30 September 2014

Happy Birthday, Myrna!!!

Happy Birthday, Myrna!!!

The celebration of a person’s birthday celebrates that person and his/her life. Each such person is a gift of God to the world, and each brings his/her own special touch to this world that He made.

You are a truly blessed person, and I am grateful to have you in my life. The gift that you are has touched me (and a multitude of others) in a variety of good ways. Thank you for the many ways You open yourself to the blessings God sends Your way! Thank you for being a blessing to me and to each person whose life you touch!

May this day and the upcoming year be filled with an outpouring of the Lord’s choicest blessings!

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of Holy Scripture and for the many ways You touch our hearts, our lives, with this great gift.

Pope Francis on Christian Life Without a Cross

"Christ as Redeemer cannot be understood save through a willingness to take up the cross, said Pope Francis during [a recent homily].

The Christian, he said Sept. 26, addressing the congregation gathered in the chapel of the Santa Martha residence, is like the 'Cyrene' - referring here to Simon of Cyrene - who helped Christ carry his own Cross.

"On the other hand, those who do not take up the cross move forward along a path that only appears to be good."

A recent Catholic News Agency report on the Holy Father's homily on the Friday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time offered his reflection on the Gospel reading (Luke 9:18-22).

To access the complete Catholic News Agency report, please visit:

Catholic News Agency: Life isn't Christian without a cross, Pope Francis assures (26 SEP 14)

Reflection Starter from St. Jerome

"Catch, then, O catch the transient hour; Improve each moment as it flies!" - Saint Jerome, whose memory the Church celebrates today

29 September 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for Your protection in our lives (something we are often unaware of).

A Reflection on the Parable of the Talents

"The attendance at our daily Mundelein Seminary on Labor Day weekend was sparse. Many of the students had gone home while others were on a special tour of Chicago churches. The celebrant and preacher for the Sunday Mass was Fr. Robert Schoenstene, our veteran Old Testament professor. Fr. Schoenstene offered the best interpretation I've ever heard of a particularly puzzling parable of the Lord, and I wanted to make sure his reading got a wider audience.

"The parable in question is the one concerning the rich man who gives talents to three of his servants and then sets out on a journey. Upon his return, he assesses the situation and discovers that the servant to whom he had given five talents had invested them fruitfully and that the servant to whom he had given three talents had done the same. But he finds, to his chagrin, that the slave to whom he had entrusted one talent had simply buried the wealth and had garnered neither gain nor interest. Angered, he orders that the one talent be taken from the timid servant and given to the servant who had invested most boldly. And then comes the devastating moral lesson: 'For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.'"

In a recent commentary, Father Robert Barron offered Father Schoenstene's reflection on this parable and its meaning vis-à-vis the mercy God bestows on each of us.

To access Father Barron’s complete post, please visit:

Reflection Starter

“A bad attitude is like a flat tire. If you don’t change it, you’ll never go anywhere.” - Source Unknown

28 September 2014

King's College Choir: "O God, Our Help in Ages Past"

As we continue our Sunday celebration, I offer this version of the King's College Choir singing "O God, Our Help in Ages Past":

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today the Church celebrates the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The assigned readings are Ezekiel 18:25-28, Philippians 2:1-11, and Matthew 21:28-32. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 25 (Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10,14).

For one version of the Responsorial Psalm set to music, please visit:

YouTube:  Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 25 Remember Your Mercies O Lord)

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: "What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' He said in reply, 'I will not,' but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes, sir,‘ but did not go. Which of the two did his father's will?"

They answered, "The first."

Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him."

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 28, 2014)

Msgr. Charles Pope: Pitfalls of the Pious - A Sermon for the 26th Sunday of the Year (27 SEP 14)

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: Talk is Cheap - Parable of the Two Sons

The Deacon's Bench: Homily for September 28, 2014: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (27 SEP 14)

The Sacred Page: "The Faithfulness of God - Where Justice and Mercy Meet": The Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (24 SEP 14)

Word on Fire: Taking Spiritual Responsibility (Cycle A * Ordinary Time * Week 26)

Dr. Scott Hahn: The Humble Path (September 28th 2014 - Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Spirituality of the Readings: Motivation (26th Sunday of Ordinary Time A)

The Word Embodied: Love's Labor (26th Sunday of Ordinary Time A)

Historical Cultural Context: Doing the Will of the Father (26th Sunday of Ordinary Time A)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by Clement of Alexandria (26th Sunday of Ordinary Time A)

Word to Life Radio Broadcast: Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (26 SEP 14)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of the priesthood and for all You do for and through Your priests.

In "Celebration of the Priesthood"

The Archdiocese of Boston Clergy Health and Retirement Trust recently celebrated the priests of the archdiocese at their sixth annual dinner in Celebration of the Priesthood.

As part of the celebration, they offered this inspirational and thought-provoking video:

Background information:

Archdiocese of Boston Clergy Health and Retirement Trust

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"There is the tendency to place ourselves and our ambitions at the center of our lives. This is very human, but it is not Christian." - Pope Francis

27 September 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which You work through the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and other charitable organizations.

Br. John Thomas Fisher, O.P., on Ecclesiastes and God's Purpose

"A little over nine centuries before the birth of Christ, King Solomon is said by tradition to have written the Book of Ecclesiastes. It took Pete Seeger almost three millennia to compose a song out of a snippet of the third chapter. A decade later, after The Byrds covered it, King Solomon could be credited for a hit song ringing from the hippie subculture (or just Forest Gump enthusiasts) and now able to be stuck in the heads of all. The song is mind-numbing at this point, and I'm ashamed to say it, but when I was an altar boy at various funerals I couldn't help but hearing Turn! Turn! Turn! in my ears as the lector got up.

