Tag Archives: murder

Father Larry Richards – Confession

This past week, St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, in Hamilton Square, New Jersey, hosted a four-day parish mission led by  Father Larry Richards.  I was unable to attend the event on Monday and Tuesday due to prior obligations, but I made it to Wednesday and Thursday.  Wednesday focused on confession and Thursday focused on adoration and healing.

Wednesday, May 12 – Confession:

This is one of Father Larry’s most famous topics of discussion, so if you were unable to attend the event, you can see him speaking about confession at one of his other parish missions with a quick YouTube search. (Here is Part One on  YouTube.  It has four total parts). [see also: Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four]

Father Larry’s confession talk is extremely powerful in that he is able to make his audience examine their consciences in a way that probably goes deeper than ever before, but he is also able to cause them to feel absolute awe and wonder at God’s mercy.

At different times during the talk, I felt a combination of guilt, shame, gratitude, and overwhelming love.

He explained that mercy is when someone gives something good to someone who doesn’t deserve it.  That’s exactly what Jesus did for each of us in dying on the cross.  Jesus never sinned, yet He experienced excruciating pain in order to enable us to be forgiven for our sins and to one day reach the kingdom of Heaven.  As Catholics, we know this to be true, but often we take it for granted.

Father Larry holds many conferences for men, so he initially spoke to the men and husbands in the audience.  All of us, both men and women, should be praying daily, but it is the husband who is responsible for protecting and praying for his family.  If that is not the case, he is not doing his manly duty and it is problems like this, sins of omission, that are often the most grave sins.

He spoke about the many scrupulous Catholics who are constantly going to confession over every little mistake, but they fail to realize that venial sins are forgiven during Mass.  He says that Catholics should go to confession once a month, unless they have a mortal sin, in which case they must confess that as soon as possible.

He has a very blunt attitude about him, which is refreshing because he speaks the truth, not sugarcoating anything or trying to be politically correct.  There are probably a lot of people who were offended by his words not because they were wrong, but because they were challenging.  Any lukewarm Catholic was probably a bit frightened to understand that simply attending Mass on Sundays is not enough to inherit the kingdom of God.  Even those of us who consider ourselves to be passionately Catholic were pushed in our faith, feeling humbled at the inadequacies he exposed in each of us.  Priests were not exempt either, as he was very clear about the responsibility of priests to pray for their parishes.

He gave us a really good analogy of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  He once was working on a farm and had to carry a cow to a different area.  While he was walking with the calf on his shoulders, it started to urinate, getting all over him and even into his mouth.  This is the way that we treat Jesus.  All He wants to do is bring us home to Heaven, yet we urinate all over Him through our sins while he is simply carrying us on His shoulders.

I have heard priests discuss the Passion and I watch the film, The Passion of the Christ, every year during Lent to remember Jesus’ suffering, but never have I heard it described the way it was on Wednesday night.

People sometimes wonder whether Jesus can understand their pain when dealing with the loss of loved ones, heartbreak, or even physical pain.  Asking that sort of question is the equivalent of slapping Jesus Christ in the face.  Of course He can understand our pain.  The question is, can we understand His pain?

While Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was sweating blood.  Father Larry told us how our capillaries can burst when we are enduring significant stress and fear.  This is what was happening to Jesus because although He accepted His death for us, that did not mean that he was immune to fear.  He was terrified about the pain that he would soon experience.  

Then, Judas betrayed Him with a kiss on the cheek.  When we are experiencing heartbreak, we sometimes wonder if he can understand.  Jesus didn’t date or marry, so how could He understand the pain of a breakup or divorce?  But those questions show our lack of full understanding.

Jesus IS love.  He loves everyone with a deeper love than we can ever imagine.  He loved Judas, the man who betrayed Him with a kiss.  Did He experience heartbreak in that moment?  Absolutely.  We cannot fully grasp the extent of God’s love while we live in these earthly bodies, so it is we who cannot understand this heartbreak, not Jesus.

Father Larry continued to describe the pain of His Passion in a more detailed way than I have ever heard before.  He described the way Jesus was scourged and how the pieces of metal and sheep bone that were attached to the leather straps on the rod would not just slap Jesus’ skin, but tear it away.  This reminds me of the scourging scene in The Passion of the Christ when the metal on the strap gets stuck in Jesus’ side and is then ripped away with an extra tug.  I am unable to watch that moment in the film, yet this was the way the entire scourging process unfolded.

