27 May 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the witness provided by Your saints.

God Wants People Who Admit Their Own Frailty

"Over the past few years, five-time Grammy nominee Matt Maher has been reflecting on his own future as well as the future of the Church he loves. Looking at the social issues prevalent in modern culture, he noted that 'politics has poisoned, in some ways, people's day-to-day life, especially on the Internet.' He wondered how to navigate these troubled waters, and finally found the answers in the saints.

"During an interview on Christopher Closeup, Maher explained, 'The saints…somehow found a way to stand for God, to stand for the Church, but also to love tremendously and love fiercely. In doing that, they elevated the conversation. That's what I feel needs to happen. We need a lot of young men and women to respond to the call of God - to not get bogged down in a lot of the arguments that are happening, [but instead] focus our eyes back on Jesus and be amazing examples that can help re-elevate the conversation.'

"Maher's latest album, Saints and Sinners, helps listeners do just that by providing music that connects with your spirit and lyrics that engage your mind and heart. He realizes that the saints have an image problem because the reality of their lives has often been whitewashed. When people believe that the saints never did anything wrong or never struggled with darkness, their expectations of religious leaders and others who call themselves 'Christian' become skewed.

"For instance, one of the album's songs, 'Firelight,' was inspired by Mother Teresa's struggle with darkness that was revealed from her personal letters in the book Come Be My Light. Maher was surprised that this was treated as a scandal by many news outlets. He said, 'Any human being who takes on vows of poverty, chastity and obedience - that's a tremendous witness and sacrifice. Then [she] decides to start her own order, another huge act of sacrifice. Then, this brave woman goes to the poorest place on the planet and literally helps people die with dignity. I don't know anybody who wouldn't struggle with finding the presence of God.'

"Instead of turning people away from the faith, Maher believes Mother Teresa's witness could draw them to the Church: 'I feel like we could do a whole ad campaign for vocations around [her struggles] and say, 'This is who God's looking for. God's looking for people who don't have all the answers. God's looking for people who are willing to admit their own frailty.''

"Maher also found wisdom in the life of St. Therese of Lisieux who, by worldly standards, didn't accomplish much in her short life. Yet on her deathbed, she spoke the words 'Everything is a grace,' signifying that even the most humble life is accomplishing something good in God's eyes.

"Maher wrote a song inspired by that idea. He concluded, 'The enemy has taken most of the Church and turned them from prophets into a bunch of complainers - myself included. We spend more time complaining about life than prophesying the love and grace of God over it. So Therese, to me, was such a profound example for young people who feel tempted to complain of an insignificant life because she found great significance. In fact, a lot of those valleys that we walk through can become profound places of transformation where we're actually brought closer to God and we reach a point of surrender, of saying, 'Everything is grace.' There is an opportunity in everything to receive grace for the journey - and to receive grace to love people no matter how difficult things may seem.'"

(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. Gregory the Great

"He who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps." - Pope Saint Gregory the Great

24 May 2015

Pentecost Sunday

Today the Church celebrates Pentecost Sunday. The assigned readings are Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3, 12-13 (or Galatians 5:16-25); and John 20:19-23 (or John 15: 26-27; 16:12-15). The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 104 (Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34).

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

YouTube: Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 104 "Praise of God the Creator"

The Gospel reading is as follows:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Pentecost (May 24, 2015)

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Salesian Sunday Reflection: Pentecost (May 24, 2015)

Msgr. Charles Pope: The Fire Next Time - A Homily for Pentecost (23 MAY 15)

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: The Charisms Of The Holy Spirit For Service

The Deacon's Bench: Homily for Pentecost: "Strike a match. Set the world ablaze." (23 MAY 15)

Word on Fire: Pentecost and the Gift of Language (Cycle B * Easter * Week Pentecost)

Dr. Scott Hahn: A New Wind (Pentecost)

CWR Blog: Pentecost: Detonation and Fulfillment, Humility and Unity (23 MAY 15)

Spirituality of the Readings: A Burning Question (Pentecost Sunday B)

The Word Embodied: Solidarity and Courage (Pentecost Sunday B)

Historical Cultural Context: Fear and Peace (Pentecost Sunday B)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by Aelred of Rievaulx (Pentecost Sunday B)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Your Church and for the many ways in which the Spirit works within the Church.

