Hope In Suffering

Today is Trinity Sunday and the readings today make me recall all that God has brought me through in the past year: my OCD diagnosis, my doubts and fears of life transitions he has brought my way, and ultimately the hope He has instilled in me through all the trials and sufferings.  

Suffering is a huge gift, and we as Catholics believe this. While this is counter cultural in our society, as the world prefers to have things happen with the least amount of suffering possible, it is important that we spread the Good News that is born anew through this suffering. When we suffer, we realize just how small we are, and how great God is. The Lord is the foundation of everything, we can do nothing without Him. Suffering reminds us to redirect our hearts to Him and join our sufferings with the Cross and His most Sacred Heart.

Everyday is a battlefield within me as I am going through OCD.  While I have the loving support of those that care about me I am always my worst enemy. I get in my head and worry what others think about me, I am anxious that bad things will happen to the ones I love, I struggle with scrupulosity, and I always worry about the future. These obsessions come out through my compulsions of checking that everything is off and locked in my home, along with other daily rituals.

Sometimes I feel so trapped within myself as I suffer, and so tired of keeping up the good fight. When I begin to face these struggles I remember the words of my spiritual director, Fr. James Adams. He reminded me during one of our marriage preparation sessions that God has a plan for me that includes the suffering of my OCD by asking the question, “Have you ever considered that your OCD helps you to be more like Christ?” Ever since this question my life has changed, my suffering has become a gift, and God has brought me back to the fundamental truth of how much I need Him.

Whatever your cross is to bear in this life, be encouraged. God desires to work miracles through you with the cross He has given you, the suffering that you are enduring. Remember that no matter how dark it may seem at times in life the Lord is a great beacon of light, the Light of the World. Continue to unite your sufferings with the Crucifix, allowing God to make you new and Christ like through your suffering. Know that the Spirit is working within you at this very moment, and will help you to eternal life. As St. Paul says in today’s second reading from Romans 8,

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

Live in the hopeful anticipation of being one with Christ, hope for eternal life, hope for the day when we can finally gaze upon the face of our Lord.


“We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!”

~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.

Like Children Before God

What kind of man is this, who speaks with authority yet is so approachable that the young mothers and children come near to be touched and blessed by him? This is no stern and critical Rabbi, judging and joyless! In this Gospel, we can easily share the view of those who watched him and listened to him speak the Good News: Jesus must surely attract with his joy and sincerity, tenderness and mighty calm, kindness and self-giving love.

These children and their mothers are confident Jesus will receive them, even as the disciples are rebuking them and shooing them away, no doubt trying to protect the Master from those who seem to them no more than a nuisance.  In contrast, Jesus does not rebuke those who swarm him to be touched, but becomes indignant and rebukes the disciples for trying to prevent them, because his heart is moved by their innocent eagerness to draw near. Jesus wants to embrace them and bless them!

Jesus then opens the activity of this moment to teach a profound lesson: “the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” This must have surprised the disciples. The religious leaders they knew were nothing like children! They were rather decidedly not childlike – Jesus himself said they were full of greed and self-indulgence (Mt 23:25-6); they were like “whitewashed tombs…full of dead men’s bones” (Mt 23:27-8); cut from the same cloth as those who murdered the prophets of old (Mt 23:29). This is far from childlike.

What could Jesus have meant by telling the disciples that “whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it”? What does it mean to be childlike in regard to God? We must distinguish between childlikeness and childishness: the childish refuse to grow up; the childlike mature and yet retain – or return to – the attitude of a child before a loving Father: trust, wonder, joy, love.

Childlikeness is the trust that we reach beyond the limit of our self-reliance and self-assertion; it is the ability to wonder that is found beyond our demand for proof and explanation; it is the joy that is experienced when we let go of the questions and fears that hold us captive within the confines of our own skulls; it is the love we give freely beyond conditions and reasonings.

The children are drawn to him. The young mothers trust him with the children they love. And Jesus always touches and embraces and blesses those who are open to his presence in their lives.

“The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these”: those whose hearts are transformed to be like the Son’s own Heart by drawing near to him so that they are full of childlike joy and wonder and trust in the Father’s never-failing love and mercy. It is this loving trust and openness that frees us to accept the Kingdom of God.

Kathryn Mulderink 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 Fair, Be Safe, Be Kind

“Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged.” (James 5:9)

The first line of today’s first reading hit me like a rock right between the eyes. I consider myself one of the world’s worst offenders in this department. I’m such a groaner! When someone doesn’t think like I do, or act the way I think they should, or dress in a certain way or rubs me the wrong way, I complain to my close-knit circle. But what does complaining have to do with judging? Complaining often turns to criticizing and criticizing to judging. It’s a vicious circle.

