Cleaning The Outside Isn’t Enough

Have you ever seen a surgical team scrub up before an operation? It puts mere handwashing to shame! It’s a good thing, of course, that the team puts so much effort in, and there’s an excellent reason for its rigid cleansing requirements.

Cleansing has also always been important in religious traditions, both for its literal use (becoming clean, avoiding disease) and for the less-literal connections to being clean before God. In fact, some sort of ritual cleansing appears in nearly every world religion.

Rituals are an essential part of religion. They allow the people of God to participate in community life united both historically and geographically—over time and space—in a manner designed to uphold orthodoxy, draw diverse members together, and mark important moments in the life of the Church. But rituals are designed by humans, and therefore can take on a life of their own, to the point where the ritual becomes more important than the reason and goals behind it.

That’s what is happening in today’s Gospel reading: the Pharisee was so caught up in the cleansing ritual that he lost the point of it. Washing one’s hands before eating was a religious obligation, imposed upon people in the name of purity, and ordered by God’s law. And yet even though Jesus accepts the Pharisee’s invitation to dine with him, Jesus doesn’t observe this religious norm.

It must have seemed very odd—and, in fact, a breach of respect. The Pharisee probably thought he was being respectful of Jesus by inviting him in, and Jesus immediately violates the common practice as well as the law to which the Pharisee has dedicated his life.

Jesus’ response is anything but reassuring. “Oh, you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”

Observing laws and rituals literally allows us to lose sight of the meaning behind them. Jesus didn’t say it was bad to observe the cleansing ritual; what he said was that the cleansing had to be deeper, had to penetrate words and thoughts and actions. The Pharisee only looked at the letter of the law—so he wasn’t able to perceive the spirit of the law, the point of having the law in the first place.

As far back as Leviticus, we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. The meaning is reasonably clear, yet Luke tells us that out of that law arose a discussion to determine precisely who our neighbors are—and, perhaps more importantly, to establish who isn’t included as a neighbor. Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “The letter kills, the spirit gives life” (2 Co 3, 6). In the Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus criticizes those who observe the letter of the law but transgress the spirit (Mt 5, 20).

Washing the outside of the cup while leaving the inside dirty isn’t what we’re called to do. It’s not enough to follow the letter of the law; it’s in observing and internalizing and honoring the spirit of the law that we become pure, that we become new people in Christ. Which means that it has to be about love of other people: it’s in the practice of love that the fullness of the law is attained. “Give alms,” says Jesus, “and behold, everything will be clean for you.”


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 St. Teresa Of Avila

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the person I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.

“This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.”

You gotta feel for Jonah. His is the unlikely prophet. (Can’t you just hear him saying, “Me, Lord, are you sure? See, look over there, there’s George. Look at George, he’d be much better. Yeah, that’s it, send George.” Since God doesn’t change his mind, Jonah changes his tactics. “Sure God, whatever you say. I’ll get right on that,” as he quite literally heads in the opposite direction.

Oh my goodness, how I can relate! There is a similar tape that plays in my mind telling me I am not good enough, smart enough, kind enough to do what God sets before me. And how many times have I assented to God’s will, only to put it on the bottom of my to-do list and say, “Sure, God, I’ll get to that.”

It is bad enough that God’s corrective action for Jonah is to have him cast overboard to spend 3 days in the belly of a fish. Once Jonah delivers his message, Assyria repents, is strengthened by God and eventually breaks Israel into pieces. It almost begs a sarcastic, “Thanks, God, glad I could help you but…”

But all the humor at Jonah’s expense aside, Jesus doesn’t make references lightly. The Israelites of Jonah’s time had turned away from God and God used a reluctant prophet to raise up the enemy who would destroy them.

In Jesus’s time, the Israelites have once again lost sight of what is important and reject Jesus. More concerned with maintaining traditional roles and precision law-abiding, they have lost sight of the law as a means to a relationship with God. They too reject a prophet, not just a prophet, “but one who is greater than Jonah”.

So what does this mean for us today? It is easy to look around and say, “Evil generation? Yes, we’ve got that covered.” Fortunately, we also have the saint whose Feast Day is today, St. Teresa of Avila. She is a guide. She too lived in an evil generation. Joining a Carmel in search of a quiet life and contemplative prayer, she instead found a place where wealthy and social elite gathered bringing with them trivial conversations and a worldly focus.

