Wounds of Jesus

‘We Are The Wounds Of Christ’

The Diocese of Salt Lake City is publishing short reflections during the Year of Mercy. Today’s reflection is from Tom Devereux, who serves as a pastoral minister in a hospital:

This Year of Mercy is an invitation to love and to express compassion, to reach beyond what is comfortable, and to examine our own strengths and weaknesses. I recall during a visit to a hospital in Assisi, Pope Francis said, “We are among the wounds of Jesus.” For me, to share another’s cross, even if for a brief moment, is certainly that very invitation to love; it is indeed the invitation to spend time among the wounds of Jesus.

Mr. Devereux goes on to say that the diverse group of people he comes into contact with all deserve to be cared for with mercy. Read the rest of his reflection here.

simple offerings

Simple Lenten Offerings

At CatholicLink, Luisa Restrepo has put together a list of 25 Simple Offerings to make this Lent a time to grow closer to Christ.

For instance: be joyful at work. Yup, every day. Joy is a virtue, so cultivate it.

Or you might try only buying what is necessary. Stay away from the mall, online shopping and the book store.

Don’t be negative on social media. Don’t give into the trolls, don’t be snarky, don’t be uncharitable.

Our Lenten sacrifices aren’t about “giving up” a bad habit just for the sake of gritting our teeth and getting through the next 40 days. It’s about becoming more like Christ. We are meant to be saints, so let’s get a bit closer to sainthood this Lent.

giving up mercilessness

Giving Up Mercilessness for Lent

Here we are: on the cusp of Lent. Many of us are pondering what to “give up”. There are the obvious choices: sweets, a bad habit, caffeine.

We must ask ourselves, however: will this really sanctify me? This is the purpose of Lent – to bring us closer to God, to make us holier. If we give up a bad habit, only to pick it right back again at Easter, does this help sanctify us?

We know this is the Year of Mercy. Pope Francis has done us a great favor by proclaiming this year. It gives us the opportunity to study and meditate upon what may be God’s greatest attribute: his merciful love for us.

Perhaps, just perhaps, this Lent, what we are meant to give up is mercilessness. From Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.

Mercy is the forgiveness of what need not or ought not to be forgiven. Indeed, mercy follows after, not before, both forgiveness and punishment. Mercy was never designed to minimize the heinousness of sins or to eliminate their possibility. It was meant to affirm their disorder. But their disorder did not prevent God from forgetting them to allow us to begin anew. Thus, God does not just “forgive” sins because He is merciful. He forgives them in the context of our realizing and acknowledging their disorder. Mercy is designed to encourage virtue, not to undermine it…

Mercy, paradoxically, can, if we are careless, become merciless. How so? Suppose an all-merciful God forgives all sins, whether repented or not. Everybody thus saves his soul automatically. We do not have to worry about what we do. The “merciful” God has already taken care of us whatever we do. Notice: no input on our part is required. God’s merciful love is said to be unrestricted. It is not limited by the distinction of good and evil.

A child would say, “But that’s not fair!” No, it’s not. For God to forgive everything, whether or not we repented, would be unjust. And God is always just. Mercy requires justice.

Think of it this way. A criminal is brought before a judge. The judge simply says, “There is no penalty for your crime. You are free.” Where is the justice for the victim? Where is the justice for the criminal? That criminal would have no opportunity to repent, to pay for his or her crime, to make restitution.

We cannot be careless with mercy. God is not. God is always merciful, but He is also just. This Lent, spend time meditating upon mercy: mercy in your home, at your workplace, in your heart. Am I careless with mercy? Where do I lack true justice and mercy?

practical pilgrimage

A Practical Pilgrimage

Let’s face it: most of us are not going to be able to jet off to Lourdes or Fatima this Lent, if ever. While our hearts might yearn for a pilgrimage to a well-known place, our wallets are thinking groceries and car payments. So where does that leave us?

I suggest a practical pilgrimage. What do I mean by that? The main reason for going on a pilgrimage is to seek the holy, to grow closer to Christ by encountering Him in a new way. But a pilgrimage also means a journey – you have to move through time and space. That movement is important: it gives us time to process, to slow down, to notice, to contemplate.

Back to the idea of a practical pilgrimage. This is a great thing to involve the family, but you could also invite a friend or head out on your own. Choose a church near you that you’ve never been to, maybe one that has some historical significance or really great architecture. Try to attend Mass there. This is also a great way to introduce kids to the idea of the universal church. (If Mass isn’t an option, just spend some time in reflection. You might also check on confession times if Mass is not possible.)

Take a few minutes to quietly walk around the church’s interior. Maybe you can pray the Stations of the Cross. If the church is named after a saint, take a few minutes to pray for his or her intercession (and if it’s a saint you are not familiar with, learn about that person. Make a new friend!)

When you’re planning your church visit, look for a nearby park. Pack a picnic lunch and put away your cell phones and tablets. Spend time enjoying God’s creation and the companionship of the people you’re with. Take time to talk about the things, events and people that prompted you to think about “holiness” (maybe it was a particular hymn during Mass or flowers in the park.)