One Lent, instead of giving up sweets or coffee, I decided to give up complaining. Let me tell you, I spent a lot of time in silence! It was one of my most challenging Lents. I never would have fathomed how often I would have to bite my tongue. It helped me to realize how I was called to follow the example of our Lord to be “kind and merciful.” (Psalm Response)

This is the first year my husband and I have had a child attend school and it has been a whole new venture for us. We have learned so much, but one of my favorite things has been the school motto: “Be Fair, Be Safe, Be Kind”. Not only have I been able to use it as a teaching tool with my preschooler, but I have repeated it to myself over and over again as well. So often I have to remind myself to be kind. And kindness doesn’t only mean biting my tongue or not criticizing, it also means stepping out of the bounds of my complacency and giving that compliment or flashing that smile or voicing that exuberant “thank you”.

It takes a significant effort to forgo complaining and be kind, but no one ever said it would be easy to follow Christ on the straight and narrow path. We make that choice because we love Him and because we long to spend all eternity with Him. So upward and onward, my friends!

“Merciful and gracious is the Lord,

Slow to anger and abounding in kindness…

As the heavens are high above the earth,

So surpassing is his kindness…

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

Causing Scandal

On the internet there are a lot of jokes, tweets and memes that touch on the topic of cutting toxic people off. These social media commentaries are all about cutting bad friends, ex-boyfriends, etc., out of your life without ever looking back. So then, this begs the question: Is today’s reading giving us permission to cut people out of our lives? Is he giving us the magical solution and telling us how to say, “bye, Felicia” to mean people? Is this the bible-given answer on how to do this?

I thought so at first. Then as I read closer I realized…hmm…strange…today’s Gospel doesn’t seem to mention personal vendettas against people. Nor does it talk about banishing evil people from your presence.  Also, it’s definitely not about cutting your coworker out of your life because they stole your parking spot three weeks ago. In fact, the Gospel reading isn’t about others at all. It’s about cutting our own evil out of our lives.

Jesus begins by saying that anyone who does good will be rewarded, most likely with the best gift of all. The gift of everlasting life…entering those pearly gates…joining Jesus and the saints in heaven…meeting our Heavenly Father. But Jesus quickly moves on to say that anyone who causes others to sin should be weighted with rocks and thrown into the ocean to die. In fact, he literally says that if we lead others to sin, we may “go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.” Yes, that’s right. Jesus just told sin-spreaders to go to hell.

Now, as someone who has only lived for 24 years, I may not know much, but I do know that going to hell is the complete opposite of my entire life’s goal. Now that I know this reading is not about cutting others out of my life, but my own personal bad habits, I feel a little scared. As most people, I don’t deeply reflect on how my bad habits affect others. I mean I know if I tell my brother to skip Mass, I am the cause of his sin, but I never considered the effect of my own decision not to go.

For example, I know that if I tell my brother to skip Mass and stay at home to binge watch a show, I am the cause of his sin. What I do not consider is if it was my own choice to skip Mass, and he did too, although I did not ask him to, that I would be the cause of his sin. Although not verbal or physically causing others to sin, the example of our lives may.  

Thinking harder, I wonder how many times I started a conversation with the intention of picking a fight, or how many times I caused others to gossip or curse just because I was. All these times, I was doing exactly what Jesus warned me of.

So the next time you’re about to tell your friend some juicy gossip, remind yourself that you would rather not be the kind of person who Jesus tells to go to hell. Instead, cut yourself off mid-sentence and be an example of Christ. Be the person who glorifies God and receives the gift of everlasting life.

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.

Words Matter

I have decided to start a campaign to reclaim the meaning of words.

Adorable does not mean cute (I’ll get to that word later) and scandal does not mean worthy of a newspaper headline.

The Catechism defines scandal as:

“Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged.”

Ouch! I don’t need to be a big public figure to cause a scandal. Anytime anyone who knows I am Catholic sees or hears me do something unworthy of Jesus Christ, I am causing a scandal by my poor example.

Today’s readings reminded me of how often I am guilty of doing just that and the Catechism reminds me of just how serious it is.

I was raised in a culture of back-handed compliments. “She is so pretty, if only she’d do something with that hair.” “He is so smart, if only he would channel it properly.” The habit around these comments is to agree with something like, “She is so, so pretty. Just think how pretty she’d be if she wore her hair down once and awhile.” “He is smart as a whip. It’s too bad all he does is play video games.”

