30 November 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which Your healing touches our lives.

Pope Francis and Two Infants

"They may or may not have been miracles, but changes in the medical conditions of two babies who have been kissed by Pope Francis are certainly giving their parents a lot of hope.

"Last Thanksgivng Joe and Kristen Masciantonio of Philadelphia were thinking it might be their last holiday with their newborn, Gianna. This year they are grateful for every day with her and cautiously optimistic.

"Gianna, who had just passed her first birthday when Pope Francis came to the US in September, had an inoperable brain tumor. On the day the pope was to speak at Independence Hall, a family friend in the FBI invited the Masciantonios to bring the girl to a special area where the pope would be passing by in his popemobile. The family was able to hand Gianna over to a security guard, who presented her to Francis. The pontiff kissed her on the head, near where her tumor was.

"Doctors can now barely see anything of the tumor on MRIs. . . ."

In a recent commentary, writers John Burger and Diane Montagna reflected on remarkable recoveries in two infants who had been kissed by Pope Francis.

To access their complete post, please visit:

Aleteia: Miracle Babies: Is Pope’s Kiss Curing Toddlers? (27 NOV 15)

Reflection Starter from Romans 8

"We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28

29 November 2015

"O Come, Divine Messiah"

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer this version of "O Come, Divine Messiah":

First Sunday of Advent

Today the Church celebrates the First Sunday of Advent. The assigned readings are Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; and Luke 21:25-28, 34-36. 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 To You O Lord I lift my soul

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Jesus said to his disciples: "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.

"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man."

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: First Sunday of Advent (November 29, 2015)

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Salesian Sunday Reflection: First Sunday of Advent (November 29, 2015)

Community in Mission: A Recipe for Readiness - Homily for the First Sunday of Advent (28 NOV 15)

Word on Fire: Advent and the Shaking of the Kingdoms (Cycle C * Advent * Week 1)

St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology: Heads Up: Scott Hahn Reflects on the First Sunday of Advent (23 NOV 15)

CWR: The Dispatch: Advent orients us to the heart of the Nativity (28 NOV 15)

Spirituality of the Readings: Wake Up Call (First Sunday of Advent C)

Let the Scriptures Speak: Between Two Advents (First Sunday of Advent C)

The Word Embodied: A Time of Childhood (First Sunday of Advent C)

Historical Cultural Context: Vigilance and Prayer (First Sunday of Advent C)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by Gregory the Great (First Sunday of Advent C)

National Catholic Register: Sunday Guide: Prepare for Judgment - and Joy (8 NOV 15)

Word to Life Radio Broadcast: First Sunday of Advent (30 OCT 15)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the graces You have planned for us throughout the newly begun holy season of Advent.

Msgr. Pope on Deepening Gratitude

"True gratitude is a grace, or gift, from God. It proceeds from a humble and transformed heart. In such a case we do not render thanks merely because it is polite or expected, or because God commands it, but because it naturally flows from a profound experience of gratitude. The 'command' of Scripture to give thanks is not a moralism, but a truth and a description of what flows from a transformed heart.

"Thus, an anointing to seek from God is the powerful transformation of our intellect and our heart so that we become deeply aware of the remarkable gift that is everything we have. As this awareness deepens so does our gratitude and joy at the 'magnificent munificence' of our God. Everything - literally everything - is a gift from God."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on some ways we can open ourselves more fully to the grace of gratitude.

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

Community in Mission: Some Thoughts to Help Deepen Gratitude (25 NOV 15)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"The laity are called to become a leaven of Christian living within society." - Pope Francis

28 November 2015

Lulu: "To Sir With Love"

As this blessed week draws to a close, I offer this version of Lulu singing "To Sir With Love":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of grandchildren.

Br. Joseph Graziano, O.P., on the Saints as Superheroes

"Superheroes! Our culture seems obsessed with them. Witness the many adaptations of DC heroes like Batman and Superman, the 23 Marvel movies scheduled for release, and even the most recent animated Disney movie, Big Hero 6. Once superheroes were the subject of only occasional interest, relegated to the checkout aisle or to a small but thriving sub-culture; now superheroes are mainstream.

