Gifts From God

Initially, this blog post was about a totally different topic, but as I was searching for my blog post image, I began to think more and more about what I had already written. The image I came across, the image you now see at the top of this post, really spoke to me. With the first reading in mind, it made me think of the gifts that I have received from God and how I have responded to them. Moreover, why don’t I have the same look of excitement, joy, and amazement when looking at my gifts from God? Have I ever looked at my gifts that way?

Unfortunately, my answer is no. 

I hate to admit it, but I have always seen my gifts as something to be shrugged off or a burden. 

My laziness and ungratefulness in using the gifts God has given me remind me of what my coworker once said. “When you work for a painting company and are good at painting, it just means that everyone asks you to help them paint every room in the house.” So, at some point, you stop talking about the fact that you worked for a painting company. You don’t mention that you’re good at painting and have helped others with it. You tell yourself that if someone asks, you guess you can help, but only if they ask first. 

In today’s first reading, Paul, the Apostle, shares his gifts with the Gentiles, spreading the Word of God further than his comfort zone. It’s easy to share our gifts when we want to, on our terms. It requires a lot more faith and trust in the Lord to do things on His terms, to go where He wants us to go. 

Still, the more I look back on my life, the more I am overwhelmed by all of the goodness that God has placed in my life. All of the times I used my gifts for the good of God’s people, not because it’s easy or comfortable for me, I have been rewarded tenfold. The struggles work out. The fear is replaced by peace. Somehow (aka through God’s plan), it all works out. 

I often think back to the powerful words of Pope Francis that I was so fortunate to witness:

“My friends, Jesus is the Lord of risk, of the eternal ‘more.’ Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security, and ease. Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes, and to set out on new and uncharted paths. To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love and wells up in your hearts with every act of mercy. To take the path of the ‘craziness’ of our God, who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbours who feel abandoned. To take the path of our God, who encourages us to be politicians, thinkers, social activists. The God who asks us to devise an economy inspired by solidarity. In all the settings in which you find yourselves, God’s love invites you bring the Good News, making of your own lives a gift to him and to others.” (2016 World Youth Day Prayer Vigil).

Today, I embrace my gifts, as uncomfortable as I may be at first. I want to use my gifts in a way that gives glory to God. I want Jesus, the Lord of risk, to smile down on me as I take each new leap of faith. I want to be confident in the gifts that He has given me and allow myself to be taken out of my comfort zone. The gifts that I have been given are meant to be shared. I want my life to be a gift, spreading excitement, joy, and amazement of God. 

Don’t know what your gifts are? Unsure of what ministry you would flourish in? Take the test!

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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.

Let It Go

Oh, how I’ve been struggling with today’s readings. They appear straightforward, telling us to kneel before God, giving praise and rejoicing, as well as rejoicing among the angels for what was lost (either coin or sheep or sinner) that has been found. Excellent news, right?

Yet in the lines preceding this excellent news, St. Paul is quite blunt. Paul asks why we judge or look down on our brothers and sisters, as each of us will be judged by God. Startled, I went back through the reading several times. What kept popping up in my mind’s eye was my own family and friendships. How many times have I judged or looked down on my family and friends? How many times have I let my own pride come into any given situation and then passed judgment on those who have meant the most to me?

As I continued to reflect on this, I read the Gospel. Here, Jesus addresses the Pharisees and scribes who were also judging, saying (can’t you just hear the disdain of their voices in your head), “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Wait a minute, isn’t this kind of a similar situation as with the older brother from the prodigal son parable? Didn’t the brother’s pride and judgment keep him from seeing the bigger picture about his brother’s return home, which was the whole reason the father killed the fatted calf? Wasn’t the brother lost and then found? The father forgives and rejoices at his youngest son’s return but the brother does not because of the way his little brother treated Dad and the gifts little bro was given.

Herein lies my problem. I’m both the big brother (ok, big sister) and the Pharisees. I have judged and withheld compassion and forgiveness from my family and friends. This is really hitting me hard as plans are being made for Thanksgiving and other upcoming holidays. I continue to forget that forgiveness is a two-way street; God forgives me (unconditionally), and I must also forgive those in my life. If I hold onto my judgments and the injury, I will not be able to move forward and rejoice over what was lost. Healing can’t happen if we don’t let go. Think of it as cleaning a wound. A wound will fester and decay if the infection isn’t removed. If left untreated, an injury or wound can kill us.

