750th Anniversary of the Dies Natalis of St. Thomas Aquinas and the 700th Anniversary of his Canonization

The Dominican Laity Immaculate Conception Fraternity has been invited to an event that the St. Dominic Priory is hosting at St. Dominic’s Church in DC. This celebration honors the 750th anniversary of the Dies natalis of St. Thomas Aquinas and the 700th anniversary of his canonization. This is our way of commemorating the Order’s Jubilee in honor of Aquinas (see the Master’s Letter for more information on that). 

The celebratory event will occur on March 6th, the vigil of the anniversary of Aquinas’s death, primarily consisting of a holy hour with preaching by Fr. Gregory Pine, concluding with Compline and blessings with relics of St. Thomas (we hope to have a Mass on the 7th too, but we’re awaiting permission to celebrate Aquinas’s feast on that day). Confessions will be available before and during the holy hour, and we will have a reception following the holy hour.

Please see the event poster. Here is a general explanation of the event and the indulgence it grants that you may be able to send in your own communications and social media:

St. Thomas Aquinas, Common Doctor of the Catholic Church, died on March 7, 1274 soon after receiving Christ in the Eucharist, to whom he made a final prayer. Join St. Dominic’s Church and Priory and the Thomistic Institute for the Solemn Jubilee Celebration of St. Thomas Aquinas with Eucharistic Adoration, preaching by Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P., and Compline at St. Dominic Church (501 6th Street SW, Washington, DC 20024) on Wednesday, March 6 at 7:00 p.m. Confession available beginning at 6:30 p.m. Individual blessings with relics and light refreshments follow Adoration.

The Apostolic Penitentiary, with the intention of heightening the devotion of the faithful and for the salvation of their souls, on the occasion of the solemn celebrations in honor of Saint Thomas Aquinas grants a plenary indulgence, which the truly penitent and charitable faithful can enjoy under the usual conditions, wherever they make a pilgrimage to a holy place connected with the Order of Friars Preachers, and there devoutly take part in the jubilee ceremonies.


(a very short catechism)

 Love is constructive; hate is destructive.

Absolute love is absolutely constructive.

Love is the Creator of all things.

Love is One. Love is Omnipotent.

Love is God.

God is Love.

God/Love made humans.

God/Love loves humans.

God/Love lovingly made humans.

God/Love made humans to share in His life of love.

Love cannot be constrained; cannot be commanded.

God made humans free to love or not to love Him.

The first humans transgressed the law of Love.

God was slighted.

Evil came into the world.

Love was affronted.

Love wants to forgive.

The affront is of the measure of the affronted.

Only God can redeem an affront to God.

God sent His only Son, Jesus, as God, to repair the affront.

Jesus is Love

As a human, Jesus repaired the affront in the name of humans.

Now humans can be redeemed, provided they become people of Love.

People of Love worship Love as Jesus/Love taught them.

People of Love have to live for a time with Evil.

How they deal with evil, people of Love show Love.

People of Love want to show Love they are His People.

People of Love want to protect those they Love from Evil.

Sacrificing for Love is the happy choice of people of Love,

As the God of Love sacrificed Himself for His people.

The Cross– the absolute Sacrifice – is the Sign of the true life of the people of Love.

People of Love accept their Crosses for the sake of Love.

The God of Love makes all crosses bearable to people of Love.

God/Love wants people of Love to trust Him through their sacrifice.

God/Love will provide.

God/Love will console.

God/Love will protect.

People of Love trust the providence of Love, the consolation of Love, the protection of Love.

People of Love trust Love even as they struggle with their evil within.

They do not stop asking Love to hone their sensibilities in finding the ways of Love in all they do.

Love can never be forced; Free will, the only gift to use as People of Love see fit.

People of Love thirst to enter the world of absolute Love.


                                                                        Dr. Jean-Francois Orsini, OP

A Lenten Reflection: Be a Prophet for Our Times

Psalm 36
The malice of sinners and God?s goodness

No follower of mine wanders in the dark; he shall have the light of life (John 8:12).

Sin speaks to the sinner *
in the depths of his heart.
There is no fear of God *
before his eyes.

He so flatters himself in his mind *
that he knows not his guilt.
In his mouth are mischief and deceit. *
All wisdom is gone.

He plots the defeat of goodness *
as he lies on his bed.
He has set his foot on evil ways, *
he clings to what is evil.