"There's certainly a difference in the intent of the era that composed this tune and the intent of King Solomon. The former proposed an idea that the entirety of existence is under a giant pendulum, that all events, joyful and sorrowful alike, come to equilibrium in relative haste. This idea gave us phrases like 'what goes around comes around,' 'everything is circular,' or whatever other faux-far-eastern wisdom a long haired blond living in his grandmother's basement can conjure up in a given afternoon."

In a recent commentary, Brother John Thomas Fisher, O.P., reflected on the times mentioned in the Book of Ecclesiastes as God's appointed times and on how abandoning our own wills to His will allows us to see all events in our lives in accord with His ultimate purpose (even when we don't understand it).

To access Br. John Thomas' complete post, please visit:

Dominicana: King Solomon, Flower Children, and Abandoning Our Wills (26 SEP 14)

Reflection Starter from St. Vincent de Paul

"Strive to live content in the midst of those things that cause your discontent. Free your mind from all that troubles you, God will take care of things." - Saint Vincent de Paul, whose memory the Church celebrates today

26 September 2014

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

On Saturday (27 September), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will again be coordinating a collaborative effort with state and local law enforcement agencies (including many agencies throughout New England) to remove potentially dangerous controlled substances from medicine cabinets. The free event will be held from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM. These sites include (as of this writing) 61 in Connecticut, 169 in Maine, 187 in Massachusetts, 79 in New Hampshire, 44 in Rhode Island, and 63 in Vermont.

This Ninth National Take-Back Day is designed to provide an opportunity for the public to surrender expired, unwanted, or unused pharmaceutical controlled substances and other medications for destruction. These drugs are a potential source of supply for illegal use and are considered an unacceptable risk to public health and safety.

This one-day effort is designed to bring national focus to the issue of increasing pharmaceutical controlled substance abuse. The program is anonymous, and it focuses on prescription and over the counter solid dosage medications (i.e., tablets and capsules). Intravenous solutions, injectables, and needles will not be accepted. In addition, illicit substances such as marijuana or methamphetamine are not a part of this initiative.

To view a list of collection sites in a specific state, please click on the following:

US DEA: National Take Back Initiative Collection Site Search

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the beauty of the morning sunrise.

‘Fear is Useless; What is Needed is Trust’

“Can one person change the world?” asks author Jim Ziolkowski in the subtitle of his Christopher Award-winning book Walk in Their Shoes. Well, consider his story.

Ziolkowski grew up in Michigan in a family that modeled faith and service. His father loved the Catholic faith so much that, as a young man, he hitchhiked from Grand Rapids to Gethsemane, Kentucky, so he could hang out with Thomas Merton and experience Mass with the Trappists. Meanwhile, Jim’s mother would take him and his siblings to a local nursing home to spend time with seniors who never received any visitors.

After graduating college, Ziolkowski hitchhiked around the world for a year, spending a lot of time in developing countries. He visited India and Nepal only to feel overwhelmed by the poverty he witnessed there. One day, however, he passed through a village where they were celebrating the opening of a school.

During an interview on Christopher Closeup, Ziolkowski recalled, “Now I’m not just seeing the injustice of extreme poverty, I’m seeing the hope, determination, and courage that these community members had around education. When I came back to the States, I saw poverty in our own country in a much different way, especially in American inner cities. I saw that same thread of hope and courage in American youth that I saw in Nepal, and so I wanted to act on these experiences. But I totally chickened out! I took a fast-track job with GE, and it took me 15 months to work the courage up to leave and start buildOn.”

Ziolkowski started his nonprofit, called buildOn, out of the kitchen of his parents’ house. The initial mission was to build three schools in poor areas of three different continents, using inner-city youth from America to help do it. Beyond good intentions, Ziolkowski had no experience “fundraising, mobilizing communities in developing countries, building schools, or working with urban youth.” He felt paralyzed by fear, until one night he opened his Bible and read the two sentences that turned his life around: “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust.”

Jesus’s words from the gospel of Mark gave Ziolkowski the courage to move forward and put everything in God’s hands. Twenty-two years later, they’ve come a long way. He says, “In developing countries, we’ve built 618 schools; villagers have contributed over 1.1 million work days to build those schools.” The inner-city youth that get involved come from 62 of “the toughest urban high schools in America,” from Detroit, Chicago, Oakland, San Francisco, the South Bronx and Philadelphia.

Their efforts aren’t exclusive to foreign work, though. “We mobilize kids to transform their communities through service,” explained Ziolkowski. “They go out and work with elders, like I used to when I was a kid. They work with folks that are HIV positive and have AIDS, they spend time with little children who have physical disabilities, they work with adults with developmental disabilities.”

Another positive outcome for young people in the buildOn programs is that 94 percent of them graduate and go to college. Most interestingly for Ziolkowski was the discovery that when these kids get involved in the program, “they don’t have a sense of control over their lives or their future. There’s so much chaos and violence in the community. When they get involved, they realize what they can accomplish. They elevate expectations for themselves and gain a sense of hope.”

So can one person change the world? Jim Ziolkowski proves the answer is yes!