"Why this fascination with superheroes? First, good superheroes are relatable; we identify with them.  This is why many people find Marvel characters better than DC characters. Most people find Spiderman, the scrappy nerdy teenager, more relatable than the Martian Manhunter, a shape-shifting anthropoid from Mars. We find something of ourselves and our plight even in their superheroic struggles. Their plight reminds us of our plight, and their triumph gives us hope that we too may triumph, even if we don't often see heroes getting frustrated when their kids are not listening or angry when their car won’t start in the morning and they are already late. And be honest: sometimes the line at Dunkin' Donuts seems a lot like a robot army, and a boss or co-worker or disaffected-ex or parent seems like an alien trying to take over your world. . . .

So are there any real superheroes?  In addition to the many throughout the world who fight the good fight every day in small ways, there are those superheroes who have fought and won: the saints. All of these are heroic, though (whether we know it or not), only because they bear a likeness to the perfect model of virtue - namely, Jesus Christ."

In a recent commentary, Brother Joseph Graziano, O.P., reflected on the saints and why they may be regarded as superheroes.

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

Dominicana: Like Superheroes? Try the Saints! (18 NOV 15)

Reflection Starter from Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

27 November 2015

Small Business Saturday

A number of communities throughout this region and the rest of the nation are urging residents to save some energy (and money) by turning out to support locally-based, small businesses on Saturday, 28 November – Small Business Saturday (the business day between Black Friday and Cyber Monday).

This promotion has been initiated for a number of reasons:
  • It supports the type of independent, unique businesses that make local communities vibrant and distinct places.
  • It keeps spending and tax revenue local, verses having them “leaking” out to neighboring jurisdictions.
  • Profits go to local owners instead of national headquarters located somewhere else.
  • It helps demonstrate that local government is supportive and invested in local business success.
Small Business Saturday, which was established by American Express in 2010, is an effort to help small businesses get more exposure during one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. According to American Express, over 100 million people came out last year to shop at independently-owned small businesses during Small Business Saturday.

For more information about this observance, please visit:

Small Business Saturday

Facebook: Small Business Saturday

Media reports:

WBZ-TV: Why Small Business Saturday Is Important For Your Community (11 NOV 14)

USA Today: Strategies: 10 reasons to fall in love with shopping local (23 NOV 14)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for inspirations to praise and thank You and for inspirations to thank others in our lives who have offered prayer and good works (including kind words) to us.

A Thanksgiving Toast to Sarah Josepha Hale

Ever hear of the mother of Thanksgiving? Someone known by that title actually existed, and what's more - as a noted editor and regular correspondent of U.S. presidents - she was quite well known. In real life, the woman recognized as the mother of Thanksgiving was Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879), editor of Godey's Lady's Book and tireless campaigner for designation of the fourth Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving.

In that capacity she wrote to a string of American presidents - Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan and Lincoln - strongly suggesting an official proclamation declaring that holiday as devoted to God. It wasn't until Lincoln that her patience paid off. In October of 1863, the 16th President urged all Americans to observe the fourth Thursday of November as "a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

Rich Lowry tells the story of Sarah Hale in his column in the New York Post. He noted that Thanksgiving had existed in this country long before Lincoln, but the president's action made it official, and gave it a uniform quality. That latter point proved to be especially important, since many states held their version of the holiday on different days.

Lowry says that Hale "wanted to guarantee Thanksgiving's place in America's firmament by making it a national day," and so, more or less, has it been. "Less" because in recent years Thanksgiving has lost most of the religious fervor in which it was first cast. Lincoln's original proclamation, with its words praising "our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens," for example, reflected Hale's own sentiments.

In fact, she envisioned the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving as the "twin festivals" of the American people - "each connected with their history," she wrote, "and therefore of great importance in giving power and distinctness to their nationality." She saw the Fourth as a day to honor patriotism, and Thanksgiving as an acknowledgment of God's favor.

"These two festivals," she argued, "should be joyfully and universally observed throughout our whole country, and thus incorporated in our habits of thought as inseparable from American life."

Hale had a vision, no question about it. She was a formidable woman, author of regular editorials and several novels about American life. She even wrote nursery rhymes ("Mary Had a Little Lamb" was one of them). She campaigned not only for Thanksgiving but for a variety of projects, completion of the Bunker Hill Monument among them. The magazine she edited, Godey's Lady's Book, was a leading publication of its day, and her contributors numbered such heavyweights as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Washington Irving.

