The Moment of Decision

In his Confessions, Saint Augustine recounts the great struggle he went through in his conversion. He was drawing closer to embracing the Catholic faith, but he couldn’t bring himself to give up his sinful life. He was living with a woman but not married. One day he was in a garden with his friend Alypius, with his heart torn and heavily burdened. Would he ever get to know and love God? Suddenly he heard something that sounded like children chanting, Tolle lege! Take and read! Startled, Augustine noticed a book and picked it up. Opening it at random, his eyes fell on Romans 13:13-14: “Let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”


That was all he needed to read. Moved by grace, Augustine put the book down and made a decision that would change his life forever. He went on to become one of the Church’s greatest saints.


In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus presenting his case to a hostile audience. It’s their moment of decision. Jesus is trying to win their hearts to accept the grace of the Gospel. He presents four powerful witnesses to the truth of his teaching:


  1. John the Baptist, who was a lamp burning brightly that pointed the way to Jesus.

  2. The works that Jesus did, which he received from his Father. Jesus had worked miracles of healing that were confirmed his teaching.

  3. The Father himself testified to Jesus. At his baptism the words came from heaven, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him!”

  4. The Scriptures themselves, which meant the Old Testament. They spoke of the Messiah who was to come, the Savior of the world. Though the language was veiled the meaning was clear to those who wanted to see.


The hostile crowd faced this moment of decision. With all these witnesses, what would they do? Some believed, but many turned away. Jesus told them bluntly that though he would not accuse them, Moses would, for Moses had written about Jesus.


Like Augustine and the hostile crowd, all of us have moments of decision. We may have had a major moment of conversion in our lives. But on our spiritual journey, we face many such moments, big and small. Each of them gives us an opportunity to grow in love. It might be helping a child with homework, smiling at a co-worker, or donating my time to a special project. Lent gives us more time to reflect on these daily decisions, as well as any larger movements in one’s life. Where am I right now, and how am I walking on the path to God? Has Jesus sent some witnesses into my life to give me a nudge in the right direction? How will I respond?

“Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” –Joel 3:14

Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve’ has been a member of the Daughters of Saint Paul since 1976. She has an MA in theology from the University of Dayton and has served on the editorial staff of Pauline Books & Media for over 20 years. She is the author of several books, including Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Mary: Help in Hard Times. When she’s not writing, editing, or working on logic puzzles, she can be found blogging at

Allow the Beggar In

I like to look for the surprises in the spiritual life. Many people I have spoken with have a sense that we approach God to ask for or even beg for graces, and to some degree, I think this is a good and healthy stance in the spiritual life. But being the spiritual daughter of St. Paul—who wasn’t exactly known for his timid mincing of words—reminds me to be surprised by the Gospel. St. Paul says radical things like, “when I am weak [in Christ] I am strong” and “I glory in the cross of Christ.” So, who is the one who is begging and asking?

Really when we stop in a liturgical season such as this time of powerful graces, I think we could make a solid case for the reality that some of the Saints have articulated. They see God as the one who is outside the doors of our hearts asking and begging.

This is part of the beauty of our faith which is more often “both and” rather than “either or.” It is both me asking and begging Almighty God to give me, my loved ones, my Sisters, the people we serve, every grace from heaven, AND it is also God asking and begging me to let him into my heart, to pray to him and let him transform me, and to enter my life so that he can affect graces in the world.

Some Sister-friends and I went to Holy Mass at a nearby college recently and the priest was drawing our attention to the fact that heaven and earth mix together during this time of Lent. We see it in the story of our sinfulness and blind selfishness mingled with the story of God Incarnate dwelling among us as our Savior. There is both the victory of redemption and the slow work of redeeming grace in our hearts, minds, souls, family, communities, and world.

What can we do about the fragmentation, horrendous poverty and violence we hear of in the news every day? What can we do about the fragmentation and the personal and communal poverty we experience in our homes and workplaces and our own hearts? Allow the One who makes himself a beggar in and give him space to be Lord.

Sr. Maria Kim-Ngân Bùi  is a Daughter of St. Paul, women religious dedicated to evangelization in and through the media. She has a degree from Boston College and the Augustine Institute. She has offered workshops, presentations, and retreats around the country. She currently serves as the head of marketing and sales at Pauline and one of the guides of Spiritual Accompaniment—the gemstone of the My Sisters online faith community.

The Beauty in the Other

Last week I went to what I thought was a Catholic Theology on Tap, but as it turns out, “Pub Theology” is not the same thing as Theology on Tap. Pub Theology was a local interfaith group that met to discuss their various religions in not a “safe” space, but a “brave” and “open” space.

