How I Look

Thanks to the fallenness that is ours due to the Original Fall, our human nature wants to continually put our own selves first, consider our own desires first, make sure we are taken care of first (St. Augustine says sin makes us incurvatus in se: curled in on ourselves). Without grace, we are almost hopelessly selfward, but Jesus calls us to something more.

The Pharisees took this selfwardness a step “up” by masking their self-love in religious trappings: broad phylacteries, long tassels, honoraria, and places of honor, under a guise of uprightness and righteousness veiled with false humility. These men were all about themselves, using religion as a way to advance themselves and pat themselves on the back. Jesus himself called them a brood of vipers.

Jesus expresses this to the crowds not to teach them to judge others and shame them, but for their spiritual benefit. He wants them to learn to separate the office from the person who holds the office; those “on the chair of Moses,” in authority over the people of God, should be obeyed but not imitated. They tell people what God wants, but they miss the point themselves.

How can this be? How can people who study the word of God, spend much time in prayer, and follow God’s law with exactitude fail to grow in holiness? It happens all the time, and Jesus’ final words in today’s Gospel tell us the precise reason:  a lack of humility.

Are all these “right” things done for the wrong intention? Are these “good” things done to build a positive image of me, for myself or for others? There can be a lot of “self” in our apparent selflessness; if so, I am the recipient of my own “gift,” and it becomes no gift at all.

The key to getting it right is loving HUMILITY. If what we give we give for the benefit of the other, if we pour ourselves out with the intention of really helping others and glorifying God (and not ourselves), then we give truly. If we pray to worship God and not to make ourselves feel like we deserve what we want, then we pray truly.

We need to examine our conscience with some objectivity to know ourselves in the light of the Holy Spirit. We might be “ok” on the surface, but what about the next level?

Am I more concerned with how I look or how I live? Is my primary concern what I like or what I truly love? Am I eager to be recognized, to receive credit for what I do? Am I able to give of myself without any attention, and sometimes even without any gratitude?

It is natural to desire affirmation and acknowledgment; but God calls us to a SUPERnatural attitude that offers our whole self in service to the Gospel and gives HIM all the glory. And He will be true to His promise that “whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at or on Facebook @summapax.

To Be Without Guile

Do you know what it is to be without guile? I’ll give you a minute to look it up if you don’t know. (Tick, tick, tick…) Ok. Times up.

Today is the feast day of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, first introduced to us as Nathanael by Philip, when Philip brought Bartholomew to meet Jesus.  Philip told Bartholomew that he had found the one of whom the prophets said would come. But then, Jesus told Bartholomew that he [Jesus] already knew Bartholomew because Jesus saw him under the fig tree and that Bartholomew was “…a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him”, Bartholomew was an instant believer. His open heart knew and responded. And it responded without guile.

Now, what does it mean to be without guile? It means to be free of deceit, cunning, hypocrisy or dishonesty in thought or deed. Psalm 32:2 says: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit (guile).”

Applying this to us, and it most certainly isn’t easy, means that we mean what we say and say what we mean, honestly and kindly. We should have no hidden agendas or ulterior motives in what we do or say. No trickery or manipulation. No using someone for personal gain.

Then, it goes beyond just our interactions with others. Being without guile also means that we are brutally honest with ourselves and about ourselves. Do we recognize the deceit or sin within us? Can we define it and be honest about its hold on our lives, prompting us to take action for change?  Today may be a good day to look at the people around us and to identify if anyone has a guileless spirit. Someone who is kind, honest and speaks the truth when needed is not our enemy, but rather our example. And make no mistake. Being without guile does not translate to naivete. Jesus was a man without guile, and he was anything but naïve.  A person without guile has an innocent spirit, is tender, not hardened, and truth matters.

I have to believe that every time we celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation we have a new opportunity to develop an innocent, guileless spirit — if we are honest. I would hope that no one leaves Reconciliation believing that the final prayer and the penance are the end of it. Rather, we should leave Reconciliation with a renewed conviction to removing all false intentions from our hearts. Reconciliation should be the sunlight on the dusty furniture. It highlights the sin that does not readily show in the dim light, and gives us the opportunity to “clean up.”  Psalm 24:3-5 tell us:

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
 He shall receive a blessing from the Lord
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.

