Presence Matters

I have a 4-year-old at home who is suffering from what I call “accompaniment syndrome”. It may be a form of separation anxiety, or maybe he’s just a momma’s boy but it sure can be trying at times. “Mommy, can you come to watch TV with me?” “Mommy, can you stay in the bathroom until I’m done?” “Mommy, can you sit next to me while I eat?” “Mommy, can you play with me?” All endearing requests if he were the only aspect of my world, but come on! I have 3 other kids and a husband. I cannot be joined at the hip with you all day long!

As I tend to do when I have two or three seconds of silence to reflect, I am able to relate it to my spiritual life. In today’s first reading, Paul was in Corinth, where he met Aquila and his wife Priscilla. It says that he “stayed with them and worked”. He simply accompanied them with his presence. Surely he comforted them, ministered to them and offered them friendship. Isn’t this essentially what my son is asking me to do?

In the Gospel, Jesus is preparing His followers for His Ascension into heaven. He tells them “A little while and you will no longer see me.” He is preparing them for when He will no longer physically accompany them. And they are distraught. In the same way that my 4-year-old whines and cries almost every morning when I have to leave for work, the disciples were mourning Jesus’ absence.  Our presence matters.

While I know that God is always present to me, I often question how present I am to Him. My prayer life is sorely lacking, my patience is gravely thin, and I often don’t even think about my first and one true Love. Even when I don’t make time to pray, even when I have no idea what the readings at Mass were, I can still be present to my God by inviting Him into the everyday moments. Small utterances throughout the day, a plea for help, a complaint, a word of praise, a thank you, maybe even a shared joke or two. What matters is our presence to each other, Him to me and me to Him.

Lord, help me to truly be present to others today and to be present to You as well. Help me to realize that Your presence abiding in me matters to others, and together we can make a difference. Our presence matters…

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Tami grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. Attending Catholic schools her whole life, she was an avid sportswoman, a (mostly) straight A student and a totally type A sister. She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances and finding unique ways to love. 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. Her favorite things to do are finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby, and grocery shopping with a latte in her hand. 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 the past 18 years.

Evangelization 101

Evangelization seems to be a “buzz word” in the faith. Everyone’s heard it. A lot of people seem to be talking about it. We all know it’s part of our Catholic vocation, something we are called to do. But how often are we seeing evangelization in action? When was the last time you saw someone and said, “That’s evangelization. That’s how it’s supposed to be done”? If you don’t have an answer to that question, don’t worry.

Paragraph 905 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes evangelization as “‘the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life.’ For lay people, this evangelization … acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world.’”

A few different things stick out to me here: “the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life” and “in the ordinary circumstances of the world.” We evangelize not only by what we say – the good news of Christ in the Gospels – but also how we act in accordance with His teachings. And we are called to do this in everyday life. Think of the most mundane ordinary circumstance you encounter in a day. Now think of how you can evangelize in that moment. If you need some help, we have a great example in today’s first reading.

Paul stood up in front of the Greek people, probably knowing he was going to experience resentment and dissension, and still began to share Christ’s life anyways. First, he started with what he knew about them, “I see that in every respect, you are very religious,” and then moves on and makes a connection by saying, “what therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.”

From that point on, he began to share what he knew about God with the Greeks: that God made the world, created everyone in it, etc. He continues by referencing poets who were known to have said “‘for we too are his offspring.’” Finally, Paul gets to the heart of his exhortation – that they not idolize divinity but rather repent. A harsh message that was probably not well received among the majority. In fact, some scoffed but others were intrigued by what Paul had said and joined him.

What can we learn about evangelization from Paul? A few basic things. 1) Start with what you know about your audience. One little thing, an aspect of comfort, can be your gateway. 2) Use that knowledge to establish a connection. 3) Share your message, perhaps starting with your more easily received points. Don’t hesitate and don’t dance around it. 4) Return to your knowledge as you continue to establish rapport. 5) Lay it all out on the table, including the most difficult news you may have to share. 6) Finally, extend an invitation to continue the conversation.