Not going to lie, my first reaction upon realizing that this wasn’t a Catholic event was, “I’ve made a grave mistake and need to find an excuse to leave ASAP.” I mean, I’m Catholic and I don’t want to change religions, so what am I doing here at a table with some Protestants, Jews, and Hindus, discussing religion? We sound like the beginning of a bad joke!

Then as we began going over the rules and goals of Pub Theology, I realized how wrong I was. This group was not about trying to force your religion onto others, it was about realizing that we have more in common than we think. We all live out our faiths by spreading God’s love and striving to do what is right. Along with being respectful and trying to understand the other person, our goal was to get to the point where we could say, “Here is the beauty that I find in the other” and not “This is why I am better than them.”

In today’s Gospel,  Jesus performs a miracle on the Holy Sabbath, which went against Jewish culture. As Catholics, we think that Jesus did the right thing by performing this miracle. He not only saved the man from physical death but from being “dead” to the world around him due to his illness. Still, in that time period and setting, it was scandalous! It was unheard of, unthinkable!

Instead of being in awe of his miracle and feeling joy that he had just saved a person’s life, “the “Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on the Sabbath” (John 5:16). If we had been there, can we honestly say that we would find the beauty in Jesus’ choice? Or would we have said, “He worked on a Sunday and I don’t, so that makes me better than him.”

You see, Jesus went against what the Pharisees preached and they held it against him, regardless of his life-giving act. They would rather ignore all the good that he had done because they could not see past the fact that he was not a perfect Jewish man. I think that if I were there, I would have had an inner struggle on whether or not it was right to work on the Sabbath. It would have conflicted with my beliefs, but I like to think that in the end, I would have been able to say that I admired Jesus for his action to preserve life.

You see, the idea of American culture is about the mixing of religions, backgrounds, and practices, yet we have come to the conclusion that America’s melting pot is full and no longer needs anything else.  Quite the opposite is true. We need to remember that no matter where we go in the world, not everyone has the same beliefs as we do. Regardless of different beliefs, there is always something we can learn from one another. Growing up, we learn from the people around us, so why would we not continue to learn from each other as adults?

Today I want to point out that God is not asking us to coexist, because coexisting is not community, just the way tolerance is not love and listening is not understanding. Instead, we should listen without judgment or argument, so that we can hear and fully respect their human dignity as a child of God. Each and every day, Our Heavenly Father calls us to learn from one another so that we may find the beauty in the other.

For more information on interfaith groups and Interfaith Days of Prayer in your community, contact your local diocese.

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

A Joyful Suffering

I always like to look to the scriptures for inspiration in my writing, but do you ever read the Bible and just get depressed? I clearly remember as a kid that we would all gather as a family and pray our daily rosary. As the beads went through our fingers we would meditate on scripture readings. It seemed that especially during the Lenten season these readings were not stories of the glory of the resurrection, but more of wrath, hurt, pain, suffering, and despair. There are some pretty depressing readings during the lenten season, obviously ending with the atrocity of the crucifixion.

You can imagine the immense satisfaction that I felt waking up this morning and reading, “For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people.” Not quite the typical solemn readings that we sometimes hear during this season. Anyone that has ever met me, knows that I am a very optimistic person. I always think the best of people and strive to help them reach their full potential. Today’s first reading from Isaiah is a fantastic reminder that joy and suffering are not opposed.

Now this idea seems a little strange at first glance; how could joy and suffering not be diametrically opposed to each other? After all, we are not happy when we suffer. I don’t know of anyone who laughs while standing in line at the department of motor vehicles. I think the problem in our culture is that we think joy and happiness are the same thing, and this is simply not true. Happiness is an emotion that happens to us as a result of a stimulus. Joy is a virtue; it is a choice that no matter what is happening to us, we can have a positive disposition. You might say that happiness remains on the level of reflex until it enters our will and either flatlines or becomes virtue.

These ideas are a little heavy, but it is actually quite simple. Suffering is not something we were meant for, but a consequence of the original sin. We were meant for joy, we were created to have perfect joy with each other and with God himself. Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross attained for us eternal salvation, giving us the perfect example of how joy can come from even the most horrendous action.

This is good news for optimists and pessimists alike. The problem of evil in the world is one that always makes me uncomfortable. How can a loving God allow such horrible suffering? When these thoughts creep into my mind, I always think back on the crucifixion. Without the crucifixion we would not be able to intimately participate in the Divine Nature of God in heaven someday. The darkest time in human history brought about the most immense joy.

