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At University of Maryland Mass, Cardinal Gregory urges students to cast out spirit of hate

Sunday Masses at the University of Maryland’s Catholic Student Center are usually packed full of students, faculty and community members. Sunday, Jan. 28, was no exception as the Catholic Terps were joined by Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who offered a thought-provoking message about finding strength in our communities and overcoming hate.

In his homily, the cardinal reflected on the Gospel passage of Mark 1:21-28, in which Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit within a man in the synagogue in Capernaum, he then compared the reading to the tensions rising worldwide.

“Many educated people no longer believe in the reality of the ‘possession by evil and wicked spirits,’” Cardinal Gregory noted. “If there were a disoriented or agitated person that entered the synagogue in Capernaum that day to challenge Jesus, some would suggest that there must have been a rather logical, and perhaps even medically verifiable, reason for the man’s actions.” 

The cardinal then added, “We are far too sophisticated to believe in people who are possessed and who go shrieking through society while others, perhaps even claiming divine authority, go about bestowing instantaneous curses. We are a sophisticated society and no longer accept the unusual in such simplistic terms.” 

Pointing to the various actions of hate and bigotry that are taking the world by storm, Cardinal Gregory shared how difficult it is to explain the rise of violence regarding school shootings, cruelty towards Jewish and Muslim students due to the tragedies in the Middle East, and prejudice among university campuses across America. 

“It is also something of a puzzle to me to explain how there is presently a rise in racial tension on many of our college campuses among young people who have grown up in a world long thought to have been exposed to the issues of racial harmony and mutual respect,” he said. “Perhaps the Word of God is not so unsophisticated after all in proposing that wicked and evil spirits still keep too many minds and hearts captive.”

Above and below, people pray during the Jan. 28 Mass Cardinal Wilton Gregory celebrated at the Catholic Student Center at the University of Maryland in College Park. (CS Photos by Mihoko Owada)

Cardinal Gregory said that Black History Month – first proposed by Dr. Carter Woodson and observed each February – is about truth, honesty, and proper perspective. 

“During this month, I hope that the student and faculty community here at the University of Maryland will engage more effectively in looking within your own hearts and admitting, where it might be necessary, the presence of the evil spirits racism or bigotry that still might linger there,” the cardinal said.

Dora-Marie Groelsema, a junior history major at the university, said she was inspired by the Cardinal’s homily. 

“What resonated with me the most is that as an African-American, I really appreciated how he acknowledged Black History Month coming up, and just seeing Cardinal Gregory as an African-American was inspiring for me to see that there are people of color higher up in the Church,” she said. “I love how aware and in-tune Cardinal Gregory is with the world and what’s going on, and he doesn’t cower away from it but speaks truth into it.”

Following the Mass, the Catholic Terps gathered for a social. Sophomore Anthony Kottiri said he is incredibly grateful for the time he spent with his peers.

“The CSC (Catholic Student Center) is really special to me. Before coming to college, I never really had a community of Catholics to fall back on,” he said. “However, after coming here, I just became so immersed, and the authentic friendships and genuine joy that everyone has here just seemed to have rubbed off on me quickly, and within the first few weeks, I found myself getting very involved here. Everyone just became a family to me.” 

Above and below, Cardinal Wilton Gregory greets students after celebrating a Jan. 28 Mass at the Catholic Student Center at the University of Maryland in College Park. (CS Photos by Mihoko Owada)

Some students suggested how young Catholics could cast out spirits of hate and look in their hearts for the spirit of God.

Junior Astrid Mendoza recommended praying The Daily Examen. Promoted by St. Ignatius, the Daily Examen a practice of reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction in one’s daily life.

“I read it at the end of my day. It helps me reflect on myself,” she said. “You can always ask a friend or mentor if you’re unsure about certain things. Continuously talking to people, learning about new perspectives, being committed to changing ourselves, and learning more about love are all things we can do.”

Kottiri suggested developing a daily prayer schedule. 

“At the end of the day, our identity comes from the one who created us. Whether we’re a son or daughter of God, that’s our true identity,” he said. “So, just coming to our Father every day and cultivating that relationship with him is what will really cast out those evil desires and spirits. Once we come to Him, we find true goodness.”

(Elizabeth Polo is a journalism student at the University of Maryland and a member of the Catholic Student Center there.)