Sunday, October 30, 2011

The ‘Celebrity Priest’

(Thirty-first Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on October 30, 2011 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I.  Read Malachi 1: 14b-2: 2b, 8-10; 1 Thessalonians 2: 7b-9, 13; Matthew 23: 1-12.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Thirty-first Sunday 2011]

The “celebrity priest.”  That’s a term that’s been used quite often in recent years in both secular and religious publications.  And, most of the time, it has not been used in a complimentary way.  For example, the National Catholic Register ran an article just a couple of weeks ago that had the ominous title, “Beware of the Celebrity Priesthood.”  Similarly, back in 2009, the New York Times had an online piece entitled, “Celebrity Priest Torn Between Church and Girlfriend.” It was about a well-known priest from Florida named Alberto Cutie.  I’m sure some of you remember this story.  At the time, Fr. Cutie had his own talk show on radio and television, and was a successful author.  He wrote a best-selling book, as well as a column for several Spanish language newspapers in the United States and Latin America.  Needless to say, he was a very popular and well-liked priest.  People in the secular media referred to him as “Father Oprah”—because he was such a good interviewer. 

Well, unfortunately, Fr. Cutie was also having an affair with a divorced woman when this New York Times article appeared.   He has since left the Catholic Church, civilly married the woman, and become an Episcopalian minister.

Priests are called to be counter-cultural, because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is always counter-cultural.  We’re called to be counter-cultural in what we preach and teach—and also in the way we live.  And this is precisely why so many priests who become celebrities get into trouble.  You see, it’s very hard to be counter-cultural when the culture is patting you on the back and telling you how great you are!  And that applies as much to the “Church culture” as it does to the wider secular culture.  Just think of someone like Fr. John Corapi.  People in the secular culture detested him because he preached the full Gospel message without compromise—but faithful Catholics in the “Church culture” loved him.  They thought he was great.  They watched him on EWTN every week; they bought his books and CDs.  To them he was a kind of cult-hero.

Well apparently somewhere along the line it all went to his head, so to speak.  As many of us know, this man who used to preach obedience to everyone else has been defiantly disobedient to his religious superiors in recent months.  There have also been credible accusations made against him of immoral activities with prostitutes, illegal drug abuse and financial improprieties.

Speaking of financial improprieties, Fr. Frank Pavone, another popular priest who was on EWTN quite often, is also being investigated for possibly mismanaging funds that people donated to Priests for Life, the excellent pro-life organization that he used to be the head of.  Hopefully, he will eventually be exonerated from any wrongdoing.   

The list of celebrity priests who have fallen in one way or another has gotten long in recent years—much too long; although I should add that there’s no direct connection between being a celebrity priest and getting into trouble.  One does not necessarily follow the other.  Many priests and bishops, for example, have been treated as celebrities either in the Church or in secular society—or in both places—and yet they’ve happily maintained their moral integrity and faithfulness to Jesus Christ.  Some are even on the way to canonization.  Blessed John Paul II, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, and Fr. Michael Scanlan are some of the more noteworthy examples of holy and virtuous “celebrity priests.” 

But for every Pope John Paul II, Bishop Sheen, Fr. Groeschel, and Fr. Scanlan, there are 10 Fr. Corapis.  That’s the sad reality. 

Which really shouldn’t surprise us, because priests are weak and fallible human beings who are subject to the very same temptations that the rest of the human race is subject to. 

Now one of the unfortunate results of all this is that some people try to use the disobedience and moral failings of these members of the clergy as an excuse for not obeying the Lord in their own lives.  They say, “Well these priests have disobeyed; they’ve been unfaithful to God in various ways in their lives, so why should I make the effort to be faithful to God in my life?”

You’ve heard that excuse before, I’m sure.  Hopefully, you’ve never actually used it, but you’ve no doubt heard it.

Well, the simple answer to that question is this: We should make the effort to be faithful to God even when others have failed, because Jesus Christ tells us that we should!  Jesus taught that we must obey God and those whom God has appointed to positions of authority over us, even when those leaders disobey God themselves!  According to Jesus, their disobedience must never be used as an excuse for our disobedience.