And with all the forces at her command, she is remembered most of all today as the guiding spirit - the persistent, almost shrill guiding spirit - behind the creation of a national day of Thanksgiving.

As far back as 1852, she was predicting in one of her editorials: "Wherever an American is found, the last Thursday [of November] would be the Thanksgiving Day. Families may be separated so widely that personal reunion would be impossible; still this festival, like the Fourth of July, will bring every American heart into harmony with his home and his country."

Sound familiar? Of course it does. Here's a toast then, to Sarah Josepha Hale - who started it all.

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:

University of Vermont: Godey's Lady's Book/Sarah Josepha Hale
The Christophers

Reflection Starter from Elie Wiesel

"When a person doesn't have gratitude,something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude." - Elie Wiesel

23 November 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of music in all its many genres.

Michael Walker on Secular Rock Bands with Catholic Songs

"Christian Rock is a staple genre on the radio and iTunes these days, but what about Catholic Rock? Here are seven little-known occasions (amongst countless others) when mainstream/ alternative artists took their hand to religion.

"While they vary in terms of earnestness, all the[se] songs verge on the explicitly Catholic. . . .

In a recent commentary, writer Michael Walker reflected on the Catholicity of a number of rock songs (including U2's "Gloria").

To access Michael's complete post, please visit:

ChurchPOP: 7 Secular Rock Bands that Have Surprisingly Catholic Songs (19 NOV 15)

Reflection Starter from Fulton Sheen

"“You cannot always depend on prayers to be answered the way you want them answered but you can always depend on God. God, the loving Father often denies us those things which in the end would prove harmful to us. Every boy wants a revolver at age four, and no father yet has ever granted that request. Why should we think God is less wise? Someday we will thank God not only for what He gave us, but also for that which He refused.” - Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (in his Wartime Prayer Book)

22 November 2015

"To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King"

As we continue our celebration of the Solemnity Christ the King, I offer this version of "To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King":

The Solemnity Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The assigned readings are Daniel 7:13-14, Revelation 1:5-8, and John 18:33-37. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 93 (Psalm 93: 1-2, 5).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Pilate said to Jesus,"Are you the King of the Jews?"

Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?"

Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?"

Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world,my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here."

So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?"

Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the grace of humility

Msgr. Pope on the Sin of Pride

"Pride is a sin that is so pervasive, and that runs so deep within us, we often don't even sense it is there. Not only is it is a sinful drive in itself, it also plays a role in every other sin we commit. It is the sin we most share with Satan and all the fallen angels. Satan refused to serve God or to submit to His plan, and these are strong tendencies in every human person as well. Satan planned his strategy well as he tempted Eve: you will be like God. Both Eve and Adam falsely reasoned that in order to be free they should not be told what to do; they should do as they pleased and should decide for themselves what was right and wrong. They pridefully claimed the right to determine good and evil for themselves rather than trusting God. This prideful pronouncement has gone forth from human hearts ever since: 'I will not be told what to do.'"

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the effects of the sin of pride.

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

Community in Mission: Pondering Pride, the Most Perilous of All Sins (18 NOV 15)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"All human persons – all of us – are important in God's eyes..Pope Francis

21 November 2015

Jay and The Americans: "Cara Mia"

As this blessed week draws to a close, I offer this version of Jay and The Americans presenting "Cara Mia":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which You bless and work through all those involved in producing our food and in the various aspects of getting this food to us.

A Good Harvest

When you're sitting around the Thanksgiving table with your family this year and you say grace - making it a point to add "and bless those who prepared this meal" - go a step further and add a thought for "those who grew it," too. They could use it.

That's what 16 seminarians from the Midwest discovered this summer as they paid a visit to a Minnesota farm. It was yet another day helping them prepare for the priesthood, and it turned out to be time well spent. Many of them will be assigned to rural parishes, for one thing. But beyond that, they found themselves dealing with much larger issues.

"Farmers have a lot of wisdom to share," said one of them. "They're not just in the office like a lot of people. They're connected with life."