What are you suffering with today? What struggles do you have that make you angry at God or at the very least make it hard to see that joy could eventually come from this? We all have pain and heartache in this life, but God promises that, “All things work together for good to them that love Him.” I challenge you today to give your suffering to Christ. Allow him to walk with you through that suffering. After all, Jesus suffered, he sweat blood, he wept, he endured human suffering, and he can help you experience joy when it may seem impossible.

“For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people.” ~Isaiah 65: 18-19

As a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan, Tommy is committed to showing parish and diocesan staffs how to use our communication tools to their best advantage. He has worked for years in various, youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. As an expert on Catholic communication, Tommy uses his parish and diocesan experiences to help you make your ministry effective. To bring Tommy to your parish or for general inquiry, contact him at or find him online at


We Were Not Made For Exile

One of the most extraordinary things about Christianity is that we worship a God of mercy. All the other world religions are the story of humanity reaching for God; Christianity alone is the story of God reaching out to humanity, with forgiveness and mercy and love.

We are a people of exile. Our entire world, our entire lives, are drenched in an awareness of that exile. Our home is in heaven with God; we live our whole lives here in anticipation of joining him. “But certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth,” J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in a letter to his son. “We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupt, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of exile.”

The eloquence of today’s Psalm has fittingly been cast to music by generation after generation of Christians and even non-Christians, recognizing the echoes in their own hearts of the sheer despair of exile. “By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion… How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?” How often do we feel that we are living in a foreign land?

We’re surrounded by a culture that’s antithetical to our knowledge of and trust in God. We live in a world overrun by humanity’s cruelty, greed, and lack of kindness. How often do we feel like the only response to that sense of being lost is to sit and weep?

But—and here is where the magic happens—it’s not permanent. It’s not forever. We have to go through exile, but St. Paul affirms that there is something dazzling in store for us: “God,” he writes, “who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ.” The Hebrew Bible describes a people in distress, a people of grief, a people waiting; and the New Testament is ringing with God’s response, the gift of love and mercy he extended to us by becoming human among us. There is no exile big enough or long enough or brutal enough to keep us from that love. And today’s Gospel proclaims that love with words that we all memorized as children, words that are written on our hearts: “For 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.”

We have walked long in darkness, and would no doubt continue to do so, but for God’s mercy and forgiveness, which flow directly out of his love for us. “For God so loved the world”—simple enough words, familiar enough words, but words that turn the whole concept of religion on its head. This God of the Christians doesn’t simply allow devotees to come to him; this God reaches out to the world, which he loves so much that he became a part of it. He experienced everything we experience. The sense of exile. The pain of feeling lost. The impulse to sit and weep by the waters of Babylon. He experienced it, and then he transcended it.

All throughout Lent, that is the promise we are holding onto. Back in Advent we read that “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” The promise of that light was born at Christmas, and the fulfillment of that promise will rise from the dead at Easter. In between is Lent, a journey through exile. In his Collected Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote, “We are here in the land of dreams; but cock-crow is coming. It is nearer now than when I began this letter.”

It is nearer now than when I began this letter. It is nearer now than when we started on our Lenten journey. It is coming.

And exile will end.

Jeannette de Beauvoir works in the digital department of Pauline Books & Media as marketing copywriter and editor. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, where she studied with Adian Kavanagh, OSB, she is particularly interested in liturgics and Church history.

The Faith of the Publican

We are over half-way through Lent. I’m certainly not going to ask you about how you are doing with your Lenten resolutions when the Gospel of the day is the parable of the Pharisee and the publican! “Hey, look at me, God. I’m not like the others. I have kept all my Lenten promises. I haven’t touched candy, haven’t indulged in ice cream (my favorite weakness), like that person over there….”

Sometimes the “Lenten resolution culture” can lead to spiritual cheerleading for ourselves. I can see how that could easily happen. The season of Lent is long and requires a lot of personal strength to persevere to the end. And that’s where the devil can twist our desire to persevere to the finish line into a self-congratulatory triumph which is not quite what the season of love and mercy is meant to be.

“O God,” said the publican, “be merciful to me for I am but a sinner.” So what do we do with these Lenten resolutions at this point? In light of today’s Gospel, we could reflect on how we feel about our progress. Are we more like the Pharisee in the parable? Or more like the publican? Whether we have perfectly followed through on our resolves or not, the call of today’s Liturgy is to reorient ourselves in the depths of our heart to the attitude of the publican. From your deepest need and place of vulnerability, cry out to God for help. Leave behind your concern for what you have or have not done, and instead focus on arousing your intention on loving the Lord and being grateful for his loving-kindness toward you.