Notice what he said to his disciples in today’s gospel text from Matthew 23.  Here he talks specifically about the scribes and Pharisees, who were some of the recognized religious leaders of their day; akin, in some respects, to priests and clergy in the modern Church.  From what Jesus said about them in this scene, it’s clear that these men enjoyed a kind of celebrity status among their fellow Jews.  Or at least they often acted like they were celebrities.  Celebrities, for example, like to be noticed—and so did many of the scribes and Pharisees!  As Jesus said here, “All their works are performed to be seen.” 

Celebrities also love to be catered to and fussed over—just like the scribes and Pharisees enjoyed being catered to and fussed over.  As Jesus put it in this gospel, “They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi’.”

But, as we also heard, they didn’t practice what they preached!  Their celebrity status, in effect, went to their heads, and many of them lived lives that were filled with selfish pride.

And yet, what did Jesus tell his disciples and the others who were present that day?  Did he give them permission to disobey these men?  Did he say, “From now on, you can completely disregard what these evil scribes and Pharisees tell you; you can tune them out completely.  They don’t obey God and Moses in their lives, so you don’t have to obey God and Moses in your lives”?


He said just the opposite.  He said, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses [the ‘chair’ spoken of here is a symbol of authority—the legitimate authority given to them by God].  Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.”

Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you.

As long as what they were teaching was in accord with the law of God and Moses, the people were obliged to be obedient.

The disobedience of their teachers was not a valid excuse for their disobedience.

It’s like the situation that many of you parents face in raising your children.  Can you imagine your children ever saying to you, “Mom and dad, how can you punish us for fighting with each other today?  How can you send us to our rooms and take away our privileges?  That’s totally unfair.  After all, both of you fought with your brothers and sisters when you were growing up!  You did the same thing back then that we’re doing right now.  You told us you did!”

Parents, that kind of lame excuse wouldn’t fly in your home, would it?  You would never allow your disobedience many years ago to be used as an excuse for your children’s disobedience now!

Nor should you allow it!

It’s sad when great preachers and teachers of the Faith like Fr. John Corapi fall from grace.  It’s tragic and it’s scandalous.  But his fall does not negate the truth that he taught with such incredible clarity and conviction when he was a priest in good standing.  The truth he taught is still the truth that will set us free, if we believe it—and live it! 

There were unfaithful Old Testament priests before the time of Jesus.  We heard God’s tough message to some of them in today’s first reading from the book of the prophet Malachi.  There were unfaithful religious leaders at the time of Jesus, as we heard in today’s gospel; and there have been unfaithful leaders ever since then, as we know from watching the evening news.

Thankfully, most priests today are faithful—well over 90% of them.  They do the work the Lord calls them to do quietly and without any fanfare or publicity.  They’re not celebrities—and believe me they’re quite happy about that.  They can relate to the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading from 1 Thessalonians 2, where he talks about working tirelessly night and day to proclaim the gospel of God.

Pray for these good priests: pray for them to remain faithful always. And pray for the conversion of the others, especially those like Fr. John Corapi, who have allowed the trappings of celebrity to tarnish and to undermine their true vocations.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

To Love Yourself is to Desire to Become the Best Possible Version of Yourself.

Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory

(Thirtieth Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on October 23, 2011 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Matthew 22: 34-40.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Thirtieth Sunday 2011]

Self-love is not a bad thing.

At least, the Christian version of self-love isn’t a bad thing.

It can’t be, because Jesus explicitly tells us in Scripture—in this gospel passage we just heard from Matthew 22—that we are to love other people as we love ourselves.

So obviously we won’t be able to love others properly—that is to say, in the way that Jesus wants us to—unless we first love ourselves in the way that Jesus wants us to!

A healthy self-love is a prerequisite, a precondition, for a healthy love of neighbor.

That’s not Fr. Ray’s idea; it’s Jesus’ idea.

Which means that we’d better take it seriously!

Now when most people think of loving themselves they probably think of the worldly version of the phenomenon—which is why they think it’s incompatible with Christianity.

The worldly version of self-love includes things like selfishness, self-centeredness, arrogance and pride—all of which ARE incompatible with being a true disciple of Jesus.

Are you familiar with the character, Sheldon Cooper, on that show The Big Bang Theory?  Because he’s a genius, Sheldon thinks that he’s better than everyone else—a ‘more highly evolved’ human being, as he likes to put it.