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

Invitation To The Wedding Feast

As I prayed with today’s readings I kept going back to the kingdom of heaven being similar to a wedding feast for a king’s son, like in the gospel and the first reading when the Lord says “I prove my holiness through you.” Ezekiel goes on to speak about cleansing us from our impurities and giving us a new heart and spirit, taking away our stony heart and receiving a natural heart. We are made holy by this process and are given the Lord’s spirit so we can live by his statutes, careful to observe his decrees. We go through preparation to be his instruments (people) on earth.

I compare this to how we go through preparations for all the sacraments we receive in the church. Granted, as infants it’s our parents who go through the formation (the babes scrubbed clean and clothed in a white garment). Pause and think back on your own reception of sacraments: How did you have to prepare? Was family coming to the special liturgy or a party to celebrate after? What were you feeling about the upcoming event? Looking back, were you ready to receive the gift that God was giving you in the sacrament?

Fast forward to this past weekend; were you prepared to receive God’s gift in the Eucharist or were you like the guest at the wedding feast who was not in a wedding garment? Were you just going through the motions or were you really present at the feast being prepared at the altar in church?

I find myself thinking about the gospel reading and the man not dressed in a wedding garment. He showed up as he was asked to do, but had not prepared himself. He was reduced to silence either from shame or guilt when asked why he was there without a wedding garment. I cannot imagine the shock he would feel from hearing the king’s statement,

“Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Many are invited, but few are chosen.”  

How many times have I not taken the time to change into something a little dressier and just shown up at Mass? I’m not talking about the times I may have dressed for the task I have to do right after Mass (like going to work or a building site), because I’m hoping that my intent to be present for morning liturgy trumps taking the time to change right after Mass is over so as not to add any more time to my busy day. Was I really taking to heart the prayer said right before I received communion “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Isn’t it another way of asking the Lord to take the stony heart from my body and giving me a natural heart?

I am worthy of a natural heart because of my baptism. I want to be chosen to enter the kingdom of heaven and not found wanting, and then to be cast out into the darkness, wailing that I was not ready. It is my job to prepare myself for the feast.

Help me Lord, to hear your voice, to keep your statutes and a humble, contrite heart, so I will be welcome when I am called to your kingdom. Amen.

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

Laborers In The Vineyard

This Gospel of the laborers in the vineyard is probably one of the hardest for us to understand. It goes against the grain of our modern mentality, with our fair wage laws and beliefs that those who work harder deserve a greater reward. The owner of the vineyard gives the same wage to everyone, to those who worked all day in the heat and to those who only worked an hour. Naturally, those who worked all day protested. They thought they should get more—likely what we too would think if we were in their shoes.

But the Gospel is not about employers and employees. It’s about God and his love. The Good News here is that God loves everyone and desires their salvation. God pursues us to the very end of life, giving the graces to turn and be converted. This doesn’t mean, however, that those who spend their lives far away from God are better off than those who have loved him their whole life. It’s always better to know and love God, for He is our true Good. The deeper our relationship with him, the better off we are.

With that in mind, we can also think about today’s feast: the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast is like a bookend to the Assumption, celebrated one week ago. With these two feasts, the Church reminds us that we can also have a powerful relationship with Mary, our Mother. Mary has a spiritual motherhood in the Church. Like her divine Son Jesus, Mary also is concerned about our salvation. She constantly prays and intercedes for each one of us, her spiritual children. Like the owner of the vineyard, she is generous in obtaining graces for all. Her queenship is one of love, exercised in hearts and expressed in service. Mary is at our service, in the sense that she is always doing good on earth. Her reign as queen is not one of ruling and legislating, but of service and love. And we too are called to participate in that reign: “If we persevere, we also shall reign with him” (2 Tim 2:12).

Following the example of Mary our Mother, we will be like the owner of the vineyard who treats everyone with generosity, even if they don’t seem to deserve it. Our standard of giving will not be based on the merits of others, but on the love of God reflected in every person.

Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve'

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 Mary: Help in Hard Times, Angels: Help from on High, and Thomas Aquinas. When she’s not writing, editing, or working on logic puzzles, she can be found blogging at

I Have To Give Everything?

“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”

“And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.”

Jesus’ words are beautiful. Poetic. Appealing to the romantic in me:

“Deny everything and everyone for my sake.”