I hear the nay-sayers now, exclaiming, “Overreaction!” Think about it, though, timely intervention can save lives, both medically and spiritually. For spiritual healing, I need to bring my righteous judgment, indignation, and hurts to God, my Father, in confession. I have to keep in perspective that my family or friends may have no idea how I feel about the many situations that have been poisoning me for any given period of time. They may not even know that they have hurt me.

With this in mind, I need to ask for sincere healing before I go to receive Eucharist. “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.” These are powerful words, especially in light of the fact that I will never know when this day will be my last day. Honestly, I don’t want to be carrying this kind of baggage with me throughout my daily life, let alone into my eternal life.

I can hear a couple of my kids right now saying, “Don’t be so dramatic Mom.” While the other is saying, “Mom, promise you won’t die soon!” And I have to laugh because I am rejoicing that I have found the lost coin after sweeping my house. I have to remember to keep sweeping so as to uncover those things in my life that I am allowing to poison me and let them go.

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

Jesus Is Not A Magic Genie

Is Jesus a benevolent giver who wants to give you good things? Does He intend to pave your way and keep things running smoothly? Does He want everyone to be happy and get along?

Well, yes and no.

Jesus is not like a genie in a bottle, giving us the gifts we wish for. Jesus IS the Gift and the One Who wants to give us EVERYTHING. He sees all and knows all and has a plan for our lives that is far more awesome than our small imaginations can envision. He wants us to love and serve one another and to live in communion so that others are drawn by our loving faith.

But this all requires something on our part. In fact, receiving everything requires that we surrender EVERYTHING. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us we have to hate our own family and our own life, that we have to carry our cross and give up all our possessions in order to follow Him as His disciples.

We naturally recoil from this kind of demand: How can we surrender everything, hate our own lives, carry our cross, and still be happy?

It’s really just a matter of priorities. What do we value more than our relationship with Christ? We might say “nothing,” but we all hold onto things that are not Christ. We all hold back, out of selfishness or woundedness or fear. For example, do we faithfully keep our Sunday obligation? Or are vacations and ballgames allowed to displace our Sunday Mass?

Do we share and witness our faith to our family and friends? Or do we keep our faith on the “down low” in front of other people because we fear being ridiculed?

Do we give generously to the Church and to others in the name of Christ? Or do we hold back on our giving because we want something for ourselves?

We are not called to actually hate anyone or ourselves, or to give away all our worldly possessions. What we ARE called to do is put Christ first, and be willing to let go of any relationships, habits, activities, and selfishness that we are holding onto. And sometimes, we don’t know what we are holding onto until God asks us to let go of it.

God wants to give us everything, but if our hands are full – if we are not willing to let go of what is not Christ – we cannot open our hands (and hearts) to receive the gifts He longs to pour into us.

Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:30) What parts of our lives do not feel easy? What cross in our lives feels too heavy to bear? And how can we yoke ourselves to Christ so that we bear these things with Him, and learn that through them how He intends to give us every good thing?

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

We Are One Body

I will never forget my first World Youth Day. I really wasn’t old enough to attend at just 13 years of age, but some members of my youth group were going and if Pope John Paul II was going to be in the States, I HAD to be there. Somehow we managed to secure a hotel before each and every room in the city was taken, but we still lived out the pilgrimage experience. We hiked for hours under the hot sun shouldering heavy packs. Water venders were stationed strategically so we wouldn’t dehydrate but still it seemed like we would never get there. Finally, the landscape opened up to a huge flat “park” and already hundreds of thousands of people were looking for a spot to camp out for the night. We planted ourselves quite a ways back from the stage and shared in song, prayer and conversation before falling asleep under the stars. We managed to find a breakfast booth and a port-a-potty before the Supreme Pontiff flew in on a helicopter for the closing Mass. And although we only managed to see him on the Jumbo Tron and hear him through radio, we were there! We were in his presence!