And if getting out of the house isn’t an option for whatever reason, make a Virtual Pilgrimage. Here are some beautiful virtual tours of churches and shrines around the world.

A pilgrimage does not have to be a far-flung journey. If we do a little praying and planning, we can find God quite close to us … and isn’t that the whole point of a pilgrimage?

Lent 101 Infographic

Not sure what Lent is all about? Maybe Ash Wednesday has raised some questions around the water cooler. Perhaps you’re trying to find a way to help a child, a godchild or a grandchild understand the Lenten season and Catholic traditions. This infographic from National Catholic Educators’ Association should help.


Lent 101 inforgraphic



a movie pilgrimage

A Movie Pilgrimage


One of the most famous pilgrimages in the world is El Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) in Spain. The pilgrimage itself can be up to 500 miles long, traveled on foot, winding through Spain and other countries, depending on the route chosen. It ends in Santiago de Compostela, reportedly the tomb of the Apostle, St. James.

If you’re not able to drop everything and hike 500 miles through Europe, why not make a movie pilgrimage? The 2010 movie, “The Way” (rated PG-13) tells the story of Tom, (played by Martin Sheen) who is trying to cope with the death of his son, Daniel (Emilio Estevez). Tom and Daniel’s relationship had been strained; Tom didn’t “get” his free-wheeling, go-with-the-flow child. When Daniel dies on the El Camino de Santiago, Tom decides to finish the pilgrimage his son began.

Written and directed by Estevez, the movie is not only about the relationship between the father and son (with allusions to the Prodigal Son) and the pilgrimage, but about mending broken relationships and discovering deep truths in places and ways one would not expect.

One feature of this movie that I really like is that it’s not “preachy.” It doesn’t hit you over the head with “Christian themes” or have characters spouting Bible verses to each other. No, instead it tells a story (several, in fact) and draws the reader into the spiritual wounds and salves that the pilgrims encounter – just as if you were a pilgrim alongside them.

Because it’s PG-13, parents will want to watch it before sharing with kids, but I believe this film lends itself well to discussions with teens and young adults. The portrayals of the pilgrims are realistic; they each have a reason for being on the way, each seeking something different – and finding answers they did not expect.

“The Way” is a terrific way to enjoy a Lenten evening, allowing the viewer to make a pilgrimage from the comfort of the couch while still pondering how to encounter God in our journey towards Easter.

Book of Tobit

Journey through the Book of Tobit


The book of Tobit in the Old Testament is a fascinating story. It was likely written about 200 years or so before the birth of Christ, and it truly is a story, with a beginning, middle and end. It’s also a great book to undertake as Lenten reading. It’s not very long; one can easily read through it in an evening. (But take your time! There is a lot here to enjoy.)

Tobiah is the son of Tobit, the central figure, a pious Jew who keeps the Law. Tobit, through a rather outlandish event, is struck blind. This, along with thinking that his wife has stolen something, causes Tobit to beg God for death.

Meanwhile, in a distant town, a young woman named Sarah has had the unfortunate experience of being widowed – seven times, each time on the night of her wedding. People are starting to wonder if Sarah is not killing these men.

Now Tobit – hoping to retrieve some money so that he and his wife can be buried – sends Tobiah on a curious journey. He offers him a long list of “dos and don’ts” for the trip. As Tobiah starts off, he is joined by a man who introduces himself as Azariah, a kinsman of Tobiah’s, but he is really the archangel Raphael. (If this is sounding a bit like a soap opera, than you’ve got the right idea. This type of story would have offered a lot of entertainment to the Jewish listeners.)

One of the commands that Tobit has given his son is to marry while he is on this journey. “Azariah” steers him toward Sarah. Tobiah is a bit put off; isn’t this the woman whose husbands keep dying? But “Azariah” calms him and the two marry.

Chapter 8 of the book of Tobit has one of the most beautiful passages in the entire Bible: a prayer offered up by Tobiah and Sarah on the night of their wedding.

Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors;
blessed be your name forever and ever!
Let the heavens and all your creation bless you forever.
You made Adam, and you made his wife Eve
to be his helper and support;
and from these two the human race has come.
You said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone;
let us make him a helper like himself.’
Now, not with lust,
but with fidelity I take this kinswoman as my wife.
Send down your mercy on me and on her,
and grant that we may grow old together.
Bless us with children.

Clearly, this journey Tobiah must make is a peculiar one. An angel in disguise, a widow seven times over, the appearance of a large fish, the expelling of a demon … there’s never a dull moment!

While one could read this book as “just” a story, that would be missing the point. Tobiah must trust his father, his traveling companion, his new bride and ultimately God. And while strange things occur, tragedy abounds and things often are not as they seem, Tobiah trusts. He is faithful.

