healing,” I will address briefly how the Blessed Sacrament is a great remedy for our hearts most in need of healing.

We often say to one another, “I will pray for you.”  This is most fitting for us to pray both for the living and deceased.  We also ask the saints’ intercession for particular needs.  It is noteworthy, however, to recall that the Blessed Sacrament is the actual Presence of God without any intermediary.  He alone can heal our every infirmity of mind, soul or spirit.

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches in Summa Theologiae, III, q. 73, art. 1, that, as in the body, it is necessary that our physical life be maintained through nourishment, so too, in the spirit, our life as adopted children of God must be nourished by the Holy Eucharist. As vegetative life needs nourishment both to be preserved and grow, so too does our spiritual life need food to sustain the life given us in Baptism and called to the perfection of growth through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

I close with the prayer to the Most Blessed Sacrament recited customarily at the North American College in Rome,

 “May the Heart of Jesus

In the Most Blessed Sacrament

Be Praised, Adored, and Loved

With Grateful Affection

At every moment

In all the Tabernacles of the world

Now, and until the end of time. 


We thank sister for the photos as well!

Living Eucharistic Lives

Written by Sr. Revelacion Castaneda

It is 10:30pm and the sun is just setting in Ireland.  Last night, as we concluded the Eucharistic Procession during the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland, thousands of children, youth, adults and seniors (some even in wheelchairs and with canes) processed behind the Blessed Sacrament in the streets of Dublin for close to three hours. This public demonstration of our faith in the Real, True, and Substantial presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament follows a rich tradition the Catholic Church has had for centuries.

The International Eucharistic Congress focuses on renewing our faith in the Blessed Sacrament, “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). “Apart from me you can do nothing,” says the Lord to His disciples the night of His betrayal (Jn 15:5). All our good works are empty—all our efforts in vain—unless our souls are filled with Christ. We will not be authentic witnesses—missionaries of the Good News—unless we draw all our strength and life from our communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Out of all the seven sacraments, the Holy Eucharist is the greatest of all the sacraments because it contains Christ substantially (cf. Summa Theologiae III, 65, 3). Our lives must be Eucharistic—ones which we daily unite to the offering of Christ and which we allow His grace to transform in order that we may become more like Him. Last night, as parts of the Gospels were read and petitions were made for the Church both in Ireland and around the world, I could not help but recount of the innumerable souls who have given their lives for professing Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and imitated Him until the end.

“The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father” (Ad Gentes, 1). All our missionary efforts are aimed at union of the soul with His Creator. Communion with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament allows us to enter into this intimate relationship as long as we are in a state of grace and have rid ourselves of all the barriers of mortal sin. The life of the sacraments, especially Confession and Communion, give us the opportunity to enter more deeply into this communion with God which He Himself initiates. Our heart must grow to desire these two sacraments of grace just as our bodies seek nourishment to stay alive. Our love for Christ will grow in the proportion we know Him and spend time with Him present in the Blessed Sacrament. During this Eucharistic Congress, churches throughout Dublin (and I imagine in other parts of Ireland as well) have encouraged the faithful to participate in extended hours of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  Today, our youth group visited St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral where Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament continues to draw in hundreds of pilgrims.

Our communion with Christ should impel us to share Him with others. The faith we have freely received in God’s Providence through other individuals must be likewise freely given by us to those who do not know Him or have grown lukewarm in their faith. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:19). Through our baptism, we have all been marked as missionaries for Christ and are called to preach the Gospel with our lives for His glory.  He promised to remain with us until “the close of the age” (most particularly manifested in the Blessed Sacrament) and assures us of the aid of the Holy Spirit in order that we may do great deeds in His name (cf. Mk 16:17).We see this reality at work in the lives of countless missionaries whose footsteps have trodden Irish soil, such as Saint Patrick, Saint Charles of Mount Argus and Saint Mary MacKillop, who through a deeper conversion to Christ Crucified were able to enflame the faith in the hearts of those whom they served.

“The Year of Faith will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, mystery of faith and source of the new evangelization, the faith of the Church is proclaimed, celebrated and strengthened. All of the faithful are invited to participate in the Eucharist actively, fruitfully and with awareness, in order to be authentic witnesses of the Lord” (Note on Pastoral Recommendations for the Year of Faith made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). As we approach this Year of Faith and embark on a journey of evangelization and renewal of the Catholic faith, let us beg of these great Irish saints the desire of greater union with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament among all the faithful in order that, filled with His life and grace, we may be able to bring more souls to Himself.

Don’t miss the signs

Signs and symbols are key to Catholic spirituality and ritual.  Using John’s Gospel as a text, Archbishop Robert  LeGall, OSB, Archbishop of Toulouse, France spoke of how gestures within our liturgies and rituals open the believer up to a greater perspective, a reality that takes us beyond the gesture itself. Archbishop LeGall is one of a number of bishops who are serving as catechists at the Congress.