As the years pass, the details fade but there are two aspects I hope to never forget. One was hearing the Holy Father tell us over and over again not to be afraid. I can hear his voice ringing in my ears to this day. In English, with a thick Polish accent he implored us: “Do not be afraaaid. Do not be afraaaid. Dooo not be afraid!” I also remember singing over and over again the event’s theme song “We Are One Body”. We would often hold hands in a long chain or put our arms around each other’s shoulders and sway back and forth as we sang, forming a deep comradery. I truly felt like part of one body with the multitudes of Catholics from all over the world.

Today’s First Reading reminded me of this sacred moment. “We, though many, are one Body in Christ,” Paul exhorts us. He goes on to list specific abilities, talents and ministries. My friends, we all have them. We are all good at something. We all have something to share. But we must remember that those special attributes are all gifts. These gifts are freely given to us by our loving Father in order to then give away freely to others. Paul says: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them.”

And there is where I often falter, in the giving back part. My whole life I failed to fit in. I was always either the “fat girl” or the “goodie two shoes” or the “tattle tale” or the “smarty pants”. My classmates taunted me for wanting to do the right thing. As an adult, my companions aren’t quite that cruel, but the familiar fear nags at my subconscious. What will they think about me? What will they say about me behind my back? Will they think I’m a religious snob, trying to be “holier than thou”? And that is when our beloved St. John Paul II’s voice echoes in my mind, reminding me not to be afraid.

St. Paul goes on to paint a Christian-life roadmap for us:

Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you,
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly.

Let us remember that we are one body and not be afraid to live this out.

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Tami grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. She spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, studying theology and philosophy, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Western Kentucky. She loves tackling home improvement projects, finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby and finding unique ways to love. She works at Diocesan, is a guest blogger on and, runs her own blog at and has been doing Spanish translations on the side for almost 20 years.

The Value of Suffering

“Oh, if only the suffering soul knew how it is loved by God, it would die of joy and excess of happiness! Some day, we will know the value of suffering, but then we will no longer be able to suffer. The present moment is ours.”
-St. Faustina

Have you ever wondered why suffering exists, why we can’t just have constant joy in our lives? The truth is that we can have constant joy, as joy is not a fleeting emotion but rather something that is rooted in our love for God and trusting in His providence. Even amongst the worst times of our lives, we can find joy. This still does not answer the question of why suffering exists, and I would like to try to answer this based on today’s readings.

In the first reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans we hear the following passage:

“Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!” (Romans 11:30-33)

When we experience suffering, a few things are happening. First of all, it is an opportunity to lean more upon God. If things were perfect all the time we would not draw close to Him because we would feel an ability to take care of ourselves – we need God above all, and suffering reminds us of His Almighty power. Secondly, suffering allows for mercy to work in our lives and serves as a witness to God’s love.  

Ultimately, finding joy in suffering is very counter-cultural. This concept is radical to the outside world, but isn’t the love of God, sending His only Son very radical in itself? God’s love for us is a crazy and radical love, therefore it only makes sense that we live in a way that reflects this love – trusting in God’s providence, enduring the suffering, and finding a constant joy amidst the storms of life. Not only will we be witnesses of God’s love but we will be further grateful for the happy times of life and more resilient to endure the tough times by continually relying upon God for everything. 

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!
St. Faustina, pray for us!
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us!
St. John Paul II, pray for us!
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

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

Short Stature, Big Faith

I call today’s Gospel the reading for the short man. I relate to it a lot because I have always been short. Instead of being remembered for his hair color, physique, or heart, he is recognized as being short of stature. But what he lacked in height, he made up for in his faith.

I think today’s Gospel gives us the perfect model for evangelization. Do you ever approach someone, and the only goal you have in speaking to them is to try to get them to turn away from sin and towards Christ? While conversion is always good, I think we should approach people with reverence simply because they are human and deserve respect, love, and interaction before we approach them with an agenda.