Father Larry described the crown of thorns as more of a cap of thorns.  The thorns were not like those on your average rose bush; they were one to three inches long and he said that they would have pierced his eyebrows, ears, and even his skull.  

All of this pain, and yet the actual crucifixion had not even begun.  It was then that Jesus had to carry the wooden crossbeam.  It was tied to his arms, but he was so exhausted from the scourging that Jesus could barely walk.  If I was to fall down, I would catch myself with my hands, but every time Jesus fell, He landed flat on his face, with the wood of the cross smashing into the back of His head.  

On most crucifixes, Jesus looks to be in pretty good shape.  We don’t want to terrify the people who enter our churches by portraying Him in a more realistic way, with chunks of flesh removed from his body and other strips of flesh torn and hanging, but that was the reality of the crucifixion.

I have heard so many people who refuse to watch movies about the Passion because it’s too much for them to handle.  I, too, prefer movies that lack that type of gore, but it is necessary to understand.  Father Larry did not mince his words in talking about the crucifixion.  It was absolutely gruesome, but we must realize that in order to be truly aware of the awesome gift Jesus gave to us in His death.

Once He was nailed to the cross, His body would sag down and forward.  He would be gasping for breath, only able to breathe once he pulled himself up by the nails in his wrists.  He only spoke seven times while on the cross, probably because every word was a struggle.

He was hanging there, experiencing more pain than we can ever imagine, yet He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He was forgiving the people who were killing Him at the very moment of His crucifixion.  Yet we sometimes find ourselves unable to forgive those who hurt us years ago.
During the crucifixion, Jesus also established His mother, Mary, as our mother, when he said to John, “Behold your mother.”  He gave us the gift of Mary, yet some Catholics refuse to honor her as they should because they want to focus on Jesus.  We take Jesus’ gift of Mary and say, “No thanks, I’m good.”  She is a gift from God and we must give her the love and gratitude that she deserves as mother of our Savior.  Father Larry told us how he completed St. Louis de Montfort’s Total Consecration to Mary and now wears a chain on his wrist to represent how he is a slave to Jesus through Mary.

Because God cannot be near sin, Father Larry explained that Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” when He had accepted all of our sins.  God could not be with Jesus in that moment because Jesus was sin, which could only be overcome through His death.

With that, many of us were already feeling quite guilty, knowing that we had a hand in Jesus’ death.  I’ve met people who don’t like to say “crucify him” aloud when we read the Passion during Lent.  But although we didn’t say that word for word, we say it every time we sin.  We are the ones hammering those nails into Jesus’ hands and shoving the crown of thorns into His head with every sin we commit.


At that point, Father Larry started to review the examination of conscience with us.  

When people hear the term mortal sin, they often think about murder, adultery, and devil worship.  But mortal sin has three facets:

-full knowledge

-full consent

-serious matter

As a practicing Catholic who understands the Church’s teachings, that means that any time I commit a serious sin, it is probably a mortal sin since I know the teachings and I have chosen to commit that sin.  That is absolutely terrifying since it only takes one mortal sin to end up in hell.

Missing Sunday Mass or a holy day of obligation is a mortal sin unless we were really sick or otherwise unable to attend, yet there are tons of Catholics all over the world who are not at Mass each week.  Sure, some of them fail to realize that is sinful, but many of them do and are therefore culpable.  

When Father Larry spoke about the first commandment about not having false gods, he explained that most people never confess that sin, but all of us are guilty of it.  Unless God is always first in our lives, then we are culpable of that sin.  We often value money, success, and relationships more than God, which is shown in our priorities.  If we don’t pray daily, we definitely are guilty of this sin.

Father Larry did not shy away from sins of a sexual nature.  This can be an awkward subject for many, so some Catholics shy away from this topic, but it is a sin that so many people struggle with.  He admitted to dealing with his own lustful temptations on a daily basis.  I think it’s extremely honorable for a priest to stand up in front of over a thousand people and admit to that.  It also helps us to realize that we are not alone, that we all face temptation, but that we also all have the strength to avoid that temptation.

He also said how too many people focus too much on feeling bad about their sins of lust while forgetting about the sins of omission, arguably the worst sins.

He said how he often asks people in confession what they have done to help the poor and whether or not they pray every day.  Failing to do either of those things is much worse than many of the sexual sins that we focus on.  We should all be helping those in need as much as we can, giving 10% of our income away.

We must confess the sin if we ever had an abortion or helped anyone to get an abortion.  He suggests making a good confession and then asking God to reveal the child’s gender.  Then they would name the child, pray to him or her in Heaven, and ask that child for forgiveness.  They will then be united one day in Heaven.