The visit - to a 1,500-acre farm owned by Jim Glisczinski - was one stop in a weeklong series sponsored by the St. Paul (Minnesota) Seminary School of Divinity that concentrated on rural issues and the stewardship of creation. Glisczinski put the matter in perspective for the seminarians, who come from six different dioceses.

"We can put the seed in the ground and work the fields," he said. "But the rest is up to Jesus Christ."

Maria Wiering filed a report on the visit for The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese. In it, she referred to the nuts-and-bolts aspect of the tour - the nature of crop cycles, agribusiness and the challenges of farming in general - but also emphasized the basic qualities of life on a farm, and how it accords with the concerns of Pope Francis.

"'Laudato Si' is a game-changer," said Christopher Thompson, referring to the pope's recent encyclical on humanity's relationship with the environment. As academic dean of the school of divinity, he accompanied the seminarians on their visit. "I really think it’s the charter for the third millennium and the new evangelization. The 'new evangelization' can't just be a concept or a program. It has to translate into a new and radical form of life."

Thompson made clear that farming is definitely a key part of that 'radical form' of life. "Agriculture is central to a people's culture," he said.

A seminarian on the tour, Matthew Quail from St. Paul, said the visit impressed upon him the importance of caring for the land and being connected to it. He called the life that farmer Glisczinski experienced "lived humanity in God's providence."

As for Glisczinski, he thoroughly enjoyed the visit. Responding to a question from one of the seminarians, he said he's been working on the farm since he was five, when he brought water to the calves born on land his father had bought. He now grows mostly corn and soybeans, and he's grateful that God has given him a good year.

He also said he remembers a time when the parish priest would visit a farm to pray for a good harvest  - and in response one of his visitors read something from the Rural Life Prayerbook.

"Almighty and eternal God," the prayer said, "You are Lord of the harvest. Bless this crop of ours, Lord; make it plentiful and rich."

It's a good prayer, and a simple one. Just the kind you might want to keep and use on Thanksgiving Day.

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:

Chris Kyle Frog Foundation

The Christophers

Reflection Starter from M. Scott Peck

"We arrive at the great paradox of power: the only civil reason to seek power is to lose it, to give it away. The one mark, above all else, of the true servant leader is that he/she empowers others. . . . Use your power to seek and find people with a potential to lead even greater than your own, nurture their potential with all you've got, and then get out of the way." - Dr. M. Scott Peck (in A World Waiting To Be Born)

15 November 2015

Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for November

The Holy Father's prayer intentions for November are:

Universal Intention (Dialogue): “That we may be open to personal encounter and dialogue with all, even those whose convictions differ from our own.”

Evangelization Intention (Pastors): “That pastors of the Church, with profound love for their flocks, may accompany them and enliven their hope.”

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You call us and encourage us to slow down our pace of life and be more in tune with You.

Msgr. Pope on Combatting Hyperstimulation in Our Lives

"We live in an age of such overstimulation that it would be unimaginable to people even a mere hundred years ago. In fact, it is probably more accurate to say we are not simply overstimulated, we are hyperstimulated. The number and kind of diversions available to us and imposed upon us are almost too numerous to mention. Silence and quietude are as unknown to us as is real darkness. We are enveloped in such sea of light that we are no longer able to behold the stars at night.

"And the artificial lights of our time do not simply illumine, they move and flicker as well. . . . Background noise permeates even our 'quiet' moments. . . . Our overall pace is frantic. . . .

"All of this leads to many unhealthy and unholy behavioral issues. . . ."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the effects of hyperstimulation on people in these times and on the importance of trying to slow down to the pace of normal human life.

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

Community in Mission: Hyperstimulation Is an Increasing Evil Whose Influence We Must Combat (11 NOV 15)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?Pope Francis

14 November 2015

"Armed Forces Medley"

As this blessed week (which included our observance of Veterans Day) draws to a close, I offer this version of the Armed Forces Medley:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the ministry provided by those, often unnoticed, who keep the various aspects of everyday life running smoothly.