[I can’t help but think of how relevant this is to our times. As Scott Hahn once said, the problem today when sharing with others the saving grace of our Lord, is that many no longer believe they have any need to be saved. More frightening is that our people have freely elected leaders that Psalm 36 describes – some more than once.]

Your love, Lord, reaches to heaven; *
your truth to the skies.
Your justice is like God?s mountain, *
your judgments like the deep.

To both man and beast you give protection. *
O Lord, how precious is your love.
My God, the sons of men *
find refuge in the shelter of your wings.

They feast on the riches of your house; *
they drink from the stream of your delight.
In you is the source of life *
and in your light we see light.

Keep on loving those who know you, *
doing justice for upright hearts.
Let the foot of the proud not crush me *
nor the hand of the wicked cast me out.
See how the evil-doers fall! *
Flung down, they shall never arise.

[But I am leery of identifying too easily with the Psalm writer. I, too, can rationalize or minimize the sins of which I’m most fond. If we Dominicans are to effectively preach to others, we must always examine ourselves and continually repent, lest we become hippocrits. Psalm 51 tells us that we must be restored to salvation and THEN teach transgressors God’s ways.]

Psalms 51: 3 – 4, 12 – 13
3        For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
4        Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight, so that thou art justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgment.
12       Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13         Then I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners will return to thee.

[It is my personal belief that in our times, most leaders of democratic nations,  in order to gain and retain power, follow the masses, rather than lead the people. Their opinions are formed by polls rather than principle.

It follows then, that if we are to change national policy on life issues; if we are to build a just society that respects the dignity of all; if we wish to foster an economy that serves the poor, rather than incites greed; then we must become prophets of our time, just as Jonah did for Nin’even. Note that Jonah preached to the people first. Only then did the King repent of his ways.]

Jonah 3:

4         Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he cried, “Yet forty days, and Nin’eveh shall be overthrown!”
5         And the people of Nin’eveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
6         Then tidings reached the king of Nin’eveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

From St Ephrem: “When the Lord commanded us to be vigilant, he meant vigilance in both parts of man: in the body, against the tendency to sleep; in the soul, against lethargy and timidity. As Scripture says: Wake up, you just, and I have risen, and am still with you; and again, Do not lose heart.”

What are your prayerful thoughts?


Steve Graves, O.P.
Director of Formation

A Lenten Reflection on Hell

Eleven years ago, while in discernment for my vocation, a Dominican tertiary told me that the best reason for becoming Dominican was for the salvation of my own soul.

I was reminded in today’s reading how infrequently we hear homilies about the consequences of NOT accepting Christ and his love for us. In fact, I don’t recall hearing a sermon on hell even when hell is the subject of the Gospel reading. And hell is often the subject of the Gospel.

Hell is mentioned by name 13 times in scripture. Twelve of those citations are translated from the word Gehenna, meaning “the abode of the damned”. Jesus himself uses the word in eleven of the twelve instances.

Yes, Jesus died for many and he loves all who ever lived and will live – saints and sinners alike. But Christ died not for humanity but for individuals.

Jesus loves you so much that he would have freely gone to the cross for you even if you were the only sinner that ever lived from the beginning of time.

But true love is not imposed. It must be freely offered and freely accepted. There is no in-between. You either accept love or reject it. To ignore proffered love is the same as spurning it. This truth is so universal that unrequited love is the subject of most of the pop songs ever written and almost all country and western music.

Since God is love, to reject God’s love is to rebuff God – and to be separated from him. If we die in this freely chosen state of separation, we condemn ourselves to hell. Even during corporal life, to live without God is to create hell on earth. If you don’t believe it, read a newspaper.

Don’t take my word for it. Read what Jesus and the Bible has to say about hell – and about salvation.


Today’s Gospel Reading

Mathew 25:
When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”. . . Then he will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”. . . And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matt. 25:31-46)

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, “You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, “You fool!” shall be liable to the hell of fire. (Matt. 5:21-22)

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matt. 7:13-14; see also Luke 13:23-24)

Not every one who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matt. 7:21-23)

Suffering: I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. (Matt. 8:11-12)

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28; see also Luke 12:5)

The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. (Matt. 13:42)

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matt. 23:15)

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matt. 23:29-33)

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:43-48; see also Matt. 5:29-30; 18:8-9)

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him. (John 3:36)

The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell” (Jas. 3:6).

. . . God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell . . .” (2 Pet. 2:4).