He’s a great example of someone who’s filled with the worldly version of self-love.

Now that makes for some good television comedy—but it’s awful when you have to deal with somebody like Sheldon in real life!

So what is true, Christian self-love?  What exactly does it involve?  Well, to use an expression that you find quite often in Matthew Kelly’s books, to love yourself means to have the desire to become the best possible version of yourself.

To love yourself is to desire to become the best possible version of yourself.

That’s the ultimate goal of true, Christian self-love.

Now let’s be clear about it, the best possible versions of you and me do not include sin—any sin at all!  That’s a crucial point that needs to be mentioned here—which means that selfish, self-centered, arrogant, prideful people like Sheldon Cooper really don’t love themselves!  They’re “full of themselves,” so to speak, but they do not have true, Christian self-love.

Neither do people, for example, who live with their intended spouses before marriage!  I think of this whenever I meet with an engaged couple that’s living together and sexually active (which happens quite often, unfortunately!).  I’m sure they don’t realize it, but they really don’t love themselves (if they did they wouldn’t endanger their own salvation by having relations outside of marriage); nor do they really love the person they intend to marry (if they did, they’d never put that person’s salvation in jeopardy either!).

But it does illustrate Jesus’ point, does it not?  He links love of self with love of neighbor, implying that the quality of our self-love will directly influence the quality of our love for other people.

Let me conclude my homily today by sharing with you a little reflection that’s often attributed to Blessed Mother Teresa, although in my research I discovered that it was actually written by a man named Kent Keith.  But Mother Teresa obviously approved of it, because she allowed it to be hung on a wall in her home for children in Calcutta.  Someone sent me this reflection a couple of months ago.  On the surface, it might not seem to be about Christian self-love, but I assure you it is.  I’ll talk about the connection after I read it.

It begins . . .

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.

So what’s the connection between this reflection and the idea of loving yourself in the true, Christian sense?

Simple.  The reflection, first of all, talks about forgiveness.  To be the best version of yourself (which, as I said earlier, is the goal of truly loving yourself), you must forgive others. 

The reflection talks about kindness.  To be the best version of yourself, you must be kind.

The reflection talks about success.  I’m sure Mother Teresa would say that this is not about being successful in the eyes of the world.  Rather, it’s about being successful in the eyes of God—which is simply another way of talking about being the best possible version of yourself.

The reflection talks about honesty.  Obviously you can’t be the best possible version of yourself if you’re deceitful.

The reflection talks about being creative—in the sense of using the gifts God has given you for the building up of his kingdom here on earth.  Being creative in this way is definitely part of what it means to be the best possible version of yourself.

The serenity and happiness mentioned here come from being right with God and neighbor.  That’s what Mother Teresa would certainly say.  Once again, these are qualities of those who are sincerely striving to be the best versions of themselves.

And, finally, the reflection speaks about doing good and giving your very best.  Here again we encounter the connection between loving ourselves properly and loving our brothers and sisters.  Those who are striving to be the best versions of themselves don’t focus on themselves (as ironic as that might sound!); rather, they focus on the needs of their brothers and sisters.  They do good and give their best effort—in loving service.

To love yourself is to desire to become the best possible version of yourself.  That’s the line to remember.

Or, to put it another way, to love yourself is to have the desire to become a saint!

Since Blessed Mother Teresa liked this reflection I just shared, I think it’s fitting that I end my homily today by seeking her intercession for all of us:  Blessed Mother Teresa, from your exalted place in God’s heavenly kingdom, pray for us.  Pray for us today and every day.  Pray that we will have this kind of self-love (and not the worldly version) in our hearts always, so that we will be able to love our brothers and sisters in the way that Jesus wants us to love them, in the way that you loved others during your time on this earth; because, as Jesus indicated in today’s gospel reading, we will only be able to love our brothers and sisters properly if we first love ourselves properly.  Amen.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Moral Responsibility and the Marriage Feast of the King’s Son

Prime Minister David Cameron with Pope Benedict XVI last year

(Twenty-eighth Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on October 9, 2011 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Matthew 22: 1-14.)

 [For the audio version of this homily, click here: Twenty-eighth Sunday 2011]

Between August 6th and August 10th of this year, there was widespread rioting, looting and arson in several cities in England.