Bishop Tobin on Faithful Christians Engaging the World

". . . Whenever I enter my local drugstore to buy harmless items like toothpaste, shampoo, soap and various medications, I walk past an aisle labeled 'family planning.' There one can purchase I presume (I've never stopped to look exactly) various methods of birth control that the Catholic Church finds seriously immoral. And by shopping at that store, I'm adding to its revenue, thus allowing it to continue its sale of immoral products.

"My cooperation with evil is certainly not intended, but it's there. (The various degrees of entanglement with evil are explained by the Church's well-defined description of 'material cooperation' vs 'formal cooperation,' a theology a bit too complicated to unwrap here.)

"The fact is, though, that whenever Christians encounter the world they run the risk of cooperating with evil. When you work or shop at certain stores, use various financial institutions, or invest in corporations through your mutual funds, you're probably supporting immoral activities, albeit unintentionally.

"The same thing happens when you pay taxes. Your government supports immoral activities all the time. I hate the fact, for example, that my taxes are used to fund Planned Parenthood, a morally degenerate organization if ever there was one!

"There are, of course, very good aspects about your dialogue with the world too. You can be a positive influence in the world; you can give a good example to others; you can bear gentle witness to the truth and joy of the Gospel.

"Pope Francis explained the impact of the disciple this way: 'He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear . . . An evangelizing community is filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always. It celebrates every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization.' (E.G. #24)"

In a recent commentary, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, of the Diocese of Providence (RI), reflected on the challenges faithful Christians face as they encounter the world while living their daily lives. In the process, he reminded us to be mindful of our obligation to avoid companies and corporations that are notorious for sponsoring immoral activities and to support those that promote our Christian values, to vote for political leaders who are publicly committed to healthy moral values, and to give good example in our daily lives.

To access Bishop Tobin's complete essay, please visit:

Without A Doubt: Engaging the World Can Be Risky Business (29 OCT 15)

Reflection Starter from David Icke

"A friend at school was always being laughed at because his father emptied dustbins for a living. But those who laughed worshipped famous footballers. This is an example of our topsy-turvy view of 'success.' Who would we miss most if they did not work for a month, the footballer or the garbage collector?" - David Icke

12 November 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many good people who are responding to Your call to serve You as priests, deacons, and consecrated men and women religious.

Br. Justin Mary Bolger, O.P., on Response to Vocations

"While walking with a few brothers through the neighborhood of Brookland the other day (where the Dominican House of Studies is located), we ran into members of four other religious communities in the space of twenty minutes: a Dominican sister, an Alma Mercy sister, a Franciscan T.O.R. brother, and six Missionaries of Charity.

:We often hear about the Church’s vocation crisis, but there are also signs of hope. Those signs are especially visible here in Washington, D.C. One of the main reasons one would run into such a heavy concentration of religious in this area is that it has been home to religious orders and seminaries since the founding of the Catholic University of America in 1887. . . .

"Yet, numbers don’t lie. Many other orders have dwindled. There are empty religious houses even here in D.C. Some dioceses do not have enough new priestly vocations to staff the number of parishes they have. There are plenty of articles and studies documenting the decreased number of seminarians and religious compared to previous generations. And we should take these seriously.

"Even though this general decline in numbers is a serious challenge, we must resist reducing the matter to numbers. . . ."

In a recent commentary, Brother Hyacinth Grubb, O.P., reflected on various aspects of the "vocation crisis.".

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

Dominicana: Quantitative Judgements (1 NOV 15)

Reflection Starter from St. Francis de Sales

"Meekness and mildness of heart is a virtue rarer than chastity." - Saint Francis de Sales

11 November 2015

A Veterans Day Remembrance

As we observe Veterans Day today, I offer these reflections:

Presidential Proclamation – Veterans Day, 2015

YouTube:  Patriotic Tribute~Thank You

YouTube: Never Forget

Wreaths Across America: Every Day Is Veterans Day (31 OCT 12)

The DeerLake Weekly Letter: Letters addressed to (Any Soldier). (9 NOV 12)

Christopher Closeup: Airborne Ranger Infantry (10 NOV 12)

A big thank you and a salute to all those who have and are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces!!!


Background information:

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Veterans Day – November 11

Facebook: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs

Bureau of Maine Veterans Services

Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services

New Hampshire State Office of Veterans Services

Rhode Island Department of Human Services: Division of Veterans Affairs

Vermont Office of Veterans Affairs

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for graces that enable us to appreciate simple things.