Here in the Gospel, we see a simple way of evangelizing. You notice that first, there is an interest. Zacchaeus had heard something about Jesus that sparked his interest. Something was important enough for him to stop and take a look at what was going on. Jesus was performing miracle after miracle, and the word was spreading. In today’s world, I think miracles can be a powerful introduction to the Gospel, and they happen every day. We may not be as in tune with them as we should be, but sit down for a second and reflect how God has done miracles in your life, and then share them. They may be the introduction to the Gospel that someone needs to spark an interest. “A renewal of preaching can offer believers, as well as the lukewarm and the non-practising, new joy in the faith and fruitfulness in the work of evangelization. The heart of its message will always be the same: the God who revealed his immense love in the crucified and risen Christ.” (Evangelii Gaudium 11)

Next, we see an invitation. Jesus notices the interest in Zacchaeus’ heart and invites him into a relationship. You notice that Jesus does not invite him for the sole purpose of conversion, but he wants to enter into his life and walk with him. As Christians, we are called to follow and imitate Christ, but also to invite others into that relationship as well. This could be around food, fellowship, service, or one of the Sacraments. There are many ways to make an invitation, but the important thing is that we don’t leave people in their curiosity, but we invite them deeper. We invite them to move from interest to experience. “The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.” (Evangelii Gaudium 120)

Then finally, we see conversion. You notice here that we do not know what was said that caused conversion in his heart. Maybe nothing was said at all, perhaps just the presence of Jesus was enough to covert Zacchaeus. I think we can learn from this greatly. We often approach evangelization where we think if we just say the right thing or make the correct defense or give the best argument that people will turn to God. This takes conversion away from God and puts it completely on us. But we have to believe that God still works today and wants people to draw closer to his heart. It is not about us; it is about opening people up and letting the Holy Spirit actively work. “The salvation which God has wrought, and the Church joyfully proclaims, is for everyone. God has found a way to unite himself to every human being in every age. He has chosen to call them together as a people and not as isolated individuals. No one is saved by himself or herself, individually, or by his or her own efforts. God attracts us by taking into account the complex interweaving of personal relationships entailed in the life of a human community. This people which God has chosen and called is the Church.” (Evangelii Gaudium 113)

All are given salvation through Christ. We can help make sure they are interested, invited, and open to the workings of the Holy Spirit.
From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!

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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

All Souls Day

Today is the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, which is not a day of obligation. The day (and for many parishes the whole month of November) is a time when we pray for All Souls. We pray for all those who have died in our families, communities, and throughout the world.   

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,  “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (#1030).

“The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire.

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence, we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come” (CCC, #1031). 

This is why we pray for the souls in purgatory; they have not yet come into the glory of heaven. Our prayers can help these souls on their journey. I actually have my own practice of praying for these souls. Many years ago I began to pray a Hail Mary each time I would see a dead animal on the side of the road. I pray for those who have no one to pray for them and for all the innocent lives lost throughout time.

Each year, the several churches I’ve worked at would ask parishioners for handwritten lists of family and friends who have died. These pages are then put in a binder and placed by the paschal candle, which is lit for all the Masses in November. They are also mentioned in our prayers of the faithful throughout the month. It is a heartfelt offering for the souls who cannot pray for themselves.  

We see these days overlap with the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) as they honor the lives of family members with a two-day celebration that coincides with All Saints and All Souls days. 

As we reflect on the lives and deaths of our loved ones, please pray with me a beautiful prayer from Catholic Relief Services for all the faithful departed in purgatory.

All Souls Day Prayer
Merciful Father,
On this day, we are called to remember those who have died,
Particularly those who have died in the past year,
And pray for their joyful reunion with you, their loving creator.
As your son taught us to call the stranger
neighbor, our fallen are many—
Names we will never know,
Voices we have never heard,
In lands we may never visit,
Yet brothers and sisters all.
And so we pray.
For victims of war, caught in the crossfires of
conflicts we could not quell,
for soldiers and civilians,
adults and children, we pray …
Grant eternal rest, O Lord.
For those migrants who have died seeking a
haven where they hoped to find safety
and opportunity for themselves and for their families, we pray …
Grant eternal rest, O Lord.
For victims of hunger, denied their share in the
bounty you have placed before us, we pray …
Grant eternal rest, O Lord.
For victims of AIDS, Malaria, Ebola, and other infectious diseases, who died before adequate care could reach them, we pray
Grant eternal rest, O Lord.
For those refugees seeking asylum from war,
who died in a land that was not their home, we pray …
Grant eternal rest, O Lord.
For victims of emergencies and calamities everywhere,
who died amid chaos and confusion, we pray …
Grant eternal rest, O Lord.
Lord, as you command, we reach out to the fallen.
We call on you on behalf of those we could not reach this year.
You raised your son from the dead
that all may share in his joyful resurrection.
In Jesus’ name, we pray …
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescant in pace. Amen

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

Feast of All Saints!

