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 https://www.holyfamilyhealthcare.org/

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.

So As Not To Offend

“So as not to offend” is a loaded statement. It can be used in hundreds of situations, and sometimes is meant to keep us from correcting people or from saying things that will seem put-offish.

Today’s Gospel is somewhat cryptic. We get a very short reminder that Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death. Then the rather strange story about the temple tax. This piece is only found in Matthew’s gospel, perhaps because Matthew used to be a tax collector. Along with the question and answer period about the tax, we have the miracle of the coin in the mouth of the fish. Would that we all could find our tax money that way! The interesting point about the temple tax is that Jesus believes he should be exempt because He is not a foreigner, but rather a son, Son of God, therefore a citizen – a citizen of the kingdom – the kingdom of heaven. But then he tells Peter to fish for the coin and pay the tax for both of them – “so as not to offend.”

I believe this comes down to something else we often find ourselves saying: “I chose to pick my battles.” Ah, yes. It is at times prudent to let something go rather than putting someone off, who then will never listen to anything we have to say. It could be Jesus’ reason for paying the tax. He would rather pay, so as not to offend, and go on his way preaching and be listened to, rather than having the tax collectors spouting off “Hey, He won’t pay the tax! He’s a cheater! Why should you listen to him?”

It makes perfect sense to me. And I think, at times, it makes sense to pick our battles, whether with our friends, families or others. I don’t believe it means to just back down over everything, because the truth must be spoken, often, and with conviction. But at times we have to be prudent. Are we trying to get a point across by bashing someone over the head with it? Or can we pick our battle at a later date, and work by example to make the point? It may be worth it. In the long run, it was for Jesus. The temple tax was not a battle he was going to fight at that time.

Take people where they are in their spirituality at the time you meet them. Not everyone is ready. It takes prudent pruning and cajoling to get people to listen to the truth. It is foreign to some, and terrifying to others. Take them where they are and let them see, by what you do and how you live, that the truth in Jesus Christ can be embraced without fear, to lead to freedom.

Oh, and you do have to pay your taxes!  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.

What Is Living Bread?

John 6 is dense with meaning, and the Church breaks out the reading of it over several Sundays. It begins with Jesus feeding  more than 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes and then quietly withdrawing before they can make him king; he wants to illustrate that the Kingdom is not what they think it is, and his Kingship is different than they envision.

Last week, we saw the crowd taking boats to Capernaum in search of Jesus because of this miracle, and he tries to help them see that their true hunger cannot be satisfied by endlessly and miraculously multiplying loaves of bread; that Gospel reading ends with Jesus proclaiming, “I am the bread of life,” come down from Heaven like manna.

Today’s Gospel begins with the Jews protesting against this statement; after all, they know him and his parents, so what is he talking about? Jesus tells them to stop complaining amongst themselves but does not directly answer their objections; he prefers to get right to the heart of the matter. He works to draw them into understanding a big truth, one that he surely realizes they cannot fully grasp: he is sent by the Father, and he will raise up on the last day those whom the Father draws. They must believe in order to access this eternal life from the Father, through Jesus. Then he invites them to this belief by stating again clearly, “I am the bread of life,” the bread of eternal life, “the living bread that came down from heaven.” Whoever eats this bread will live. Will they accept this? Will they believe and live? Almost as if daring them to turn away in horror, he amplifies this boldly: “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

We cannot blame the Jews for their disbelief and rejection (which we will hear about next weekend!) of these graphic words; they interpret this as a kind of cannibalism, which is forbidden and repugnant. Even his close friends did not really understand what he could mean by these words at this point in their journey with him.

Only over time (and the light of the Holy Spirit) did they understand what Jesus meant by giving his flesh for the life of the world, as they witnessed his passion and crucifixion. Only over time did they understand what it meant to be “raised up,” as Jesus rose from the dead. Only over time did they understand that we are given, not a corpse as “bread,” but the glorified Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Risen One in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Only over time did they understand that this Bread that is Jesus is the only way to fill the deepest hunger of the human person, the Source and Summit of the Christian life.

Where are we in our journey to understanding and accepting this fundamental Truth of our faith?

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.

Faith Like A Mustard Seed

The gospel today has Jesus saying, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?” (Mt 17:17). He’s addressing the disciples who were not able to drive out a demon from a boy. Jesus’ exasperation brings a Mona Lisa smile to my face. Why? The apostles are so human and Jesus, as their Rabbi and teacher, has to help them focus, again. How many times do I make the same mistakes, can’t get a project done, forget to pick something (or someone) up? When I honestly look back to review the day or reflect on my process, or lack thereof, I tend to notice a pattern and one I hate to admit as it does happen frequently; I have usually forgotten to pray.