From a wealthy family herself, Teresa could have been content with being one of the society women who frequented the monastery, pious in their location and poisonous with worldly values. But St. Teresa joins the contemplative life and reforms it from within by looking to herself. Well aware that none of us have the power to live a holy life on our own, St. Teresa opened herself up so completely to the Holy Spirit that she is able to hear Jesus himself speak.

So like, St. Teresa of Avila, let us not bemoan our own evil generation and let us learn from the Israelites of Jesus’s time that the law of God is a path to Him and set to change the only one we can-ourselves.  To be honest, St. Teresa, you scare the bejeebers out of me because you show me that there is no obstacle to being a contemplative besides me. Come, Holy Spirit.


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 https://www.holyfamilyhealthcare.org/.


Ask, Seek, Knock, Find… What?

Quite a few years ago while working with RCIA inquirers, I have a vivid memory of a young woman who never prayed. She was self-sufficient, a small business owner – a very confident and intelligent woman. Her participation with RCIA was in preparation to marry a Catholic man. I believe at the start of her journey it was only to make her fiancé’s family happy that there would be a “Catholic” wedding – Mass and Holy Communion.

In our sessions, we often spoke of the need for/the power of prayer. She didn’t believe in prayer. Her take on it was that people who prayed are weak individuals who rely on prayer to relieve their sense of insecurity, that all individuals should be self-sufficient and confident enough in their lives that prayer shouldn’t be necessary. This was a challenge for our RCIA team. How does one convince someone of the need for prayer when, to that person, prayer is so foreign?

As time went on many of the team, as well as her fellow RCIA members, spoke of their prayer and tried very hard to convince her that relying on God, relying on Our Savior for what we seek, is a good thing. Were all their prayers answered? Certainly not. At least not in the way this young woman would have expected. What you pray for is what you get! If you don’t get what you ask for, why pray?

Sometime later, near the end of her time with us, there was a crisis in her life. Without going into detail, she discovered that she, during this crisis, had nothing to support her – her self-reliance and confidence would not pull her through the situation. It wasn’t enough. She prayed! She found strength. And she found it even though she was unfamiliar with prayer, but she learned enough from those with whom she journeyed, that her first foray in the spiritual realm of prayer became comfortable. She was then able to share that with us and thanked the others for all she had learned. It was quite the year leading up to her reception into the Church at Easter.

Jesus says in today’s Gospel:  “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Do we take him literally? Yes, we should. Perhaps what we are seeking is good for us, perhaps not. Perhaps we are knocking on the right door, perhaps not. Perhaps we are asking for something necessary to our lives, perhaps not. But who makes these distinctions? God does! He is waiting for you to SEEK Him, and him alone; He is waiting for you to ASK to be one with his divine will; He is waiting for you to KNOCK on the door of the Sacred Heart of his Son. Therein will you find your needs fulfilled.

Prayer is never a futile effort. Our all-knowing, all-loving God, will only give us what is good for us according to his perfect will, and we must trust that he knows best. We should never stop seeking, asking or knocking because that effort increases our trust in God, strengthens our faith. His first gift to us will be his love. The rest will follow once we recognize that what we are receiving from God is exactly what we need, even if it was not what we imagined.

Our prayer does not change God, nor does it change his mind. Prayer changes us. Prayer brings us closer to God’s will, closer to our Savior’s comfort and love. When the rest of the world puts up its big hand to keep us at bay, God never will. He will listen, and he will show us how to seek what is needed, knock on the right doors and ask for the blessings that will lead us to his eternal presence.

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 jpenoyar@diocesan.com.


Our Father

The gospel today is the short version of the Our Father prayer we know so well. I find myself called to go deeper and share with you an expanded version of this prayer, inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, translated by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP & Ignatius C. Brady, OFM.

O OUR most holy FATHER,
Our Creator, Redeemer, Consoler, and Savior

WHO ARE IN HEAVEN:
In the angels and in the saints,
Enlightening them to love, because You, Lord, are light
Inflaming them to love, because You, Lord, are love
Dwelling in them and filling them with happiness,
because You, Lord, are the Supreme Good,
the Eternal Good
from Whom comes all good
without Whom there is no good.

HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME:
May our knowledge of You become ever clearer
That we may know the breadth of Your blessings
the length of Your promises
the height of Your majesty
the depths of Your judgments

YOUR KINGDOM COME:
So that You may rule in us through Your grace
and enable us to come to Your kingdom
where there is an unclouded vision of You
a perfect love of You
a blessed companionship with You
an eternal enjoyment of You

YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN:
That we may love you with our whole heart by always thinking of You
with our whole soul by always desiring You
with our whole mind by directing all our
intentions to You and by seeking Your
glory in everything
and with our whole strength by spending all our
energies and affections
of soul and body
in the service of Your love
and of nothing else
and may we love our neighbors as ourselves
by drawing them all with our whole strength to Your love
by rejoicing in the good fortunes of others as well as our own
and by sympathizing with the misfortunes of others
and by giving offense to no one

GIVE US THIS DAY:
in memory and understanding and reverence
of the love which our Lord Jesus Christ had for us
and of those things which He said and did and suffered for us

OUR DAILY BREAD
Your own Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ

AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES:
Through Your ineffable mercy
through the power of the Passion of Your Beloved Son
together with the merits and intercession of the Blessed Virgin
Mary and all Your chosen ones

AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US:
And whatever we do not forgive perfectly,
do you, Lord, enable us to forgive to the full
so that we may truly love our enemies
and fervently intercede for them before You
returning no one evil for evil
and striving to help everyone in You

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
Hidden or obvious
Sudden or persistent

BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Past, present and to come.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

— from Francis and Clare: The Complete Works: The Classics of Western Spirituality, Translated by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP


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 bprice@diocesan.com.


communion

The Better Part

Today’s brief Gospel presents a scene that most of us can relate to on some level. We know that Mary and Martha are sisters (and Lazarus is their brother) and that this family is one of those “resting places” for Jesus; he visited them intermittently throughout his preaching years. He knew them well, and they knew him well enough to complain to him and demand things from him! Martha, busy about household tasks while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus to listen to him, asks a rhetorical question: Don’t you even see, or care about, this unjust distribution of labor?! I’m doing all the work around here. “Tell her to help me.”

The Lord is always seeing things from a place above the fray of the moment, and He is artful about replying to people in ways that reframe the argument and draw them into a deeper understanding. Here, He acknowledges Martha’s busy-ness and anxiety but redirects her attention to what is most important, refusing to do what He demands of her. Rather than tell Mary to get off the floor and get to work, He praises her choice, because she has chosen the one necessary thing. What is that one necessary thing? Being in the presence of the Lord, who is all. “Come and see,” He invited his first disciples. “Follow me,” He invites us. “I am the Vine and you are the branches,” He explains, to help us really comprehend that apart from Him, we can do nothing. Our discipleship must begin with spending time in His presence, and it continues and bears fruit when we remain united to Him.

Most of us who are striving to love Jesus would want the opportunity to sit at His feet as Mary did, listening to His voice, watching His movements, asking Him questions and waiting for His response, allowing His penetrating gaze to fall on us. For love to grow, we must spend time with the Beloved.

While we cannot encounter the historical Jesus, we CAN sit at His feet and spend time before his Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. In the Eucharist, we draw near to this same Christ who loved these people so much, and who loves us so much that He found a way to remain really present to us throughout all of time and in every place that the Eucharist is offered and reserved.

When we receive the Eucharist and spend time at the feet of Jesus, we grow in our ability to CHOOSE THE BETTER PART. We must choose it over and over again so that the horizons of His Kingdom within us are continually extended, and His reign within us grows fuller. When we walk with Jesus in every moment, choosing to listen to Him instead of the world or our own fears and desires, we are conforming our lives to His and choosing the better part, which will not be taken from us.


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 www.kathryntherese.com or on Facebook @summapax.


Be Available, Be Generous

The Good Samaritan; a difficult story to reflect upon without being banal and writing a thought that has been shared before. This is a story that is so integrated into our society that we even have a law named after it. Though most people cannot describe the finer points of the legal code or recount the parable verbatim, I’m confident that everyone from the practicing Catholic to the non-church-goer can surmise that “The Good Samaritan” has something to do with being available to aid individuals who have an immediate need.

But to what measure do we help?

 By Jesus’ standards, we ought to respond to those around us by saying: “I will take care of you until you are well.”

 In His story, Jesus creates a portrait of a Christian with the Samaritan, one whose foremost quality is generosity. The authentic followers of Christ that I know personally, though they differ in many ways on a superficial level, are similar in their capacity to be absurdly generous. And they give in different ways.