Catholics are a curious group. More than any other Christian believers, they have a culture filled with saints. They name their children after saints, they invoke them in their speech, and they have holidays for them.

Yet, if asked, any given Catholic is not likely to sign up for sainthood. After all, in spite of their ubiquitous presence in Catholic culture, saints are a little suspicious. How could a ‘real’ person–one who enjoys the pleasure of food or drink, or Notre Dame football, whose life is marked by bursts of temper and a preference of friends over the needy–be a saint? No, thanks. Sainthood requires works of charity, continuous prayer, and a generally austere life. We’ll leave sainthood for the spinsters and milquetoasts, whose vocation is akin to being a doormat. Or maybe to the wild-eyed prophet who rebukes society for its excesses, and whose ascetic life justifies his self-righteousness.

Of course, it’s possible that our suspicions about saintliness are wrong. Perhaps the saints are actually people who have the most fun and are the most like what we all long to be. Maybe they just know something we don’t.

In his book, A Third Testament, 20th-century journalist Malcolm Muggeridge calls saints “God’s spies.” Like the “stay-behind agents” in occupied France, the saints are on a mission to ‘relate their time to eternity.” Muggeridge writes:

This has to be done every so often, otherwise, when the lure of self-sufficiency proves too strong, or despair too overwhelming, we forget that men need to be called back to God to rediscover humility, and with it hope. Between the fantasies of the ego and the truth of love, between the darkness of the will and the light of the imagination, there will always be a need for a bridge and a prophetic voice calling on us to cross it.

If we let them, the saints will use their voices to call us. But we need to get to know them, in order to understand the joy that they embraced.

One of the first places to become acquainted with the saints is in Scripture. The stories of the Old Testament are stories of God speaking to individuals and how those individuals respond to God. It is one of the best places to lose the notion that the saints are just goody-goody. Jonah running away from God’s leading, or Balaam beating his donkey, or David turning from God to adultery and murder are not stories of sweetness and light.

Yet when God called these people to Himself, they believed in His love and mercy, named their sins, and repented. Saints aren’t people who don’t sin; they are people who believe in God’s forgiveness.

Well, good for them, but what does this all have to do with me? The Church teaches we can have communion with these saints, who, unlike us, contemplate “in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is.” (CCC 954). We may not understand his will or how to pray. But the saints do, and, just as we ask our friends and family on earth to pray for us, we can ask those in glory to pray for us as well. The Catechism describes their role:

The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom,especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were ‘put in charge of many things.’ Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world. (CCC 2683).

The ‘example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today’: these are the gifts the saints can give us. Knowing their life stories can show us that our difficulties are not unknown to God and not impossible to overcome. Reading their writings can teach us lessons that may not be popular in our culture and our time. And asking for their intercessions will join us to the Church Triumphant, who already lives in the presence of God and serves God’s plan perfectly.

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Pamela Pettibone joined Diocesan’s staff in 2006, after a number of years in the non-profit sector. Her experience is in non-profit administration including management, finance, and program development, along with database management and communications. She was a catechist in her parish RCIA program for over 15 years, as well as chairperson of their Liturgy Commision. Received into the Catholic Church as an adult, Pamela’s faith formation was influenced by her Mennonite extended family, her Baptist childhood, and her years as a Reformed Presbyterian (think Scott Hahn).

If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?

“What comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” (A. W. Tozer)

The first sentence in today’s second reading would be enough. Because the reading goes on, we miss it. “If God is for us…” There. Stop right there….