(This essay is this week's “Light One Candle” column, written by Tony Rossi, of The Christophers; it is one of a series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current events.)

Background information:


The Christophers

Reflection Starter from St. Thomas of Villanova

"If you want God to hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor. If you wish God to anticipate your wants, provide those of the needy without waiting for them to ask you. Especially anticipate the needs of those who are ashamed to beg. To make them ask for alms is to make them buy it." - Saint Thomas of Villanova

25 September 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord for the gift of our eyesight, for the many ways You work though it for us, and for the many visual treats You offer us.

Br. Innocent Smith, O.P., on Sharing in God's Form of Loving

"Man and woman are made in the image of God, and yet one constant temptation is to see in others not an image crafted by God but an idol crafted by ourselves. What do I mean by this? It is dangerously easy to harbor misapprehensions and faulty judgments concerning other people we interact with - or, at times more perilously, other people we don't interact with. In either case, whether through an awkward half-awareness or through a notional familiarity which leaves unquestioned unflattering impressions, we can go on for tremendous lengths of time without taking or having the opportunity to correct our misunderstandings of another person. . . ."

In a recent commentary, Brother Innocent Smith, O.P., reflected on the difference between human love and divine love and on how, though the gift of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, we can be lifted up from merely human love to a sharing in God’s mode of loving.

To access Br. Innocent’s complete post, please visit:

Dominicana: I am not who you think I am (11 SEP 14)

Reflection Starter from Proverbs

"To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice." - Proverbs 21:3

24 September 2014

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D major

It’s time for some classical music. This is a presentation of Jean Sibelius ’s  No. 2 in D major (Op. 43) as played by the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic), conducted by Leonard Bernstein:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the beauty of the changing seasons.

Msgr. Pope on Following Only One Shepherd

". . . this world has many contradictory and bewildering standards.

"One of the great human struggles is to become free from being defined by others, from being so much under the world's judgment that we lack any personal conviction or deep, stable, and serene core.

"An old African proverb says 'If I don’t know who I am, anyone can name me.'

"Somewhere in the midst of the world’s demands for conformity to its ephemeral standards, each of us must come to know the man or woman that God created us to be.."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on our personal journey with the Lord to discover our true self.

To access Msgr. Pope’s complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure. A Meditation on following only one Shepherd. (23 SEP 14)

Reflection Starter from Padre Pio

"Pray, hope, and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer." - Saint Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), whose memory the Church celebrated yesterday (23 September)

23 September 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways Your Church brings Your peace and love to the world.

Elizabeth Scalia on Incarnational Evangelization

"Do you know why, as Pope Francis rightly noted, proselytizing doesn’t work?

"Because it is not Incarnational. It has nothing in common with the example set by the Word when he condescended to join humanity and 'set his tent among us'. Not near humanity, but still apart; not above humanity, overseeing it, but among and with and in commonality with us. . . .

"Proselytizing tries to make people jump into holiness in order to get Jesus, which entirely contradicts Jesus’ own example.

"Jesus went to people - and let them come to him - and once they found him, people wanted the holiness they saw embodied in him. Sharing in that holiness meant staying bound to Christ in such a profoundly hopeful, consoling and enlightening way that even apart from him - even living in a different place, even living in a different time - the connection held, even unto death.

"Evangelization differs from Proselytizing - and gets closer to the Incarnational example of Christ Jesus - by being non-confrontational. Rather than repelling people by preaching at them, it attracts in large measure through a kind of positive passivity that allows room for the Holy Spirit to work."

In a recent commentary, writer Elizabeth Scalia reflected on the the importance of a spirit of a missionary mindset, meeting people where they are and letting them see Jesus and His Light in us.

To access Ms. Scalia’s complete post, please visit:

The Anchoress: Why Dolan, and Francis, and Benedict are Right (19 SEP 14)

Reflection Starter from Edward Everett Hale

"I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do." - Edward Everett Hale

22 September 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many "talents" You have given us (whatever their form may be).

Marcel LeJeune on the Parable of the Talents

" Reading the parable of talents, I was hit between the eyes with this sentence: ‘But the man who received one (talent) went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money.’

“A talent is a coin worth about 17 years worth of wages. In today's modern income, this would be equivalent of about $750,000 today. This is no small amount of money. The point of the story is there is a great wealth we have been given and digging holes to bury God's gifts can get us in serious trouble.

 “Jesus is letting you and I know we all have been given great gifts. Sometimes we look at other's gifts and compare our own. Think of the man with 10 talents - $7.5 million - what would the servant with only 1 talent think of him?

•If I only had his money.

•I could really do something good with that.

•I deserve it as much as he does. . . .”

In a recent commentary, Marcel LeJeune reflected on this parable may apply to our own lives..

To access Deacon Greg’s complete post, please visit:

Aggie Catholics: Burying A Treasure: Entitlement (19 SEP 14)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"The Lord is always there waiting to give us his love: it is an amazing thing, one which never ceases to surprise us!" - Pope Francis

20 September 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for Your kind and loving Providence (whether or not we are aware of it in our lives).

Pope Francis: The Church is Catholic (Universal) and Apostolic (Missionary)

"When you say that the Church is 'Catholic' and 'Apostolic' it means that it is 'universal' and 'missionary', 'outgoing', as were the apostles. This means 'taking to heart the salvation of all mankind', 'having a sense of the fullness, completeness, harmony of Christian life' and 'being aware that our faith is anchored to the same proclamation and witness of the apostles'. These were Pope Francis reflections today at his General Audience dedicated to the Church."