Msgr. Pope on the Deepest Root of Sin

"In polling friends as to what they think is the deepest root of all sin, I got three main answers. One was a shrug indicating no answer at all (i.e., 'I dunno”). Another was to refer to Scripture: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils (1 Tim 6:10). I'll discuss below why this is an inadequate answer. The third main response was that original sin (and the concupiscence that followed) is the source of all of our other sins. The only problem with that answer is that it doesn't explain Adam and Eve's (original) sin, nor does it explain the fall of the angels, who seem to have fallen in great numbers without original sin or concupiscence and are now demons. Therefore an even deeper root must be sought.

"Referencing St. Thomas Aquinas and Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, permit me to answer that the deepest root of all sin is inordinate self-love. From this root springs all sin, including the original sin of Adam and that of the angels. It is true that our fallen condition has intensified the problem of inordinate self-love, but the possible temptation to it was there before."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on inordinate love of self  and its role as the "most fundamental root of all sin."

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

Msgr. Charles Pope: What Is the Deepest Root of Sin? It's Not in Your Wallet and It's Much Closer Than You Might Think (20 MAY 15)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"Let us invoke the Holy Spirit each day: He guides us along the path of discipleship in Christ." - Pope Francis

19 May 2015

National EMS Week 2015

This week, the week of 17-23 May, is being observed as the 41st annual National Emergency Medical Services Week. This year’s theme is “EMS STRONG.”

National Emergency Medical Services Week is designed as an opportunity to publicize safety and honor the dedication of those who provide the day-to-day lifesaving services of medicine’s “front line.”

For more information about National EMS Week, please visit:

American College of Emergency Physicians: EMS Week

Facebook: National EMS Week

National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians: Celebrate EMS Week

Presidential Proclamation – Emergency Medical Services Week, 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which Your beautiful creation reflects Your glory.

A Horrific Accident, An Unexpected Miracle

The two attractive young women, friends since they were in grammar school together, were roommates and worked with each other at the same North Jersey day-care center. They were driving to work one morning - Friday, February 13 - when the unthinkable happened: a horrific accident, a skid on a patch of ice, their car hurtling off a bridge on Route 80 and headed directly toward the Hackensack River, 60 feet below.

They each remember thinking "Oh no, not the river!" as they flew through the air toward it. And somehow it never happened. The first responders to the crash scene, from the Hackensack Fire Department, expected to find death in the wrecked car and instead found life. Saved by a tree, the car and the women survived. Call it a stroke of luck, call it providential - call it a miracle. They survived.

On Friday, March 13, exactly one month since the crash, the two women, Becca Winslow, 25, and driver Liz Wolthoff, 23, were reunited at fire department headquarters with their rescuers, a meeting that Stephanie Akin wrote about movingly in The Record, the daily newspaper published in Hackensack.

"In my whole career," said Michael Shiner, one of the lead firemen at the accident scene, "this was the most unique situation. That they were alive after such a fall; that they were talking."

Not only were they talking, they were filled with gratitude toward their rescuers. The firemen sawed their way into the car to get the women out and within 20 minutes the victims were on their way to the hospital. Their injuries were substantial; both women suffered broken backs and won't be able to return to work until September. Their movements are stiff and hampered, and each household chore becomes - well, a chore. But there they were at fire headquarters, thanking their rescuers again and again, and reliving that memorable morning.

It had started out in routine fashion when, crossing the Hackensack River shortly after 7 a.m., Wolthoff swerved the car to avoid a tractor-trailer. That’s when she hit the ice and then a tightly-packed snowbank, catapulting the car off the bridge and toward the river. A tree broke their fall and kept the car from the icy waters, but even though it had landed upright, the women couldn't move.

Wolthoff heard herself explaining on her cell phone, "I fell off Route 80."

What happened next remains a blur, but what happened a month later is fresh in their minds. There were relatives galore, taking it all in, and the women brought in a large cake to show their gratitude. They added a six-foot hero sandwich - pun intended. In return, the firefighters had something for the women as well: Hackensack Fire Department t-shirts, and honorary badges.

There was a speech by the mayor, and hugs and kisses all around. Lots of them. There were memories, too, of the crash, of the joyful surprise the responders first felt when they discovered the victims alive. "Oh, my God!" someone had called out at the time. "It's a rescue, not a recovery!"

Back at the ceremony, Firefighter Mike Martinelli, on the job for 20 years, summed up how they all felt.

"To know that they will have a chance at life and families," he said, "it feels really good."

(This essay is this week's "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:

The Christophers

Reflection Starter from Mahatma Gandhi

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." - Mahatma Gandhi

17 May 2015

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Today the Church celebrates the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The assigned readings are Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; 1 John 4:11-16; and John 17:11-19. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 103 (Psalm 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20).

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

YouTube: Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 103 "Permanence of God's Power and Glory"

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: "Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth."