Evangelization is going to look different for everyone based on the audience. The way I evangelize to my coworkers is different than the way I evangelize to my youth group kids. It’s a difficult task but a necessary one, a task we all need to take more seriously.

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Erin is a Parma Heights, Ohio, native and a 2016 graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She uses her communication arts degree in a couple of different ways: first, as an Athletic Communications Assistant at Baldwin Wallace University and, secondly, as a youth minister at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Although both of her jobs are on complete opposite spectrums, she truly enjoys being able to span the realm of communications. You can follow her on multiple Twitter accounts – @erinmadden2016 (personal), @bwathletics (work) and @HFVision (youth ministry).

Listen to the Mourning Dove

Most mornings, I awake to the sound of mourning doves on my deck rail. They come around several times a day. Their mournful cooing sound is soothing and relaxing to me. But I have to admit that sometimes I’ve thought they are not a very smart bird. And they look a bit funny. The head never seems to be the right size for the body. However, they give me pleasure in watching them, hearing them, as well as listening to my cat chirp back at them because the doves are “invading her space.”

Do you know the symbolism of the dove? Although usually attributed to the white doves we see as symbols of love at weddings and the Holy Spirit in spiritual depictions, the mourning dove stands for new beginnings and high expectations, deliverance. In fact, the states of Michigan and Wisconsin regard the mourning dove as the official state symbol of peace! These birds represent peace of the most profound kind and are said to soothe and quiet our worried and troubled thoughts, enabling us to find renewal in the silence of the mind.

Today Jesus tells the disciples that he is going; their hearts will be filled with grief. But one is coming, the Advocate, the Comforter, who will show them truth and righteousness. The prince, ruler of the world (Satan) has been condemned. We must believe, and we must listen to the Spirit to know the truth. The Gospel refrain says it all: “I will send to you the Spirit of truth, says the Lord; and he will guide you to all truth.”

You will be hearing a lot in the next few weeks, leading up to Pentecost, about the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. But I would like you to know this – without mindful peace, silence of the heart, and trust in the Lord and the Spirit, we cannot begin to hear the truth as Jesus wants us to. It takes effort to quiet oneself to hear, as much as we must keep our mouths shut and minds open to listen to what someone else is saying to us. It’s not always easy, as our minds tend to begin to formulate answers or arguments before the other stops speaking. We miss a lot.

I find my self-control, whenever I can, when I hear the mourning doves coo. For me, they are a tangible sign of the Spirit, and their sound calms me so that I can hear what the Spirit is saying. I need to know the truth, even when I don’t want to know the truth. Such is the dilemma of the human heart.

The next time you hear a mourning dove, stop for a bit and remember what it represents for you: new beginnings and great expectations; deliverance, comfort, deep peace, truth and a quiet heart.

God Bless.

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Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at

The Way, The Truth, The Life

“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” -Pope Paul VI

“The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you also will testify. Alleluia, Alleluia!”

Witnesses are called to testify to the truth. So, just how are we to testify? Most of us break out in a cold sweat at even the thought of being asked to give “a testimony”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have some big dramatic story about a single event that caused me, a wayward sinner (although I am that!) to see the error of my ways and turn my life over to Jesus. While I think those stories are important to remind us of God’s power, like many others, sometimes God works so quietly that we simply don’t see our story as worthy testimony. So, it bears asking again, just how do we testify?

Today’s Psalms tell us to sing praise with timbrels and harp. Timbrels? A quick internet search describes timbrels as a form of tambourines. Now that’s music that makes you want to smile and move! We are supposed to testify with laughter and Joie de Vie! We testify by how we participate in praise. It doesn’t matter if we can’t sing a note, we testify by singing and adding our unique voice to the symphony of praise that echoes all the way to heaven. Wait, I can testify by something as simple as opening the hymnal and singing along? Really? Absolutely. When we sing together, we testify to our unity in Christ.  

In the first reading, Lydia testifies with her hospitality. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home.”  