It’s also a sin if we use artificial contraception.  This is a topic that many priests avoid.  Many people don’t want to make too many waves, but we must not forget about pivotal Catholic teachings as a result.  They want to pick and choose which teachings they believe in, but that is not how it works.  When we think back to Jesus’ suffering and death, we know that it was a result of each of our sins.  It is not up to us to decide.

Many frequently people say “oh my God!”  That is a sin that used to be punishable by death.  Just because we hear other Catholics and sometimes even priests or nuns say it does not mean that it is not a sin.  We have no right to take the Lord’s name in vain.

People often think they’re safe in terms of the fifth commandment since they haven’t killed, but we commit that sin every time we feel anger.  Anger is not of God.  Father Larry admitted to struggling with this on a daily basis.  Again, it was refreshing to understand that we are not alone in our struggles.  Priests aren’t immune from temptation and sin either.

After he reviewed the examination of conscience, we said the Act of Contrition aloud.  There were eleven priests who would be hearing confessions and he told us to be quick, not using it as a time for counseling since there were so many people there.  He also said that if we were one of those scrupulous people who had just been to confession three days ago, we needed to go to the back of the line to allow other people to confess their sins.  

The next night, he said how he ended up hearing confessions until 12:10 am and how there were some people there who had not been to confession in over fifty years.  He wanted to make sure that people in situations like that would not have to stand in the back of a line, possibly changing their mind and leaving with all of that sin hanging onto them.

Although I go to confession regularly, I felt even more renewed after confession on Wednesday.  I had never delved that deeply into an examination of conscience.   I had never felt so guilty about the sins that I have committed but simultaneously, I had never felt so loved and grateful for God’s mercy.

When my CCD students went to confession this year, I explained how fortunate they would be if they ever died on a day they went to confession.  They were obviously taken aback, but Father Larry explained the same thing, how if we died following a good confession, we would go straight to Heaven.  He even mentioned his movie idea of a priest who performs confessions and then slits the throats of the person who just confessed his or her sins since that would get them straight into Heaven.

Father Larry promised that during this mission, nobody would ever be bored and that their lives would be changed forever.  Through his animated, enthusiastic speech, jokes, and storytelling, we were definitely never bored.  And our lives were definitely changed forever.  I will never consider my examination of conscience the same way I had before hearing this talk.
I am so grateful that I was able to attend Wednesday night’s talk and I hope to be able to share Father Larry’s messages with the people who were not able to attend the mission.

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Confession lines on Wednesday night
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Abortion Funding Changes

Donald Trump is not my favorite person in the world.  Let’s just get that straight.  I was not thrilled for his election or inauguration. (Though I wouldn’t have been thrilled about Hillary’s either, for that matter.)

But I have to admit that I am very happy about one of the first things I’ve heard him doing now that he is president.

Today, he signed an executive action to reinstate the Mexico City Policy.  This basically takes away funding from NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that perform abortions overseas.

According to CNN, this policy was first implemented during the Reagan administration and then rescinded during Obama’s presidency.

Of course, there are many people who are up in arms today, many of whom argue that this is the first step in restricting women’s rights:

“Donald Trump has turned his anti-women rhetoric into policy, and made it more difficult for women and families all over the world to access vital reproductive care. He really is living up to the lowest of expectations,” NARAL’s president, Ilyse Hogue, wrote.

Abortions being legal is not pro-women, despite what pro-choice people would like to have you believe.  And abortion being illegal is absolutely not anti-women.

To abort a baby is to take a human life that was created by a man and a woman.  The baby is just as much the man’s child as it is the woman’s.  The only difference is that the woman must carry this baby within her body.  I am not trying to make light of that situation.  I know that being pregnant is no easy task.  But to call abortion a woman’s issue ignores that fact that the man is 50% responsible for that pregnancy and that he has rights to that child.

If a woman has a baby, the father has legal rights to that child.  If the couple separates, that father must pay child support.  That is because we know that the child is not the woman’s property alone.  The father had an equal part in the pregnancy as the woman.

Why is the same not true of abortion?  Why must it be viewed solely as a woman’s issue?

If you think about the babies being murdered by abortion, it is clearly more than a woman’s issue.  It’s an issue of life and death, regardless of gender.

I’m not going to get into all of my reasons why I believe that abortion should be illegal right now, because I could go on all night.  But I absolutely applaud Trump for this bold move.

People like to argue that abortion does not affect those who do not support it; they simply choose not to have an abortion.  Depending on our laws, though, they are wrong.