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Seventh Sunday of Easter (May 17, 2015)

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Salesian Sunday Reflection: Seventh Sunday of Easter (May 17, 2015)

Dr. Scott Hahn: The Kingdom Remains (May 17th 2015 - Seventh Sunday of Easter)

CWR Blog: True Love Starts at the Foot of the Cross (9 MAY 15)

The Word Embodied: The Contest of Faith (Ascension and 7th Easter B)

Historical Cultural Context: The "World" (7th Sunday of Easter B)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which You work through martyrs and others suffering for the Faith.

Msgr. Pope on the role of Martyrs in Today's World

"In the Divine Office last week we read a remarkable passage on the persecution of the Church. It seems proper to consider a portion of it in times like these; more on that in a moment.

"Of course in writing of persecution and martyrdom, I write as an American who, though experiencing a lot more scorn these days, does not have to endure grave threat for being a Catholic. But as I consider Catholics and Christians in places like Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Nigeria, the Sudan, Kenya, and other places having their churches burned, seeing their ancient Christian communities scattered, being exiled, and being killed by beheading or other methods, I am both shocked and moved.

"Frankly, I can barely avoid screaming when, while all this goes on in the world, we in America get worked up about things like whether or not someone deflated a football before a game. We can be so decadent, spoiled, and focused on trivialities (but I digress).

"While there is a tragedy to the martyrdom of Catholics and other Christians, there is also a glory. I do not think that we will ever really know in this life what their suffering has merited for the Church or how, as St. Paul said, they fill up in [their] flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the Church (cf Col 1:24). Somehow their sufferings are mystically united to the once for all perfect act of Christ for our salvation."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the importance of martyrs and others suffering for the Faith in today's world.

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

Msgr. Charles Pope: Honor to the Martyrs! A Declaration of Gratitude to the Martyrs of Our Day (10 MAY 15)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"It is better to have a Church that is wounded but out in the streets than a Church that is sick because it is closed in on itself." - Pope Francis

16 May 2015

Armed Forces Medley for Armed Forces Day

As we observe Armed Forces Day, I offer this version of the Armed Forces Medley, as presented by Marina Arsenijevic, the West Point Glee Club and the West Point Band:

Armed Forces Day, 2015

Today (Saturday, 16 May) is being observed as Armed Forces Day, 2015. This year's theme is "Honor Those Who Answered the Call to Serve."

President Harry S Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

On 31 August 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under one department – the U.S. Department of Defense.

As we observe this day, we salute the members of our communities who are currently serving and have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for inspirations to praise You and thank You.

Pew Report: America's Changing Religious Landscap

"The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

"To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith.1 But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or 'nothing in particular' – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.

"The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Each of those large religious traditions has shrunk by approximately three percentage points since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate, falling by about one percentage point since 2007."

To access this complete Pew report, please visit:

Pew Research Center: America's Changing Religious Landscape (12 MAY 15)

Related media reports:

The Deacon's Bench: Study: Christian population declining in U.S.; "unaffiliated" now outnumber Catholics (12 MAY 15)

New York Times: The Opinion Pages: Ross Douthat: The Real But Overstated Decline of American Christianity (14 MAY 15)

Msgr. Charles Pope: Reflections on the Latest Pew Survey Documenting “Religious Decline” – Not So Fast (13 MAY 15)

Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA): 1964: The Island of Misfit Polls (12 MAY 15)

Reflection Starter from St. Francis of Assisi

"If God can work through me, he can work through anyone." - attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi

15 May 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You teach us through the experiences in our lives.

Msgr. Pope on the Spiritual Work of Mercy to Admonish the Sinner

"The word 'admonish' comes from the Latin verb monere meaning to warn, advise, or alert someone to a threat or danger. As such, its purpose is the good of another; it is an act of love and concern. To admonish the sinner is not to belittle or humiliate him, but rather to alert him to the danger of a sinful course of action. It is rooted in love, not pride. And thus St. Thomas enumerates fraternal correction among the acts of charity.

"In our culture, sadly, admonishing the sinner has fallen out of favor for numerous reasons. Philosophically and sociologically, many have relegated much of morality to the realm of private opinion. Admonishing is seen by many as an attempt by the admonisher to impose his or her values on others, or as some sort of unfair or arbitrary judgment.

"From a psychological standpoint, we live in times of heightened sensitivity, times in which many take critiques of their behavior very personally and have difficulty distinguishing between concerns for behavior and disrespect for the person. The emergence of identity politics has done a lot to further this blurring of distinctions."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the spiritual works of mercy and their place in our lives. He then stated that he would would like to focus a bit more on the spiritual works of mercy through occasional blog posts until he has covered all seven. One of these follow-up posts focused on the work "Admonish the Sinner."