"The Pope toured at length among the 30 thousand people in St Peter's Square, stopping to accept even a sip of mate. Speaking to them Francis also pointed out the value of the work of missionaries. 'Let us give thanks to the Lord because our Church has many missionaries, has had many missionary and still needs more.'"

A recent AsiaNews article reported on the Pope'e general audience on Wednesday (17 September), an audience in which Poe Francis explained what "catholic" and "apostolic" - in the Creed - mean.

To access the complete AsiaNews report, please visit:

AsiaNews: Pope: The Church is "catholic" and "apostolic". That is it’s "universal" and "missionary" (17 SEP 14)

Reflection Starter from Ralph Waldo Emerson

"You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

19 September 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the "little" treats You send our way each day (whether we are aware of them or not).

Br. Nicholas Schneider, O.P., on the Small Things in Our Daily Lives

"The difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is three days. My long-time barber explained his philosophy noting that three days is the time that it takes to get adjusted to something. While I would make an exception for a horrible or really uneven haircut, I agree with his general sentiment that we get accustomed to new things very quickly.

"Our ability as humans to quickly adapt to new situations is a wonderful skill, but I wonder how much we lose in the adjustment. This is especially pertinent in the religious life of a monk, cloistered nun, or even a friar where we come together to pray four or five (or more) times each day in the same chapel, chanting the same sets of psalms, week after week. This routine has its dangers as it is so easy to sing on auto-pilot and not pay attention to what we are doing or saying.

"I was recently reminded of just how much I have become acclimated to the routine when the new student brothers, fresh from novitiate and simple profession, joined us. At the Dominican House of Studies we have regular processions after Vespers or Compline, singing some of the great Dominican chants including the Salve Regina and the O Lumen. Finishing a procession that first weekend, one of the new brothers next to me in line turned to me and said, 'That is so cool.' . . ."

In a recent commentary, Brother Nicholas Schneider, O.P., reflected on the importance of paying attention to the small, beautiful things in our life.

To access Br. Nicholas' complete reflection, please visit:

Dominicana: Little Things (19 SEP 14)

Reflection Starter from Matthew

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." -  Matthew 11:28-30

18 September 2014

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is being observed as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, an observance designed to raise awareness of the serious threat obesity poses to the health of America’s children and to encourage action aimed at decreasing its prevalence in the United States.

According to recent studies, almost one third of American children (over 23 million) are overweight and half of these are considered to be obese.

For more information about this observance, please visit:

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month Toolkit

Presidential Proclamation:

Presidential Proclamation – National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, 2014

Background information:

President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Childhood Overweight and Obesity

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; and National Cancer Institute: We Can!

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for those people You inspire to pray for us - as individuals or as part of a group.

Msgr. Pope on Courage in Proclaiming the Gospel Message

"Those who would preach or lead in the Church must have great courage, for though we preach a gospel that contains consoling messages, it also contains much that is contrary to the directions and desires of popular culture and human sinfulness. And thus it is true that every preacher who would preach the gospel of a crucified (and risen) Messiah must have courage. And this applies not only to clergy, but also to parents, catechists, and all who are leaders in the Church, family, and community.
And if we must have courage it also follows that we must be encouraged. To be encouraged means to be summoned to courage by affirmation, good example, and when necessary, by rebuke and warning."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of
Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on an encouraging homily by Saint Bernard ofClairvaux on exhortation and courage.

To access Msgr. Pope’s complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: A Summons to Courage in the Battle: A Meditation Based on a Sermonof St. Bernard (9 SEP 14)

Reflection Starter from Joseph of Cupertino

"Clearly, what God wants above all is our will which we received as a free gift from God in creation and possess as though our own. When a man trains himself to acts of virtue, it is with the help of grace from God from whom all good things come that he does this. The will is what man has as his unique possession." - Saint Joseph of Cupertino, whose memory the Church celebrates today

17 September 2014

Constitution Day and Constitution Week

On 17 September 1787, 39 Constitutional Convention (also known as the American Congress of the Confederation) delegates at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA, signed the United States Constitution. This year is the 227th anniversary of the Constitution’s signing.

Constitution Day, the anniversary date of the signing, became a national observance in 2004, when Congress passed a bill designating 17 September as the day for citizens to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution and to learn more about the nation’s founding document. In honor of Constitution Day, all educational institutions receiving federal funding are required to hold an educational program pertaining to the U.S. Constitution. This year, Constitution Week is being observed during the week of 17-23 September.

For more information about Constitution Day, please visit:

National Constitution Center: Constitution Day

Presidential Proclamation:

Presidential Proclamation --- Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, Constitution Week, 2014

Background information:

National Constitution Center

The Center for Civic Education

Facebook: Center for Civic Education

Boston’s IMPACT II – Resources

Apples4theteacher: About U.S. Constitution Day | Constitution Week

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 1

It’s time for some classical music. This is a presentation of Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony Number 1” as played by the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic), conducted by Leonard Bernstein:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, that, as proclaimed in Psalm 33, all Your works are trustworthy.

Behind Every Number is a Human Face

Here’s something you might not have known: every day more than a thousand people are rounded up and sent away from this country, back to where they came from. In many cases, that turns out to be Mexico. And many of the deportees settle for a time in Tijuana, near the California border and the land that most of them have called home for quite some time.