Until the signing of this law, my taxpayer dollars were going toward abortion funding, not only within my own country, but overseas as well.  It is bad enough that I am, in a way, helping to kill innocent babies here in the US, but in foreign countries as well?  Don’t I have the right to choose not to fund what I believe to be murder?

Murder, after all, is the premeditated killing of another human being.  A baby is a human being.  It breathes, feels, grows.

If a pregnant woman is murdered, the killer receives two murder charges: one for the woman and one for the unborn baby.  Our laws, therefore, are contradictory.  In one situation, a fetus is viewed as human and its death is called murder.  In the other situation, the fetus is viewed as a bunch of cells and its death is called women’s rights.

A woman who I know from my old job recently had a son born prematurely.  He was born at 24 weeks this past fall.  He was just 1 lb, 9 oz.  Depending on the state in which this woman lived, she could have aborted that fetus at that same age.  Did he have some developmental issues?  Of course.  But today he is able to breathe on his own and he is still improving.

Abortion is not anti-woman or anti-man.  It is anti-life.

I heard about the women’s march that was going on this weekend.  I had no interest in attending because in many of the locations, the right to abortion was one of the issues that women were standing up for.

It saddens me to know that because I don’t condone murder, I will never stand up for so-called women’s rights or feminism.

Yes, I believe that women deserve equal pay for equal professions as men.  Yes, I believe that women are intelligent, capable human beings.  But does that give them the right to kill with the argument that it’s “their body”?  Absolutely not.

To be pro-life is more pro-women anyway.  Many women face terrible side effects from going through with abortion.  There are physical side effects like fever, nausea, infection, and death.  Then there are many emotional side effects, ranging from depression and guilt, to suicide.

The woman behind Roe v. Wade, whose name is Norma McCorvey, says that her part in legalizing abortion in 1973 was the biggest mistake of her life.  She started her own pro-life outreach in 1997 after realizing the flaws in her previous pro-choice attitude.

The annual March for Life is coming up this Friday.  When in college, I traveled to DC for the March for Life, which fights to protect life at all stages.  That is the march that I support much more than the women’s march.

So kudos to you, Donald Trump.  I may not see eye to eye with you, or feel warm fuzzies when I hear your name, but I am thankful for this small step that you have just taken in terms of fighting back against abortion.

Misconceptions of the Columbine Shooting

Everyone knows about Columbine.  You don’t even need to mention the word “shooting” alongside Columbine; almost anyone who hears that one name knows exactly what you’re referring to.  I recently finished reading a book entitled Columbine, which was written by Dave Cullen. This book takes a look into the events surrounding the Columbine shootings, and many myths that people still believe.

columbine-cover-200

People remember Columbine as a mass shooting. However, had it been orchestrated as planned, it would have been exponentially worse. It was not a mass shooting; rather, it was a failed bombing — a failed bombing which was intended to surpass the devastation from Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma City bombing.

April 20, 1999 was the date that unfortunately went down in history. It is not a coincidence that it is the same date as the Oklahoma city bombing which took place on April 20, 1995.  Dylan and Eric had every intention to become more famous than Timothy McVey, thus the date they chose.  During the shooting, there were only fifteen total deaths (including the Dylan and Eric).  I am by no means trivializing this tragedy, but in some respects, it’s almost miraculous how badly Dylan and Eric failed.  Their intention was to kill hundreds and even potentially thousands of people. Fortunately, that was not what took place.

Dave Cullen, author of the book
Dave Cullen, author of the book

(All of the following quotes are from Cullen’s book)

-“Eric designed at least seven big bombs, working off The Anarchist Cookbook he found on the Web….The attack began with a decoy: rock the neighborhood and divert police. Every free minute raised the potential body count. The boys were going to double or triple McVeigh’s record. They estimated the damage variously as “hundreds,” “several hundred,” and “at least four hundred” — oddly conservative for the arsenal they were preparing” (Cullen 32)

This shooting was obviously a tragedy, but realizing that Eric’s original plan was to double or triple McVey’s body count?  That literally sends chills down my spine.  I know that I sometimes try too hard to find the good in seemingly bad situations, but when people sometimes ask where God is during times such as these, I think this is a great example.  He was there, ensuring that Eric did not build his bombs properly.  There could have been hundreds of people killed and although that does not change the devastation placed upon fifteen families, that is still a significant number of lives saved.