'God Promises Beauty Through the Ashes’

"I've learned that when God promises beauty through the ashes, He means it." So says Taya Kyle, the widow of Navy SEAL and Iraq War veteran Chris Kyle. Best known as the "American Sniper" because of his best-selling book and the movie about him, Chris and his friend Chad Littlefield were murdered on February 2, 2013, by a veteran they were trying to help.

Despite the sadness and bitterness that linger from her loss, Taya's belief in God's goodness remains strong as she focuses on being the best mom possible to her son and daughter, while also preserving Chris's legacy by helping other military families - a mission that's especially important as we once again commemorate Veteran's Day.

During a recent interview on Christopher Closeup, Taya recalled that over 10 years of marriage, she and Chris endured ups and downs, but they were determined to make it work. They defied the statistic that 90 percent of marriages of Navy SEALS end in divorce. Taya even survived the stress of worrying whether her husband would be killed while serving his country overseas - only to have it happen after he was back home.

She said, 'I think that God prepared me for Chris's death in some ways, because I've seen other people lose their spouses. I've known for a long time that life isn't fair. So I wasn't angry with God that I lost my husband. I was devastated, I was broken. I still am, in many ways. But I feel like God gives free will to everyone, and people who want to choose evil have that same free will. So the guy who murdered Chris and Chad…he made that choice. What God says is that, 'Free will is there, things will happen, but I'll be by your side, and I will bring beauty through it.' That doesn't mean God wanted [the bad thing to happen], but He'll change lives through it, anyway. He'll take the bad, and change it to good for somebody."

Some of that beauty emerged in the way Taya's friends rallied around her after Chris's murder. She said, "My one friend and her husband got a babysitter for their three kids so they could be at my house, washing dishes and staying until 11:30 at night. She and another girlfriend did my kids' laundry - stuff that I wouldn't have thought about in that moment. Those are things that are seared into my mind."

Taya has taken that idea of helping others to a new level through her efforts with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation (the frog being the symbol of the SEALS), which was founded by her husband. As it states on their website, "The pressures that come naturally with carrying out service to our country can lead to a negative ripple effect among family units, which flows into the communities within which they serve, work and live. The aim of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation is to provide meaningful, interactive experiences to service members, first responders and their families, aimed at enriching their family relationships."

Looking back on her own relationship with Chris, Taya feels grateful that they appreciated the simple things. She said, "We knew that just being together was a gift because it's something we hadn't always had. Being able to tuck our kids in bed together and pray with them. That was a gift. Those simple pleasures were something that we didn't overlook, and I certainly don't overlook them now."

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:

Chris Kyle Frog Foundation

The Christophers

Reflection Starter from Cynthia Ozick

"We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude." - Cynthia Ozick

09 November 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of peace of heart.

Elizabeth Scalia on Finding Peace in the Crucifix

"When people tell me they are anxious or despairing, or that they are feeling too alone, my advice is very simple. I tell them, 'Get a crucifix.'

"Not a cross, a crucifix. Get a small one that can be kept discreetly at your desk. Get an even smaller one for your pocket, to carry with you. Get one for your home.

"Keep the crucifix before your eyes, and it will teach you everything. It will train you to take a 'long view' of things."

In a recent commentary, writer Elizabeth Scalia reflected on the importance of keeping the crucifix ever before us.

To access her complete reflection, please visit:

Aleteia: Seeking Reassurance, Finding Peace in the Crucifix (8 NOV 15)

Reflection Starter

"Thank you, God, for little things that often come our way,
The things we take for granted but don't mention when we pray;
The unexpected courtesy, the thoughtful, kindly deed,
A hand reached out to help us in the time of sudden need -
Oh make us more aware, dear God, of little daily graces
That come to us with 'sweet surprise'
From never-dreamed-of-places." - Source Unknown

08 November 2015

Irish Tenors: "Be Thou My Vision"

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer this version of the Irish Tenors presenting "Be Thou My Vision":

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today the Church celebrates the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. The assigned readings are 1 Kings 17:10-16, Hebrews 9:24-28, and Mark 12:38-44. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 146 (Psalm 146:7-10).