A lot of them stay for a while at the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, a church-run institution that does its best to offer a level of hope and encouragement. It’s often a tough sell, though. When you’ve been barred for good from the United States, separated from the family you’ve raised here, the future can look bleak indeed.

Katie Hyde and the staff of The Leaven, the Kansas City (Kansas) archdiocesan newspaper, outlined the problem with a personal visit to Tijuana and a four-page special report last year. It might not change many minds, but the feeling here is that many readers will look at the question in an entirely new light.

You can have your pick of statistics in the story--about two million deportations by the time the current administration is ended; 220,000 hosted by Casa del Migrante alone in more than 25 years--but it never lets you forget that statistics are made up of individuals, of people.

People like Angel, for example. He had been in the U.S. for 20 years when a checkpoint stop showed him with no license. Police then confiscated his truck, and as a result his business failed. He rapidly ran out of money to take care of two young daughters and pay the rent, and so made the terrible decision to steal baby formula from a local store--and was caught. Sentenced to four years, he served two before being deported to Mexico. “This is what happens,” the judge told him, “when people like you come into my country and steal.”

Or like Victor, 49, who was stopped and arrested--and then deported--while running an errand. “At least let me see my kid,” he begged. “They didn’t let me. I feel so helpless.”

Angel, Victor and perhaps 100 others come each day to the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, where they can find food, medical attention and shelter--and an encouraging word. It’s presided over by Father Pat Murphy, C.S., a New Yorker who’s a veteran of Hispanic ministry and who speaks flawless Spanish.

“What most people don’t understand is that most everyone would like to cross legally,” he said, “but the line for any form of legalization is 15 years long. Their families would starve if they waited that long.

“We need to move away from thinking about this issue just in numbers,” he added. “Behind every number is a human face. Families torn apart. Kids left behind. We need to understand things in a different light.”

That’s the attitude at Casa del Migrante, which is staffed by a handful of workers and many volunteers, from all over the world. The number of deportations, and the possibility of immigration reform, have kept all of them busy. Especially Father Pat, who sees the house as one of hope, but recognizes its frustrations as well.

Angel addresses that well, talking about his children as he faces an uncertain future. “I can’t just leave them,” he says. “They are my babies.”

(This essay is a recent “Light One Candle” column, written by Jerry Costello, of The Christophers; it is one of a series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current events.)
Background information:

Reflection Starter from Psalm 33

"[T]he plan of the LORD stands forever,the designs of his heart through all generations." - Psalm 33:11

16 September 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which You are present in our lives.

Donald DeMarco, Ph.D., on Extreme Space Weather Events and God's Providence

“NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has recently disclosed that two years ago, on July 23, 2012, planet Earth almost plunged into global catastrophe.
“On that date, a solar flare – better known in scientific parlance as a “coronal mass ejection” (CME) – came close to hitting the Blue Planet and disabling electrical appliances everywhere, thereby causing a widespread global blackout. It was the most powerful storm on the sun in more than 150 years.
“Had it flared up just a week earlier, Earth, according to scientists, would have been directly in its line of fire. As a result, it would have sent the planet back to the Middle Ages. Just 10 minutes without electricity, Internet communications and everything else that requires electricity would have brought about chaos on an epic scale.
“In the words of a scientist from the University of Colorado, ‘I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did.’”
In a recent commentary, Donald DeMarco (professor emeritus, St. Jerome’s University, Waterloo, Canada, and columnist for St. Austin Review) reflected on God’s Providence and its relationship to events in His created universe.
To access Dr. DeMarco’s complete essay, please visit:
NationalCatholic Register: God Has a Flare for the Dramatic (31 AUG 14)

Reflection Starter from Viktor Frankl

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." - Viktor E. Frankl

15 September 2014

National Preparedness Month

September is being observed as National Preparedness Month. This awareness month is sponsored by the Ready Campaign in partnership with Citizen Corps and the Ad Council. National Preparedness Month is designed to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities.

2014 NPM Logo

The Ready Campaign is a national public service advertising campaign sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in partnership with the Advertising Council. This campaign is designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to get the public involved and ultimately to increase the level of basic preparedness across the nation.

National Preparedness Month (NPM) is held each September to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities. September 2014 is the eleventh annual NPM. This year has as its theme, “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare.”
National Preparedness Month Coalition membership is open to all public and private sector organizations. Groups can register to become an NPM Coalition Member by visiting the Ready Campaign at http://www.ready.gov/ and clicking on the NPM banner.

During National Preparedness Month, coalition members are encouraged to share preparedness information with their members, customers, employees, and communities. Members spearhead activities that encourage specific steps for individual, neighborhood, and community preparedness. Once an organization registers as a coalition member, it receives access to the NPM Website, which includes a toolkit with templates, resources, and tips to assist with promoting emergency preparedness.

Background information:

FEMA: National Office of Citizen Corps

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Presidential Proclamation - National Preparedness Month, 2014

Connecticut Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security

Maine Emergency Management Agency

MEMA: Maine Prepares

Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security: Homeland Security & Emergency Response

New Hampshire Department of Safety: Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency

Vermont Division of Emergency Management

Vermont Emergency Response Volunteers

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for Your kind and loving Providence.