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

Msgr. Charles Pope: Admonish the Sinner – A Reflection on the First Spiritual Work of Mercy (20 APR 15)

Reflection Starter from Maya Angelou

"You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive." - Maya Angelou

14 May 2015

Horse-drawn Trash Service in Vermont

"An Addison County trash service that relies on horsepower - literally - is expanding from Bristol to Middlebury.

"Twice a week, draft horses haul a cart as they clip-clop through the neighborhoods of Middlebury, while Patrick Palmer and his two employees toss garbage bags and recycling left at the curbside onto the cart.

"Garbage collection usually isn't a picture-worthy event. But this beast-of-burden service is a spectacle that draws children to the curbside to see the giant dappled Percherons, and passers-by to snap cellphone photos and video from their vehicles."

A recent article in the Burlington Free Press profiled this horse-drawn service in Bristol and Middlebury, Vermont.

To access the complete article, please visit:

Burlington Free Press: Horse-drawn trash service expands to Middlebury (14 MAY 15)

Related items:

Burlington Free Press Video: Horse power hauls the trash in Bristol

Burlington Free Press: Horse-powered trash operation trots along in Bristol (9 FEB 14)

National Police Week 2015

This week, the week of 10-16 May, is being observed as National Police Week, which was established to recognize the service and sacrifice of U.S. law enforcement.

For information related to National Police Week and related activities, please visit:

National Police Week 2015

Facebook: National Police Week

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial: National Police Week

Concerns of Police Survivors

Presidential Proclamation - Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week, 2015

"Let Heaven Rejoice"

As we continue our celebration of the Solemnity of the Ascension, I offer this version of Bob Dufford's "Let Heaven Rejoice":

The Ascension of the Lord

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. The assigned readings are Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:17-23, and Mark 16:15-20. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 47 (Psalm 47:2-3, 6-9).

Today’s Gospel reading is as follows:

Jesus said to his disciples: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.T hey will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.T hey will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

Reflections on these readings and on this celebration:

The Deacon's Bench: Homily for May 14, 2015: Ascension Thursday (13 MAY 15)

The Happy Priest: The Feast of the Ascension is Not an Intermission (9 MAY 13)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary: Leo the Great

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for opening up the gates of Heaven for us.

Young People Need Hope and Heroes

After spending several years studying to be a screenwriter, Joan Bauer signed with a big talent agency in New York City. Two days later, she endured a debilitating car accident that left her in a great deal of pain and requiring neurosurgery. Angry and scared, she remembers lying in bed and imagining that she saw an open window with her dream of being a writer flying out of it.

Then, Bauer heard a voice inside giving her ideas for a story about a young girl with a big dream. The voice said, "You can write this. It's not over for you." Considering she had trouble even sitting at a desk, Bauer believed this to be impossible. But as she told me during a Christopher Closeup interview, "Moment by moment and paragraph by paragraph, I wrote my first young adult novel and it ended up winning a big award."

That novel was the first of 12 books she has now authored for a young adult audience. Along the way, her novels have won two Christopher Awards, and this year she was named the winner of the St. Katharine Drexel Award from the Catholic Library Association. All those accomplishments can be traced back to that small voice that she almost wrote off as nonsense, the voice that taught her about the presence of God in our lives.

Bauer explained, "When we open ourselves up to that power that is beyond who we are and we let God have His way, let Him have our disappointments yet still believe that there's something good, that’s what [life] has been for me again and again."

In light of her past struggles, hope and faith are common threads in Bauer's books. That holds true for her latest novel too despite its serious subject matter: human trafficking. Tell Me is the story of Anna McConnell, a funny and compassionate 12-year-old who briefly runs into a girl that looks very stressed out and is being controlled by an older woman with a bad attitude. Not everyone buys into Anna's suspicions at first, but Bauer makes sure her young heroine sticks to her moral core and says, "I saw something wrong. I'm not going to give up until somebody believes me." Ultimately, it's discovered that the girl Anna saw is being kept as a slave along with many other women. Everyone comes together to put an end to this travesty.

Bauer handles the topic in an age appropriate way, so it doesn't deal with sexual slavery but rather people who are being enslaved as workers. When figuring out how to approach young people with such a harsh reality, she turned to a story she once heard Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood tell: "When he was a boy and something frightening happened in his community or the world, he would go to his mother and she would tell him, 'Don't look at the scary thing; look at the people who are helping.' This is a story about a scary thing, but we don't see it. It's about the people who are running in to help."