Nothing can compete with God’s love in order for us to have it entirely. But that’s like any relationship. If composing these reflections becomes more important than giving my fiancé my attention, then the relationship will suffer. So too is it with Christ; if we are preoccupied by anything more than His will, then the relationship will suffer.

This is a constant battle to fight. I wish it wasn’t. I wish that when we were baptized, any and all duplicity and concupiscence (the tendency to sin) were just decimated and Jesus would be like,

“Ok, you’re all set, dude. Now, just be cool for the rest of your time on earth and when you’re time’s up there, I got a sweet spot for you up here.”

But no.

Everyday, we have to choose Him over everything and everyone else. There can be landmark moments in our lives when we truly decided to put Christ before everything and everyone else, i.e. quitting a job, selling or giving away possessions. But everyday afterwards, we have to choose to not be ruled by them.

“You posses your possessions or they posses you.”

-Jon Foreman of Switchfoot in the song “If The House Burns Down Tonight”

We can be destitute and still have the handicap of a rich man: his preoccupation with wealth. Being preoccupied with wealth isn’t the only trap we can fall into. Power, honor and pleasure can also keep us preoccupied from pursuing God’s will. But none are as satisfying, as fulfilling, as lasting as denying ourselves and being obedient to God.

Fight the good fight.

Pursue God at the price of everything.

Live to the full.

During the week, Matthew Juliano is a mentor for individuals who have developmental and intellectual disabilities. On the weekends, he is a drummer for Full Armor Band. You can find more content by Matt and his band at

The Gift Of Grace

Today’s Gospel stands out as one of my favorites. We hear the story of the man who wants to gain eternal life and he asks Jesus what he must do. It’s important to remember here that Jesus can see his heart when he asks this question. He can see that deep down this man wants to know the minimum rules he has to follow in order to get to heaven, but that his heart really isn’t concerned with growing in virtue.

I hate to admit this is me sometimes. Studying theology makes it easy for the faith to be all book knowledge and the virtue stuff kind of falls by the way side. One of my passions to study is morality and this can make that mindset even worse because morality is really the focus on what actions are correct or incorrect.

But as we all know, at the heart of morality is a person. A person who wants a real relationship with us, one of love and not just rules. Now I am not saying that rules aren’t important, but I am saying they cannot be the sole focus. As we read on we hear Jesus say to the man, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good.” It is clear that Jesus is telling the man not to focus as much on the laws he must follow and instead put his main focus on the one who will help him follow those same laws.

Rooted in the One who will give us the grace, we can start to live by the ten commandments and we can begin to grow in virtue. It all has to start with God. The man in the story thought he could do it all himself, without any real virtue or grace. So Jesus puts him to the ultimate test and asks him to give up everything and follow. Do I follow in my life? Do you? How often do we try to do it on our own and think that if we just mark the check box by our own power we will attain eternal life? The mark of a saint is humility. They humble themselves to know it is not about them and that they need grace.

I want to end with this great quote from Pope Francis’ new Apostolic Exhortation. It has been helping me so much in my faith life. 

“The Church has repeatedly taught that we are justified not by our own works or efforts, but by the grace of the Lord, who always takes the initiative. The Fathers of the Church, even before Saint Augustine, clearly expressed this fundamental belief. Saint John Chrysostom said that ‘God pours into us the very source of all his gifts even before we enter into battle.’ Saint Basil the Great remarked that the faithful glory in God alone, for ‘they realize that they lack true justice and are justified only through faith in Christ.'”

Let’s ask for the grace to not only enter the battle, but fight and live by the truth in all humility and grace. Amen.

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

Friends Don’t Let Friends Go To Hell

Accountability: Adjective

  1. (Of a person, organization, or institution) required or expected to justify actions or decisions; responsible.

  2. Explicable; understandable

Personally, I hate being called out. When those who are closest to me decide to tell me their thoughts or feelings on certain mistakes I’ve made, it’s uncomfortable. I am blessed to have many dear friends who know me well and who are close enough to be blunt with me.  It is helpful for me to be held accountable for things I’ve done or did not do.

At times, I have been the one calling others out as well. In those moments I have always tried to do so with gentleness and love.  Love is the main reason we call one another out! We are moved by love for the other person that we sometimes need to stop and say “Hey, that wasn’t a good idea” or “Do you really think this is the best decision for you?”

In high school I went to a youth group retreat and our group t-shirt read,

“Friends Don’t Let Friends Go To Hell”.