Couched in these seemingly innocuous comments are some pretty treacherous undercurrents. After all, I said she was pretty. I acknowledged he was smart. I see their gifts therefore, I tell myself, I am a positive uplifting person.

But, I am not seeing people as God sees them. I want to make them over in my image rather than seeing His image already in them.

That sounds pretty ridiculous when laid out in black and white, doesn’t it?

Yet, how often do we do just that? “He is so dedicated and puts in so much time on the finance council, but if he really wanted more people to come to Church, he’d make sure they just….” “Our DRE is such as sweet lady and works so hard, but if she really cared about kids, she’d make them memorize the …” “I just love our pastor, but if he really wanted families to come to Mass, he’d make his homilies more…”

Today’s readings speak right to this very human tendency. In James we hear, “You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.” Ouch again. My ego doesn’t like that one. “But now you are boasting in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin.”

In the Gospel, John is so bold to approach Jesus and tell him about how someone else was working in Jesus’s name, (and I am paraphrasing here) “but don’t worry, we took care of it. We told him to knock it off, because he is not one of us.” But rather than Jesus saying, “Thanks, Dude, we gotta make sure we keep this in house.” Jesus tells him, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”

“Whoever is not against us is for us.”

I think we forget that, especially as leaders in our faith. Sometimes we feel like we are in competition. We have to compete for room in the budget, for numbers of volunteers, for having our ministry talked about, for meeting the unlimited needs which pull on our limited resources. It becomes easy to forget that those who are not against us are for us. In other words, we are on the same team. And every time we use the word “but” when talking about others, we are tearing down, not building up.

At a leadership conference recently, we were reminded that ‘What we tolerate, we endorse.” When we listen to others talk this way, we are causing a scandal by indirectly encouraging the tearing down of our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter how nicely it is couched. When we, out of tiredness or frustration or whatever, make these kinds of comments ourselves, we are directly guilty of scandal by encouraging those around us, by our example, to commit the same sin.

How do I know this? I have had to take my own tendency to give back handed compliments to confession time and again. Today’s readings have challenged me once again to examine my own behavior.

As a matter of fact, I wonder what Father is doing this afternoon. It might be time to confess and start again. I am so grateful that both Father in the confessional and Our Father in Heaven are so patient with me.

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/

Two Minds, Fractured Heart

“Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

“Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity . with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world  makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that the Scripture speaks without meaning when it says, The spirit that he has made to dwell in us tends toward jealousy?  But he bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says: God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”

“So submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds. Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.”

 The first reading is clear yet difficult to read.

“Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God?”

Ouch! The first time I read this it kind of stung.

Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.”

I’m confident that God invited me to be a part of this blog series because it is important that I reflect on these words.

When the opportunity to write for this series was presented to me, I first thought,

“Yes! I can lend my gift of writing to a larger audience.”

And there was also the sense of legitimacy, to feel like someone wanted my craft to be a part of their project. And there was a feeling that maybe I am called to write because Christ is present to me in an exemplary way.

And then I read these words:


you of two minds.”

When I first read this passage, I intended to finish it quickly. But I was floored, totally called out. I am an adulterer; I am of two minds. Praise God for James for lovingly convicting us of our sin. But more importantly, he leads us to hope.

“So submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

 God wants to be close to us, and we can be.

How can we do that?

“Humble yourselves before the Lord.”

Humility. Exactly what Jesus exemplified in giving over His life.

Be humble.

Be like Christ.

Be close to Him.

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.

Our Mother and Reason for Hope

Everyone needs a mother, and actually, everything needs a mother. Everything has a genesis, a backstory, a context. And very often when we really want to understand anything we try to look for the root.

In my religious community, we’ve grown accustomed to asking “who is the mother of this?” The this could be a reference to anything as small as a misplaced book to a project in the apostolate. But the intention is the same. We are asking “who takes care of this?” or “to whom does this belong?”

This sense of beginnings, rootedness, and context provide a rich backdrop with which to take our lives and bring them into conversation with the readings the Church gives to us on this beautiful celebration. Today we celebrate the new memorial feast day established recently by Pope Francis. It is the memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church.

The first reading from Genesis gives us the radiant, unshakable hope of the woman stepping on the head of the ancient serpent. From the time of the Desert Fathers, our Church has understood this prophecy to point ahead to Our Blessed Mother and the definitive Word that put death to death: Jesus Christ, Son of Mary.