-By 11:18, no bombs inside the school had gone off. “Time for Plan B. There was no Plan B. Eric had staggering confidence in himself. He left no indication that he planned for contingencies…They could just proceed to Act II: mow the departers down in a cross fire and advance on the exits as scripted. They still could have topped McVeigh. But they didn’t. The bomb failure appears to have rattled one of the boys” (Cullen 45).

Because of Eric’s confidence and arrogance, he never stopped to think that his bombs would not work as planned, and thank goodness for that.  They wanted to level the entire school, but instead, there were a few smaller blasts that sparked some fires — nothing strong enough to collapse the walls.

-Dylan did far less damage than Eric, maybe because he was afraid or nervous. There could have been many more casualties if he was shooting the same amount as Eric. “For the second time, Dylan appeared to lose his nerve…He watched the students disappear up the stairs. He did not fire” (Cullen 49).

-Eric “fired his 9mm rifle forty-seven times in that period and did not use his shotgun. Dylan got just three shots off with the TEC-9 handgun and two with his shotgun” (Cullen 51).

Dylan is by no means a saint in this situation, but it is interesting how many times he had the opportunity to kill and he chose to continue walking.  Every life saved represents parents who do not have to experience the grief of burying their son or daughter.  In the entire duration of the shooting, Dylan only shot five times.

-At one point, Eric opened fire onto the police. “He got off ten rounds, all misses. Dylan did nothing. Gardner took cover behind his police car. Eric didn’t even hit that. Then his rifle jammed” (Cullen 51)

-When Mr. Frank DeAngelis (principal) realized that he and a group of girls who were trying to get away from the killers were at a dead end and the gym was locked: “Mr. D had the key, on a chain, in his pocket, latched to dozens just like it. He had no idea what it looked like… We’re just going to get mowed down as he comes around the corner, he thought. He reached in and grabbed a random key. It fit” (Cullen 73).

Again, we have another almost miraculous anecdote.  I have seen the keys held by custodians and administrators – there are too many to count.  Mr. D did not have much time to try keys to check which one would fit.  Yet he picked the right one on the first try.  If that isn’t an intervention by God, then I don’t know what is.  Sure, you can blame it on coincidence, but not me.  My faith leads me to believe otherwise.

One student, Patrick Ireland, had been shot multiple times, including one shot in his head. He was in the library for three hours, fading in and out of consciousness, half of his body paralyzed due to his brain injury. However, he never gave up and eventually made it out the window. The video about Patrick Ireland can be seen below, but I will warn you that it is graphic:

-“If the bombs had gone off as planned, it would have wiped out a quarter of the faculty in the teachers’ lounge” (Cullen 87).

Despite some of these more positive situations involving Columbine, there were also problems that could have potentially been avoided. For example, police protocol was to remain outside of the school and secure the perimeter rather than entering. It was over 30 minutes before any law enforcement would enter the school. Could more lives had been saved if they entered sooner? Perhaps. Though more lives could have also been lost, so no one will really ever know.

Also, everyone was calling the event a hostage situation, but that was not the case. Cullen does a nice job explaining the distinction between hostage and non-hostage crimes:

Hostage Criminals:
-Have some sort of demands
-Hostages aren’t intended to be killed
-Act rationally
-Here, police are visible, and make it clear that they have control; goal is to lower expectations

Non-hostage Criminals:
-Criminal has no demands; just wants to take lives
-Do not act rationally
-Likely they will commit suicide
-Here, police are much less visible, let the gunman feel like he is in control; goal is to lower emotions

One of the aspects of the shooting that bothers me the most is the media.  The media caused so many problems in reporting false information.  It makes me wonder how often this is the case on the news.  The news channels all want the most current information, but they make assumptions that are simply incorrect.  When these assumptions involve the lives of students who may be lying dead in their high school, that is just intolerable.

I understand that the United States of America has freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and for that I am grateful.  I would hate to live in a country like China that has high levels of censorship.  But sometimes these freedoms get pushed too far.  In order to gain more viewers and, ultimately, more money, reporters made many false claims that exacerbated the problems.  They listened to stories coming from students who thought that they knew something, but a great deal of their knowledge was more like the game of telephone.  The one person who was a true witness told a version of the story to her friend, who told it in a slightly different way to his friend, and so on, until the story is a garbled mess of unintentional falsities.  Then, due to the intricacies surrounding false memories and the way our brains act in times of complete terror, the information being broadcast across the country was largely incorrect.

I’m not sure how this could have been avoided, since America wants to be informed about situations like this, but there are so many incorrect beliefs about the shooting, mostly due to the media.

Ultimately, April 20th is a day that will not be soon forgotten.