Most of us saw the frightening footage on the cable news stations: the people engaged in this activity were completely out of control.  They indiscriminately destroyed the private property of others, and caused good, law-abiding citizens to fear for their safety and their lives.

The world was shocked—although, according to the Prime Minster of England, David Cameron, the world—and that includes the people of Great Britain—should not have been shocked!

They should not have been at all surprised.

Listen now, to a few of the things he said to the citizens of his country in a speech he gave a few days after the chaos was over:

[He began by saying] It is time for our country to take stock.

Last week we saw some of the most sickening acts on our streets. . . .

[Then, a few lines later, he got down to the ‘nitty-gritty’:] So as we begin the necessary processes of inquiry, investigation, listening and learning: let's be clear.

These riots were not about race: the perpetrators and the victims were white, black and Asian.

These riots were not about government cuts: they were directed at high street stores, not Parliament.

And these riots were not about poverty: that insults the millions of people who, whatever the hardship, would never dream of making others suffer like this.

No, this was about behaviour...

...people showing indifference to right and wrong...

...people with a twisted moral code...

...people with a complete absence of self-restraint.

Now I know as soon as I use words like 'behaviour' and 'moral' people will say - what gives politicians the right to lecture us?

Of course we're not perfect.

But politicians shying away from speaking the truth about behaviour, about morality...this has actually helped to cause the social problems we see around us.  [Pro-choice Catholic politicians in this country need to read this speech!]

We have been too unwilling for too long to talk about what is right and what is wrong.

We have too often avoided saying what needs to be said - about everything from
marriage to welfare to common courtesy.

[After giving some reasons why this is the case, he added] In this risk-free ground of moral neutrality there are no bad choices, just different lifestyles.

People aren't the architects of their own problems, they are victims of circumstance.

'Live and let live' becomes 'do what you please.'

Well actually, what last week has shown is that this moral neutrality, this relativism - it's not going to cut it any more.  [Sounds a lot like Pope Benedict XVI, does it not?  He’s always talking about moral relativism and its consequences.  This is yet another example, my brothers and sisters, of how the Church is way ahead of the world!  The Church doesn’t need to ‘get with the world’; the world needs to ‘get with the Church!’  Well maybe that’s finally happening—to some extent at least—over in England.  Cameron continued,]

One of the biggest lessons of these riots is that we've got to talk honestly about behaviour and then act - because bad behaviour has literally arrived on people's doorsteps.

And we can't shy away from the truth anymore.

So this must be a wake-up call for our country.

Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face.

God bless Prime Minister David Cameron, for making it clear to his people that we are all human beings with free will, who have the power to make moral decisions which have definite consequences—consequences for us as individuals, as well as consequences for our families and for the society in which we live.

It’s a message that people in England and the entire western world need to hear more often.

And, of course, as Catholic Christians we would add that our personal moral decisions also have eternal repercussions:  What we do here on earth will ultimately determine who we are and what we are and where we are for all eternity!

Our gospel readings for the last few weeks have reminded us of this truth.  Notice that in today’s parable the wedding guests are all invited to the celebration (the celebration here is a metaphor for heaven!).  They are not compelled; they are not coerced; they are not unduly pressured.  They are simply ‘invited.’  (Did you catch how many times a form of the word ‘invite’ was used in this text?) 

The king wants them there for his son’s wedding (in other words, God wants all people to be saved)—in fact he goes so far as to send messengers to personally extend the invitation (the messengers symbolize the prophets in Old Testament times and the representatives of the Church in New Testament times: the Pope; the bishops in union with him, etc.).

Unfortunately, many who get the invitation make the personal decision either to ignore it or to attack the messengers (that, of course, still goes on today with respect to those who constantly attack the Church and her teaching).

But it’s not enough to decide that you want to go to the eternal wedding feast of the king’s son, Jesus; you also have to make the decision to dress properly for the occasion by putting on a ‘wedding garment’.  In modern Catholic terms, that garment is a symbol for being in the state of grace.  It’s a sign of the fact that the moral choices a person made during his or her life were the right ones, preserving baptismal innocence; or, if they were the wrong ones, it implies that the person repented of those sins and was absolved of them before death. Those in this last category are like the ‘bad’ people in the parable who got invited at the end.  They changed and put on wedding garments before they arrived at the celebration—with the exception of that one, bad dude who thought he could get in without changing his dirty, sin-stained clothes.  That, as we heard a few moments ago, didn’t cut it with the king.  He was not impressed!