We may not be able to physically open our homes to every person we meet, but what acts of hospitality can we show? Through what seemingly tiny gestures can we testify to how much God loves each person we meet? Do they walk away from us feeling a little lighter? Do our actions let them know we care? That they have a God who infinitely cares? When we pay attention to the needs of others, we testify to the power of sacrificial love.

Yet, in the Gospel reading, Jesus doesn’t sugar coat things. He is sending the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who will testify by activity in our community. Others may teach about truth, but only Jesus IS the Truth, the Way, and the Life. (John 14:6) We are called to testify to that Truth by cooperating with the Holy Spirit. Jesus loved those who were considered unloveable and he was condemned and crucified for that act of love. Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit so we can continue His work with those who are passed by, passed over and oppressed in society. By continuing Jesus’s work, by seeking to live as He lived, to love as He loved, we start to testify with every breath, every smile, every decision, every action.

Jesus tells us straight out, that when we live like him, we will be treated like him. Those “who have not known either the Father or me” will not understand either what we do or why we do it. But to paraphrase St. Mother Teresa’s prayer, we will “do it anyway.”

May the Holy Spirit, sent by our Lord Jesus Christ, continue to guide us and strengthen us as we testify, maybe not with dramatic stories, but with all the little moments of our daily lives.

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If you catch Sheryl sitting still, you are most likely to find her nose stuck in a book. It may be studying with her husband, Tom as he goes through Diaconate Formation, trying to stay one step ahead of her 5th and 6th-grade students at St Rose of Lima Catholic School or preparing for the teens she serves as Director of Youth Evangelization and Outreach in her parish collaborative. You can reach her through

Seek What Is Above

Today is my wedding day so the readings I hear at Mass will be different than the ones heard at a normal Saturday Mass. I chose this day on purpose because, in looking at the readings I thought to myself, “How incredibly appropriate for this big day.” Please bear with me and hear me out while I explain my thoughts…

The overarching theme of today’s readings is the universal scope of Christianity. In the first reading, we hear of how Christianity spread to Greece. The humble origins of the Church are always so striking to me. Christ chose normal people, unassuming people as messengers of the Good News. He knew that His message of love and redemption would be spread by people who were on fire because of what they witnessed. The responsorial psalm reminds us that God’s love is universal, it belongs to everybody: “Let all the earth cry out with joy!” His love doesn’t belong to just one people, one time, etc.

I recently read an article with the provocative title of something like “Stop Trying to Make Christianity Relevant”. I read it with the intention of figuring out what the “other side” had to say about the relevance of Christianity. What I read, however, was surprising. It was from a Christian perspective, not from the perspective of someone who was tired of hearing the “Christian narrative”. The author was calling other Christians to lead a more radical life. He reminded us that the Christian life is not easy, it is not made for this world. Rather, it is difficult; there are many trials and obstacles. We must fight many battles and sometimes it seems as though we lose all of those battles. What we must realize in our fight is that our battle is not to win favor in this world, it is to merit the next. Our fight is towards Heaven and against evil. To be a Christian is to be a witness of Christ and to be a witness of Christ is to embrace the Cross of Christ.

Now to bring it back full circle….how in the world is this relevant for a wedding? Well, I work in a very secular environment and I often get questions about why my fiancé and I didn’t live together before getting married. The questions often came in the condescending form of, “Is it for religious reasons?” I found myself wanting to avoid the answer of, “Yes! It is for religious reasons.” Finally, I asked myself why I was so ashamed of that answer and realized that it had nothing to do with being ashamed of my faith but everything to do with how the question was asked. Why would an affirmative answer of “Yes, I do this because of my belief system” be looked down upon? Because, to the world, our faith seems oppressive and restrictive. But the truth is that our faith is incredibly freeing and hopeful! Our faith is based on Truth and Goodness and Beauty. Unfortunately, our world doesn’t recognize that. So, perhaps in our culture, the Cross we bear is weighed down by condescending questions, intolerance, and misguided perceptions of what the Catholic faith truly is.