My dear friend, band mate, and soon to be one of my best men Douglas Hutchings is generous monetarily. Over the past 11 years, he has paid for more of my friends’ and my dinners than I can remember… and it is never when he is asked to cover the bill; he sees an opportunity to care for his loved ones and takes the initiative.

My Spiritual Director, Sr. Marie Pappas, is generous with her time and attention, never wanting in patience, allowing me the freedom and opportunity to celebrate, lament and query about my life for upwards of 3 hours in a session and never making me feel like I’m taking her away from something more important.

These persons in my life, like the Samaritan in the parable, like Jesus, proclaim to their beloved through their actions: “I will take care of you until you are well.”

 Be available.

 Be generous.


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 www.fullarmorband.com.


Acts Of Random Kindness

My Catholic faith has taught me more than any teacher, parent, or person ever has! Aside from the obvious “good morals,” Catholicism has taught me the value of family and friendship. It has taught me humility. More than anything, it has taught me how to love and how to be loved by following in Christ’s footsteps to become a more compassionate person.

Being compassionate isn’t easy. In fact, if I’m being perfectly honest, it sucks.

I consider myself extremely empathetic, meaning I am very sensitive to the emotions of people around me. The emotions of people around me weigh heavily on me and will even influence my own emotions. It is a genuine extension of compassion that goes beyond “oh, that’s good” and “man, that must be hard.”

For example, last week I was stopped by a train for a couple of minutes. The woman in the car behind me was crying. Like, chest heaving, ugly crying, inaudible sobs. And it broke my heart. I wanted to go to her and tell her that whatever it was, whatever she was going through, she would be okay.

So I did.

And it was awful.

Because with at least another 50 train cars to go, I put my car in park, got out, walked over to her door, and tapped on her window. When she rolled her window down, all I said was, “I’m sorry. You don’t know me, but I know that you’ll be okay.” She hiccupped, still crying, and nodded, not saying anything. Then I just got back in my car and cried.

Did I cry because I hoped she would be okay? I wish, but no. I cried because that was really hard.

As someone with anxiety, it’s a constant battle between my existential guilt and the gift of compassion. Perhaps you don’t have any experience with constant anxiety. Maybe you think it’s silly to feel guilty and wrong for doing the most mundane things. I agree with you, it is silly, but that doesn’t make it go away.

In fact, as soon as I parked my car, I already had a million thoughts going through my mind:

What would I even say to her? Everyone probably thinks that I’m one of those jerks that park in the middle of traffic. Or they think there’s something wrong with my car. Or they think I’m crazy. What if SHE thinks I’m crazy? I shouldn’t get out. Everyone will look at me and hate me. Maybe I can just pretend that I dropped something out of my window and get back in the car. This is a bad idea.

And I hadn’t even gotten out of the car yet.

Still, I think that this situation was most definitely a gift from God. It’s not that God made sure that she had a reason to cry, but I do think He put her car behind mine for a reason.  I, myself, have experienced both the sinking feeling and being tossed life rafts in the form of smiles, hugs, slight head nods, words, and prayers, and MAN is it powerful.

Unlike Rose in The Titanic (spoiler), we can share our floating door and save Jack’s life. Even when we are in danger of drowning, God gives us the opportunity to reach a hand out to a stranger.

All it takes is an Act of Random Kindness, an ARK if you will, to keep us from sinking.


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.


Knowing Vs. Inviting

Kyra, my new student in 6th grade has never even heard about Jesus. We’re in the middle of the first quarter, Catholic Doctrine curriculum for a 6th-grade level (assuming all others have built a foundational understanding from years past in a Catholic grade school). Seeing her facial reactions the information I provided on Salvation History was a bit priceless. When you evangelize and spread the Good News to someone who has never heard it before, that is a heck of an experience. For a moment I had to stop and think to myself, wow this probably does sound super crazy.

Growing up in the Catholic faith or a Christian home makes some of our core beliefs less shocking than those who have not. Just think about it, we believe in only one God- in 3 Divine Persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All are unique persons with different characteristics and roles, yet all are One. When One acts- the whole Trinity acts. When you receive One Person of the Trinity, you are receiving the grace of the whole Trinity. Summarizing Salvation History and showing her the separation or the Old and New Testament was definitely new for her. The moment her eyes almost popped out of their sockets was when I told her what God did for us. We, as His created people, kept breaking covenants (promises) with God. He wanted to be in a relationship with us and bring us back to Him after sin came into the picture. For the ENTIRE Old Testament, this continues to happen! Finally, He sends His only Son, Jesus Christ to become human. Literally, the creating, all-powerful, everlasting GOD chooses to take on our human flesh! He wants to talk to us face to face, just like we’d rather talk to our best friend in person than through letters and voicemails of phone tag.