I think Prime Minister Cameron would like this parable, because it contains a message about personal responsibility and accountability—a message that far too many people in his country (and ours!) have tried to ignore for several decades.

Let me close now, by quoting a few more lines from his speech on August 15, which illustrate this very point.  He said,

Just as people last week wanted criminals robustly confronted on our streets, so they want to see these social problems taken on and defeated.

Our security fightback must be matched by a social fightback.

We must fight back against the attitudes and assumptions that have brought parts of our society to this shocking state.

We know what's gone wrong: the question is, do we have the determination to put it right?

Do we have the determination to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations?

Irresponsibility. Selfishness. Behaving as if your choices have no consequences.

Children without fathers. Schools without discipline. Reward without effort.

Crime without punishment. Rights without responsibilities. Communities without control.

Some of the worst aspects of human nature tolerated, indulged - sometimes even incentivised - by a state and its agencies that in parts have become literally de-moralised.

So, do we have the determination to confront all this and turn it around?

I have the very strong sense that the responsible majority of people in this country not only have that determination; they are crying out for their government to act upon it.

Of course, it’s a mistake to think that government alone can change these things, Mr. Prime Minister.  Hopefully you realize that.  The change must begin with us—with each of us, individually, examining our lives, converting our hearts, and changing for the better—every day!

Do the people of England have the determination to do that?  I pray they do.  And on this Columbus Day weekend I pray that we in the United States do as well.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Paul’s Saintly Self-Confidence

Philip Rivers

(Twenty-seventh Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on October 2, 2011 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Philippians 4: 6-9.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Twenty-seventh Sunday 2011]

In the last line of today’s second reading from Philippians 4, St. Paul writes these words: “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen IN ME.  Then the God of peace will be with you.”

Do you sense a bit of arrogance in that statement?  I mean, you have to admit that it sounds a little prideful, does it not?  Paul, in effect, is saying to the people of Philippi, “My dear friends, if you want to know what it means to be a true, dedicated, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, just look at me!  Follow me around for awhile.  Imitate my example.  See how I act in situations of temptation and stress and conflict.  Listen to the things I say; watch how I treat other people—and conduct yourselves accordingly.  Then you’ll be good Christians, too.”

Well, let me offer you an alternative interpretation this morning.  Rather than being filled with pride, I would say that Paul was filled with what might be called ‘a saintly self-confidence’.  He knew he was a sinner like everyone else—in fact, in his first letter to Timothy he called himself “the worst of sinners”—but by the time he wrote this letter to the Philippians he had been forgiven for the major sins in his life and had completely turned away from them.  And he was so confident in the way he was currently living that he knew he could, in good conscience, be a true role model for the Christians at Philippi.  He didn’t have any deep, dark secrets; he didn’t have any skeletons in his closet (so to speak); he didn’t have to worry about causing scandal among the faithful.  He was continually and consistently ‘fighting the good fight and running the race and keeping the faith,’ so he had no qualms whatsoever about encouraging the people of Philippi to imitate him.

Obviously our world today needs more Christians like St. Paul, especially, I dare say, more MALE Christians like him—since men are called to exercise many roles of leadership, especially as fathers!

I had this thought after I read an email last Friday from one of the female adults who attends our Thursday night youth group.  The previous evening she had been present when I had the teens read an article about a man named Philip Rivers.  Now for those of you who are not followers of the NFL, Philip Rivers is the star quarterback of the San Diego Chargers football team.  He’s also a very committed Catholic.  Earlier this year he was the guest speaker at a Catholic men’s conference in Phoenix, Arizona, where he did an interview with a representative of the Life Teen organization.