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

YouTube: Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 146 "An Invitation to Praise God the Creator and Redeemer"

The Gospel reading is as follows:

In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds, "Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation."

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood."

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 8, 2015)

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Salesian Sunday Reflection: Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 8, 2015)

Community in Mission: The Paradox of Poverty – A Homily for the 32nd Sunday of the Year (7 NOV 15)

Word on Fire: Elijah, the Widow, and a Story of Trust (Cycle B * Ordinary Time * Week 32)

St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology: The Widows' Faith: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Thirty-second Sunday Ordinary Time (2 NOV 15)

CWR: The Dispatch: Widows and Scribes, Substance and Style (7 NOV 15)

Spirituality of the Readings: Hungry? (32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time B)

Let the Scriptures Speak: Women Who Loved Too Much? (32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time B)

The Word Embodied: Wholeheartedness of the Saints (32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time B)

Historical Cultural Context: Scribes and Widows (32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time B)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by Paulinus of Nola (32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time B)

National Catholic Register: Sunday Guide: Jesus and the Widow (8 NOV 15)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for Your gift of grace in all its many forms and for Your Love which offers it to us.

Msgr. Pope on a Call to Us in These Times

"Beginning in 721 B.C., after repeated warnings from the prophets, terrible waves of destruction came on the Jewish people. The Assyrians invaded and conquered the ten northern tribes of Israel. The survivors were exiled and in a certain sense were not heard from again. (They are often called the 'Ten lost tribes of Israel.')

"Small, feeble attempts at reform in the south for Judah and the Levites were mostly unsuccessful. Again, despite repeated warnings from the prophets, 587 B.C. was witness to another wave of destruction: the Babylonians invaded and destroyed Jerusalem. The city lay in ruins, the temple burned and looted. The survivors were exiled in Babylon and for eighty years the Promised Land lay in ruins.

"How could this be? Why would God allow His people to be conquered? Worse yet, how could He allow the temple to be destroyed?

"But He did. God does not care about buildings and land. He cares about the temple of our soul and a harvest of justice."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on a text from 2 Chronicles (7:14) that calls all to repentance and encourages the remaining faithful followers to stay true.

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

Community in Mission: A Simple Directive from God in Times Like These (26 OCT 15)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"Our life is not a pointless wandering. We have a sure goal: the house of the Father.Pope Francis

07 November 2015

Petula Clark: "Downtown"

As this blessed week draws to a close, I offer this version of Petula Clark presenting "Downtown":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways through which You encourage us to turn (back) to You.

Altar Bread Ministry of Vermont's Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

"It's generally quiet in the Altar Bread Department at the Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Westfield as Benedictine nuns in their full habits covered with smocks produce thousands of hosts to be consecrated and distributed to Catholics at the Eucharist.

"In keeping with the contemplative lifestyle of their order, the Congregation of Solesmes, there is little talking.

"When Sister Marie Anges Martel does her work at the cutting machine by the window, the dominant sound is the hiss and clunk of the machine cutting through layers of whole wheat wafers, which resemble thin pizza crusts.

"It is important work, for as Sister Claire-Joseph Desmarais, the altar bread official, said: 'We help Jesus bring himself to souls by making altar bread hosts. Through the priest, Jesus brings himself to the people.'

"She and the two other sisters who work in the department -- Sister Marie Anges and Sister Theresa Margaret Hagen -- enjoy their work 'helping bring Jesus to souls, the real, true bread of life.'

A recent Catholic News Service report reprinted a Vermont Catholic magazine profile of the monastery' altar bread ministry.

To access the Catholic News Service report, please visit:

Catholic News Service: Nuns say by making altar bread, they're 'helping bring Jesus to souls' (4 NOV 15)

To access the original article, please visit (it begins on page 10):

Vermont Catholic (November 2015)

Background information:

Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Congregation of Solesmes

Reflection Starter from Abraham Lincoln

"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, the many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us!

"It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness." - President Abraham Lincoln, in his Proclamation for a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer (30 April 1863)

04 November 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many acts of kindness being offered to us.

The 99-Year-Old Altar Boy

"You could say that Melvin Harris became an altar boy a little late in life.  Actually, he was 97, which makes it a 'lot late' in life.  Still, it wasn't too late because he is now a vital part of three parish communities in the Columbus, Ohio area.