Yup, it said the word hell. And as a 16 year old I thought it was pretty cool to wear at a retreat. That quote became engraved into my heart throughout my life as I realized how honest it was. All the times I have been called out by my friends or family, and all the times I have called them out is due to love. To genuinely wanting Heaven for that person and wanting what is best for them.

I’ll be honest.  In today’s readings, I feel very called out by St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. St. Paul states to us that we should watch carefully how we live. He’s reminding us to not live in foolishness and ignorance.  He reminds us to not get drunk on wine and lies of debauchery, but to try to understand the will of the Lord. He reminds us to fill our hearts and our minds with the Spirit of God in a prayer of thanksgiving.

We are being held accountable to try. He tells us that we should be giving our absolute best to God.  We should always strive to understand God’s will for each of our lives, which cannot be done without prayer.  How often I need to be reminded, called out, and held accountable for something as simple as setting aside genuine time with Christ and putting in the real effort to try.

In the Gospel Reading, we hear the tender voice of Jesus. I swear every time Jesus calls me out in Scripture, it is done with such love and tenderness. He shares Good News with us, that He offers us the bread of life! He reminds us that we remain in Him and He remains in us when we receive the Eucharist. He shares that whoever receives this bread will live forever!

Looking at St. Paul’s words to us and Christ’s words in the Gospel, I feel a pull to the Eucharist. I feel called out to more time of prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

I don’t know where your heart is today. I don’t know how much effort you’ve put into trying in your relationship with Christ. I don’t know if you go to daily mass, have a weekly holy hour, or what your prayer life is like. I don’t know if you feel called out by these Scripture readings the way that I do. But I do know that each of us is called to give 100% effort in our choice to try today. That each of us should set more time aside for Christ today than we did yesterday. I hope we watch more carefully our words and our actions this day and remain in His Sacred Heart. Choosing to try today is making the choice of our daily conversion. Choosing Christ in this moment, in this day is a victory.

Let’s choose to give Him our hearts today.. Let’s choose Him and remain with Him today.


Briana 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

Nurturing God’s Love

It was really hard to write today’s Inspiration Daily. I cannot deny that high tensions surround anything calling out directly, or even indirectly, the fact that racism, violence, sexism/misogyny, gay panic and fiscal irresponsibility exist. I recall an argument from my middle school science class; nature or nurture?

How much of what we believe and who we are is an outcome of what our parents have taught us versus how much is actually a part of who we are? Are people born with loving/racist, kind/violent, heterosexual/LGBTQ+ tendencies or are they formed from small and key moments that impact their daily live as they grow up? Unfortunately, the argument of our genetic makeup or environment mattering more is still an open discussion that continues, but today God tells us that it is not up to our genetic makeup to define us.

Ancient Hebrews used to use the proverb, “Fathers have eaten green grapes, thus their children’s teeth are on edge,” to blame their behavior on their ancestors. Though it has been thousands of years, we are still blaming those before us for our own actions. Phrases such as “I am a product of my upbringing” and “I can’t help it” can no longer be an excuse for our sins. It is up to us, as adults, to define our own future for both this life and our afterlife.

In today’s first reading, God commands us to never repeat this proverb, because we are judged on our own sins, not our parents’. Your father may have been an immoral person, but God will not judge you according to his sins. This is an absolutely wonderful thing, but at the same time it also means that we can’t blame our parents for who we are as a coworker, as a partner, as a parent, as a society.

Since we are created in God’s image and likeness, we are all called to love, regardless of our genetic disposition or environment. Yes, some events in our lives may push us towards hatred, but as the Catechism reminds us, we recognize the urge to “to what is good and avoid what is evil.” If we are true children of God, it should not be a choice, not even our last one.

Think about the argument again. Nature or nurture? We are children of God by nature, so we should do all things with love and gratitude, that much is clear. Now if the rest is up to nurture, then the choice is ours. We can choose to nurture God’s love and share it with those around us. We can transform others with our own choices, giving eternal glory to God with our hands, voices, and thoughts. On the other hand, we can choose to nurture hatred and sin, causing others to sin and be judged accordingly.

Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm for guidance.

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.