Bauer also remains committed to using her talents to bring hope into young people's lives. She concludes, "Kids have become very jaded. They've seen a lot of role models fall. And yet, one of the reasons that I love thinking about stories through the eyes of a young person is there's still this idealism. There's still this positive core… When [kids] find something that has hope, I think they really want to grab onto it. So let's give them more."

 (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

Joan Bauer

Catholic Library Association

Reflection Starter from Henry Ward Beecher

"If a man cannot be a Christian in the place where he is, he cannot be a Christian anywhere." - Rev. Henry Ward Beecher

13 May 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for calling each of us to holiness. and for the graces You give us to follow Your call.

Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, F.S.P., on Holiness

"When I entered the convent I had a pretty self-confident, completely unsophisticated idea of what holiness would look like. I expected to be able to identify the holiest sisters because they would have a retinue following them, hanging on their every word and helping them with daily tasks.

"Hey, that is what Padre Pio pretty much had right?!

"I was expecting holiness to have clear outward markers. I thought I would be able to identify the 'holiest' of sisters immediately. It didn't really work out that way. I began to learn from my sisters about real holiness, the kind of holiness that is hidden, disguised, confusing, and sometimes, well strange."

In a recent commentary, Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, F.S.P., reflected on reflected on holiness and how it is reflected in our fellow human beings.

To access her complete post, please visit:

Pursued by Truth: 5 Things I’ve Learned About Holiness In the Convent (1 MAY 15)

Reflection Starter from Helen Keller

"Unless we form the habit of going to the Bible in bright moments as well as in trouble, we cannot fully respond to its consolations because we lack equilibrium between light and darkness." - Helen Keller

10 May 2015

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Today the Church celebrates the Sixth Sunday of Easter. The assigned readings are Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4:7-10; and John 15:9-17. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 98 (Psalm 98:1-4).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Jesus said to his disciples: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another."

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 10, 2015)

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Salesian Sunday Reflection: Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 10, 2015)

Msgr. Charles Pope: On the Paradoxical Connection Between Love and Law – A Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter (9 MAY 15)

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: Love Unlimited

Word on Fire: God's Marvelous Choice (Cycle B * Easter * Week 6)

Dr. Scott Hahn: Begotten By Love (May 10th 2015 - Sixth Sunday of Easter)

CWR Blog: True Love Starts at the Foot of the Cross (9 MAY 15)

Spirituality of the Readings: Gone for Good? (6th Sunday of Easter)

The Word Embodied: Hankering after the "Old Faith" (6th Sunday of Easter)

Historical Cultural Context: Love Involves Doing (6th Sunday of Easter)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by Thomas More (6th Sunday of Easter)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which the Holy Spirit works within Your Church.

Msgr. Pope on the Council of Jerusalem and Subsequent Church Councils

"In [a recent] first reading at . . . Mass is recounted the Council of Jerusalem, which scholars generally date to around 50 A.D. It was a pivotal moment in the history of the Church, since it would set forth an identity for the Church that was independent of the culture of Judaism per se, and would open wide the door of inculturation to the Gentiles. This surely had a significant effect on evangelization in the early Church.

"Catholic ecclesiology is evident here in this first council in that we have a very Catholic model of how a matter of significant pastoral practice and doctrine is properly dealt with in the Church. What we see here is the same model that the Catholic Church has continued to use right up to the present day. In this and all subsequent ecumenical councils, there is a gathering of the bishops, presided over by the Pope, which considers and may even debate a matter. In the event that consensus cannot be reached, the Pope resolves the debate. Once a decision is reached it is considered binding and a letter is issued to the whole Church.

"All these elements are seen in this first council of the Church in Jerusalem, though in seminal form. . . ."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the role of Church councils in facing issues before the Church.

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

Msgr. Charles Pope: It is the Decision of the Holy Spirit and Us – On the Council of Jerusalem and the Catholicity of the Early Church (7 MAY 15)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"Let us learn to live with kindness, to love everyone, even when they do not love us."- Pope Francis

07 May 2015

National Day of Prayer

Today, 7 May, is this year’s National Day of Prayer, the 64th annual observance of this event. This year’s theme is “Lord, Hear Our Cry” and is based on 1 Kings 8:28 (“Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”).

The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, and it is a day in which people of all faiths are invited to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress (Joint Resolution 382 on 17 April 1952), and signed into law by President Harry S Truman (Public Law 82-324; 66 Stat. 64 - 17 April 1952).

The National Day of Prayer is part of the nation's heritage. Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued through the country's history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863. There have been 136 national calls to prayer, humiliation, fasting, and thanksgiving by the President of the United States from 1789 to 2010).