"Harris was raised Baptist, but found himself impressed by the masses he saw when he worked his childhood job of delivering newspapers at St. Anthony Hospital.  With the influence of a Catholic neighbor, he converted at age 12.

"As reported by The Columbus Dispatch, Harris only became an altar server two years ago when his elderly sister couldn't handle it anymore.  Rev. Joshua Wagner, pastor of three local parishes, relies on the 99-year-old to serve his weekday and weekend masses.  He said, '[Melvin] is one of the happiest people I have ever met.  We've talked about some of the crises in his life, and I know it's his faith that has gotten him through.'

"Harris himself remains grounded in God's love.  He said, 'I believe if God made me, God has to love me because I'm part of His making.'"

This is a recent "Three Minutes a Day" offering from The Christophers. (Three Minutes a Day is an annual book that is designed to offer inspirational stories and reflections for each day of the year. For more information about this publication, please visit "The Christophers in Print.")

Reflection Starter from Max Lucado

"You are the only you God made... God made you and broke the mold." -  Max Lucado

03 November 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the spiritual gifts You have given each of us.

Fr. Longenecker on Not Being Scared of Spirituality

"Why is it that among 'conservative Catholics' there seems to be so little interest in spirituality? We're big on apologetics. We're big on dogma. We're big on the moral teaching of the Church. We're big on the rules, the rubrics, the regulations and the routine. But I think we're a little bit scared of spirituality.

"If my hunch is right, then there are some good reasons for it. Over the last fifty years of the revolution in the Catholic Church 'spirituality' has developed a bad reputation. Catechesis which should have focused on doctrine focused on 'relationships' instead. Sometimes people substituted sentimentality for spiritual direction and relativity for true religion."

In a recent commentary, Father Dwight Longenecker (parish priest at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Greenville, SC) reflected on why we do not need to be scared of spirituality.

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

National Catholic Register: Blogs: Fr. Dwight Longenecker: Are You Scared of Spirituality? (3 NOV 15)

Background information:

Dwight Longenecker - Catholic priest and author

Reflection Starter from Romans 12

"Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them:
if prophecy, in proportion to the faith;
if ministry, in ministering;
if one is a teacher, in teaching;
if one exhorts, in exhortation;
if one contributes, in generosity;
if one is over others, with diligence;
if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness." - Romans 12:6-8

01 November 2015

"For All the Saints"

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer this version of "For All the Saints":

Reflection on this hymn:

 Community in Mission: For All the Saints - Reflecting on a Great Hymn of the Church (29 OCT 15)

Solemnity of All Saints

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. The assigned readings are Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; and Matthew 5:1-12. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 24 (Psalm 24:1-6).

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

YouTube: Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 24 "Lord this is the people that longs to see Your face"

The Gospel reading is as follows:

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: 

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
   for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
   for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
   for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
   for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
   for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
   for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
   for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
   for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the Communion of Saints and for calling us to be part of this great mystery.

Msgr. Pope on Humility in Prayer

"Perhaps like you, I have to see people I love and care about through some difficult periods in their lives. One neighbor and parishioner recently lost her eight-year-old daughter to cancer. A number of my parishioners are seeking work and praying daily for it, but no employment offers have been forthcoming. Still others cry out for relief from any number of different crosses. I, too, have lots of things for which I pray; sometimes I get discouraged or even angry when God seems to say, 'No' or, 'Wait.'

"There is one thing that I have learned about true prayer: I have to be humble, very humble. The Scriptures say, We do not know how to pray as we ought (Romans 8:26). Many other translations of this text say even more emphatically, We do not know what we ought to pray for. Yet we are often so sure that we know what is best for us or best for others. But what we find is that the outcome we want is not necessarily the best one for us. This insight requires great humility. We see so little and understand even less. Though it is not wrong to ask for some particular outcome, we need to do so humbly. God alone knows the best answer and when to give it. Recognizing this requires humility."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the role of humility in prayer.

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

Community in Mission: On Humility in Prayer (27 OCT 15)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"Vanity not only distances us from God: it makes us look ridiculous.Pope Francis