Sanctity Of Marriage, Gift Of Vocations

Several years ago, I had the privilege being the Director of Family Life in a Diocese down south. The role primarily entailed helping engaged couples prepare for marriage and screening married couples who were experiencing infertility and wished to adopt a child. The fact of the matter was I had never been married myself, nor had I been a parent. I had observed my parents’ marriage and how they raised us, as well as my siblings, but any amount of expertise I had on the subject did not come from personal experience. I had yet to find the love of my life and start my family. I learned about communication, finances, natural family planning, and character differences right along with the couples. As I studied to give talks, I gained valuable knowledge and a deeper understanding of the seriousness of this commitment and this covenant with God and another.

Jesus speaks of this seriousness with the Pharisees in today’s Gospel: “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.” What a profound and powerful thing for two people of opposite genders, differing psyches, varying ideas and fluctuating hormones to be joined as one! Married couples are called to be of one mind and one body, to be a united team in family life, each standing faithfully by the other.

Because of the profound beauty and joy this sacrament brings, to willfully renounce it is a great sacrifice indeed. Those who follow the call to the priesthood, religious life or celibate singlehood are not only giving up sexual pleasure, but also the security and comfort of steady companionship and the gift of children. Yet they in turn are a great gift to us, the backbone of the Church, so to speak, who uphold us with their prayers, sacrifices, good council and participation in the Mass.

So these readings are a great reminder to me of both the sanctity of my own marriage and the gift of vocations, as well as a reminder to keep both married couples and priests and religious in prayer, that we may all faithfully follow our call in life so as to reach our heavenly goal.

Tami Urcia is wife and mother to her small army of boys. She works full time at Diocesan and is a freelance translator and blogger ( and She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances, and finding unique ways to love. Tami spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time outside with the kiddos, quiet conversation with the hubby, and an occasional break from real life by getting a pedicure or a haircut. You can find out more about her here.

Forgiveness Without Conditions

For most people, forgiveness has conditions. I’ll forgive if someone apologizes to me, or if they do something to somehow “make it up” to me. I’ll forgive if they take the first step.

I always find that curious. When you were wronged by the person you’re refusing to forgive, that person had control over you. By waiting for them to make the first move and apologize, you’re allowing them to continue to have control over you. Is that truly what you had in mind? Does that really make any sense?

In 1979, 19-year-old Anne Marie Hagan’s father was murdered. Hagan was consumed with anger, bitterness, vengeance, and self-pity. Almost twenty years later, she was able to meet with the killer, and she forgave him. Her forgiveness wasn’t based on the offender asking for it. “Forgiveness cannot be conditional on remorse,” she says, “because that would mean we can only forgive those who are sorry.”

In 2006, a man walked into an Amish school and shot 10 girls between the ages of nine and 13. The shooter, Charles Roberts, then committed suicide. In the midst of their grief over this shocking loss, the Amish community didn’t cast blame. Instead, they reached out with grace and compassion toward the killer’s family. That same day, Amish neighbors visited the Roberts family to comfort them in their sorrow and pain. Amish mourners outnumbered the non-Amish at the Roberts’ funeral.

These are two very different and very striking examples of forgiveness. As long as Anne Marie Hagan held onto her bitterness, she couldn’t live her life fully; it wasn’t until she forgave that she felt free. And the Amish didn’t wait: their automatic reaction was to forgive.

Today’s Gospel reading is at the root of these and many other acts of forgiveness. As Christians, we are called to forgive, not because anyone who has wronged us asks us for it, but because God asks it of us.

Peter, ever the questioning one, always trying to get it right, asks Jesus, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus must have looked at him with compassion–but, perhaps, also with some amusement. Peter was thinking in such small terms! “I say to you,” Jesus replies, “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Seventy-seven times! Peter must have been gobsmacked. He probably thought that forgiving someone seven times would make him a pretty fine fellow–but that wasn’t even close. Seventy-seven times might as well be infinite; and that is, of course, the point. God forgives us, over and over and over again. And it’s our responsibility, our calling, to pass that along, as Jesus underlines in the story of the servant forgiven his debt who won’t forgive someone else their debt. How can we stand in the light of God’s unending forgiveness–and not forgive others?

The bonus is that, occasionally, forgiveness isn’t as difficult a task as we make it out to be. In Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer C.S. Lewis writes,

Last week while at prayer, I suddenly discovered—or felt as if I did—that I had really forgiven someone I have been trying to forgive for over thirty years. Trying, and praying that I might. When the things actually happened (sudden as the longed-for cessation of one’s neighbor’s radio), my feeling was, “But it’s so easy. Why didn’t you do it ages ago?”