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. (Phil. 3:18-19)

For he will render to every man according to his works: To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. (Rom. 2:6-8)

Those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus] shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. (2 Thess. 1:8-9)

And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name. Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. (Rev. 14:11-12; see also 19:1-3)


The catechism confirms that the ancient teaching of the Church on the afterlife has not been abandoned.

The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion . . . Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where men will weep and gnash their teeth. (CCC 1036)


To avoid hell, we must accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. The scriptures tell us what we must do to be saved:

We must persevere:

Mathew 10:22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

Romans 11:16-23 If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the [a]rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, ?Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.? 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God?s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

We must hope for salvation:

Romans 8:24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?

We must Love:

Corinthians 13:13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We must repent:

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective [a]prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

We must believe:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

We must be baptized:

Mark 16: 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

And we must trust in God. We must trust and acknowledge that it is grace given that saves us, that empowers our faith and gives us the strength to persevere. Salvation is given, not earned.

It is not theology that saves us but a person – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Each of us has our own love story. Let us go forth and share it.

Lenten Reflection on Forgiveness

 Mathew 6, 7-15

7 “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8               Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  10     Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11                Give us this day our daily bread; 12  And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; 13 And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. 14                For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

In our reflection yesterday, we noted several actions specified in scripture that are requirements for salvation.  It would be easy to deduce others. But that could lead to pharisaic parsing. In Luke 10, Jesus summarized the requirement for salvation in the Great Commandment:

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?”27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”

Jesus then went on to present the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus’ public life was a continuous practical demonstration and explanation of what it means to love.  One theme he repeated man times in different ways is the requirement to forgive those who sin against us, if we wish to be forgiven. ( See Mt: 6:14, today’s Gospel)

In Luke 6:37, Jesus tells again that we will be given what we give, also cautioning us not to judge others.

37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

In Marc 11, Jesus repeats the admonition:

25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

In Mt7 Jesus warns us not that we should not even judge the morality of the actions of others.

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church warns us against imputing sinful motivations to our brothers and sisters:

“To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way: “Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.” (C.C.C. # 2478)

But wait! In Mathew 5,  Jesus not only wants us to forgive those who have offended us but he also wants us to be proactive and reconcile with those we may have  offended or are angry with us. Jesus goes so far as to tell us not to bother going to Church (temple) until we are reconciled:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother[b] shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults[c] his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell[d] of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; 26 truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

But what if our brother or sister continually offends us? In Mt 18, Jesus provides additional instructions for reconciling and correcting our brothers and sisters. Immediately after,  “Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

In the Hebrew Bible, the law stipulated we were to forgive only three times. Peter’s question shows that he is learning about love and mercy from our Lord. The number 7 being the perfect number, Peter assumes that would be the perfect number of times to forgive. But our Lord goes even further: 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

What are your thoughts on forgiveness?



Immaculate Conception Chapter
Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic

Friday to Sunday, April 22-24, 2016
San Damiano Spiritual Life Center. White Post, Virginia (directions)

Retreat Master: Rev. Christopher Alar, MIC
Subject: The God of Mercy


After answering the Lord’s call, Fr. Chris studied philosophy at Franciscan University in Steubenville and earned his Masters of Divinity from Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. While in Seminary, Fr. Chris was assigned as a member of the band of missionaries who traveled far and wide to share the good news of God’s mercy. He lives and works on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, MA, home of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, where he serves as the Director of the Association of Marian Helpers. Fr. Chris continues to be a sought-after speaker for the Marians.


Check-in for Retreat: Friday, April 22, starting at 3 p.m. Retreat begins with Mass at 7:00 p.m. on Friday and concludes in the early afternoon on Sunday, April 24.

Use the link below (red text) to download the retreat form and return it with deposit or full payment to “College of the Immaculate Conception,” c/o Mr. Donald Mayse, Jr., O.P., Treasurer, 9502 Buck Lodge Court, Adelphi, MD 20783.

30 sleeping rooms are available at the retreat house. Priority is given to chapter members and spouses. Non-members must contact President Ms. Therese Errigo, O.P. (Msthereseop@gmail.com or 301-704-9117) to request permission to attend. Children are not permitted. The entire fee must paid by March 22.