Do you wake up every morning ready to proclaim, “God is FOR US! God is FOR ME!” How about this morning? Do you feel yourself backing away even now from such a proclamation? After all, the “anguish, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and the sword” that Paul later talks about might make us wonder if God is actually on our side. If he does in fact care about us.

Life beats us down, and in today’s world, we can feel this weight of anxiety more than ever. But Paul cries out: “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” Not these burdens! No, he says, “in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.”

For if God is FOR US, nothing is as powerful as God. If God says he cancels the condemnation against us, then no one else can condemn us.

The stuff that scares you cannot separate you from this love of God that has been shown to us in Jesus Christ. Even as you carry your cross, you can proclaim the victory of the cross!

So what has happened to you, or someone you love, that’s caused you to lose heart, to be swept away by the storm? Where do you feel abandoned? What have these done to your trust in God?

For many, many years following a serious illness, I questioned God’s love for me. I even questioned God’s very existence. I glowered at him from the back of the chapel while I was supposed to be praying (I’m sure God took that as a prayer….).

I never received a revelation or vision. I one day simply realized I was no longer thinking that way. In a very silent and hidden way, God had convinced my heart that he was there for me and that everything was okay. And I’ve never questioned it since. I have seen again and again that each of the unhappy events that have broken into my life have truly blessed it. It may have taken me years to be able to receive the blessing, but now I absolutely know that even when things are not okay, they are still okay.

My friend, God is FOR YOU! Every morning, wake up with this cry! In the words of the responsorial Psalm:

“I will speak my thanks earnestly to the Lord,
And in the midst of the throne I will praise him,
For he stood at the right hand of the poor man,
To save him from those who would condemn him.”

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Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey.


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Where Does Goodness Come From?

There are days when everything goes ever-so-slightly wrong, aren’t there? When you feel you’re just not paying attention? I have those days fairly frequently. I snap at someone I care about; I’m oblivious to the person behind me in the checkout line who has only one item where I have ten; I oversleep and so skip my morning prayers; I end the day without having contributed anything positive to the world, much less evangelized it for Christ.

And then I read St. Luke’s words and think, there’s no hope for someone like me. How could I possibly think I’m good enough to enter the Kingdom of God? Jesus himself says it—the gate is narrow, he won’t recognize evildoers at the end, people will be cast out.

I’m in trouble here.

No matter how hard I try, those moments, those days, of inattention and lack of charity, of sensitivity, of kindness—they’re always with me. Just when I’m feeling the most in control, just when I’m feeling I have this faith thing down, that’s when all those demons rear their ugly heads. And it’s overwhelming.

Maybe a clue to my problem is in what I just said, that bit about “having this faith thing down.” Wait—you’re really that complacent? Maybe you should dial down a little of that hubris and give some thought to what your faith is about, rather than congratulating yourself on having it.

If I really think about my life, I’ll realize it’s made up of both those things—of having faith and living it out, and then quite often squandering it, becoming dangerously close to the people Jesus is talking about, those who are “not strong enough.”

And then… enter St. Paul. While he spends time in many of his letters urging the various communities of faith to buck up, as it were, to crack on, he occasionally shares words of incredible comfort. Today’s reading is one of those times. Listen, he says: I know. You have those days when you do everything wrong. I know. You’re weak in a whole lot of areas. I know. You’re not all that good at prayer. I know all this. But—and here’s where he extends the comfort—the Holy Spirit is with you. The Spirit intercedes. The Spirit will help make you holy. The Spirit will help make you good.

Alone, I am in trouble. But today’s readings are infused with an infinite joy, because they tell me that though the dangers are out there, and I must indeed face them, I am not facing them alone. These readings are about trust. They are about faith. They are about goodness. They are about how God does wonders and how I’d live a better life if I’d just let him work within me.

Which doesn’t mean I’m always going to feel it. One of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, wrote to a young convert some time after his own conversion: “It is quite right,” he says, “that you should feel that ‘something terrific’ has happened to you (it has) and be ‘all glowy.’ Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift. I mean, it is not the sensations that are the real thing. The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least” (The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis).