I have neglected to put my faith in my Lord and Savior. I did not call on Him when I began whatever task and intentionally ask for His will and blessing. When I skip that step, to begin the process with His intentions at the forefront of my thoughts, I seem to have many false starts. My focus is so scattered and my personal agenda is so prevalent that even my best intentions make the project a huge mess as I continue to fumble with my actions and words. I have to make myself stop, take a breath and call on the Lord to focus my next step. I have a very good friend who will actually call me out on this, asking me to stop and breathe before I continue as she had noticed my harried (or over-caffeinated) frenzied self.

I feel the same frustration that the apostles felt in not being able to accomplish the tasks that Jesus so easily seems to do. Jesus points out the disciples’ “little faith” and shares the parable of the mustard seed. St. Teresa of Calcutta had that kind of faith, as did St. Francis of Assisi. We celebrate today St. Clare of Assisi whose faith must have been bigger than a mustard seed. At the age of 18 in 1212, Clare fled her home in the middle of the night to escape an arranged marriage. Fleeing to the Portiuncula, the little chapel of St Mary of the Angels in Assisi, she asked Brother Francis to accept her into his order of ‘little’ brothers; Francis did so and cut off her hair (making her undesirable for marriage) much to her father, uncles and brothers’ chagrin. Women religious of the middle ages were cloistered. Clare wished the women following Francis’ example would be able to go out into the world to serve the poor. She faithfully pursued approval for her vision and rule for women which was granted by Pope Innocent IV, just 3 days before her death in 1253, 41 years later.

Living alongside the disciples and teaching them must have at times been frustrating for Jesus. There were moments when the apostles seemed to get it and to be following God’s way in faith.
But today’s Gospel shows us that there were times when Jesus became frustrated with their lack of focus. Through their inconsistency, the disciples make the gift of Jesus so much more profound.

Jesus’ absolute commitment to faith and connection to God changes lives in ways which the 12 seem incapable. Jesus’ power is very evident, and even in a moment of frustration, he does not waver. He continues his ministry to heal, preach and teach the apostles and all of his followers. Let us pray for faith rooted as mustard seeds so we too, can grow strong and flourish in our ministries and prayer life.

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.

Thank God It’s Friday!

Today is finally Friday! If you’re like me, you’ve been looking forward to this day all week. I have plans to take a six-hour road trip to visit my cousins, but maybe you’re looking forward to just taking some time to relax or spend quality time with the people you love. Either way, a weekend sound great, so TGIF!

Did you do it? Did you thank God that it’s Friday? I mean, did you literally praise God for giving us this wonderful Friday that we have lived to see? If not, you should! He has given us the gift of life on this glorious Friday so that we can experience His glory in all that we see and for that we should be grateful.

The phrase “thank God” has become so standard that sometimes (or all the time) we forget to actually thank God. This came to mind because I recently met an English professor that does talks on words changing throughout time and cultures. He specifically discussed the word “awesome” and how it used to be reserved for something terrifying, then was used to describe something so absolutely amazing that it took your breath away and filled you with awe. Now we use it to describe a shopping cart that doesn’t have a wobbly wheel. Not exactly the same connotation as the original meaning.

In a similar way, we don’t use the phrase “thank God” in the same way it was originally meant. We say it in such a flippant way that we don’t think about the prayer that we are just throwing away.

Now, I’m not saying that we need to stop saying “thank God,” but I do think we should actually thank Him. We should thank him for Fridays, as well as the amazingly awesome things and the awesome, no-wobbly shopping carts. He has given us the gift of life on this glorious Friday, so why shouldn’t we thank him for the little gifts He has placed in our lives?

In 2013, Pope Francis said, “If we can realize that everything is God’s gift, how happy will our hearts be! Everything is a gift.” I want to be happy and I imagine you do too. Thank God it’s Friday.

To read more on what Pope Francis has to say about finding happiness, check out his book.

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.

Get Behind Me Satan

As I reflected on today’s readings I began to realize all the times I have had to tell myself to get behind me satan. I know even the way that sentence was phrased sounds strange, but hear me out. There have been many times in my own life where God has spoken to me and I have shut out the voice.