2016 Chapter retreat flyer (check your browser’s downloads folder)


Charity and Government

Congress is considering significant cuts in the food stamp
program.  Our bishops and many Catholic social service organizations,
including Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul are urging
Congress to leave the program intact.  Although I understand the
reasoning for the need for food stamps, my conservative political view
balks at the basic tenants of the program and my Christian world view
balks at designating the government as the primary provider for the

It is my impression that the food stamp program is
bureaucratic, expensive, devoid of human dignity and riddled with
fraud.  Having spent most of my professional life in the non-profit
world, I find it difficult to support this enormous program when those
federal dollars could be much more effectively by local hunger groups
who would deliver food in a caring, human environment.  Many of these
groups are secular, but many are faith based.

The monthly food card provides temporary nourishment
for the body.  Food received from a food bank also provides
nourishment and the human touch.  As an example, Meals on Wheels
provides that temporary nourishment along with human contact.  For
many seniors, the highlight of their day is the person who brings the

And then there are the faith based organizations that
provide food, clothing and shelter, accompanied by the loving and
saving words of Jesus.  Catholic Charities in DC now has a program
called “A Cup of Joe” that provides breakfast in DC and it is served
by volunteers who can look the recipients in the eye and greet them as
a son or daughter of God.

What is lacking in these options is the individual who
reaches out and does the corporeal works of mercy in his or her
neighborhood or community. As a society, even Christians have become
so used to giving money to organizations, or depending on government
to provide for the poor that we are no longer directly involved in the
corporal works of mercy.

In the Psalms, there are numerous references to
“stretching out our hands” to God. Recently the daily Gospel reading
was from Luke 6:6-11.  In it Jesus cures a man by asking him to
“stretch out your hand”.  Saint Ambrose in his Commentary on Luke
writes: “Stretch out your hand often by doing favours for your
neighbor, by protecting from harm one who suffers under the weight of
calumny; stretch out your hand to the poor man who begs from you;
stretch out your hand to the Lord, asking for pardon for your sins.
This is how you stretch out your hand, and this is how you will be

How often do I stretch out my hands?  If more people
stretched out there hands to the local poor, how much better would our
communities thrive? How will God look upon my activity, or lack of it,
with the poor on judgment day?

ms. Mary Ellen Barringer,O.P.
Immaculate Conception Chapter


Caleb, Joshua, and Relentless Hope

My husband and I were invited by the parents of our son Caleb’s best friend to a Passover Seder in late March. Our hosts, who are “cultural” Jews, asked each person to prepare a reflection to read at the table. Most of the guests chose to talk about current and historical events in the United States. I decided to explore the theme of faith in God’s promises in the Old Testament.

Abby and Bob, we’re all friends through Cooper and Caleb’s wonderful friendship. So, it seemed appropriate to me tonight to tell a story that’s linked to Passover, but also explains why we named our son “Caleb.”

Here’s a quick story about that hero of Hebrew history, CALEB.

After the Hebrews had been freed from slavery in Egypt, God promised them the land of Canaan.

The Promised Land had fertile fields, lots of fruit trees, but more important it was a place to call home.

The Hebrews so wanted to rest in that beautiful place after all those years of slave labor and humiliation.

But they began to wonder if they were perhaps dreaming. . . .

Wasn’t this promise just a bit too good to be true?

Could it be a figment of their desperate imaginations—like a mirage in the desert that shows a pool of water that’s not really there?

So Moses sent 12 of his leaders, they were really “lookouts,” or spies, representing each of the 12 tribes of Israel, into Canaan to get the “lay of the land.”

Moses wanted to know . . . What were the coordinates over there in Canaan? What were they up against? Could they realistically take possession of this place?

Well, the spies did what Moses asked. They went to Canaan, scoped out the territory, and came back to Moses with their report.

THUMBS DOWN, many of them said.

No way could the Hebrew army overtake Canaan. The Hebrew army was just too small and too weak.  Some of the people in Canaan were giants, and they’d crush the Hebrews underfoot.

But not everyone said thumbs down. . . . Two of  the spies—Caleb and Joshua—came back and said THUMBS UP.

They said the Hebrew nation would get this job done. They could vanquish their enemy, overcome the challenges, and the Promised Land would be theirs.

Even though what they had seen with their eyes and heard with their ears was not entirely encouraging, they had relentless hope. And faith in the promise God had made.

The 12 tribes of Israel decided to take a vote, and Caleb and Joshua were voted down 10 to 2. Not even close.

So the group backed off from the idea of entering the Promised Land.

But it’s interesting to see how things ended up for the Hebrew people. . . . Not what you’d expect . . .

As the story goes, God got pretty angry with the Hebrews who had no hope.