We, like the Apostles, come from humble origins. We are unassuming people. We work in schools, offices, hospitals, and churches. We encounter people of every race, creed, culture, and tongue. It is our mission to be witnesses of Christ, spread the Good News, and carry our crosses with joy.

May we recognize that even when the world hates us, Christ loves us.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO is studying for her Master’s in Spanish, and loves her job as an elementary school librarian. She is engaged 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

This I Command You: Love One Another

This last year has seen the cycle of life continue: life, suffering, death, rebirth, rebuild. I shouldn’t expect it to be any different than other years, but it has been more intense for me and I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. The deaths of my children’s grandma, as well as several friends’ parents and spouses, has really brought home the reminder that life is truly precious. The time we have on this earth is finite. We choose what to do with our time.

Kendrick Castillo made wonderful choices in his very short time here on earth. He is a hero, role model, and witness for his faith. Kendrick was 18 years old when he sacrificed his life for his friends and classmates on May 7th. He was granted status as a full member of the Knights of Columbus (he and his dad had logged over 2600 hours of service with KoC #4844). He exemplified today’s gospel, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you” (Jn 15:16). It is a beautiful tribute to Kendrick’s ultimate sacrifice.

I believe Kendrick truly lived the life of JOY that Veronica spoke about in yesterday’s reflection: Jesus first, others second, and yourself last. Many in today’s society put themselves first. We forget that Jesus put his life on the cross for each and everyone who has ever been created in his Father’s image, absolutely everyone ever created throughout all of time.

I don’t know if I will ever be put to the test as Kendrick was. I do know that we each have been commanded to love one another, twice in today’s gospel. If we follow Jesus’ teachings we are called to love one another. This is a herculean task in human terms… or is it? We are reminded by Jesus in scripture to become like little children and to be humble like a child (Mt 18). Young children have an innate ability to trust and to love and share. This weekend, I was sitting behind a 4 or 5-month-old set of twins and their extended family at Mass. They were sharing toys, looks, drool and affection with all those around them. As we age, we become less trusting and jaded due to our life experiences.

I experienced ‘JOY’ just sitting behind this family. To put Jesus first, we can start by being intentional with our actions, prayers, and responses to the situations that we encounter in our day and through social media. We need to remember to choose the unconditional love of Jesus and our Father and respond through prayer and action. We can choose to pray for people and situations that affect our shared global communities. We can volunteer and participate in ways outside of our usual life.

God so loved us he gave us Jesus. He commands us to love one another. What are you prepared to do?

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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


When I was in elementary school, I was a part of a Catholic small group called K4J, otherwise known as Kids for Jesus. Each meeting, we would go through a specific virtue or spiritual gift’s presence in our lives, with an activity to go along with a discussion. Although I struggled to remember exactly what we did in those meetings, I distinctly remember the day we discussed how to find joy.

Our leader, Mrs. Pelletier, read us the same lines that we read in today’s Gospel. Then, we went on to discuss the difference between having joy and being happy. Even as fourth graders, we determined that happiness is caused by an outside stimulus and is temporary, while joy is something that you carry in your heart and could always respond with.

She told us that the key to joy, was to always think about people in the following order:


If you are honestly and truly putting Jesus first then putting others before yourself will come naturally. When you put yourself last, you are able to understand that you are not the center of the world. You can suddenly see that although things may not be going according to your plan, God’s plan is being accomplished.

It’s been over 15 years and anytime someone talks about being happy, I always think, It’s not about being happy, it’s about living joyfully. We have all been happy before. It puts us in a good mood and we tend to act nicer to those around us. We have all experienced joy, as well. It lasts longer than momentary happiness, but can also fade if we do not internalize it.

Internalizing joy means that we allow the joys of life, of love, and of God, to permeate our lives. It’s living life with a brighter, selfless perspective. Living out joyful lives does not mean that everything is always perfect, but instead knowing that although our situations are not the best, although we are flawed, we are God’s creation and each moment, good or bad, is a blessing.