The second option for the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, bespeaks the bold hope of those who want to follow the One who chose to humble Himself to the point of death on the cross. Her presence among the frightened apostles in the upper room can become a solid part of our identity as beloved sons and daughter of God and members of His Body, the Church.

Mary, Mother of the Church is our sure mother, teacher, and queen even in darkness. The darkness brought upon the world by the sin of Adam and Eve is definitively crushed by our victor, queen who crushes the head of Satan. The dark moment of Christ’s death on the Cross is not only overcome by His resurrection, but Our Mother helps the early Church, scared disciples, to pray and wait for the coming of the Paraclete, the advocate promised by Christ Jesus. This Advocate is the one who prays from within our hearts and teaches and reminds us of all Truth.

God could have saved and healed the universe without Our Lady, but He chose to entrust us all to her. Through her, Christ came into the world. Through her, the Church learns how to stand at the foot of the cross. Through her, the Church gains a definitive clarity about her own mission and identity. Just as Our Lady gave her unconditional “yes” in humility and faith to God, so are we the Church called to be the Bride of Christ as St. Paul says. Christ is the head and we, the Church, are members of His Body.

So today as we give praise and thanksgiving to God for the gift of life and all of our blessings, let us remember to adore Him for giving us Our Mother Mary as Mother of the Church. She is there to tell us where we came from and where we are going. In fact, the great Marian Saints have called her the surest and shortest way to the heart of Christ.

May Mary, Mother of the Church bless us all in these days where darkness seems to be looming in the news we read and in the faces of the people who are suffering both in our own neighborhoods and around the world. She is our Mother. She has been given to us by God Himself to be our sure hope. Let us ask her to intercede for each of our needs and for the whole world. And let us take a few moments today with her so she can teach us to love Christ and give Him our unconditional “yes” in humility and faith.

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

Have You Got Spirit?

How often do you hear this phrase? “Our team has spirit”; “Our class has spirit”; “I shopped at my school Spirit Store today and got the Spirit shirt!”. The “spirit” is bandied about so easily. So, I’ll ask the question again in a different way – “Do you have Spirit, THE Spirit?” Well, do you? I’ll answer for you – “Yes, you DO have The Spirit!”. And, boy, does he have a lot to say to you.

The Third Person of the Trinity was sent to the disciples by Jesus to infuse in them the grace and strength they needed to carry on His mission. When reading Scripture and noting that the disciples were simple men who at times seemed somewhat dim witted, it’s a wonder Jesus entrusted His church to their care. But, Jesus sees beyond what we see, and He had the ace in the hole – the Holy Spirit – who would guide and bolster the disciples to give them the right words and actions, strength and faith to push forward his Church.

We, too, can at times be dim witted in our living the Faith. We can forget how to bring our Faith to the world, near or far; how to see the events of the world in light of the Gospel and to act accordingly. If we call upon the Holy Spirit to guide us, we will find our way. The Spirit knows best which direction we should take. I believe the Spirit is the greatest gift Jesus could give us after giving Himself in the Eucharist. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and together they are a force to be reckoned with!

Today is the day to regain the wonder of what happened, both at the original Pentecost and at your Confirmation. The Spirit came to you — the Spirit came to youYes, the Spirit came to you to be your guide, advocate, strength, inspiration, and solace. He came to help you see what is happening in our world, as well as what is in your heart. Jesus is the Way; the Spirit is the means by which we know how to follow the Way. You need only call upon him. It is the Holy Spirt that holds our Church together, and which bears you upon his wings to bolster you in times of doubt.

I’d like to share with you the Litany of Gifts, written by Fr. James Chelich of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Grand Rapids, MI. The Litany ends his Pentecost Novena:

For the gift of Wisdom: that we might take our place as peacemakers in the kingdom of God.
For the gift of Understanding: that we might know the will of God in the events of our life and time.
For the gift of Counsel: That we might put the will of God into practice in our decisions and our actions.
For the gift of Fortitude: that we might show courage in living lives of integrity, advancing the cause of justice.
For the gift of Knowledge: that we might know the pain and suffering of all oppressed and suffering peoples.
For the gift of Piety: that we might find ways to reach out in love to the pain and need around us.
For the Gift of Love of the Lord: that God will disarm our hearts and that the love of God that comes to us in Jesus, Our Lord, might be born within us.

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.

Holy Spirit Come

The readings for today have been challenging me. My initial reaction to the first reading is, ugh, Paul imprisoned for a long time, yet a faithful witness. OK, really not the path I want to see myself taking. However, if God puts imprisonment in my path, then, I’ll follow His lead….gulp!

