In Christ, All Will Be Well

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.

One could have mixed feelings on today’s Feast of the Holy Innocents, the children slaughtered by Herod in an attempt to eliminate the Christ child, whom Herod believed was a threat to his throne. Herod did this out of fear and greed. He was so obsessed with the possibility that anyone might overthrow him as king of the Jews, that even a child had to be killed.

Why so much bloodshed? Not just then, perpetrated by Herod, but even today in the many children killed by famine, by dictators, by poverty and neglect, by abortion, by terrorists and gun-wielding perpetrators of our mass school shootings. These children are lost because of fear, greed, mental illness, indifference, selfishness, or pure evil.

We are just three days past the celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord. Only three days into the joyous season of Christmas when we honor this Feast of the first martyrs for Christ. In the midst of our lights, glitter, presents and family gatherings, music and dancing, scripture reminds us of such sorrow. I find the words of today’s Gospel, recounting a passage from Jeremiah, some of the most heart-wrenching words: “…and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.” It can be said of any of the situations described above.

And how do we make sense of it?

We need to remember who is in charge. God is in charge. We cannot make sense of any of the suffering of this world if we do not have faith. Faith that God will, in the end, make it all right. It may not seem like much consolation, but it is a great consolation. We don’t have to make things OK in our world or anyone else’s. We need only to live righteously, and to turn to Jesus, to intercede for us to heal our hurts and give us the strength of faith to remain strong in the truth that God is in charge, and that, in the end, he will right every wrong ever committed. That is the essence of his mercy, as well as his justice.

In this season of beauty and charm, joyous hope of peace and love, unite any hurt and pain you carry with you today; unite it with the sorrow of the loss of these little ones and take it to the Lord. Through his Incarnation, death, and Resurrection, he has given us the path to peace. In Christ, all will be well!

God Bless.

Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager here at Diocesan, is currently a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. While at St. Thomas the Apostle, Grand Rapids, Jeanne was a Lector, Cantor, Coordinator of Special Liturgies, Coordinator of lectors and, at one time, chair of the Liturgy Commission. In a past life, secretary/bookkeeper at the Basilica of St. Adalbert where she ran the RCIA program for the Steepletown parishes. And she loves to write! When relaxing, she likes reading and word puzzles. You can contact her at

Jesus is Alive

“For the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it…we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.” [Jn 1: 2-4]

Today’s readings call to us, charging us to rejoice and proclaim the glory of God the Father and God the Son! St. John the Apostle could not have a better feast day to recognize his dedication, faith and calling to the Way. John proclaimed to all the world that Jesus is alive and among us.

I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture…I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Jn 10:9-11

The gospel today takes us to the scene at Jesus’ tomb. It is the profound reminder of the good shepherd laying his life down for each and every one of us. Jesus came into the world as the ultimate gift and sacrifice; all manifested through the unconditional love of God for humanity.

On this third day of Christmas, I feel like singing Hallelujah from the rooftops. My kids advise me otherwise. Instead, listen to the Royal Choral Society or a gospel version by Quincy Jones sing Hallelujah. May your celebration of Christmas continue to be blessed.

Beth Price is a Secular Franciscan (OFS) and spiritual director who has worked in several parish ministry roles during the last 20 years. She is a proud mother of 3 adult children. Beth currently works at Diocesan. You can contact her at

St. Stephen’s Martyrdom

After celebrating the glorious day of Christ’s birth, the liturgical calendar remembers Saint Stephen, one of the first converts to the Catholic faith and first of many to give their lives in the name of Christ. It’s a sudden and stark contrast between the two feasts, but in that, we see the divine power of Christ and his ability to transform even the hardest of hearts. In the narrative of St. Stephen’s martyrdom, we are introduced to Saul, a ruthless persecutor on a mission to destroy the young church.

However, a few chapters later, we see Saul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damasus, which was a launching point for him to eventually become one of the most influential saints in all of Christianity. There is no question that Saint Stephen’s Martyrdom had a profound impact on Paul, not only in the fact that he witnessed his death first hand but because of the grace and forgiveness that Stephen asked of God for his executioners.

Saint Stephen is a perfect imitation of Christ. He, like Christ, died praying for his executioners. He did not compromise his faith out of fear of being rebuked and killed. He stood firm in his faith and shared the gospel until his last breath. He didn’t do it because he knew that Saul’s heart would change; he didn’t do it because he knew that his name would forever be known by generations of Christians after him. He did it because he had a profound and deep love for Christ and understood in the depths of his soul that Christ is where salvation is found.

We are fortunate to live in a time and place where we are not killed for proclaiming the name of Christ, but how often are we hesitant to even mention his name for fear of social martyrdom? How often do we fear our family and friends turning their backs towards us because we spoke the truth of the gospel and our culture’s failure to live it?

We know the church’s teaching on marriage, sexuality, life, immigration, and more, but we avoid telling those we interact with about the truth of these issues for fear of being called “intolerant” and “judgmental.” Little do we know that even when we stand firm in our beliefs, God could be working in the hearts of our persecutors just like he worked in the heart of Saul.

Pray today for the intercession of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Let him be your guide as we approach the new year to stand firm and true to the teaching of Christ and the Church and remember to continually pray for those who persecute you because you stood firm in the name of the Lord.

Saints Stephen and Paul, pray for us.

Hannah Crites is a native to Denver Colorado and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has written for numerous publications and blogs including the Chastity Project, Washington Times, Faith & Culture: The Journal of the Augustine Institute, and Franciscan Magazine. She is currently working in content and digital marketing for a small web development and digital marketing agency. Connect with her through Twitter (@hannah_crites) and Facebook. Check out more of what she has written at

The Unprecedented God

My oldest son, Simon, turned six earlier this month. I remember the afternoon we were getting ready to take him home from the hospital. I stood there holding him, absolutely terrified that the nurses would actually let us leave the hospital with this baby. My wife and I had no idea what we were doing. Simon was so helpless, so vulnerable, so dependent on us for everything, and they trusted us to take care of him!?

Christmas was especially meaningful for me that year. The God who made space and time became as helpless as my baby son. He had to learn to walk and talk and feed himself. He got hungry and tired. God became that vulnerable.

In the Garden of Eden, right after they sinned, Adam and Eve saw that they were naked and then made clothes for themselves. They looked at each other’s vulnerable bodies and realized that the other person could be used, and as they thought this they realized that the other person could use them. So they protected their vulnerability.

Our God so humiliated himself that he allowed himself to be beaten, flogged, stripped naked and hung on a cross. All of the crucifixes we have depict Jesus in a nice loincloth, but that is for our own sense of modesty. The God who made the entire universe died with a vulnerable, naked body.

And this prompts the question, why would God do that? Why did God take on our humanity and die for us? The Catechism says, “The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God” (Catechism 457). Jesus entered into our suffering, sin, and death – and defeated them. He undid all the effects of Adam’s sin. But that’s not the only reason that God became man.

God doesn’t intend to just simply restore us back to the Garden of Eden. He intends to give us far more. “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God” (Catechism 460). God’s original plan was to make us like himself. God made us so that we may participate in his divine nature. Jesus wasn’t God’s “Plan B.” God becoming man wasn’t simply a response to Adam and Eve’s sin, he always planned on becoming one of us in order to make us like himself.

Jesus has two natures, his divine nature and his human nature. God partakes of human nature completely so that you and I might partake of the divine nature. This means that the cross, Jesus’ sacrifice, was a means to a greater end. God didn’t become man just to die for our sins. Rather, Jesus saves us from our sins, restores our relationship with God, so that he can make us like God.

In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul recites a hymn that captures the humility of a God who would become one of us:

“Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).”

This is how good God is. This is how much God loves us. This is how desperately God wants to reconcile us back to himself. Why? So that we can share in his divine nature. So that he can transform us and make us like himself. Today at Mass, the Church gives us this beautiful Collect prayer:


O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature
and still more wonderfully restored it,
grant, we pray,
that we may share in the divinity of Christ,
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

Christmas, as Pope Francis said last week, means celebrating the “unprecedented things of God,” or rather, “the unprecedented God.” The pope continued, “Take some time, stand in front of the manger and be silent.” Take some time today to contemplate the mystery of our God who only desire is to make our mind like his mind and our heart like his heart, to make us like himself.

Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and a parish director of religious education. He can be found at his website, Rejoice and be Glad: Catholicism in the Pope Francis Generation.


Have you ever been to a concert of your favorite band?

You stand in a mass of people waiting for the band to come out. Everyone just wants to get to the front, to be closer. Some are chanting the band’s name while others are quiet in anticipation.

The buzz of excited conversations about where they first heard the band, how much they love this band, and all the facts they know about them. You overhear, “I can’t believe I’m finally going to see them,” as you squeeze through the crowd to get closer to the front.

You put this day on your calendar and count down the days to this monumental event. Some people, maybe even you, drove hours to be here, listening to the band’s music the whole way in order to get into the spirit.

When the band finally comes out, everyone screams excitedly and claps. Everyone sings their songs together as they play and for a couple of minutes everyone is unified and smiling. “I love this band.”

Maybe I’m the only one that feels this way about concerts, but I think this is how we should behave as we await the birth of Christ. Yes, that was thousands of years ago, but each year we are asked to ground ourselves in our faith in order to await the birth of our Lord.

We prepare our hearts and countdown the days until Jesus arrives. We sing Advent songs as we wait and celebrate with a Mass, yet… Where is our excitement?

Everyone is excited about the gifts, but when it comes to the actual celebration of Christ’s birth in Mass, we are disinterested. In Christmas Eve Mass, everyone is yawning, falling asleep, or just plain bored. The majority is half listening and half planning when they’ll have time to wrap the Christmas gifts.

Where is the joy? Where is the love? Where is the glorious realization that God gave up his only son to make him human, to go through our mundane struggles so that he could be sacrificed to pay for our sins? Where is our priority?

On this last day of preparation, ask yourself these questions. Prepare your heart. Remember your God. Remember just exactly what the birth of Christ means.

Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.

The Joy of Simplicity

They say that little babies sense a lot in the womb. Studies have even been done to try to determine just how much babies are aware of and at what age they start to hear sound and feel movement. The human person is incredible, aren’t we? Before we are even able to live on our own we are able to respond to sound, movement, touch, and light.

This is where we find ourselves in the Gospel for today, but John was not responding to any physical stimulus, he was responding to pure grace. We know from scripture that Mary was full of grace and that she was carrying God himself, and because of this truth John could not help but leap for joy. He knew even before he was born of the immense role this other baby would play in his salvation and his response is nothing less than complete gratitude.

When was the last time I truly allowed myself to become weak, dependent, small, and defenseless in the midst of the very same grace that Jesus offers me every day? When was the last time I lept for joy from knowing what Jesus will do and has done in my life? When was the last time I allowed myself to have childlike faith?

I truly ask myself this question as Christmas fast approaches and I hope you genuinely ask yourself this question as well. It is easy to get bogged down with the rules and expectations of faith. It is easy to get swept up in the negative talk and publicity circling around the Church Christ founded. It is easy to make prayer into a chore instead of a conversation with a lover.

But the faith is beautiful in its simplicity. If we ever find ourselves overcomplicating things, it helps to focus on this Gospel from today. God is pure grace, pure gift, and our response to that free gift should be a childlike leap for joy. Not because we deserve it, not because we have earned it, but because Christ bought it for us.

Here in this Advent season, let’s practice jumping. Let’s practice leaping for joy in the midst of grace. When the overcomplication and juridical controversies start to swirl, remember the simplicity of the Gospel. Jesus came so that we might have grace, and that should give us more joy than anything. From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!

“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”
~ G. K. Chesterton

Tommy Shultz is a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan. In that role, he is committed to coaching parishes and dioceses on authentic and effective Catholic communication. Tommy has a heart and a flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. His mission and drive have been especially inspired by St. John Paul II’s teachings. Tommy is blessed to be able to learn from the numerous parishes he visits and pass that experience on in his presentations. Contact him at