Today, I challenge you to take a look at your intentions. Do you need to unscramble JOY?

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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.

St Rita: Teacher of Forgiveness

“Let me, my Jesus share in Thy suffering, at least one of Thy thorns.” – Saint Rita of Cascia

Jesus’ words in today’s gospel seem near impossible for any regular man to act. He tells us to love our enemies, stop judging, be merciful; we are still sinful and fallen. Alone, we cannot live a life of virtue that allows us to be kind and forgive those who do wrong.

However, Jesus gives us the gift of His saints whose virtuous lives can serve as a witness to us. For instance, He gives us St. Rita, whose feast we celebrate today.

St. Rita is the patron saint of impossible causes with St. Jude. Her life is a reflection of what Christ speaks about in the gospel. St. Rita was born in 14th century Italy. She had a deep desire to love the Lord and become a nun. As a child, she showed extraordinary piety and deep love for prayer.

But instead, her family married her off to a harsh and cruel man, named Paolo Mancini, whom she was married to for 18 years. She bore him two sons. Paolo was well known for his bad temper. He was often abusive, and Rita watched helplessly as her sons fell to their father’s influence.

She prayed unceasingly that the Lord speak to Paolo’s conscience and spare her sons from inheriting her husband’s rage. Eventually, Paolo had a change of heart and begged forgiveness from those whose suffering he caused.

However, Paolo had many enemies and one day, he was ambushed and killed. St. Rita’s sons vowed to avenge their father’s death through killing the men who killed him, but Rita prayed for them not to destroy their souls by taking another life. She gave the Lord permission to even kill them himself if it meant that their souls would be saved.

Her sons died of natural causes when they were teenagers not long after their father’s death. St. Rita nursed them, and they asked for forgiveness. She went on to also forgive the men who murdered her husband by going out and mending the hostility between her husband’s killers and his remaining family.

After losing her husband and sons, Rita joined the Augustinian nuns.

She meditated frequently on Christ’s passion, uniting her sufferings to His on the Cross. One day, she prayed so fervently and begged the Lord to share with her some of His pain. One of the thorns from the crucifix she prayed before loosened and implanted itself deep into her forehead.

During her time in the convent, she prayed for the souls of her husband and sons, as well as for those who did her wrong.

St. Rita died, and her body has remained incorrupt and is venerated today.

She is the patron saint of impossible causes, difficult marriages, infertility, and parenthood.

St. Rita is a teacher on how to love your enemies. Not only did she forgive their wrongs, but desired heaven for them. She looked to Jesus’ example from the cross when he asked God the Father to forgive those who crucified him.

When we are angered by what we see on our social media feeds, or see injustice in the world, let us remember to pray like St. Rita did and trust that God will be victorious in the end.

Hannah Crites is a native to Denver Colorado and graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has written for numerous publications and blogs including the Chastity Project, Washington Times, Faith & Culture: The Journal of the Augustine Institute, and Franciscan Magazine. She is currently working in content and digital marketing for a small web development and digital marketing agency. Connect with her through Twitter (@hannah_crites) and Facebook. Check out more of what she has written at

Our Father

For the past week, and up until just a couple days before Pentecost, the Gospel readings for daily Mass are from John’s recounting of the Last Supper. Here Jesus repeatedly speaks about, and prays to, “the Father.” I want to step back and reflect on that for a minute.

God is completely and utterly beyond us. Take a second and try to imagine something, anything, that isn’t bound by space, time, and matter. We can’t do it. God created these things that bind even our wildest imaginations. Time is a creature of God like a giraffe is a creature of God. This is what we mean when we talk of God’s transcendence.

God is that far beyond us that the only way we could possibly know anything about him is if he reveals himself to us. The main sources for this self-revelation of God are Scripture, Tradition, and, especially, Jesus himself. And the primary image that God chooses to reveal himself is as Father. The God who willed the universe into existence wants us to see him as Father, and not just a Father, but our Father.