The Last Homily of Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM

"That's the way it is.  Good days.  And bad days.  Up days.  Down days.  Sad days.  Happy days.  But never a boring day on this job.  You do what God has called you to do.  You show up.  You put one foot in front of another.  You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job - which is a mystery.  And a surprise.  You have no idea when you get on that rig.  No matter how big the call.  No matter how small.  You have no idea what God is calling you to.  But he needs you.  He needs me.  He needs all of us." 

In a recent post, Deacon Greg Kandra shared the last homily of Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM. Father Judge, a chaplain for the Fire Department of New York City, was the first recorded fatality of the 9-11 attack on the Twin Towers in New York. The homily was presented at the quarters of Engine 73 and Ladder 42 in the Bronx on 10 September 2001.

To access Deacon Greg’s complete post, please visit:

The Deacon's Bench: Fr. Mychal Judge’s last homily: 9/10/01 (10 SEP 14)

To access Father Judge’s complete homily, please visit:

Mychal's Message: The Last Homily of Father Mychal Judge

Reflection Starter from John Bunyan

"In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without heart." - John Bunyan

14 September 2014

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The assigned readings are Numbers 21:4-9, Phillipians 2:6-11, and John 3:13-17. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 78 (Psalm 78:1-2, 34-38).

For one version of the Responsorial Psalm set to music, please visit:

YouTube: Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 78

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Exultation of the Holy Cross (September 14, 2014)

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: Terrorism and the Victory of the Cross

Msgr. Charles Pope: The Wisdom and Power of the Cross – A Homily for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (13 SEP 14)

The Deacon's Bench: Homily for September 14, 2014: Exaltation of the Holy Cross (13 SEP 14)

The Sacred Page: "For God So Loved the World": Readings for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (10 SEP 14)

Word on Fire: Venerating the Cross (Cycle A * Ordinary Time * Week Triumph of the Cross)

Dr. Scott Hahn: The Promised Land (September 14th 2014 - Exaltation of the Holy Cross)

Spirituality of the Readings: Look at the Cross (Exaltation of the Holy Cross)

The Word Embodied: Being Saved by God’s Kind Favor (Exaltation of the Holy Cross)

Historical Cultural Context: The World’s Darkness (Exaltation of the Holy Cross)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by Bede (Exaltation of the Holy Cross)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You help us to understand Your creation through scientific inquiry.

Simcha Fisher on Catholics, Science, and Fear

"'It is a disgraceful and a dangerous thing for an unbeliever to hear a Christian, presumably explaining science, nutrition, and medicine, talking nonsense on these topics. Many non-Christians are well-versed in Natural knowledge, so they can detect vast ignorance in such a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The danger is obvious - the failure to conform interpretation to demonstrated knowledge opens the interpreter, and by extension, Christianity as a whole, to ridicule for being unlearned.'

"All right, so St. Augustine didn't say 'science, nutrition, and medicine,' he said 'the meaning of scripture.' But other than that, he's describing a good 40% of my Facebook wall.

"More and more, religious people are pitching their tents in the vast, squashy wilderness that calls itself 'natural living' or 'alternative medicine,' and are rejecting science and modern medicine - not some of it, but all of it. Their creed is this: drugs are evil, chemicals are evil, doctors are evil.You can cure most diseases, mental or physical, with a handful of seeds and a few essential oils squirted into the proper orifices. Above all, be afraid.

"It's not only Catholics, of course, who are using the most dubious of weapons in the backlash against science and medicine. Religious, agnostics, and atheists may all believe that, based on something they overheard on Oprah, they have pierced the veil and now they know better than the Mayo Clinic.

"But it's especially galling when Catholics become anti-science. Catholics have an ancient tradition of rigorous inquiry into the natural world that the Creator made for us. We invented the university. Catholics have dominated science and medicine for centuries. . . ."

In a recent commentary, writer Simcha Fisher reflected on the attitude of many Catholics on matters related to science and health.

To access her complete post, please visit:

National Catholic Register: Blogs: Science, Catholics, and Fear (2 SEP 14)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"God's faithfulness is stronger than our unfaithfulness and our infidelities." - Pope Francis

13 September 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of grace in all its many forms.

Fr. Longenecker on Things to Remember When Fed Up With Other Catholics

“Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to hear an increasing amount of grumbling from about the state of the church.

Some folks complain about the new generation of priests, 'All these guys seem to care about is lace and china tea cups! Are they all pansies? What’s going on? Why do they have to return to all this fancy folderol? Why the obsession with ornate liturgy? I thought we were over that.' Other Catholics grumble because they think members of the hierarchy aren’t doing enough to stand up against the gays or immigrants. Another Catholic complains about the wild eyed conspiracy theory anti-semitism of radical traditionalists while other folks grumble about Catholic journalists who endorse same sex marriage, women priests and co-habitation. Maybe they’re grumbling about the liturgy being too happy clappy or perhaps they’re fed up because it’s too fancy.”

In a recent commentary, Father Dwight Longenecker (parish priest at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Greenville, SC) reflected on a number of things to ponder (including a reminder that the history of the church is full of saints and sinners, a reminder that the Church is universal - transcending time and cultures, a reminder that God is in charge and to trust Him, and and a reminder to take a deep breath and be thankful for our blessings) when we get upset with other Catholics.