While driving past the homeless man and instead of just saying a silent prayer, wondering why he/she doesn’t have a job. There was one experience I had working a Steubenville Conference and being invited to pray in a charismatic way I never had and I was afraid. Another time I was with friends at a bar and a less than savory topic came up and I laughed awkwardly in the corner instead of standing up for my faith and what I believed was right.

We all struggle with this don’t we? In today’s Gospel Jesus made Peter the head of the Church, and then immediately Peter screwed up by telling Jesus not to do the most important thing in the history of the world. We are among friends here. My beautiful fiance speaks frequently about how she relates to Peter because he denied Christ three times and she hesitated to become Catholic three times.

The Holy Spirit is active in our world and God has a very specific purpose for you. Ok, now stop for a second. Read that again very slowly. Take a few minutes to pray through it. Let it sink in. Let the fact that God has a plan for you be more than just a cute phrase to print on a pencil and hand out to youth group.

God has a special plan for you! So how do we live this pan out? Well thankfully the answer is in the very same Gospel. Jesus rebuked Peter saying you do not think as God does but as human beings do. In order to realize God’s plan and live it we need to trust and pray. We need to trust that God really does see us and want to know us personally and we need to pray because without speaking to God how will His plan become clear in our hearts.

How are you going to pray and trust more today? Something I have been doing in my life is if I ever feel a prompting of the Holy Spirit I just immediately act on it. Instead of standing there wondering if it is God or not, I just trust and reach out to that cashier who seems to be having a hard day, that person at the gym who needs help lifting, the coworker who seems stressed. The worst that can happen is we encounter another person and help them in their walk closer to heaven. Pray and trust. Peace!

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.

Respond To The Suffering Near

There are a handful of times when I remember God made his plan pretty clear to me. The first time was when I was on my eighth grade confirmation retreat. The retreat leader, Tony Bellizzi, led us through a meditation during which Jesus gives us a gift. My gift was music, I was sure of it!

Six months later, I auditioned for Full Armor Band; I’ve been keeping time since summer 2007. All through high school and college, at a time when I really asked “what am I supposed to be doing with my life?”, I heard so many different answers: “you should be a teacher.” “you should be a nurse or PA.” All of these were suggested for the pragmatic reasons: they make money.

But I never forgot about that retreat meditation and how my heart truly longed to write and play music. It wasn’t until failing out of a competitive Physician Assistant program and going through a bit of a depression when I finally decided to follow God’s promptings in my heart to play music.

On All Saint’s Day of 2013, the priest at Mass said in his homily that “a saint is a person who follows God’s plan for their life.” After Mass, I met my mom at my dorm, packed up my things and I went home so I could pursue what I believed to be God’s plan for my life: music!

And I did! My band really expanded our territory, I grew as a songwriter and we collaborated to write an album (which was groundbreaking for us).

However, there were large intervals of time between our trips and writing sessions, so I had to go back to my high school job as a petroleum transfer engineer
(aka gas attendant).

I thought I was just kind of waiting for my band to get more attention… until I found myself interviewing for the position as a person who provides support to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. And the only reason I did is that I was praying during mass in front of a family with a son who has autism (and slightly more, but that’s a story for a different time).

I have been doing the job now for 2 years. If you asked me five years ago if I’d be interested in working with individuals who have autism or down syndrome, I may have said that I’m confident God is calling me to do music and that is where my focus and energy should stay.

But when I heard the suffering and need of those in my community, in my church, I was sure that God was calling me to serve in this way as well.

In the Gospel, it seems like this is Jesus’ mindset: At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,

“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

Firstly, He didn’t even answer her. And near the end of this section, he compares ministering to her as taking food from children and giving it to dogs.


Jesus, what’s the deal?! I thought You were supposed to be the sandal-wearing, long-haired hippie “love everyone” kind of guy?

But this passage seems to be an interesting account of Jesus growing in His humanity and understanding of God the Father’s plan for Him to live and die for all, not just the Israelites.

He knew He was here for “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But plans seemed to change when He recognized those that were crying out for Him.

However confident we may be in God the Father’s plan for our life, there seems to be a perennial opportunity to be surprised at how little we know of what He wants.

But the message seems clear;
Respond to the suffering near.

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.

Do We Get The Message?

Today’s short Gospel seems simple, but it is packed full; we should take it one step at a time so nothing is missed.

First, we note that it is the disciples of John the Baptist who are asking the question. They are trying to make sense of this new rabbi. They have aligned themselves with John, who is clearly a prophet, and they adhere to the common (and important) Old Covenant practice of frequent fasting. It is logical for them to ask why Jesus and his disciples do not fast, when clearly it is the right thing to do – the Pharisees fast, and so do John’s followers.