In 1988, the law was amended by Congress and signed by President Reagan to permanently set the day as the first Thursday of every May (Public Law 100-307). Each year since 1952, the President has signed a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day.

In previous years, millions of people have united in prayer at thousands of events from coast to coast, and it looks like this will be true this year as well. Events are scheduled in each state (including at least 18 in Rhode Island).

For more information about this observance, please visit:

National Day of Prayer

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for inspirations to appraise You and thank You.

Dorothy Day: Grandmother and Potential Saint

Dorothy Day a saint? Many people, aware of her background, still find it hard to believe - despite a voice vote endorsement of her cause by the entire body of American bishops. How about Dorothy Day as a grandmother? That's harder still for many others to accept, the image of Day as social activist extraordinaire firmly planted in their minds.

But take it from one who knows, a granddaughter herself. Dorothy Day was not only a grandmother  - the grandmother of nine, by the way - but her granddaughter, Martha Hennessy, has warm memories of the socially active Day as a "regular" grandma, one in the mold that we all knew. Hennessy carries on the activist tradition by making her Catholic faith a way of life, by following a vigorous social agenda herself, and by promoting Day's cause for sainthood wherever she can.

Hennessy, 59, took the cause to Hawaii last year, where Darlene Dela Cruz wrote about her visit in the Hawaii Catholic Herald. Hennessy has vivid recollections of her grandmother, who died in 1980, as "very warm but very reserved, very serious and very focused." Day spent much of her time traveling, but made sure she regularly visited Hennessy's mother, Tamar, at the family farm in Vermont.

The life of Dorothy Day in her later years stands in marked contrast to her lifestyle as a young woman, "drifting" in New York. During those years she was involved in love affairs, had an abortion, and entered a common-law marriage. That would result in the birth of her only child, whom she baptized a Catholic, and subsequently entered the Church herself. Dorothy Day went on to co-found the Catholic Worker movement (with Peter Maurin) in 1933, and would spend the rest of her life with a strong antiwar platform, also campaigning fiercely for civil rights and for migrant workers.

Meanwhile, she was busy being a grandmother. Hennessy's memories of her in that role go all the way back to when she was three and sitting in her grandma's lap. The granddaughter recalled one special visit in particular, when she was sick in bed at the age of 13. Day consoled her by reading to her from a book by Louisa May Alcott and giving her a bit of fudge.

"It's really important," Hennessy said, "to know her in that context."

She was 25 when Day died in 1980, old enough to recognize the importance of her life and the influence it had on others.

"She just had a way of understanding God and just seeing the world that was very powerful, very unique," says Hennessy, who follows the Catholic Worker tradition herself. "We all come together as a family to try to share in community. This is what she's given us - this incredible model integrating faith in daily life with the works of mercy."

Hennessy concedes that Day's antiwar message and her personal faith journey might have been controversial at times, but hopes that her call to care for those in need will resonate with everyone.

The "very unusual" life of Dorothy Day could stand as the reason she might become a 20th-century saint, Hennessy believes. "The more we live it, the more our rough edges are worn off in serving others," she said. "I believe she is a saint."

(This essay is this week's "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:

The Christophers

Catholic Worker Movement

Catholic Worker Movement: Biographies and reflections on Dorothy Day's life

Reflection Starter from St. Francis de Sales

"There is nothing small in the service of God. Be faithful in small things and God will see that you will succeed in those of greater importance." - Saint Francis de Sales

06 May 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You work through those who strive to instruct the ignorant.

Msgr. Pope on the Spiritual Work of Mercy to Instruct the Ignorant

"To instruct comes from the Latin in + struere, which means to build up or (even more literally) to pile up. In English, there is also the notion of strewing something. For example, to strew hay or to say that the seed has been strewn. Thus, to instruct means to disperse knowledge or build someone up in what is learned.

"These days, the word 'ignorant' is most often used in a negative or pejorative sense. And thus to say that someone is ignorant usually means (in modern English) that he is stupid or foolish. But more literally and less pejoratively, the word simply refers to someone who does not know something. And while some ignorance can be said to be inexcusable (in that a person should know better), it can also be more innocent: one simply does not happen to know something and can benefit from instruction in the matter.

"And this is what is meant by the spiritual work of mercy 'Instruct the Ignorant." All of us can benefit from proper instruction by those who know more about a certain subject or issue than we do. And it is a work of mercy when someone takes the time to instruct us. It is an even greater work of mercy when the knowledge conferred is something essential or saving for us."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the spiritual works of mercy and their place in our lives. He then stated that he would would like to focus a bit more on the spiritual works of mercy through occasional blog posts until he has covered all seven. One of these follow-up posts focused on the work "Instruct the Ignorant."