We might smart at the idea of comparing ourselves with the publican. But, in reality, the publican is simply living out the spirituality of childhood. A child depends entirely on parents and guardians for everything, and the publican here is professing his dependence on God for newness of life and the flowering of his holiness and humanity.

So as we come down to the final lap of our Lenten journey, it is okay to let go of some of the resolutions in favor of relationship with Jesus if that is where he is calling you. I think that’s what he wants anyway. He died to win our love, not our perfect compliance to self-made resolutions. These do indeed have their place, but only as a type of asceticism that helps us take on more and more of what builds our relationship with him by setting aside those things that block that relationship from flowering.

No matter how “successful” your Lent has been, gently bend low in worship, offer it to Jesus, and promise him your loving attention as you move forward.

Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP is an author, an active team member of My Sisters, an online faith community, and a compassionate mentor and guide. Through her writing and online ministry she takes others along with her on her own journey of spiritual transformation, specializing in uncovering in the difficult moments of life where God’s grace is already breaking through. Connect with her website and blog: or find her at My Sisters. Learn more at

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

A two-day retreat with twenty-nine eighth graders is one of the most exhausting experiences I’ve ever had. Junior high is a time where young girls and boys begin asking life’s big questions. They begin the journey of understanding who they are and why they have been created. The classic and easy answer to these questions can be found in the Baltimore Catechism. You are here on this earth to love and serve God. This sweet, simple, and very straightforward answer seems to hit the mark. Yes, we are created for love and by love. As human beings, we are made for relationship. Being made in the image and likeness of God means that we are made to reflect the love of the Trinity, a communion of divine persons in divine love. Teaching children these truths can be a bit challenging. These thirteen-year-olds have an overwhelming culture and environment that damages their understanding of “love”.  

In today’s readings, we hear Jesus proclaim the Greatest Commandment (Mk 12:28-34). Jesus gives us this short and profound commandment; to love God with all of our hearts, all of our soul, all of our mind, and all of our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Some may look at this great command and respond, “sounds easy enough.” Sitting in a room of thirteen-year-old girls showed me that this is not that easy. In the clickiness of ruthless teens, some students began to share their hurts and wounds. Many of these students have been the bully or the one bullied. They sat in a circle and shared their thoughts of how they believe the lies others say about them. They believed the lies from themselves or others that they are; ugly, fat, annoying, stupid, or nothing. As I sat in the circle, I looked around and only saw beauty. I saw girls who are kind, girls who are strong, girls who are mature, girls who are each uniquely and completely beautiful. Through conversation and tears, I was reminded of the very real fact that we struggle to truly love ourselves. I am no longer in junior high. I do not experience many “bullies” telling me these lies in my own life. Although, I do know what it is like to not love myself- just like my student’s experience. Sometimes I can be my own worst bully.

Whenever I read of Jesus’ Greatest Commandment, I always ask, “How are we supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves when we do not truly love ourselves?” To truly live out this Golden Rule, we must stop. We must look at ourselves and see value, worth, and beauty. Loving yourself is not selfish, but is necessary to living a holy life. The battle against ourselves in our interior life can be exhausting. But it is in this battle that we are required to receive God’s love and continue to fight the good fight. How are we to love our neighbor as ourselves? How are we to love ourselves? We are called to love ourselves and see ourselves in His Word of Truth.  We are called to love ourselves as God loves us.

It is in the Cross that we find our meaning, our worth, our dignity as human beings. It is only by living in the unending love of Christ, that we may love ourselves and love our neighbors as ourselves. Whether you are in junior high, a college student, or parent- we are constantly in this battle of lies. We must take comfort. Jesus wants to teach us how to love. St. Maximilian Kolbe said, “The Cross is the school of love.” It is upon the wood of the cross that we find how we are to love ourselves and how we are to love others. In this Lenten season, I want to challenge you to reflect on your own self-love. Do you believe or tell yourself lies? Are you choosing the ultimate good for yourself? Do you know the voice of Christ and what He says about you? I want to challenge you to truly see yourself and love yourself as Christ loves you.  It is from this battle that we may bear fruit in our love of God and our neighbors.

Briana CiancibelloBriana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. 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 bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Go To Confession

Here we are about half way through Lent, and this is typically the week that parishes and diocese have communal penance services. I thought we might take a break from our regularly scheduled blog post to remind everyone how important the Sacrament of Confession is in our lives. Check out the confession feature in myParish App to do an examination of conscience or go to to find a confession time in your area. Here is a brief message from my co-worker Susie that hits the point home.