If God’s primary identity is our Father, then our primary identity is as God’s child. This revelation changes everything. We aren’t cosmic accidents caused by some indifferent process of evolution. Neither are we slaves of a Divine Master. No, we are sons and daughters of the Father.

Take a second again and imagine the perfect earthly father. He may look like your own father or he may look entirely different. The most loving, strong, and merciful human father is nothing but a pale shadow of the Father. We cannot possibly be better parents than God.

In his recent letter to young people, Christus Vivit, Pope Francis places this revelation of God at the center of our faith. He says:

“The very first truth I would tell each of you is this: ‘God loves you’. It makes no difference whether you have already heard it or not. I want to remind you of it. God loves you. Never doubt this, whatever may happen to you in life. At every moment, you are infinitely loved. Perhaps your experience of fatherhood has not been the best. Your earthly father may have been distant or absent, or harsh and domineering. Or maybe he was just not the father you needed. I don’t know. But what I can tell you, with absolute certainty, is that you can find security in the embrace of your heavenly Father” (CV 112-113).

Scripture so strongly reveals God’s caring and compassionate love for his children that it even at times uses maternal language for God. The prophet Isaiah says, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Is 49:15). Pope John Paul I, in one of his few addresses, reflects on this saying:

“We are the objects of undying love on the part of God. We know: he has always his eyes open on us, even when it seems to be dark. He is our father; even more, he is our mother. He does not want to hurt us, He wants only to do good to us, to all of us. If children are ill, they have an additional claim to be loved by their mother. And we too, if by chance we are sick with badness, on the wrong track, have yet another claim to be loved by the Lord.”

During this Easter season, I invite you to reflect on God’s love for you. Listen in the gospels how the Father relates to Jesus and know that God relates to you in the same way. If you feel distant from God because of your sin and mistakes then read the parable of the Prodigal Son. Sit in quiet prayer and ask the Father to show you how much he loves you. Let God’s revelation renew your mind and transform all the false images you have of God or yourself. Rejoice in your identity as a child of the Father. Let the words of Pope Francis rest deep in your heart:

“The Lord’s love is greater than all our problems, frailties and flaws. Yet it is precisely through our problems, frailties and flaws that he wants to write this love story. He embraced the prodigal son, he embraced Peter after his denials, and he always, always, always embraces us after every fall, helping us to rise and get back on our feet. Because the worst fall, and pay attention to this, the worst fall, the one that can ruin our lives, is when we stay down and do not allow ourselves to be helped up” (CV 120).

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[Photo credit: Sebastián León Prado on Unsplash]

Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and a parish director of religious education. If you like what he has to say, read his work at Where Peter Is, check out his blog, The Porch, or follow him on Facebook.

Life’s Experiences Teach Us To Live

As I worked on processing bulletins this past week, I noticed how many churches had chosen one of our covers illustrating a trifecta of celebrations. World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Good Shepherd Sunday and Mother’s day all fell on the same day this year (not to mention the 4th Sunday of Easter). Since the Good Shepherd is one of my favorite images of our Lord, vocations were once a big part of my life and I am now a mother to four little ones, I began to ponder…

In less than 25 years, I have been able to live three different vocations. Leaving home at the tender age of 15, I entered a boarding school out East to discern my vocation. Professing promises of a consecrated lay person at age 17, I was sent to Mexico soon after and lived the life of a student and missionary for three and a half years. Once I realized that God was not calling me to this life on a permanent basis I returned home. For 11 years, I lived as a single woman, working, traveling, attending retreats, Bible studies and social events, and spending lots of time with my nieces and nephews. At age 31 I finally met the love of my life after many failed attempts and foolish choices. We were married at age 32 and now have 4 small boys.

So before hitting 40, I have been able to live three different vocations. I don’t think many people can say that. It forces me to ask myself: “What does God want me to do with these experiences? How can I better give of myself to others because of the life I have lived?” During my time as a missionary, I learned how to speak fluent Spanish, developed a consistent prayer life and ministered to youth. During my single years, I learned to accept, understand and befriend people from many different countries and backgrounds. As a wife and mother I have learned to love, be patient, aid in healing and educate.