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

Msgr. Charles Pope: More Precious than Silver or Gold – A Meditation on the Spiritual Work of Mercy to Instruct the Ignorant (29 APR 15)

Reflection Starter from Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

04 May 2015

Rhode Island Independence Day

Today, 4 May, the State of Rhode Island is celebrating Rhode Island Independence Day, a commemoration of the state's independence from Great Britain on 4 May 1776.

This year is the 239th anniversary of the Rhode Island General Assembly's declaration of independence from the British crown.

Fore more information about Rhode Island Independence Day, please visit:

This Day in History: May 4, 1776 - Rhode Island declares independence

New England Historical Society: May 4, 1776: Rhode Island Independence Day

Rhode Island Secretary of State: The May 4, 1776, Act of Renunciation

Saint Florian

Today the Church remembers Saint Florian, patron saint of firefighters.

For more information, please visit:

Catholic Online: St. Florian

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the spring gift of flowers.

Theology on Tap in Burlington, VT

"A Catholic priest in Burlington, Vermont, hopes the city's booming craft beer scene can help re-energize young members of his parish.

"'This is no joke,' Rev. Rich O'Donnell told New England Cable News at a recent installment of his 'Theology on Tap' series at the Church Street Tavern in Burlington. 'We're in this for the long haul.'"

A recent NECN report profiled Fr. O'Donnell's outreach initiative.

To access the complete New England Cable News report, please visit:

NECN: Microbrews and Ministry: Priest Hopes Beer Helps Re-Energize Parish (30 APR 15)

Background information:

Christ the King - St. Anthony Parish, Burlington, VT

Reflection Starter from Pope John Paul II

"Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought." - Pope Saint John Paul II

03 May 2015

"He Lives! (I Serve A Risen Savior)"

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer this version of "He Lives! (I Serve A Risen Savior)":

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Today the Church celebrates the Fifth Sunday of Easter. The assigned readings are Acts 9:26-31, 1 John 3:18-24, and John 15:1-8. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 22 (Psalm 22:26-28, 30-32).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Fifth Sunday of Easter (May 3, 2015)

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Salesian Sunday Reflection: Fifth Sunday of Easter (May 3, 2015)

Msgr. Charles Pope: If You Ever Leave Me, I’m Going With You! A Homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter (2 MAY 15)

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: Bearing Much Fruit -

The Deacon's Bench: Homily for May 3, 2015: 5th Sunday of Easter (2 MAY 25)

Word on Fire: The Vine and the Branches (Cycle B * Easter * Week 5)

Dr. Scott Hahn: On the Vine (May 3rd 2015 - Fifth Sunday of Easter)

CWR Blog: The Vine, the Branches, and "Eternal Security" (2 MAY 15)

Spirituality of the Readings: Cutting Back (5th Sunday of Easter)

The Word Embodied: Radical Faith (5th Sunday of Easter)

Historical Cultural Context: God the Patron (5th Sunday of Easter)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by Augustine (5th Sunday of Easter)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the beauty of the season of spring.

Msgr. Pope on Some Things That Are Not for Us to Know

"In the Office last week, we read a poignant passage from the Book of Revelation. It reminds us that there are some things that are not for us to know.

"Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, 'Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down' (Rev 10:1-4).

"A similar passage occurs in the Book of Daniel, where, having had certain things revealed to him, he is told, But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end (Dan 12:4).

"And to the Apostles, who pined for knowledge of the last things, Jesus said, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power (Acts 1:7).

"In all these texts we are reminded that there are some things, even many things, that are not for us to know. This is a warning against sinful curiosity and a solemn reminder that not all God's purposes or plans are revealed to us."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on why, although we should seek to learn, we should also realize that "there are many things that are beyond us, that are too great for us," and, in our seeking to learn, we should do so "in the humility that is the reverence for the truth, a humility that realizes that we are but little children, not lords and masters."

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

Msgr. Charles Pope: There Are Some Things That Are Not for You to Know – A Meditation on the Seven Thunders of the Book of Revelation (28 APR 15)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"Amid so many problems, even grave, may we not lose our hope in the infinite mercy of God."- Pope Francis

02 May 2015

Brooklyn Rider: "Federico II"

As this blessed week draws to a close, I offer this version of Brooklyn Rider presenting Giovanni Sollima's "Federico II":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for Your gift of grace in all its forms and for the Love that impels Your gift of grace.