With this big recap of our entire faith, Kyra brought up some pretty good questions. Throughout these questions and the input of her classmates, I realized a big misconception my students (probably many people) have. They said, “Ms. C if God knows EVERYTHING about me and every moment of my life, why do I have to tell Him things that He already knows?” Well, just like I could see my friend got engaged on social media, I’d rather have her tell me the story face to face than find out from someone/ someplace else. It’s the same for God-He knows and can see every aspect of our hearts and lives, but He wants us to share it with Him.

“BUT MS. C, If God KNOWS everything about our lives and everything I’m going to DO tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that… Then He knows everything I’m going to do or not do. He planned my sins and decisions so that’s not my problem!” Yes, this was a statement, which brings me to our Responsorial Reading from today.  Within this Scripture passage, the Word of God states that He knows us. He knows where we are currently sitting or standing as we read this email. He knows where we will stand in line at the grocery store, and where our thoughts will be as we wait in traffic. He knows sometimes we try to hide, but there is no place He cannot see. We know that He is with us in every moment, that he created our very being before we were even born. He makes us this way and He walks with us every day.

When I read this Psalm, I understand that He knows me, created me, and walks with me. Even though He is all knowing, it doesn’t take away our free will (which I’m sure most of us already know, but 6th grade had to be reminded). Even though He is all knowing- He still needs our invitation. There is a big difference between knowing about something and experiencing it with someone. Our Creator created us so lovingly that in our free will we must invite Him in. He can know all about our lives, but He will not force Himself upon us.  He waits for you to receive Him always.

Slowly read the Psalm again once more. I want you to ask yourself, “Do I invite God to these places? How can I invite Him into my lunch hour? How can I invite Him into the time of car to car traffic? God, do I try to hide from you? Why am I hiding? God, what in my heart and life do you desire to be invited into?” Let’s intentionally invite our King into this day, receiving Him with hearts wide open.


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


The Memorial Of St. Francis Of Assisi

The readings today are so so fitting as we celebrate the memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi.  Francis, like Job in the first reading, had a privileged life, both being from upper-middle-class families. Job had his world changed by a conversation between God and Satan, yet today we see that Job is not condemning God, but longing for God.

In a similar way, Saint Francis gave back all of his earthly father’s possessions to allow himself to be consumed with the trials and teachings of his heavenly Father and his Son. This was not an easy path, yet both Francis and Job found consolation in the psalm of today, “I believe I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living”.  Each was faithful in their personal prayers to God.

For Francis, the call to a ‘gospel way of life’ was tugging at his heart once he made the commitment to follow the ways of God. He saw God in the world around him: the lepers, beggars, the Saracens, all non-believers, animals and all of creation. At times, we forget that it is God, not just Satan, that can be found in our world. Francis also sent his brothers in community, the friars minor, or little brothers, into the world just as Jesus said to do in today’s gospel from Luke.

As we go through our day today, try to go out of your comfort zone and reach out to someone you don’t usually interact with. Try looking at your day (or domain in which you travel) as outside your household and make an action from Jesus’ and Francis’ playbook: treat the stranger or one who you don’t know so well, as a brother or sister created in God’s image. Give a smile or head nod, start a conversation when you wouldn’t normally do so. If it’s welcomed by the other, great! If not, say a silent prayer for the individual.

If that’s way out of your comfort zone and you like to walk or jog, take a plastic bag with you and plog by picking up some trash on your way and dispose of it when you get home.

Caring for creation is a wonderful way of giving glory to God! Spend some time with St. Francis’ prayer for Creation. May your day be blessed. Shalom.

O most High, almighty, good Lord God,
to you belong praise, glory, honor, and all blessing!

Praised be my Lord God with all creatures;
and especially our brother the sun,
which brings us the day, and the light;
fair is he, and shining with a very great splendor:
O Lord, he signifies you to us!

Praised be my Lord for our sister the moon,
and for the stars,
which God has set clear and lovely in heaven.