Sometimes God grants us the grace to forgive easily. More often, it takes effort, and discipline, and faith on our part to get over whatever insult or injury someone has done to us. But in this as in many others lessons, Jesus is wise. Carrying the burden of a grudge, of hatred, of anger isn’t hurting the other person–it’s hurting us. It’s keeping us away from the perfect freedom of life in Christ. It’s erecting a wall between us and God’s grace.

For the Amish of Pennsylvania, forgiveness was as natural as breathing. Forgiveness didn’t negate their pain or grief or loss, but it elevated it, instead, into an offering to God.

We who are forgiven must forgive. It is that simple, and that difficult, and that necessary.

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.

Out Of Whack

“Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its head were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars of the sky.”

Lately, I have just felt off, out of sync. Like if life is a play, everyone else already knows their lines and I have yet to see the script. It seems I stumble through my days trying not to get in anyone’s way and crawl into bed at night with little strength left or the will to even say a prayer. I fall asleep before my handsome husband makes his way to bed; only to wake the next morning unrested and not at all feeling prepared to do it all over again.

And it seems like it is more than just me. When I look around, it feels like much of the world is out of whack too. Cardinals, the princes of the Church, and bishops are being exposed for misusing their authority and severely damaging both beautiful individuals and causing scandals so vast that it can’t be surprising if many turn away from God and His Church. In a dark world which is demanding that tolerance be valued over truth, they are providing grist for the mill.

“…the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit.”

Oh, how I need this today! The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into heaven is our day to celebrate that we have a spiritual mother who has not only gone before us on earth, she is already in heaven and interceding for us. When life gets rough and we need our Mom, we know right where to find her!

Today’s Gospel is the most we ever hear from Mary and God’s mercy gets two mentions. Even when the very stars fall from the sky (or the princes from their thrones) God’s mercy is there. The work of our life lies in how we respond to that mercy. If we want to live a truly holy life, not in a floating-angel-singing-all-day-type of way, but if we want to be holy in a crazy-out-of-whack-world-where-it-is-hard-to-find-and-keep-our-footing way, there is no easier, surer way to do that than to go to our Mother and imitate her virtues. (Just ask St Louis de Montfort!)

Virtues are more than just good habits, virtues are moral goods and something which is a moral good is not only good for us personally, but is a good for all of society. Virtues shine as lights in the world and are truth visible in the action of our behavior. As others have done since the early days of Christianity, in Mary’s virtues we can refocus and draw nearer to Jesus, even when the world doesn’t feel right. (We know it isn’t about our feelings anyway, those fickle bedfellows who come and go as they please.) It is about obeying the Father, following the Son, and cooperating with the Holy Spirit and if we are going to figure out how to do all that, there is no one better suited to teach us than the most faithful daughter of the Father, the most holy and humble Mother of the Son, and the most pure spouse of the Holy Spirit.

I always tell my sister, if you see me getting out of whack, or having a hard a time staying focused, just ask me when was the last time I prayed the rosary. While I always intend to pray the rosary daily, the fruit, or sometimes more obviously, the lack of fruit in my life is a dead giveaway of just how much time I am spending with my heavenly Mom.

So in this current time of life when the darkness of discord and distrust seems to be the pervasive way of the world, I can choose to respond to God’s mercy by committing myself to the rosary anew. I can offer up study of Mary’s virtues. I can prayerfully meditate on how those truths look in action and through God’s grace, I can carry with me, the light of Mary, my Mother which is her Son, Jesus.

If you see me soon, please keep me accountable and ask me when I last prayed the rosary.

Hail Mary, most pure 

Hail Mary, most prudent

Hail Mary, most humble

Hail Mary, most faithful

Hail Mary, most devout

Hail Mary, most obedient

Hail Mary, most poor

Hail Mary, most patient

Hail Mary, most merciful

Hail Mary, most sorrowful

Mary, Mother of us all, pray for us, your children!