To access Fr. Longenecker’s complete post, please visit:

Standing on My Head: Ten Things to Remember When You’re Fed Up With Other Catholics (12 SEP 14)

Background information:

Dwight Longenecker - Catholic priest and author

Reflection Starter

"Every success is built on the ability to do better than good enough." - Source Unknown

12 September 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of the Blessed Mother Mary as our mother.

Br. John Sica, O.P., on Obedience

"Riding the metro this summer, I saw some young men with t-shirts that proclaim: ‘Obey.’ Presumably (and here I speculate), it’s a sarcastic jab at supposedly traditional and conservative values, a statement just as likely to come from someone who would proclaim, ‘question authority!’

“This leads me to wonder: what do these young men think when they pass someone -  like myself -  in garb which symbolizes a very traditional kind of obedience? As all the world knows, we practice a very particular kind of authority to a very crusty, old institution. ‘I, Brother John, make profession and promise obedience…’ 

“Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA)
recently inquired about women’s attitudes on joining religious life. One of the personal comments exemplifies an attitude which, I think, sums up this negative view of obedience. When a woman was asked why she was not interested in being a sister, she replied, ‘I’m not willing to be totally submissive to the rules and obligations of the order’s leader.’ Now, there’s an objection! Perhaps this could be the heart of their possible objection.  Obedience, described as a repression of individuality and abandonment of responsibility, hardly seems virtuous.”

In a recent commentary, Brother John Sica, O.P. reflected on the virtue of obedience as taking the pattern of Christ’s obedience - bearing fruit only in death and leading to true freedom in eternal life.

To access Br. John’s complete post, please visit:

Dominicana: Obey (10 SEP 14)

Reflection Starter from Mac McCleary

"Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead." - Mac McCleary

11 September 2014

Sandi Patty: "God Bless America"

As we commemorate the horrific events from September 11, 2001, I offer this version of Sandi Patty singing "God Bless America":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the good parish priests You place in our lives.

Msgr. Pope on Preaching in Step with the Lord

"[The recent] feast of St. Gregory provided rich reflections from the great Doctor of the Church. And I supplemented my readings as well by looking over some of his homilies. Frankly, St. Gregory the Great was tough on himself and on preachers and he spoke of the office in lofty and demanding terms. For example he taught,

"The lips of the priest are to preserve knowledge, and men shall look to him for the law, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts … That is also the reason why the Lord warns us through Isaiah: Cry out and be not still; raise your voice in a trumpet call. Anyone ordained a priest undertakes the task of preaching, so that with a loud cry he may go on ahead of the terrible judge who follows (Pope Gregory Pastoral Guide)."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the ministry of a preacher to preach God's word, but that it is the Lord who builds the house.

To access Msgr. Pope’s complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: The Lord Must Follow the Preacher – A Reminder from St Gregory that the Message Depends on Jesus (4 SEP 14)

Reflection Starter from Ann Voskamp

"The prayers we weave into the matching of socks, the stirring of oatmeal, the reading of stories, they survive fire." - Ann Voskamp

10 September 2014

National Suicide Prevention Week

The 40th Annual National Suicide Prevention Week is taking place  this week, the week of 8-14 September.  National Suicide Prevention Week is set aside as a time to focus on the serious health challenge that suicide is and to promote awareness that suicide is a public health problem that is preventable. This year’s theme is “Suicide Prevention: One World Connected.”

In 2011, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 39,518 deaths. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds. An estimated 12 to 25 attempted suicides occur per every suicide death.

Suicidal behavior is complex. Some risk factors vary with age, gender, or ethnic group and may occur in combination or change over time.

Research shows that risk factors for suicide include:
  • depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder (often in combination with other mental disorders),
  • prior suicide attempt,
  • family history of mental disorder or substance abuse,
  • family history of suicide,
  • family violence, including physical or sexual abuse,
  • firearms in the home (the method used in more than half of suicides),
  • incarceration,
  • exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as family members, peers, or media figures.
However, suicide and suicidal behavior are not normal responses to stress; many people have these risk factors, but are not suicidal. Research also shows that the risk for suicide is associated with changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Decreased levels of serotonin have been found in people with depression, impulsive disorders, and a history of suicide attempts, and in the brains of suicide victims.


U.S. Surgeon General/National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention: National Strategy for Suicide Prevention

National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention

American Association of Suicidology

Suicide Prevention Resource Center

2014 National Suicide Prevention Week Information & Media Kit

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Connecticut Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative

Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program

Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention

Massachusetts Suicide Prevention Resource Guide

New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services: State Suicide Prevention Plan

Rhode Island Department of Health: Suicide

Rhode Island Youth Suicide Prevention Project

Vermont Department of Health: Suicide Prevention

Antonín Dvořák": “Symphony No. 6 in D major"

It’s time for some classical music. This is a presentation of Antonín Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 6” in D major (Op. 60) as played by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Zdeněk Košler):

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of literacy for all who teach and encourage others in the development of this gift.

Opening Hearts to the Holy Spirit

During my recent interview with singer-songwriter Tori Harris about her new album “Sweet Dolor,” the 25-year-old conveyed a good-humored, infectiously joyful personality that doesn’t suggest she could ever have a stony heart. And in the Scrooge-like sense of the term that I was thinking of, she definitely doesn’t. Yet Harris admitted that she has struggled with opening her heart to God’s will in her life - and that her struggle led to the autobiographical song “Hearts Once Stone,” which integrates poetic, theologically-rich lyrics with the musical influences of Mumford and Sons and Phillip Phillips.