As for the Gospel, I envision Peter with a toss of his head saying, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus replies with a downward disappointing glance, shaking his head, “What’s it matter to you?… You follow me.” Again, ugh. Me, follow Him, OK, I’m walking that path.

Not to judge others on the way, just focus on Jesus. I can’t always keep focus on the things I have to do today at work, around my condo, in my personal life, in any number of situations. Who am I to judge if anyone else can keep his/her focus on Jesus?

Peter had no right to judge or give a head nod to another disciple. He’ll deny Jesus 3 times! It’s hard having to be constantly vigilant, to love all (through Jesus’ perspective, love one another as I love you). I catch myself trying not to grind my teeth when my button is pushed because of something said by a neighbor, coworker, family member, civic leader and being ready to offer a prayer of patience, love and humility for the one speaking, if I cannot find the words to speak the truth in love at that moment.

I draw strength and fortitude in the fact that today is the day before Pentecost, the 9th day of the Pentecost novena. I need the Holy Spirit to enliven the gifts given to me in baptism in order to follow you, Jesus. I cannot be a good citizen in this world, without your grace and blessings. I need to rely on you in order to follow you.

O Holy Spirit, divine giver of gifts, grant me a servant’s heart so I can place the gifts I have been given at the service of others. Move me to compassion for those around me. Enlighten my ignorance, advise me in my doubts, strengthen me in weakness, protect me in temptation and struggles. Fill me with your holy gifts so I may have success the duties you have set before me, that I may do what is right and just. Help me to grow in goodness and grace. Amen

Beth Price is a Secular Franciscan (OFS) and spiritual director who has worked in several parish ministry roles during the last 20 years. She is a proud mother of 3 adult children. Beth currently works at Diocesan.

Do You Love Me?

As a young adult currently in the “dating phase,” today’s Gospel immediately reminded me of a romantic relationship. I know for a fact that even now, I ask my boyfriend of two years, “Do you love me?” to which he replies, “Of course.” Yet, I do not stop there. I ask again, “Okay, but do you really love me?” to which he replies, “Of course I love you.” When I ask it a third time, he looks at me and says, “Veronica, you know I love you. Every morning I wake up, I choose to love you. Did I do something wrong? Is this because I brushed crumbs onto the floor?”

The same thing would happen if your child were to ask you. After the second time, and especially after the third time, you begin to wonder if you’re doing something wrong. You begin to think of all the times you messed up and wonder if this is the cause of doubt. You elaborate your answer instead of just saying “of course.” You think harder and you come up with more ways to express your love because you know in your heart that you truly do love your child, your spouse, your boy/girlfriend.

I think Jesus knew this natural reaction and used it so that Peter would justify and elaborate on his love for Jesus. It was not that Jesus was feeling insecure about their relationship. As Peter said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” So, we are reminded that it was not Jesus that needed to hear the affirmation, but Peter.

At this point, Peter has already denied knowing Christ three times, before his crucifixion. Jesus has forgiven him, but now that Peter is about about to become the new shepherd of Jesus’ flock, Jesus must ask this again. In agreeing to feed and tend to his sheep, Peter agrees to taking care of all Catholics, for the rest of his life, until the end of his life. Everything he knows was about to change forever and Jesus wanted to make Peter call to mind all the reasons he loved Jesus. This way he remembers all the reasons that would make becoming a leader and dying for his faith, worth it.

So now, coming back to our own lives, I think we need to play both roles and ask ourselves, do I love Jesus? It may feel silly, but how often are we asked these exact words? In fact, it is rare that our words prove anything. Instead, it is our actions that define us.

The first time we reflect upon this question, you may say: Well, yes, of course I love Jesus. I am Catholic, afterall. I go to Mass and I can say the rosary. Yup, I love Jesus.

The second time, consider your response with more thought and vigor. Do I really love Jesus? Take a view at your life and your choices. Do they reflect your love of Christ, or do they show a denial of him?

Finally, ask yourself a third time; Do I truly, honestly, wholeheartedly love Jesus? Do my actions reflect my love of Christ, or do they show a denial of him? Am I like Peter, denying my Lord and Savior in public, just to escape my own persecution? If so, have I moved past the reasons I previously denied him, or is there something that is stopping me from fully accepting the Catholic faith? If so, what is it?