The prayer he prays with Sarah the night of their wedding blesses God, pledges Tobiah’s fidelity and begs for mercy and the grace of growing old together. Tobiah’s journey is much like what many of us face: family issues, health complications, strange characters to deal with and problems popping up on all sides. Tobiah’s example is a rich and powerful one: trust in God. Follow His will. Do good. Respect your family. Don’t be discouraged. And at the center of it all is love: love for parents, love for one’s spouse, love for God.

This Lent, do yourself a favor and read the book of Tobit. Travel with Tobiah and ponder how his story has meaning for your Lenten journey.

companions on the journey

Evangelizing Our Companions on the Lenten Journey

If you’re of a certain age, you probably had to read some of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in high school or college. (Don’t worry; there won’t be a quiz.) Chaucer’s work follows a very colorful cast of characters on a pilgrimage.

As we make our spiritual pilgrimage, we have our own host of colorful characters. The thing is, we often don’t get to choose who will journey with us. We don’t pick our co-workers or most of our family members. And while our pilgrimage often makes perfect sense to us, it may not seem so obvious to those around us.

Every Catholic has a duty to evangelize. This can be scary: “What, me, preach? I’m not a theologian or a priest. I don’t know what to say.” Well, part of that duty to evangelize means that we have to know our own Faith.

But evangelization doesn’t have to be scary. Most of the time, it’s just sharing our Faith journey with others. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has some great ideas on how we can do this. For instance, maybe one of your co-workers doesn’t understand the whole “no meat on Fridays” thing:

You love pepperoni pizza. You eat it all the time. Suddenly, you can’t have it on Fridays?! What could possibly be going on? It must be that Catholic thing, again. Absolutely! On Fridays during Lent, we particularly remember the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. In memory of this great sacrifice, we continue the tradition of penance and sacrifice – abstaining from meat on Fridays is an outward manifestation of an interior reality: the conversion of our hearts. As Pope John Paul II has said, “In fact, the external aspects of fasting, though important, do not convey the full measure of the practice. Joined to the practice should be a sincere desire for inner purification, readiness to obey the divine will and thoughtful solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the very poor.” Christ himself fasted and prayed in the desert. Through fasting and praying, we unite ourselves with the sacrifice of Christ and offer him reparation for our sins and failings. It’s a little thing to give him in the face of his ultimate sacrifice, but what a grace that our God accepts and loves little gifts!

You can read more ideas for evangelization from the USCCB here.

Go, you are sent

Go, You Are Sent!


In 2015, Pope Francis issued his Lenten message: “make your hearts firm!” One of his insights was that every Christian community is a missionary community. We cannot isolate ourselves; it is our Christian duty to go out and evangelize.

The Church is missionary by her very nature; she is not self-enclosed but sent out to every nation and people.

Her mission is to bear patient witness to the One who desires to draw all creation and every man and woman to the Father. Her mission is to bring to all a love which cannot remain silent. The Church follows Jesus Christ along the paths that lead to every man and woman, to the very ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8). In each of our neighbours, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. What we ourselves have received, we have received for them as well. Similarly, all that our brothers and sisters possess is a gift for the Church and for all humanity.

At the end of every Mass, we are sent forth to carry God’s presence into the world. In fact, the word “Mass” comes from the Latin, ite, missa est: Go, you are sent, which is part of the concluding rite of the Mass.

Does this mean we are supposed to go knock on doors and ask people, “Do you know Jesus?” Are we meant to stand in a public park and proclaim the Gospel? Just what does it mean that we are “sent?” Where are we supposed to go, exactly?

For most of us, we are “sent” to places that are familiar to us: to our families, our everyday chores and errands, our work place and school, into our relationships with others.

This journey that we undertake every week when we are “sent” means that we are to bring Christ into our life – even in the most mundane of ways. How do you treat that cashier with the bad attitude? What do you say and do when you encounter a young mother struggling with an unruly toddler as you push your cart through the grocery store? When that one co-worker gets under your skin again, how do you act charitably when you really want to lash out? At the family dinner table, how do you draw out your sullen teen without being argumentative?

Pope Francis reminds us that we each possess a gift, and we must bring our gift to everyone (yes, EVERYone!) we encounter on our daily journey. Perhaps you are a good listener. Maybe your gift is to teach and explain the faith. It might be that your gift is to bring kindness into a cruel and hurtful situation.

As you journey through your week, ask yourself, “How am I bringing Christ into my world?” And then: go!


Pope Francis

Pope Francis: On the Road of Mercy This Lent

“Let us not waste this Lent” exhorts the Pope Francis. His message for Lent 2016 reflects his proclamation of the Year of Mercy. Lent this year, he says, should “be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy.”

The Holy Father reminds us that the relationship between God and humanity is a “love story,” a story of God’s mercy – mercy that is poured out over and over again.

God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

Let us not waste this Lent. Let us be merciful and active. Plan now: the road to mercy awaits.

Corporal Works of Mercy

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbor the harborless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead.

Spiritual Works of Mercy

  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To admonish sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To comfort the afflicted;
  • To pray for the living and the dead.