Harris recalled that before she decided to quit her “safe job and radically pursue music,” she went to an Adoration Chapel to pray for guidance. She said, “I’d ask myself in prayer, ‘Tori, what are your heart’s deepest desires?’ I couldn’t think of a single answer of what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. That was an instance where my heart was stony and I was unable to peer into it, and to know what God was placing on it. So I was crying in the Adoration Chapel and I said, ‘Jesus, please, in Your tender mercy, unveil a piece of my own heart to me so that I know what Your will for my life is.’”

Jesus responded to that humble petition, moving Harris toward pursuing a music career. A few months later, she was on a flight reading a poem by Sister Genevieve Glen, OSB, in Magnificat, which included the line “Hearts once stone, but now made flesh.” She realized that her own heart had been transformed, so she used that refrain in her song.

Transforming hearts is a part of Harris’s larger musical mission as well, especially when it comes to young people. She relishes her encounters with teens and the way they respond to her music both in-person at conferences and performances - and in emails and Facebook posts. She’s had a few experiences when a girl came up to her after an event and said, “I was here for a guy because I thought he was cute, but I experienced something here that was real and powerful and I want to know more of what that is.”

In an age when more and more young people describe themselves as “nones,” as following no particular religion, getting them interested in Christianity is vital. For Harris, there’s one common denominator: “What’s universal to all of them is the desire to be accepted and feel loved. When they have those two things, then they desire to search for what is true and what is right and what is wrong when it comes to their faith and when it comes to God.”

Harris realizes, though, that all she can do is plant seeds and leave it up to God to grow them over time.

She said, “My mission as a musician is not directly to change hearts or souls because that’s impossible; only the Holy Spirit can do that. My mission as a musician is to cooperate and participate with the Holy Spirit, to facilitate an openness and receptivity to the Holy Spirit…My hope for the people who listen to ‘Sweet Dolor’ is that they pray - and that they get really serious with God and ask, ‘Lord, why did You make me? Why am I here? Reveal to me the desires of my heart, how You want me to serve the Kingdom.’ And my prayer is that they be filled with the courage and the conviction to recklessly step into whatever that is.”

(This essay is a recent “Light One Candle” column, written by Tony Rossi, of The Christophers; it is one of a series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current events.)

Background information:

Reflection Starter from Bl. John Henry Newman

"Let us put ourselves into His hands, and not be startled though He leads us by a strange way, a mirabilis via, as the Church speaks. Let us be sure He will lead us right, that He will bring us to that which is, not indeed what we think best, nor what is best for another, but what is best for us." -  Blessed John Henry Newman

09 September 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You work through those who minister to people in distress.

Being Catholic at a Baptist University

For 25-year-old singer-songwriter Tori Harris, attending a Baptist University was the best thing that ever happened to her Catholic faith. Though Harris grew up attending Catholic schools and seeing her parents as models of the faith, she acknowledged during a recent interview on Christopher Closeup that college forced her to confront the rationality of her belief in God. She found that the worldview presented by Christianity in general - and Catholicism in particular - seemed the most truthful and consistent.

Harris recalled, “Going into a Baptist environment, there’s such a historical conflict and friction between the two faith identities. It was a time in my life where I was being asked really hard questions, and had to take ownership and step up…And it was a boon to my friends, too. The discussions that we had were really fruitful, though we don’t all agree theologically on which expression of Christianity that we identify with. My closest friends are Southern Baptists, so there’s definitely disagreement there. But at the same time, we’ve never had more respect for each other. And there’s a great love and devotion on both sides for the pursuit of truth.”

Harris has chosen to pursue and share that truth through a music career that takes her around the country to speak and perform at LifeTeen camps, parish conferences, and colleges. Her latest album, “Sweet Dolor,” is now reaching audiences with messages of faith, hope, and healing.

Though the words “sweet” and “dolor” (translation: suffering) may seem incompatible at first, Harris noted that they’ve been vital to her own growth as a person and an artist. By facing her fears and carrying her cross, she’s learned to trust God with everything, which can make the suffering she experiences on the road to transformation seem “redemptive and sweet.” Still, there were certain experiences in which it was a struggle to find anything redemptive: specifically, the death of her friend Melanie due to cancer. After Harris received the devastating news, she cried out to God, demanding consolation. The results made their way into her song “Fields of Gold.”

Harris said, “The image that I got, that consoled my heart, was Christ in the Eucharist, Christ at His throne in heaven—this knowledge that wherever Christ is in the Eucharist, so are all the Seraphim that surround the throne, so are all the angels in heaven, and so are all the saints of the past and the present - meaning, so was my friend Melanie. So in this song, ‘Fields of Gold,’ I’m talking about being at Mass, closing my eyes in prayer, and knowing in a spiritual sense, that there we are, in the Book of Revelation. We’re dancing in this field of barley, we’re feasting on the hidden manna which is the Eucharist. We’re around the throne of God. The song is talking about how, even in death, we’re still not separated from those that we love because heaven does exist. It’s something that we…can experience in the Mass.”

The song “King of Kings” builds on that idea because it was inspired by the part of the Mass where everyone sings “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Harris explained, “That’s what Scripture says the angels are singing around the throne of heaven. So that’s the point where, every time I’m at Mass, I feel most united to the communion of saints.”

Winning souls for that communion of saints, especially among teens, remains a goal that Harris seeks to accomplish through her music.  I’ll share that part of her ministry in my next column.

(This essay is a recent “Light One Candle” column, written by Tony Rossi, of The Christophers; it is one of a series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current events.)

Background information: