Heard and Answered

Confidence was the first word that jumped out at me in today’s first reading. However, I found myself lacking in confidence as I struggled to come up with an engaging introduction to this blog post. This lack of confidence felt unusual since I majored in journalism in college and have always considered myself to be a strong writer. So I stopped and quickly assessed – where do I feel confident in other areas of my life and my work? How about youth ministry, since that’s my chosen career? It depends on the day and what’s coming up on the schedule. Work-life balance? Getting better and maintaining friendships? I have good intentions but sometimes struggle on the follow-through. Writing? Heck yeah. That’s my jam. 

Then it hit me. Can I say I truly have confidence in my spiritual life? Am I certain that the Lord will help me move from times of desolation to consolation, whenever they may happen? Do I know He will bestow grace and blessings? Have I turned to Him in prayer, trusting that my request will be heard and answered in accordance with His will? Some things better than others. Here is why today’s first reading spoke to me in particular and why I hope it speaks to you too. 

John, the apostle, tells his readers that we “have this confidence in him,” not that we will have confidence in the future, but this confidence is for right here and right now! John continues his point by explaining just what we should have confidence in – that God will hear us when we ask anything of Him. Therefore, if we know for certain that He hears us, we can also know that He will answer our requests, all according to His will. 

This small point should give us so much comfort! How many times have we stopped ourselves on the cusp of prayer, questioning whether or not God will hear and answer us? John has given us the very answer to our oft-asked question, written down in Scripture. However, there is one important thing to remember – even though God always answers our prayers, sometimes the answer isn’t the one we expected. In our wounded humanity, we think we know what is best for ourselves, but our plan and our vision doesn’t always line up with what God has in mind. God will always answer our prayers according to His will for the good of our life lived for Him and the work of building the kingdom of God. 

You might be wondering how it is possible that we can have this confidence in turning to God with our needs and petitions. I wish to draw your attention to the first line of the footnote for 1 John 5:14-21 that says, “As children of God we have confidence in prayer because of our intimate relationship with him.” Because our identity is that we are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we can always turn to Him with whatever is on our minds and hearts and will “how much more your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” (Mt 7:11)

Keeping all this in mind, the next time you turn to the Lord in prayer, have confidence that it will be heard and answered, no matter how big or small your request might be.

Contact the author


Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still hopes to use her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.

We Are All Lepers

Have you ever experienced a physical issue that you wanted to conceal or minimize? A swollen eye? A skin rash? Even a blackened fingernail might keep our hands in our pockets.

You know your own hands very well. Look at them and imagine your fingers bent in unnatural positions, several of them missing, mysteriously “eaten away.” You would probably want to hide them from others. What if your face were suffering the same mysterious infection? It is likely that others would look away from you or avoid you.

This is a glimpse into the plight of lepers. Through no fault of their own, lepers have been infected with bacteria that disfigures them completely, causing damage to the organs, eyes, limbs, and nerves. Because of the fear of contaminating others, lepers were considered unclean and were not allowed to be in contact with others. Because of their disfigurement, they were terrible to look at and covered themselves even from their own eyes. They were separated socially, psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally from others, forced to live on the outer edge of society and rely on charity, which they received from a distance. They could not be with their families or pray with the community. They were cast aside to watch their disease progressively erode their physical selves.

Who could be in worse shape in the ancient world than a leper?
And yet, we are all lepers, in a sense, because leprosy can be seen as a biblical analogy for sin. Leprosy is to the body what sin is to the soul. Sin disfigures and eats away at our souls, separating us from all that is good and true and beautiful and from one another. Sin drives a wedge in our relationship with God, with other people, and with our own best selves. Sin is the terrible spiritual disease that keeps us from being able to fulfill our true potential in Christ and to live in full communion with God and other people.

That’s the bad news. But the Gospel is Good News, and today’s Gospel proclaims the good news that if we, like the leper, bow down before the Lord, acknowledging that He alone has the power to cure us, and confidently ask to be healed, we can be free. Jesus will not hesitate or draw back; He will touch us with His grace. He says to the leper and to us: “I do will it.” This is why he has come to us!

Unlike the leper, we don’t have to wait for the Master to pass by. We have access to Him 24/7. It is up to us to open ourselves to the healing mercy and grace of Christ through prayer and through the Church in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

During these last few days of Christmastime, let us ask for the grace to open ourselves fully to the infinite mercy Christ came to unleash on the world, and confidently ask Him to set us free.

Contact the author


Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

The Glory of Heaven

“Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward of faith is to see what you believe.” -St. Augustine of Hippo

Today’s readings are glorious! They share with us the good news of salvation and instill within us a beautiful hope of that which is to come. In the first reading from 1 John, we hear what we must do in order to love God fully. Then, we hear what our reward will be if we truly love God and sincerely believe in Him. John reminds us that when we follow the commandments, we are able to love others and be witnesses of the goodness of God through our actions. It is in following God’s commandments and loving one another that the faith will be victorious: “The victory that conquers the world is our faith.” This victory of which John speaks is eternal life with God in Heaven; it is God’s desire for each and every one of us. And, through John, He is telling mankind exactly how to conquer the world: with love.

In the Gospel today, Jesus literally brings the Good News to the people of God. The passage that Jesus reads from Isaiah tells us what He was sent into the world to do and what we, in turn, are called to continue doing in Christ’s name. Christ also makes clear who He is and what His mission is: “Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Not everyone who heard Jesus’ proclamation accepted Him as Lord. In fact, many rejected Him. I think my favorite thing about this Gospel is that it occurs in Nazareth–in the place where Jesus grew up–thereby showing us that we, too, should begin at home. Faith begins at home, with the family, with the people we are surrounded by on a daily basis. Christ shows us the importance of evangelizing at home and living the Gospel through action, regardless of the possibility of rejection.

As we enter into the new calendar year, may we remember the Good News of Salvation and invite others to share in the Good News as well.

Contact the author


Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

God is with Us

The reading from the first letter of John speaks of God’s love for us; as we are loved by God, so must we love one another. The love of God is brought to perfection through us because He is with us, in this world. Because of His love, there is no fear; perfect love drives out fear. As I was praying with this reading, a memory came to me from many years ago.

It had already been a long day at the hospital by the time we arrived at the Audiology and ENT department. “He’s afraid. He’s had several surgeries and is just six years old. Maybe if you let him hold the instrument, he’ll see that it won’t hurt,” I remember saying to the medical personnel while we spoke about the removal of an ear drainage tube that was lying in my son’s ear canal. My little boy had already gone screaming from the waiting area when his name was called. I’d calmed him down, reassuring him that taking the tube out of his ear wouldn’t hurt as I led him back to the examination room. He had undergone four major surgeries and several sets of ear tubes during his six years.

The intern was hesitant, but agreed to let my youngster hold the very expensive instrument. My son did calm down, took a big breath and started to move his hand toward his ear, thinking we were asking him to take the tiny tube out of his own ear. My heart broke as I was filled with pride, awe and love at his courage, trust and willingness. Fortunately, the nurse took the instrument from his hand. The tube was quickly and expertly removed, one hundred percent pain-free.

The above scene illustrates to me the faith, trust and love between a child and parent. The child believes in the love of the parent. The gospel reading today continues in this vein. Jesus has gone off to pray after the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The disciples mistake Jesus walking towards them on the water for a ghost and were terrified. Jesus tells them not to be afraid and take courage, but they were astounded. They didn’t understand the miracle of the loaves. They didn’t understand the perfect love of God the Father (or Jesus the Son). 

The first reading today ends with, “God is love[…] In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love” (1Jn 4:16-18).  

As we age, we lose our childhood trust; we become jaded and fearful. We don’t see the perfect love that is all around us, just like the disciples in the boat from the gospel. 

Listen to this song from Casting Crowns, to help you rely on God in this new year. He is always with us, to lift us, to guide, to console, and to love us unconditionally.

Contact the author


Beth is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She brings a unique depth of experience to the group due to her time spent in education, parish ministries, sales and the service industry over the last 25 yrs. She is a practicing spiritual director as well as a Secular Franciscan (OFS). Beth is quick to offer a laugh, a prayer or smile to all she comes in contact with. Reach her here bprice@diocesan.com.

Out of Love

Love is complicated — end of story. 

Okay, not really end of story. But love IS complicated – that statement shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s complicated enough that I went through several different intros for this blog post. Nothing I wrote seemed strong enough to convey the right sentiment. And yet, love and movements of the heart are all over today’s readings. 

We have all experienced love in our lives – the love of parents for their children, a husband’s love for his wife, mutual affection and sharing between friends, and more. Whether we realize it or not, we have loved and been loved. It’s been both painful and beautiful, tender and deep. 

Yet, it pales in comparison to the love the Heavenly Father has for His children. Praise the Lord for that! Original holiness saw Adam and Eve walking with the Lord in the Garden of Eden, living in union with Him in His love. And even when they screwed up, God still loved them. He didn’t leave His most beloved creation in chaos but planned to redeem and reconcile them to His love. 

John 3:16 is one of the most quoted lines of Scripture; however, I believe it’s one of the least understood. Or maybe it’s understood on a very basic level, in our minds but not in the depths of our hearts. “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This point is repeated again at the end of today’s first reading – a reminder we all need. 

Love is also a subtle theme of the Gospel, the Feeding of the Five Thousand. The whole miracle came as a direct result of Jesus’ heart being moved “with pity for them.” He saw that they were lost, needing some love and attention and direction. Out of love, Jesus began to teach them and, only after attending to their spiritual needs, did He nourish their physical hunger in the form of a miracle. All out of love. 

So, whether or not we have been able to acknowledge and receive love here on earth, we can rest in knowing the depth of our Heavenly Father’s love – a love that sent His Son for our salvation and a love that will nourish our bodies and souls.

Contact the author


Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still uses her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.

Light in the Darkness

It’s easy to see the darkness in our world today; it is pretty apparent with one click to turn on the news. I’ve heard many people say they don’t watch the news because it’s always bad news and they’d rather watch a station that only shares good news, why doesn’t that exist yet? Well, in the Gospel today, we are reminded that there is a light in our dark world. He is the one who came and is ever-present still today.

After hearing that His cousin, John the Baptist, was arrested, Jesus left for Capernaum by the sea in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. He fulfilled the prophet Isaiah, “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”

Following this fulfillment, Jesus begins Galilean ministry, He proclaims. “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” and he shows that He is this Kingdom of God here on earth. He shows that He is the light through his public ministry. He travels throughout Galilee teaching, preaching, and healing many. People witnessed these miracles and encountered Him. He began to have a following, “His fame spread to all of Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.” Those who witnessed miracles and encountered Him followed Him.

As Catholics, we believe that Christ is still our light in the darkness, but do you believe that He can still perform these miracles today? He is still present to us and illuminates our lives now, even in this dark world. He is present and capable of doing all the things He did in the Gospel in or lives today as well. Where in your life today do you need His light? What parts of your heart are darkened? Do you believe that He can heal what is broken and make you well? May we remember to “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Contact the author


Briana is the Pastoral Minister at St. Mark Church in Cleveland, OH. She is also a district manager at Arbonne. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to serve the Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Journeys and Gifts

“They saw the child with Mary, his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts…”

There are many aspects of this wonderful Solemnity that we can reflect on, but these few words from today’s Gospel give us a glimpse into how this celebration can focus our own search for Christ. The magi – foreigners, non-Jews – have seen a great sign in the heavens, and have come to acknowledge and honor a new king at his birth. They are searching; they are inquiring, they are following a light; this searching and traveling require effort, perseverance, sacrifice, and time, but it is important to them that they reach their destination. And they do: they find the house where this new king is dwelling, and they see him “with Mary, his mother.” The first thing they do is bow before him. Then they offer him the gifts they have carried with them.

We can find a parallel in our own spiritual journey. Our search for Christ happens in prayer and in the circumstances of our daily lives. Our searching also requires effort, perseverance, sacrifice, and time. We must prioritize our prayer time and our desire to follow the light of Christ over other activities and motivations. And like the magi, we can find Jesus “with Mary, his mother”; the woman through whom God came to dwell with us will always lead us to dwell with Him, as her role is always to bring Christ to the world and the world to Christ. Our prayer must always begin, like the magi’s, with humility: we must acknowledge Jesus as the Lord of all, as the king of our hearts and our lives, and adore Him. Then, the rest of our prayer will flow properly, including the offerings of our lives and ourselves that we make to him.

The magi offered gifts that expressed the truth about this small child in poor surroundings: this child is king (gold – a sign of royalty), this child is God (frankincense – a sign of our worship), this child came to offer his life for us (myrrh – for burial). What can we offer to this God-Man who set aside His glory to dwell with us and save us? How can our offerings acknowledge Who God is and our place in the Body of Christ? How can we help others see the profound gift that has been given to all the nations, making us all “co-heirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Eph. 3:6)?
Today, let us rejoice in the revelation of the one true God to all the nations. Come, let us adore Him!

Contact the author


Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

Taking Risks

“Faith lifts the soul, Hope supports it, Experience says it must and Love says…let it be!” – Elizabeth Ann Seton

Elizabeth Ann Seton is the saint that we remember today. She is the first American to be canonized, she converted to the Catholic faith 16 years before her death, and she opened Catholic schools in America. She lived a life of abandon to God’s will, something of which she lived by on a daily basis. When I think of her story, which has an abundance of content beyond what I am able to write about today, I see a woman that was filled with a charism of faith. She had a radical trust in God’s will for her life, and she followed Him to the ends of the earth.

How do we live this life of radical trust in God’s providence so that we are able to take risks? First we must remember who God is – He is constant and will never change. His love endures, His promises hold true, and His goodness reigns above all no matter what. The next step in trusting in God’s providence, is looking back on all God has provided up to this point. While we have faced hardships, He has and will bring us out on the other side of the tunnel. Finally, prayer as a means of conversing with God will allow us to trust Him more because we will get to know Him more, and clinging to the sacraments will help us to see God for who He truly is (and not what we try to make Him in our own heads).

I encourage you to read the story of Elizabeth Ann Seton – it is remarkable and a true inspiration for our times. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain and listen to God and His desires for your life.

Contact the author


Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at rodzinkaministry@gmail.com.

Intimate Communion

Recently, I was at a Marriages of Grace Cana Night, a nonprofit organization in my diocese that hosts a talk for married couples. There were couples of all ages, newlyweds, and those who have been together for a lifetime. The Bishop spoke at this event, and he shared some advice with all the spouses.

He said how important communication is, the simple and vital need to talk to one another. He shared that in his experience, he’s seen that once spouses stop talking to each other, marriages fall apart. He said that this is true in the vocation of priesthood as well; once a priest stops praying, stops talking to God, his vocation can fall apart. I believe what Bishop said that night was true, but I would add that once spouses stop praying, that is a problem too.

Why does prayer weigh so heavily on all vocations? We hear today in the First Reading from the Gospel of John that “No one who remains in Him sins.” This is where we are to live and breathe is in Christ alone; apart from Him, we cannot live as His children. John shares at the beginning of this passage by speaking to our identity as God’s children and how that truth changes us to be more Christ-like. He starts off by saying, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” We are not God’s children because he created us; we are God’s children because of the immense love the Father has bestowed on us.

He goes on to tell us that the world does not know because it does not know God, but because we are “God’s children now,” we shall be like him in the future. This is the hope of our Christianity, though we do not know the time or the hour, we know that when it is revealed, we shall be like him. This is the hope we must anchor our hearts to the truth that here on earth, we must live as He lived. He goes on to tell us that “everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.” The journey of holiness requires the desire and will. The desire to make yourself pure as Christ is pure is not enough. It’s the starting point, but it requires an act of the will to choose a life of purity. He goes on to say, “Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him, there is no sin. No one who remains in him sins; no one who sins has seen him or known him.” No one who remains in him sins.

When we are in intimate communion with the Lord, we will not fall into the temptation of sin. When we are apart from Him, it’s much more challenging to face temptation. When we are apart from Him for a long period of time, we may forget that we even seen Him or knew Him at all. Today, let us reflect on where we are in our relationship with Christ, our Lord, are you remaining in Him? Or do you need to come back to Him? Let us remember our true identity today that we are His children because He loves us.

Contact the author


Briana is the Pastoral Minister at St. Mark Church in Cleveland, OH. She is also a district manager at Arbonne. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to serve the Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese 

Pointing the Way

“John answered them, I baptize with water, but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

Each of the four gospels emphasizes John’s assertion that he is not the Messiah. It is helpful to look back historically and understand the Jewish context. While some of the more zealous of the Jews were looking for a political Messiah who would lead a military overthrow of the Roman leaders, the majority of the Jewish people were looking for a restoration of Israel in a new exodus. They were looking for a new Moses who would intercede for them in the making of a new covenant with God and lead them to a new promised land where the temple would be restored.

It was important both while John was alive and for those who followed his teachings even after his execution, that the Jewish people understood that John was not the Messiah. John’s importance was in pointing the way to Jesus. John’s role is just as important today.

Who pointed the way to Jesus for you? What was it about them that helped you to fall in love with Jesus? How did your relationship with them lead you to build a relationship with the one who created you and loves you beyond all understanding?

Just as God, who is love, created us because love desires to pour itself out to another so too, as we grow in love with Jesus Christ, our love desires to pour itself out to others. It isn’t really love if we are content just to hold it all inside. We are called to be like John the Baptist, we are not the way, but we can point to the one who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

So how do we do that? What is it about us, which points others to the love of Christ? What is it about our relationships with others that will lead them to build a relationship with Jesus Christ? How do we help others make straight the way of the Lord? How are we the voice crying out in the desert of our current culture? These are questions we each have to answer for ourselves.

It is the reason that God created you to be you, just as you are. He has a plan for you to be the arrow pointing someone else back to Him. You might be a big, flashing neon light complete with music. You might be a quiet candle in the window. You might be a patched up sign that shows the effects of time and wear. You might be a silent whispered prayer interceding for someone who doesn’t even realize they need intercession. Wherever you are, whoever you are, you were created just as you are for a purpose, and that purpose is to use your talents to build the kingdom of God in a way that one else ever created can.

As we start this new decade, what if we all became a little more conscious of how and where we are pointing? What if we became a little bit truer to ourselves and to who God created us to be? What if we remembered that we are not called to be the way, but only to point to the way? Because Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies. He is the new Moses interceding for us to the Father. He leads us out of ourselves into the light of His love. The promised land isn’t some far off place, but is alive and well here and now when we live in His grace. The rebuilt temple isn’t just one place but exists in each of our hearts. Because in the beginning, God created you out of love to love, and life doesn’t get much better than that.

Contact the author


Sheryl delights in being the number 1 cheerleader and supporter for her husband, Tom who is a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Kalamazoo. They are so grateful for the opportunity to grow together in this process whether it is studying for classes, deepening their prayer life or discovering new ways to serve together. Sheryl’s day job is serving her community as the principal for St. Therese Catholic School in Wayland, Michigan. Since every time she thinks she gets life all figured out, she realizes just how far she has to go, St. Rita of Cascia is her go-to Saint for intercession and help. Home includes Brea, a Bernese Mountain dog and Carlyn, a very, very goofy Golden Retriever.