Praised be my Lord for our brother the wind,
and for air and cloud, calms and all weather,
by which you uphold in life all creatures.

Praised be my Lord for our sister water,
which is very serviceable to us,
and humble, and precious, and clean.

Praised be my Lord for brother fire,
through which you give us light in the darkness:
and he is bright, and pleasant, and very mighty,
and strong.

Praised be my Lord for our mother the Earth,
which sustains us and keeps us,
and yields divers fruits, and flowers of
many colors, and grass.

Praised be my Lord for all those who pardon
one another for God’s love’s sake,
and who endure weakness and tribulation;
blessed are they who peaceably shall endure,
for you, O most High, shall give them a crown!

Praised be my Lord for our sister,
the death of the body, from which no one escapes.
Woe to him who dies in mortal sin!
Blessed are they who are found walking by your
most holy will,
for the second death shall have no power to do
them harm.

Praise you, and bless you the Lord,
and give thanks to God, and serve God
with great humility.

(St. Francis, 1182-1226)


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 bprice@diocesan.com.


Beauty And The Beast And Our Catholic Faith

“I consider all things rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”

You know how sometimes someone says something or makes a new connection for you and not only does a light bulb go off, but you want to just smack your head and wonder, “Why didn’t I ever see that?”

Last week, I heard someone draw a parallel between Beauty and the Beast and our Catholic Faith? Bear with me, and trust me, at first, I thought he was stretching it too.

In the beginning, the prince has everything he could want. He has power; he has wealth, he is surrounded by people who cater to his every need, he indulges every pleasure. We tend to look at people like him and be a little jealous.

But then he is approached and asked for the smallest of charities, to provide some shelter from the cold. He has nothing to gain from the old woman and turns her away. She warns him not to judge by appearances.

Because of his lack of mercy for the woman, he and the people around him are transformed by his vision of the world. He loses his human appearance and looks to all the world like a beast. Even worse, the people near him, lose their humanity to become objects. His punishment has been to make his invisible relationships visible to all the world. His only way out is to go beyond his shallow worldview and to love and become beloved.

Beauty and the Beast is one of those handfuls of universal tales which have variations in all cultures across the world. And why not? A tale as old as time, (haha, get it? But seriously, some researchers say it is over 4000 years old) it is the story of humanity from Adam and Eve on down. Adam and Eve have everything, they have been provided for in the Garden of Eden, they have a loving relationship with their Creator, and yet, they doubt God’s desire to provide for them. They trust the appearances of the devil and use the fruit, not for the purpose it was intended but to try to be something other than what they are. Their invisible doubts that separated them from God are made visible as they are expelled from the Garden of Eden. And as we all know, life has never been the same.

We all now search for the intimate relationship they lost. We are created with a desire to love, to be beloved and to send that love out into the world. Like the Prince (and Adam and Eve), we become distracted by all sorts of things that keep us from true love. We substitute love with power, a desire to control the events and people around us. We use people to gain influence and material wealth, not realizing that when we undermine their inherent dignity, we also undermine our own. We replace love with pleasure, using people and things to help us “feel” good; physically, mentally, and spiritually. We forget that feelings are transitory emotions and we are created for eternity. We put knowledge before love, trusting in our own ability to find truth rather than trusting the one who is Truth. We create all sorts of havoc in big and small ways, all in search of love.

In the story, it is a poor farmer’s daughter who teaches the beast/prince about love and saves him. As his heart opens to love, he and all those around him regain their human forms.

As Catholics, we know who saves us. We don’t follow one who teaches about love; we follow the one who IS love. Jesus the Christ, God become man, left the beauty of heaven to live among us, suffer and die. But death could not hold him, and through his resurrection, we too gain eternal life. “No greater love than this than to lay down one’s life for a friend.”

As Catholics, we also know it is not only about the “happily ever after” of love in heaven. Our faith is not only words we speak or prayers we offer. Our faith transforms us so that what is invisible is made visible in our actions, our works of love, mercy, charity.

It is the most beautiful of paradoxes, it all is summed up in the Gospel acclamation for today, when we regard all as rubbish so that we can gain Christ, he gives us everything back and what is more, it is all transformed in his love so that we begin our heaven here on earth by living out what it means to love, to be beloved and we serve God by serving one another. It is in that service, that reaching out in love for another that we find He has satisfied our own desires.