Jesus does not make excuses. Instead, as he often does when confronted by those who do not yet understand who he is and what he has come to establish, he shifts the perspective. “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” This would make little sense as an answer to their question, except that it is Old Testament language which his hearers would have recognized; the prophets often referred to Yahweh as being betrothed to His people. By calling himself the Bridegroom, Jesus is saying that the time of betrothal is over and the wedding feast is about to begin – he is declaring that he is God, the Bridegroom of his beloved people.

But Jesus goes farther, with more Old Testament references. According to Psalm 102, the Old Covenant was scheduled to “wear out like a garment”; Jesus brings something completely new, which cannot be simply part of a patchwork on that old worn out garment. It is like new wine, which cannot be put into old wineskins without bursting them.

Jesus has shifted the discussion so that John’s disciples might open themselves to see something new here. John the Baptist had made clear that he was not the Messiah, but was only preparing the way for him; in one sense, it was his task to help the Jews be open to the newness Jesus was bringing. The abundance of grace Jesus brings in establishing the New and Eternal Covenant cannot be contained within the structured limits of the Old Covenant. Did they get the message? The Gospel doesn’t tell us what John’s disciples thought of Jesus’ answer.

Jesus invites all of us to open ourselves to new possibilities, new opportunities, new manifestations of the Spirit, new apostolates in every age, to face the challenges and sins of every generation. Do we get the message? Have we personally glimpsed the awesome newness of life that Christ came to bring, and that he brings to us continually in the sacramental life of the Church? Are we convinced that the Good News is really good enough to share with others? Are we open to the surprises of God?

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.

Preaching The Transfiguration

The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord is not a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church. It is, however, written about in all three synoptic gospels: Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-9 and Luke 9:28-36. A Transfiguration account is also read on the second Sunday of Lent each year, proclaiming Christ’s divinity to the Elect in the RCIA process, as well as to those of us who are baptized.

I humbly submit that my words cannot come close to any of the reflections you may hear on this great feast day. I do, however, have a selection of  very good homilies you may like to listen to:

Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Aug 6, 2014, some wonderful insights in this homily addressing a gathering of Knights of Columbus. He has such a beautiful way of bringing in his personal experiences and relating them to the scripture. He speaks about a time with Pope Francis and also the transformative experience of St. Francis of Assisi with the leper.

Fr Joseph Mary, MFVA, has a wonderful homily which speaks about the source of unity through Jesus Christ in many great illustrations of community around us. If you don’t want to listen to the readings and psalm, scroll to the 8:45 time stamp on the Youtube video from the EWTN broadcast a few years ago.

Fr. Alex Valladares, from the Archdiocese of Mobile, has a powerful homily that looks at the Transfiguration. The actual Transfiguration probably occurred between 2 high feasts of the Jewish faith, Yom Kippur, or the Feast of Atonement and the Feast of the Tabernacles, Sukkot, which is also called the Feast of the Booths. This too, was broadcast on EWTN, and if you would prefer not to hear the readings of the day, start at 8:28 into the feed.

I don’t know if I have a favorite of the three. Each homily is so very different. That’s what draws me deeper into my faith. Each and every time I hear or read scripture or listen to a homily, the experience is unique and strikes me in ways that may not have resonated with me during my last hearing. What is a homily you enjoyed? Go back and take a listen to it. Although the same words, you may hear something entirely different.

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

Bread Of Life

He opened his eyes, a crescent of light flooding the landscape of his vision. Heat, heat like was never felt before and dryness like an overcooked clay pot. He looked around as he took his first breath. His legs shaking like a newborn deer as he made his way to the first figure he could see. “Excuse me sir,” he cried out. No answer. “Sir, do you have any water?” Still nothing. Frustrated by the lack of compassion, he looked around and realized he was somehow with the Israelites right after God had led them out of Egypt. Suddenly, a sharp pain in his stomach. He needed water and food but nobody seemed to be able to see him. The more he cried out the more desperate he became.

How unfair that he would be placed here. His life back home was not perfect, but this was worse than anything. Why would God lead him here without a plan, without support, barely clinging to life? Without food and water he would surely die soon. Those around him seemed to be in a similar predicament.

In the distance he heard one of them crying out, “Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!”