Go to Confession 

In Charity – Susie Boone
Lover of the Sacraments



Remembering God’s Presence

I’m forgetful, are you? I mean, I recently found myself getting more forgetful of why I came into a room, or where I put my keys. Names and details were slipping away from me. But that’s not the forgetfulness I’m talking about. Vitamins, some more rest, and less multi-tasking took care of this memory problem. The forgetfulness I’m speaking of here is a forgetfulness that besets us even as children. It is the fading of the memory of God. God has implanted this memory of him in us at the beginning of creation. It is in our spiritual DNA, you could say, that we are oriented to and revolve around the God who created us in His image and likeness.

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve enjoyed the presence of God in the garden of Eden. They enjoyed the vision of God face to face, says Gregory of Nyssa. Adam spoke directly to God. Our first parents lived a life without anxiety, impulse, gluttony, illness. They experienced an integrity that comes from living according to the virtues. Their whole being was directed to God and their minds and hearts were opened to God’s grace.

Then, tempted by the Serpent, Adam and Even turned from the path on which God had set all of creation. With minds and hearts darkened and fragmented and distracted, they sank into increasing pain and suffering, subject to anxiety, passions, and ego-centric delusions. By turning from the path God had set them on, it became more and more difficult to think of God, to remember him, to trust him, to pray to him.

So even though God imprinted his features and character in us at our baptism, we too find that it is a chore for us to remember God through the day and even sometimes when we are at prayer.

Today’s Old Testament reading from the book of Deuteronomy gives us good advice from the Lord about strengthening this spiritual memory. He tells his people to be on their guard and not forget the things which their own eyes have seen. He urges them not to let them slip from their memory as long as they live.

How can we do this?

Take some time to remember what your eyes have seen? Remember a time when God has been present to you or helped you or a loved one. Place yourself back in that moment. What was it like? What was happening? What did it feel like? Where was God present? What was God like for you in that moment?

Tell God how much you appreciate his presence and activity on your behalf. Perhaps write a letter to the Lord in your journal. Then listen to hear in your heart how God responds to you. Ask him to tell you what it was like for him to be there for you. What he desires for you. What you mean to him. Ask him if there is anything special he wants you to know about that experience of his love and presence.

Do not forget what your eyes have seen! Make a habit of this prayerful practice and fill your mind and heart with the memory of how God has shown you his tender concern.

Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP is an author, an active team member of My Sisters, an online faith community, and a compassionate mentor and guide. Through her writing and online ministry she takes others along with her on her own journey of spiritual transformation, specializing in uncovering in the difficult moments of life where God’s grace is already breaking through. Connect with her website and blog: or find her at My Sisters. Learn more at

Have Patience With Me

“Have patience with me,” the servant asks of the King. “Have patience with me,” begs the sinner to the Lord. “Have patience with me,” says the child to her mother, as her mother kneels to sop up the puddle of milk from the floor. “Have patience with me,” I say reluctantly to the reflection in the mirror.

The forgiven servant, shown mercy by the King, refuses to extend that mercy, instead having a man indebted to him for a lesser sum, thrown into prison until he pays back what is owed. We see the dire consequences of being unable to offer another forgiveness, when that same servant is jailed by the King upon learning of his unmerciful behavior.

In a sense, the servant has imprisoned himself by his actions. Is this not what we do to ourselves when we are unable to let go of the debts against us? The hardest mercy to accept seems to be the one due to ourselves. This is especially true with regard to forgiving myself of my mothering mistakes. God has forgiven my parenting horrors and missteps, yet I struggle to do the same. I imprison myself in guilt and regret.

Jesus concludes this parable with a clear directive. We must forgive others “from your heart.” We are called to a personal metanoia – a spiritual change of heart. The Church offers the most remarkable opportunity to receive the King’s clemency through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Contrition, the Catechism teaches, opens the penitent for “a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart.” A radical change to a merciful heart, once accepted and extended forward, is the key to our freedom from the jail of unforgiveness.


Dear Merciful Lord, fill my heart with the grace necessary to forgive as You forgive. Lord, I desire a radical reorientation of my heart that it may more closely resemble Yours.

Allison Gingras, founder (RTY); and host of A Seeking Heart on Breadbox Media weekdays 10 am ET. Allison created the “Words with” daily devotional App Series: Words with Jesus and Words with Mary. Allison offers retreats and talks on: Forgiveness; Works of Mercy; Trust and JOY!