So find a quiet place where you can really reflect upon today’s Gospel and honestly ask yourself: Do I love Jesus? Because he is waiting for me to accept leading others in the Catholic faith, as Peter did. Do I love Jesus? Because he has already forgiven me for denying him. Do I love Jesus? Because he loves me.

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.

Set Free

“For it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains.”

After Readings today’s First Reading, I can’t help but be captivated by St. Paul’s heroic courage.  Paul was in prison. He was handed over to the Romans from Jerusalem, though they found no reason against him.  The Jews objected and made sure he was imprisoned. He remained in prison for two full years. Paul did not spend those two years of his life in despair.  He did not have a season of darkness or doubt.

Paul lived those two years in prison as a season of glory to God.  He lived in full freedom, even with chains upon him. He preached the Good News and proclaimed God’s Kingdom from this place “with complete assurance” and “without hindrance… he taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”  If that does not wildly inspire you-you may need to reread the First Reading. When I genuinely put myself in Paul’s shoes, I am not sure I’d be that courageous. Though it may seem that Paul’s freedom was taken away, it is by the Holy Spirit that Paul was truly free in his imprisonment.  He was free to preach God’s Word. “Now the LORD is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17). Paul is a witness to this truth.  The Spirit of God was with him. He lived in that freedom and offered his chains for the hope of Israel, God’s people.

Today, if you feel like you are living in chains, look to St. Paul’s intercession.  Ask him to pray for you and with you. Today, if you do not know the freedom of the Lord, ask for the Holy Spirit to bring that freedom into your life.  If you are in a season of hardship that feels unending- offer it in hope for His Body, the Church. The story of St. Paul is powerful, inspiring, and heroic.  It is stories like his that bring me so much hope in my journey towards Heaven. Today, let us radically walk with St. Paul. Let us take his hand as we strive to walk true freedom.

St. Paul, pray for us.

Holy Spirit, bring us Your freedom.

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

Consecrate Them in Truth

Consecrate-from the latin, consecrare; to render sacred

Render-cause to be or become; make

Sacred: dedicated to a religious purpose, sanctified, holy

Today’s Gospel is part of what is known as “The Last Discourse” of Jesus. It is Jesus’ high priestly prayer. In it, he begins to speak of his earthly ministry as already a thing of the past. He is interceding to the Father on the behalf of the apostles and the apostles are standing in for all the disciples who will follow; including you and me.

Jesus asks the Father to consecrate the disciples in truth. Jesus desires the apostles (and all those disciples who were yet to come) to be made holy. But not just holy in an abstract sense. Not just holy for use in a Church setting. Jesus asks very specifically for all his disciples to be rendered holy in truth.

All of the major world religions deal with truth. From defining truth as simply the opposite of false to being something to be sought, truth is something to be pointed at. It exists “out there” and religion is often seen as a “search to find truth”.

Only in Christianity, does the God for whom infinity is an attribute, enter into time and space and say, “I am the truth.” When Jesus Christ stepped out of infinity and became a part of creation, a part of finite, sequential time, He sanctified all of creation. The latin term is ‘suspendu’. What was finite and ordinary from the time of Creation, when it exists alongside the person of Jesus Christ, becomes elevated, sanctified, holy.

At the beginning of the Gospel of John, we hear, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Jesus Christ is the Word of God. What does that mean?

God spoke and creation happened. God’s word is powerful enough to make all the world exist, where it didn’t the moment before. This is the stuff that stretches our brains and our hearts.

In Jesus Christ, the words God spoke were made present in the time and space of creation. Because he is God’s own word, Jesus is truth. That means truth is no longer just an idea. Truth is a person, the person of Jesus.

Think about that a minute. This is heady stuff. This is where we become acutely aware that we see through a glass darkly and we long and ache for clarity. Truth is not simply the opposite of false. Truth is not an object to found. Truth is not an abstraction that can be manipulated at will. Truth is a person. A real person who lived and breathed and is accounted for in history. Truth is a man who lived, breathed, died and, as we celebrate in this Easter season, returned from the dead and ascended into heaven.

For us as Catholic Christians, religion isn’t so much a search for truth, religion is an encounter with the person who is truth and in that encounter our hearts are converted, our lives are changed. In the Eucharist, in Sacred Scripture, in each other, we encounter the one whose very thought causes us to exist, that encounter causes us to become, to be rendered sacred.

St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” Our restless human hearts can search widely for truth, but is it only when we encounter it in the person of Jesus Christ, we will come to understand that we are dedicated to a higher purpose. It is in encountering Jesus Christ; we are made holy. In Him, we are truly consecrated in truth and that changes everything.


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/