It was as if they were taking words from his mouth. Finally, a cloud opened and a booming voice provided an answer, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”

It happened just as was foretold. Manna came down like the dewfall and he was able to eat his fill. Day after day he was fed by this miraculous bread, but it wasn’t enough. Eventually he became spiteful, he wanted so much more. If this God was so good why would He continue sending the same old bread? No seasoning, barely palatable. Darkness.

Light like that of a thousand suns. He now found himself comfortable on the side of a hill, his fingers grazing through the soft grass. As he gained composure he noticed thousands of people around him all waiting to be fed. He noticed again that his hunger was insatiable, but only five loaves and two fish for this entire crowd? Impossible to say the least. He doubted that which he could not understand. Then, there came a great commotion in the crowd. Bread was being distributed to all, somehow he would not go hungry. He ate and it fulfilled him for a time, but he eventually became fatigued again. A figure stood in the distance and said, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” He did not know the full meaning of this phrase, but he knew that this was the bread he was searching for. A bread that would truly satisfy. A bread that would change him from within and make him immortal. A bread that would leave nothing to want. In desperation for the very thing he cried out to God, “Please Lord, give me this bread of life.” Darkness.

Light and the ringing of bells as his eyelids opened almost like a door to a new world. Singing like that of angels rang through the building he found himself in. A rough hand suddenly grazed his shoulder motioning him up and forward. He knew not where he was being led, but it somehow felt familial. Suddenly, from the back of his mind a phrase leapt forward, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” He drew closer. As his eyes adjusted he realized he was in a church at what appeared to be a wedding ceremony. He had left the reserved seat and was now walking forward, but only a blurry figure stood where the bride and groom would exchange their vows. He continued forward as something overcame him. A feeling like that which he had just experienced moments before. It became too much and he fell to the ground as he proclaimed, “I believe!”

Normally darkness and confusion would set in at this point, but everything became lighter. Like a thousand bright candles had just been illumined all at once. His whole being began to float as he rested in this ecstasy. Oh pure bliss, oh joy unbounded! Immortality was finally his as fear and anxiety melted away. Faster and faster he flew into the heights of this unknown spectacle, his hair flowing freely in the breeze, symbolizing his own newfound freedom. Finally, HE WAS HOME! 


This is the story of a man who constantly doubted the goodness and power of God. A man who felt he would be better off at times on his own. A man who was searching for fulfillment in all the wrong places. A man who had to trust and believe in order to truly live. Who is this man? This man is me. This man is you. 

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.

The Real Audience

“Do not try to please everybody. Try to please God, the angels, and the saints – they are your public.”

– St. John Vianney


Today is the memorial of St. John Vianney. While I do not know very many details of his life it is apparent that he has made a great impact in the Church. Growing up in a Catholic family, living amongst war in France, and eventually becoming a priest he always devoted his life to God. The quote above is a pivotal message for all of us, and St. John Vianney lived this through his vocation to the priesthood and by serving the poor (a value of which his family instilled while he was growing up).

Today I look for inspiration from the above quote given by this beloved saint. How often do I try to please everyone else? I can tell you the answer is all the time. While I want to please God I know that I am always worried about what others think. Whether it is regarding my conversion to the Catholic faith or the openness to life that my fiance and I will have when we get married it is hard not to face scrutiny for living a life for God when we live in a culture that is so unaware of their need for God.

As we go about life, trying to follow the will of God, we must keep our eyes on Christ and know that we are living for the Kingdom rather than the temporary state we have here on Earth. While we live in the state of historical man, as St. John Paul II calls our state after the fall of Adam and Eve, we are called to live in a way that leads to sainthood: our state in Heaven called eschatological man.

It is tough going into the world. Everyday I have to remind myself that I live for God. Although I often forget this He will remind me of the fact that He is my audience with gentle reminders of His presence. Life is so fast paced, with various demands placed upon us day in and day out. We can choose to live in anxiety about what others think of us on a daily basis or we can choose to let Love reign in our hearts and daily work. Be encouraged to know that God is with you and that He will give you the grace to follow Him, to make Him and all of Heaven your audience. Rejoice as Heaven cheers you on in this race of life.

“In Christ and through Christ humanity has acquired full awareness of its dignity and the meaning of its existence.”

-St. John Paul II


Nathalie Hanson is a special education teacher and a joyful convert to the Catholic faith with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD.  Nathalie is engaged to her best friend, Diocesan’s Tommy Shultz, and she is beyond excited to become Mrs. Shultz this October. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at rodzinkaministry@gmail.com.