So what am I to do with all of these life lessons other than living out my daily life? Perhaps living out my daily life is precisely the answer, but doing it with more perfection. I have no illusions of being able to cure a crippled man, nor do I wish to be revered as a god as Paul was in today’ reading, but I can observe the commandments and love like Jesus as He asks us to in today’s Gospel. This love can then flow into everything I do and say and think. I can continue to pray and minister, accept and befriend, love and help heal.

Lord, help us all to be beacons of your love today and allow us to recognize You in others as well. Amen.

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Tami grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. Attending Catholic schools her whole life, she was an avid sportswoman, a (mostly) straight A student and a totally type A sister. She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances and finding unique ways to love. 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. Her favorite things to do are finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby, and grocery shopping with a latte in her hand. 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 the past 18 years.

Love One Another

Perhaps the most quoted Gospel of all time shot off the page to me with new meaning as I sat in Mass on Saturday evening. We have all heard, love one another; that’s like the basics. Have you ever let something so simple lose its weight because of its simplicity?

Our priest took this familiar passage in a bit of a different direction that made me think. He said if we all acted like we were supposed to, the whole world would be converted. After all, everyone will know we belong to Christ because of our love for one another. These are words directly from Christ himself.

It really made me think. Have I done this in my life? I know I’m supposed to love God and love my neighbor, but has my love for others been a beacon that lets people know who I belong to? I hope it has.

How about you? Has your love been infectious to the point that a total stranger knows who your savior is? Again, these are the basics. People sometimes complain that homilies are too often about loving others and not about morality. This may be true at times but look around you. The fact that the whole world isn’t converted means we still have not grasped the basics.

We can all love better. That’s just the simple reality. I love the teachings of Saint John Paul II because he really set up a major shift in thought from objective truths to personal experience. He did not get rid of the objective facts but brought us to them through our own personal experience. We know God is love because we have experienced it. This is a model of evangelization that I have found very effective. Until someone experiences love it is hard to talk to them about the objective truths of morality, but once love is experienced, morality starts to make sense, it wells up from within as opposed to being edicts forced from without.

Doctrine and dogma have their place, but we have not even begun to grasp the basics. We need both. This is my challenge this week and a good reminder as I sat there in front of the Eucharist. We should always be living in such a way that people know we are Christians by our love, and it shows through our moral actions. 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

How Love Changes Everything

Love. We sing about it, talk about it, aspire to it, even are blessed enough to experience it. People do both intensely beautiful and amazingly wicked things for love. It can be the most selfless and also the most selfish of feelings.

I remember one of my first romances; I had to be all of fifteen or sixteen. And very, very insecure. After our first awkward adolescent declaration of love, I believed if he were not actively continuing to declare it, his love for me had somehow disappeared. So every time we saw each other, I asked him, “Do you love me? Do you really love me?”

My teenaged Romeo—quite rightly—finally had enough and decided that he didn’t love me after all. I was devastated, of course, and wrote a lot of bad self-pitying poetry in response, as one does. It was a good lesson in trust, and I don’t think I made that particular mistake in subsequent relationships (though of course, I made plenty of others!).

I don’t remember the first time I read or heard today’s Gospel passage, but I do remember my response to it: surprise. How could Jesus, who knows everything, who sees into the very hearts of those around him, how could he keep asking the same question I’d once repetitively asked with such teenage angst? Even Peter is astonished by the repetition: you know everything there is to know, you’ve got to know I love you!

As happens with many scripture passages, there’s a subtlety here that isn’t immediately apparent. Jesus isn’t asking Peter how much Peter loves him; Jesus is asking about how Peter loves him. It’s not a question meant to quantify, but rather to qualify.

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” What is Jesus asking Peter here? Peter, a little taken aback, says, yes, of course you know I do. Jesus responds by saying, in essence, “Okay, then, feed my lambs.” Fair enough.