During the 40 years in the desert, most of the Hebrews died.  Those who thought they were protecting their families by not sticking their necks out too far, by not taking action to realize a promise—in short, those who wanted all their ducks in a row as a defense against a future they thought held very little hope for them—those were the ones who did not survive.

Their strategy of self-preservation completely backfired and ended up in self-destruction.

The only two adults in the story whom God allowed to make it through the desert and into the Promised Land were . . . CALEB AND JOSHUA. . . .

So the guys who had the perseverance, the ones who decided to be relentlessly hopeful—those were the ones who made it through.

Like those ancient Hebrews, it seems every single person I know is anxious—really anxious—about the future. And from what we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears, it looks pretty challenging out there.

Will our children get a job at a time when there aren’t many jobs around? Will they be able to afford an apartment or a house? In 20 years, will they be able to drink water that’s safe and unpolluted?

This keeps me up at night, and it is so, so tempting to retreat like the Hebrews.

That’s why I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days about Caleb and Joshua. They said YES, we can do this, and we’ll find a way to do this. And it seems the scriptures are telling us that hope actually WORKS. It’s essential to improving things.

I love positive people; I instantly feel better about life when I’m around them. Hope has a way of spreading from person to person, like viral messages in cyberspace.

That’s why dictators around the world—who are our new Pharaohs—fear the Internet so much. Cyber-messaging has the ability to ignite hope instantly among thousands of people that there is a chance for freedom, that they are not alone.

Hope, when it spreads from person to person, can move events and change the world.

So, this Passover, let’s remember Caleb and Joshua.

mrs. Christine Tansey, O.P.

What a Great Time to Evangelize! A Reflection

Greetings All:

The conclave is big news not only for Catholics but much of the world is fascinated with the whole affair. I’ve been approached by curious Protestants, agnostics and atheists alike with questions and opinions about the Popes abdication and its significance.

Some have strong opinions, others just want to know what we Catholics are thinking about the whole thing. Invariably, the conversations lead to discussions about Church history, governance, theology of the Papacy, inerrancy and infallibility, the power of the Holy Spirit, free will and sin.

This is a fantastic time for evangelization. We don’t even need to bring up the topic of the Church. It is the news de jour.

Case in point. Craig is a friend who has been a regular guest at our home for several years. He is a non-churched, non-practicing Methodist but still has strong faith and prays regularly. His pithy, cogent spiritual insights regularly remind me that God works wherever we are and with whomever he chooses.

I was a little bemused that Craig was so bothered that the Pope had resigned. He felt that the Pope was abandoning his post prematurely and that he had a duty to work until he died – just like all the other Popes in his lifetime.  He had been deeply moved by the heroic witness of John Paul the Great during his final months. During our talk, I realized that the Pope is not just a rock for Catholics but the Pontiff is a sign of holiness and stability to the whole world.

As recounted above, the conversation led to discussions ranging from the Magisterium and infallibility to Church history and theology and especially the power of the Holy Spirit to bring good out of bad. (We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. Rom 8:28)

Finally, I suggested to Craig that he needn’t take my word for any of it and invited him to come to Mass and see for himself. I was very pleasantly surprised when he responded, “Sure, why not?”

Even the sex scandals present opportunities to discuss sin, depravity and redemption.  Some of you know Herb N. a Southern Baptist attorney who visited with us many times, attended Mass and studied the Catechism – all after intense discussions about the scandal of pederast priests. I still recall how disappointed he was in the Church. He took it personally, as if the affront was to his own Church.  (Which it was, of course)

Herb has yet to convert – it is very difficult to give up a lifelong faith tradition, one in which you and your family and friends were raised and nurtured, baptized, married and buried. But Herb is now an apologist for the Catholic Church and he may yet swim the Tiber.

What I’ve learned and am learning is that personal evangelization depends as much on listening as it does talking – maybe more so. Don’t be afraid of challenging topics – they are actually opportunities for dialog. And finally, don’t push and never argue.  Consciously love the person and be sure to acknowledge the value and earnestness of their prayer life and their love for God. It is very important that we respect their views and opinions. We don’t need to agree with them but we do need to respect them. It helps me to remember that if they are baptized they are already members of the Church and loved by Jesus.


Steve Graves

Faith and Freedom of Religion

John Garvey
President, The Catholic University of America

January 16, 2013 – Crypt Church

5: 15 p.m. Mass, Lecture to follow