Br. John Dominic Bouck, O.P., on St. Joseph the Worker and Our Work

"Hanging on the wall in my childhood home was a simple image of Joseph the carpenter, working with a plane on a piece of wood. My dad for most of his life was also a carpenter, building homes for his small business, 'The Village Carpenter,' and thus, especially liked this image. . . .

"Taken as a whole, Catholic Social Teaching emphasizes the dignity of the worker, the responsibility of employers, the need for humane methods of employment, and a just wage.

"Obviously there is still a long way to go.However, even though the balanced teaching of the Church in social matters may not yet be realized in society, that does not excuse individuals throwing their hands up in the air, conceding themselves to corrupt systems. If Christians wait for justice to come into their lives so that they might work virtuously, then what good is being a Christian?.'"

In a recent commentary, Brother John Dominic Bouck, O.P., reflected on our call to work honestly and with excellence and on how plain old work, through the redemption of Christ, is "transformed into a part of his saving mission."

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

Dominicana: Joseph/Jesus the Worker (1 MAY 15)

Reflection Starter from St. Francis of Assisi

"While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart." - Saint Francis of Assisi

01 May 2015

Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for May

The Holy Father's prayer intentions for May are:

Universal Intention (Care for the Suffering): “That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbors who suffer, especially the sick and the poor.”

Evangelization Intention (Openness to Mission): “That Mary's intercession may help Christians in secularized cultures be open to proclaiming Jesus.”

Saint Joseph the Worker

Today the Church celebrates Saint Joseph under the title of Saint Joseph the Worker – as I have noted previously, one of my favorite observances of the Church year. It is special to me because it underlines in a real way that when a person does his/her work, he/she is continuing God’s work of creation and ministering to His people.

“Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.”- Colossians 3:23-24

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Prayer for the Spirit of Work (source unknown):

God our Father, Creator and Ruler of the universe, in every age you call us to use and develop our gifts for the good of others. With St. Joseph as our guide, help us to do the work you have asked and come to the rewards you have promised. Please grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A good reflection on the feast of Joseph the Worker is by Deacon Keith Fournier (of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia). This reflection also includes thoughts from Pope John Paul II’s “Gospel of Work” and some thoughts from Pope Benedict XVI’s “Caritas in veritate”. (Deacon Fournier is, among other attributes, a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, a lawyer, and the founder of Catholic Way and Common Good.)

To read Deacon Fournier’s reflection, visit:

Deacon Keith Fournier Reflection: Feast of St Joseph the Worker: Affirming the Dignity of All Work (30 APR 12)

For further reflection:

Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical on Human Work, promulgated 14 September 1981:

Pope John Paul II: “Laborem exercens” (on Human Work)

Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical, “Charity in truth”, promulgated 29 June 2009:

Pope Benedict XVI: “Caritas in veritate” (Charity in truth)

P.S. There is a shrine dedicated to Saint Joseph the Worker in Lowell, Massachusetts. Its web site may be visited here:

St. Joseph the Worker Shrine, Lowell, MA

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of our work and for the many ways You use it to continue Your work of creation.

Msgr. Pope on Meeting God on His Terms

". . . many in our world today seek to define God on their own terms. In effect, we moderns say, 'Be God on my terms,' or 'I will believe in you if you conform to my expectations. Tell me plainly, in my terms, if you will be the kind of God I expect and want you to be.' The ecclesial version of this is 'When the Catholic Church conforms to my views and expectations I will put faith in her and join, otherwise I won't.' And thus God and the Church He founded are not to be discovered, they are to be reworked according to modern sensibilities. In terms of God, we used to call this idolatry. In terms of the Church, this is called 'designer religion.'

"Try for a minute to step back and be appalled at the arrogance of this modern trend. So many in our culture think they have a perfect right to design God rather than to go out and meet Him on His own terms, as revealed in Scripture and the ancient Tradition of the Church. For many today, it is God in the image of man, not man in the image of God."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the importance of meeting God on His terms rather than our own terms.

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

Msgr. Charles Pope: God on His Terms, Not Ours (30 APR 15)

Reflection Starter from St. John Paul II

"Awareness that man's work is a participation in God's activity ought to permeate, as the Council teaches, even 'the most ordinary everyday activities. For, while providing the substance of life for themselves and their families, men and women are performing their activities in a way which appropriately benefits society. They can justly consider that by their labour they are unfolding the Creator's work, consulting the advantages of their brothers and sisters, and contributing by their personal industry to the realization in history of the divine plan.'" - Pope Saint John Paul II (in “Laborem exercens” [on Human Work])