But then Jesus presses the point. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter is paying closer attention now; perhaps he wants to make sure he hears Jesus correctly. “You know I do,” he says. This time, Jesus says, “Then tend my sheep.”

The question has not changed, but its consequence has. If you answer yes the first time, that’s all well and good, and I expect you to continue as we’ve been doing together, feeding those who hunger for the Word of God — giving my children sustenance. But the second question’s consequence is more profound: tend my sheep.

There’s a big difference between feeding and tending, just as there’s a difference between lambs and sheep. I happen to be rather fond of sheep, and I enjoy going to county fairs and petting them; sometimes, I’ve been allowed to give a bottle of milk to a lamb. It’s a lovely experience, and then it’s over. I go back to my life, and someone else does the hard part, keeping the flock safe, shearing the wool, staying up when one is sick. I “love” sheep, but my love doesn’t extend to caring for them. It’s a love without commitment.

Feeding lambs is one thing, but caring for the whole lifetime of the sheep requires more, a deeper commitment, a real love that transcends inconvenience and hardship. Tend my sheep, Jesus said. Take care of one another; accompany your sisters and brothers on the journey to healing. Commit to them, not just for the moments you’re together, but forever.

And then, unbelievably, Jesus asks Peter yet a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

This time Peter gets exasperated. “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” to which Jesus reiterates that Peter is to feed his sheep. He adds something else, a foreshadowing of the future, and finally ends his questioning with the most significant consequence of all: “Follow me.”

The commitment of a shepherd to his flock is total; it has to be. Their lives depend on it. There can’t be favorites: the shepherd is there for every one of those sheep. And Jesus is asking us to care about him and each other in precisely that way. That’s what love is — not a breathless self-serving declaration of a feeling, but a lifetime commitment.

To love me, says Jesus, is to follow me. To follow me is to care genuinely, effectively, and appropriately for others, and that includes standing up for those the world has forgotten, speaking out for those in misery and poverty. To love me is to follow me; this also means doing the unpopular and the misunderstood.

English, though well-intentioned, is a language without much subtlety. We use the word “love” for many different things: I love ice cream, I love my child, I love to read, I love God. The Greek of the New Testament wisely knows all love is not equal, and it uses these differences in language to make a point lost to us in English. The word for love Jesus uses is agapa: a verb meaning sacrificial, redemptive love, the highest form of love.

“Do you love me in this way, Peter?” And Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know I am your friend; I have such affection for you,” using the Greek verb philein. But this kind of love between friends or even family is not necessarily agape love. So Jesus asks again, “But do you love me? You’re not hearing me! What is the quality of your love, Peter?”

What is the quality of your love?

Jesus tells Peter the answer: if this is love, then there are consequences. You will go where you don’t want to go. You will do what you won’t want to do. If you love me, you will follow me, and the journey will not always be to your liking.

Loving Christ entails consequences. Loving him will take us on a journey that is long, and arduous, and often very scary indeed. Loving him means being with others on their journey, and looking out for them along the way and keeping them safe, as the shepherd keeps his sheep safe. Keeping them nourished and healthy, as the shepherd keeps his sheep nourished and healthy. That’s loving well. That’s what Jesus was trying to show Peter.

Do you love him?
Do you love him?
Do you love him?

When Jesus was alone in Gethsemane, he was saddened by the disciples falling asleep and leaving him to face the night alone. I used to read that and think, I wouldn’t have fallen asleep, I would have stayed with him. Then I got older and wiser and understood with some sadness that I, too, would have slept.

Peter slept. And now, after the crucifixion, after the resurrection, Jesus is giving him a chance to redeem himself, by clarifying the kind of love Peter will need to sustain him into the future and to sustain the church for which he will become responsible. This is not a love for the faint of heart. This is a love that cares more for others than for self. This is a love that keeps all the sheep safe, no matter what the threat, even if it means dying to protect them.

Love changes everything. Can we love that way? That well?

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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