And there’s the trick. The Holy Spirit is working in us, every day, all the time; but most of the time we’re just getting on with life and aren’t really paying that much attention. Yet, think of it: there is a miracle happening every single day in every single one of us! God has not only sent his Son to live and die for us, he’s left us with the Holy Spirit to guide us, not just when we feel “glowy,” but even and especially when we don’t. When we’re short-tempered and tired. When we’re disappointed and afraid.

And it’s that Holy Spirit, interceding for us, being with us, that brings goodness into the equation. I’d like to think I’m good; and I am, sometimes. I display a casual generosity of spirit when it is convenient. But real goodness? Goodness that not only gives, but gives up? That sort of thing doesn’t fall from heaven in a Glad bag, as my mentor Aidan Kavanagh used to say. That comes from the Spirit.

So, yes: the gates of heaven may indeed be narrow, but we aren’t trying to pass through on our own. The Holy Spirit is on our side, behind every thought and act of goodness and faith we can muster. Even when we don’t feel it. Especially when we don’t feel it.

And that is everything.

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at

Our Present Hope

One of my co-workers, who I admire, gave a talk at our school the other day. He talked about endurance and told us the definition of endurance: to suffer patiently. I’d never thought of endurance that way before, and it really opened my eyes to what it means to endure something: to suffer through something patiently. As I thought about the readings for today, the word hope came to me. Hope is truly my favorite word in the world: “…we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm…” (Hebrews 6:18-19). I think the author of Hebrews is telling the Jews the same thing Paul is telling the Romans in the first reading.

In the first reading, Paul speaks of the sufferings of the present time. Even though he wrote 2000 years ago, his words are still poignant in today’s culture. The sufferings the Church endures today and the division we experience in our culture are “creation groaning in labor pains.” Creation continues to await, with eager expectation, to be set free from slavery and to share in God’s glorious freedom. We suffer patiently because we have hope in the resurrection. It is by placing our hope in Christ and by allowing hope to be the anchor of our soul, that we are able to endure, to suffer patiently through our present age.
This emphasis on hope is present in the Gospel as well. Christ tells a parable in which he compares Heaven to a mustard seed that grows into a large bush. In the same way that the small mustard seed was able to grow into a bush large enough to be home to many birds, so too has the Church grown. The Church started with one man, Jesus Christ, who sent a small group of men, the Apostles, into the world to spread the Gospel. Now, there are over 1.3 billion baptized Catholics in the world; 1.3 billion people call the Church “home.” Our hope now is that the 1.3 billion of us will continue to spread the Gospel to all corners of the world.

May our present hope allow us to endure our present suffering with joy.

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


During Eucharistic adoration with my high school teens last Monday night, I was struck by the word, “called.” We had just finished singing “O Come to the Altar,” where the line “Jesus is calling” is repeated throughout the song. Meanwhile, I continued to sing, “O, He is calling,” over and over again.

After the song was over, a prayer just burst forth from my mouth. I knew He had called us to be present with Him that night. I know He had called every single one of those teens by name to show up. And so I prayed that these teens would embrace their calling and carry this attitude throughout each day of their lives.

Jesus still is calling them. Jesus was (and is) still calling myself, and the other adults present that night too. You see, we each have a calling. Our mission is to build up and proclaim and make present the Kingdom of God here on earth. To share in the mission and person of Christ. And while we each have the same calling, it is very, very different since we each bring our own unique gifts and talents which the Holy Spirit has given us. I work to build up the Kingdom of God different than anyone else.

Today’s Gospel, on the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, is the calling of the 12 apostles. Jesus called them each by name: “Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”

They had the exact same mission that we currently have. And think about the ways in which they failed during and following Christ’s death! Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. None of the apostles except for John stood at the foot of the cross. The apostles cowered in fear in a locked room, afraid of being killed themselves for being followers of Jesus. Disciples encountered the risen Christ on the road and didn’t recognize Him. The apostles were human – so are we. We sin, we make mistakes. And yet, Jesus doesn’t take away our mission because we fail. Instead, He calls us to get back up and to keep working. Perhaps the call is even louder or maybe it is more loving in those situations. But, the point is, the call is still there.

Brothers and sisters, we are called, you and I. My prayer for you is the same prayer I offered for my teens last Monday night, that we embrace the calling the Lord has given us and live it out each day.

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