It was the transcript of that interview that the teens and I read that particular Thursday night.  Now what was somewhat amusing (at least it was somewhat amusing to me) was the starry-eyed reaction that some of the female teens had to Mr. Rivers.  Needless to say, they found the young quarterback to be very attractive—although it went beyond looks.  As this adult woman reminded me in her email the following day, it was the ideas Rivers expressed in his interview—his commitment to faith and prayer and marriage and family in particular—that also appealed to many of the women who were present, young and not-so-young.  This female adult wrote, “Our men need more prayer warrior role models.  Men like Philip Rivers and Jason Evert and others are rooted in prayer. They have that solid foundation.  They are men who shout to the world, ‘Bring it on… we’ve got what it takes to win!’  That’s why we were all ‘goo-ing’ and ‘gaa-ing’ over Philip Rivers!”

Let me share with you now a few excerpts from the Rivers interview.  These are some of the responses that had them ‘goo-ing’ and ‘gaa-ing’ (I’m not sure those are real words, by the way, but they were in her email, so I’ll use them to make the point). 

The interviewer said, “So you grew up in a Catholic home, and you took that into your adulthood as a football player. That’s pretty rare for professional athletes.  How did you do that?”

Rivers responded, “I was fortunate to grow up in the faith; my mom taught me the faith.  In North Alabama there were only like 15 of us in my county in my confirmation class.  We were quite the minority in Alabama.  But one thing I remember is when I went to college at North Carolina State, the biggest thing that stuck in my head from my mom was never miss Mass.  That was the thing that she definitely got across.  When you go to college, that’s when the faith becomes your own.  Your mom and dad aren’t waking you up and reminding you, ‘Hey this a good day to go to confession.’  It’s up to you.”

He was asked about the challenges of getting to Mass on game day.  His answer indicated that, like a true man of God, he takes responsibility for his actions and makes sure he gets to Mass no matter what.  He said that he considers it “special” to go to Mass on Sunday before the game begins.  I suppose you could say his philosophy is “Pray before you play.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if more Catholic parents had that philosophy—especially Catholic parents here in Westerly whose children participate in weekend sporting activities?

When Rivers was asked, “Is there any piece of advice that you would give to high school young men?” his answer was very St. Paul-like.  He said, [I would tell them to] Appreciate the faith. Appreciate what we have and what a great gift the sacraments are.  It’s hard to see that as a young man, but I think that, again, [young men are called to be] the leaders of their age.  They grow in their faith and everybody will follow—both their girlfriends and others.  And then also, this can apply to their faith but also to anything else they do.  My dad always said that if you’re going to do something, do it all the way.  If you’re going to be a Catholic man, be it all the way.  If you’re going to clean your room, clean it the right way.  You know, all those little things add up and they stick with you.”

And finally, regarding the temptations and challenges he faces as a pro football player, Rivers said, The biggest key to avoid those temptations is not to put yourself in those situations.  And it’s not just as a NFL player, it’s in any work-place, in any city, anything you’re doing, anywhere after dark, after midnight.  I think it’s [in 1 Corinthians 15 where it] says ‘bad company corrupts good morals.’  If you’re not in the wrong, but you continue to put yourself in tempting situations, eventually you may give in.  So that’s always been something I’ve lived by all the way through—don’t put yourself in those situations.  Even though you may be strong enough to go somewhere and not fall into the sin, avoiding it from the get-go will certainly help.”

I should also add that I was pleasantly surprised to see that, when he talked about his family life, Rivers explicitly mentioned NFP (Natural Family Planning), and the positive impact that has had on his relationship with his wife.

No artificial contraception for Mr. and Mrs. Philip Rivers.

He really IS a serious Catholic!

In fact, based on all that he said in this interview, it seems that Philip Rivers is even more serious about his faith than he is about football (which is saying a lot, because he’s an extremely intense player—one of the most intense in the entire National Football League!).

I ask you to join me today in praying for him that he will remain a committed Catholic throughout his life—because it’s not a given!  He could give in to one of those temptations he talked about and turn away from God in an instant, if he chose to.

He has free will just like the rest of us!

Let’s pray that he’ll stay the course, and grow in his faithfulness to the Lord each and every day, so that eventually he’ll be able to say to his children and to his grandchildren and to the other people in his life the same words that St. Paul said to the Philippians in this reading: “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen IN ME.  Then the God of peace will be with you.”

Let’s pray that he’ll be able to say those words as Paul did—with saintly self-confidence.

And, while we’re at it, let’s also pray for ourselves and for one another during this Mass, that we’ll be able to do the very same thing.