Archbishop LeGall pointed out that in Greek, symbol means “to put together” and in John’s Gospel, particularly in chapters 1-12, Jesus is using gestures and signs to help people put together the concrete symbol with the deeper meaning. By way of example, he spoke of the parable of the multiplication of the loaves.  The miracle of providing enough food to feed the people gathered was not the main point. Jesus was preparing people to make the connection between he providing bread and he who would become bread. The Archbishop reminded us that indeed, Jesus later reprimanded the people for missing the point, they couldn’t get beyond the obvious and the concrete.  Jesus says “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26).

To appreciate our sacraments, to grow in the spiritual life, we need to explore the signs and symbols of our faith–we need to go deeper and put together the “material and the mystical” so to speak! Another example in the talk was from John 19 in which we read “And bowing his head, he handed over the Spirit.” On first reading we understand that he died, reading this with the eyes of faith, we are invited to see in this gesture, that Jesus is also, in his death, transmitting his Spirit.

What helps us catch the signs? How do we begin to open ourselves up to a greater perspective? Not surprisingly, the Archbishop suggested full and active particpation in the liturgy and the practice of Lectio Divina which helps us to read Scripture prayerfully and to listen in a way in which we begin to see differently.

In the question and answer period that follwed, a young man asked if we also face a challenge in the reality that not only do believers need to explore the meaning of symbols,  we seem to face the same problem in secular culture as well. Some gestures and symbols go unrecognized for their deeper meaning.  Do you think this is true? How have you come to understand the symbols of our faith in a way they have brought a new perspective?

The Congress is unfolding in a really beautiful way. As we contemplate the Eucharist as the source and summit of the faith, we are doing that by focusing on its relationship to one of the other sacraments on each day. Monday was Baptism, Tuesday, through Marriage, today we celebrated Holy Orders. Thursday is Reconciliation and Friday, the Sacrament of the Sick.

(the photo is a shot of particpants enjoying lunch on the  Green and is courtesy of the Congress Press staff)

Dublin’s Pilgrim Walk

One of the unique events of this Eucharistic Congress in Dublin is the Pilgrim Walk. Noting the revival of people’sinterest in pilgrim walks, the Congress committee created the route around seven of the oldest churches in Dublin. Readers of this blog from the Archdiocese of Washington know of the annual Seven Churches Walk sponsored by our Young Adult Ministry and this Dublin walk is very similar.

I began my walk with Mass and the  Reconciliation at St. Mary Pro-Cathedral, the mother-church of the Archdiocese.  I wound my way through the city, stopping at St. Anne’s, founded in 1723 where Irish poet and writer, Oscar Wilde was baptized. At St. Anne, there is a bread shelf located by the choir. It was a tradition to stack the shelves with loaves of bread which the hungry and poor were welcomed to take.  From St. Anne’s, I headed for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, home of the Carmelite Fathers and established in 1279. Here pilgrims had a chance to venerate the relics of Saint Valentine.

From St. Anne, on my way to St. John’s Lane Church I passed the house where Frank Duff founded the Legion of Mary in 1921. St. John was built by the Augustianians in 1280 and this year has been a special one for the parish as it celebrates the 150 Anniversary of the “Solemn Blessing and Laying of the Foundation Stone,” on Easter Monday in 1895. Not far from St. John’s and in the very neighborhood that is home to Guinness’s Beer world headquarters and plant is St. James church, St. James, founded in 1844, has a special link to the Camino de Santiago as many Irish pilgrims have their Camino passport stamped at St. James before starting out for Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

The sixth visit was to the Gothic style Church of St. Mary of the Angels, which started as a chapel site around 1689, following the Battle of the Boyne. This really beautiful church with a rich wood ceiling was established in 1868. I ended my pilgrimage at the parish of St. Michan, the oldest parish in Dublin. Historical records show the presence of a Christian Shrine dating back 1,000 years, though the present church was not constructed until 1730. The presence of a chapel for some 1000 years has some support in the fact that at the Episcopal Church also named St. Michan, in the same neighborhood, there are catacombs with graves that have been dated at 800 years.

This pilgrim walk was not just a history lesson, but a time for extended prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. A number of the Churches have extended hours of Exposition during the Congress and many added Masses so that pilgrims can take full advantage of this time of walking with Our Lord. In prayer, one is able to recall themes from the homilies and catechetical sessions that come alive in private prayer and to pray for God’s blessing that the fruits of the Congress will be carried to the home dioceses and parishes of the pilgrims. At each church, pilgrims end their time of private prayer with this prayer:

Lord Jesus, you were sent by the Father to gather together those who are scattered.

You came among us, doing good and bringing healing, announcing the Word of Salvation and giving the Bread which lasts forever. Be our companion on life’s pilgrim way.

May your Holy Spirit inflame our hearts, enliven our hope and open our minds,

So that together with our sisters and brothers in faith we may recognize you

in the Scriptures and in the breaking of the bread. May your Holy Spirit transform us into one body and lead us to walk humbly on earth, in justice and love, as witnesses of your resurrection.

In communion with Mary, whom you gave to us as our Mother at the foot of the cross, through you may all praise, honor and blessing be to the Father in the Holy Spirit and in the Church, now and forever. Amen