While wearing many hats, Sheryl O’Connor is the wife and study buddy of Thomas O’Connor. Not having received the gift of having their own children, their home is filled with 2 large dogs and their hearts with the teens and youth with whom they work in their parish collaborative. Sheryl is the Director of Strong Families Programs for Holy Family Healthcare which means her job is doing whatever needs to be done to help parents build strong Catholic families. Inspired by the works of mercy, Holy Family Healthcare is a primary healthcare practice in West Michigan which seeks to honor the dignity of every individual as we would Christ. Find out more at

The Supernatural Vision Of Fr. Kolbe

I believe it was sometime in June when I signed up to write the reflection on this particular day. To be honest, I wasn’t really paying attention to what the readings were or the feast day, I just picked a day that worked with my schedule. So I was surprised when I realized after the fact that it was the feast of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Though I shouldn’t have been surprised, it’s not the first time Fr. Kolbe’s feast day has caught me off guard.

As a kid I remember finding an old comic book about Maximilian Kolbe on my parents’ bookshelf. I’m not sure why it was there. I don’t recall my parents ever talking about this saint when I was growing up. Fr. Kolbe is the patron saint of prisoners, and my dad has been leading prison ministry for decades, so maybe that’s why it was hanging around?

That comic was pretty much all I knew about Fr. Kolbe until I read a book about 20th century martyrs for a college course that had a chapter dedicated to this Polish priest. It was at that point that this saint started impacting my life. I read that chapter multiple times and offered to give a talk about Fr. Kolbe for my young adult group. In the preparation for that talk I was forced to articulate why this man fascinated me so much.

It was around that time that Pope Francis released his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, The Light of Faith. There the pope says, “Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing” (LF 18). Hang on to that idea for a second. Jesus is God, the Creator who caused the Big Bang and who transcends the universe. Time itself is as much a creature of God as giraffes are. Faith is the power to see the cosmos from God’s vantage point, from beyond space and time.

What attracted me so much to Maximilian Kolbe was his faith. He spent months living in Auschwitz, Hell on earth. Yet all of the testimonies from fellow prisoners and guards give witness to a man who was the picture of peace. How could this be? Here I am, someone who gets all bent out of shape when I’m running ten minutes late for a meeting.

God’s supernatural life had so transformed Fr. Kolbe into the likeness of Christ that he saw the world as Christ did. He was able to see his passion and death the way that Jesus saw His. He saw beyond the raging storm of the present, beyond space and time, and knew that this evil he was witnessing had already lost, that death ultimately had no sting. It was Fr. Kolbe’s faith that both intrigued and challenged me.

Fast forward several years past that talk. My wife and I had been married nearly five years and had three kids, the youngest was nine months and the oldest was about to turn four. My wife suffered from pretty severe postpartum anxiety and after three kids pretty close together we decided that she really needed a break from pregnancy, infants, and postpartum for a few years. However, in addition to anxiety, my wife had other health problems that made practicing NFP especially difficult. The normal signs of fertility one would use to avoid pregnancy weren’t so clear, and when this uncertainty mixed with postpartum anxiety and the stress of a newborn, let’s just say it was a difficult time in our marriage.

In the midst of all that turmoil we found out that we were pregnant. Our other three kids weren’t necessarily planned, but they were expected. But here we were with a pregnancy we were desperately trying to avoid. There’s a lot of feelings that come with an unplanned pregnancy: fear, anxiety, anger, more fear, and shame. Shame for those passing thoughts about wanting the pregnancy to be over, about wishing this child didn’t exist. It’s a dark place to be.

Because we used NFP and charted my wife’s cycles, we usually had a good idea of when our due date was (sometimes a better idea than the doctors). However, because my wife’s cycles were so abnormal, we didn’t know when the baby was conceived so we didn’t have a due date. A few months into the pregnancy we went to the doctor for the routine checkup and they told us that our child was due on August 14.

When my wife and I realized that was Maximilian Kolbe’s feast day it was like God saying to use that he wanted this child and that it would all work out. It was at that moment that the fear and anxiety started to leave. In that moment God gave us the faith of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. He helped us see beyond the turmoil of the present, to see beyond space and time.

Francis Kolbe Steven will be one years old on August 17th. He missed his due date by three days. The postpartum anxiety returned and so did the difficulties with NFP, but this little boy has filled our life with so much joy.

Pray for the faith of Fr. Kolbe. Pray for supernatural vision during the storms and trials of life, to see reality for what it truly is. Pray for us, Saint Maximilian Kolbe.

[Image Credit: Picture of Francis Kolbe Steven, used with permission from author]

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.