Dear Lord, help me today to see all those around me as you see them. Help me to be open to the little ways of showing love and providing small comforts to others in this world so that they too may find your comfort and love in the world to come.

Praise, God. He is amazing.

Now, excuse me, I have to go watch that movie again.


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 health care practice in West Michigan which seeks to honor the dignity of every individual as we would Christ. Find out more at https://www.holyfamilyhealthcare.org/


Childlike Faith

“Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.” -MT 18

A child is a perfect example of living in the world but not of the world. They often have this perfect balance between awareness of a spiritual reality and yet they have not yet been influenced by the different negative forces in the world.

Many look at this and call it immaturity, they just need to grow up and experience the real world and then they will know. As if experience of the negative things in this life is what we were made for.

I like to think of a time before the original sin when Adam and Eve were in the garden. Think of how childlike they must have been, trusting and relying fully on God, loving in a way that is pure and holy just like that of a child, a humble admittance that they were created and thus not the creator.

All of this was broken however when they fell. And why did they fall? They wanted to take God’s place. They wanted the full knowledge that God had, the knowledge which Satan promised would make them like God. And it is precisely in receiving this knowledge that they became blind, less childlike, prideful, sinful, broken.

Our hearts were made for innocence, and that innocence was shattered. Thankfully we have a divine physician. If our original state in the garden could be portrayed as a beautiful stained glass window, then at the fall this window was shattered. But Jesus came and picked up those pieces one by one and put them back into place so that the original beauty of God’s plan could shine through. This is the beautiful story of redemption that we can each begin to experience even here and now.

Today is the memorial of the guardian angels. Our guardian angel was specifically appointed by God to help us see that original light and beauty and to live by it. To go back to that childlike trust which we tried to leave behind. I invite you to allow God to pick up your pieces. Let Him breathe light where there is darkness. Let Him in and see what He will do and has done for you. God Bless!


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 tshultz@diocesan.com.


True Faith

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD!”

What is Faith? The dictionary defines it several ways. Some say complete trust in another. Others say a belief that is not based on proof. As Catholics, we know it is one of the Cardinal Virtues, faith, hope, and love. But do we live with complete faith in God or is our faith conditional, and therefore not faith at all?

I think of the things going on in our world and the Church. These are not easy things to deal with nor should they be taken lightly. But as our faith in the Lord and His church is shaken, what is our response? See, faith is easy when it goes untested. A child can look at the Eucharist and say, “Mommy is that Jesus,” and believe wholeheartedly that it is. But then life happens. This child’s parents maybe aren’t trustworthy in every instance. Peers and friend groups try to persuade this or that opinion. And the child naturally starts to question, and it is in this questioning and doubt that faith is strengthened and tested.

My fiance and I are getting married now in less than two weeks, and we are starting the process of buying a house and moving in all before the wedding. These are some big scary moments in every person’s life, and they put our faith to the test. Faith and trust in each other and our love that we will genuinely care for and be there for the other through thick and thin. Faith and trust in God who is moving our lives in all these exciting new directions. And faith that when the storms do come, we will have the foundation that will stand. Thank goodness God has brought me someone that I can put my faith in and He has brought us together with complete faith in Himself.

We all go through testing of faith, and for many of us, it has happened with all the recent and ongoing news in the Catholic Church. But I ask you if you were to lose everything that you owned right now who would you put your faith in? Is your faith strong enough to endure even the most tumultuous sea? I would like to say that mine is, but that’s the thing about faith. It is not based on us; it is based on something outside of ourselves, something more significant. It is a gift from God that we must ask and beg for in times where it is hard to see the good. We need to pray for a faith like Job. Let us pray for that faith. Amen!

And so one day, while his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, a messenger came to Job and said,” The oxen were plowing and the asses grazing beside them, and the Sabeans carried them off in a raid. They put the herdsmen to the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

While he was yet speaking, another came and said, “Lightning has fallen from heaven and struck the sheep and their shepherds and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

While he was yet speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three columns, seized the camels, carried them off, and put those tending them to the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

While he was yet speaking, another came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, when suddenly a great wind came across the desert
and smote the four corners of the house. It fell upon the young people and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

Then Job began to tear his cloak and cut off his hair. He cast himself prostrate upon the ground, and said,

“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back again. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD!” -Job 1:13-22


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 tshultz@diocesan.com.