Love One Another

The verse announcing the Gospel today is crystal clear: “I give you a new commandment; love one another as I have loved you”. John 13:34   

So why is it that I have said, “I hate you” to even my sisters, my spouse, my parents and so many others? Today’s Gospel states this great commandment another way, ”But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”  

Just sit with that for a bit. Go ahead. Read it again and close your eyes. Clear your mind to focus on what Jesus meant when he said, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,… for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust.”

God created each and every one of us out of love, made in His image. This is a universal fact. It doesn’t matter who my parents are, or what country I’m born in, rich or poor; I’m a member of the human race.

Each and every person has attributes both physical and emotional. We have physical and emotional needs to be met and nurtured. When a child is born a new creation comes into this world to be loved and cherished. When there is death, a light goes out and needs to be mourned. It does not matter if a child wasn’t planned or not perfect. It doesn’t matter if the person who died was your greatest antagonist or tormentor. That person was a child of God, just like you and me.

Jesus came into the world for the salvation of all, not just the ones that look like me, talk like me, or are born into my faith, or country. If they are persecuted and have no safe place to call home, do I care any less for them as a fellow human being? Where is my compassion and love for the refugee, asylum seeker, the person working 3 jobs struggling to make ends meet? Who loves the residual casualties in any violent conflict? How can we even think a person is ‘residual’?

God commands us to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mt 5:48 This boggles my mind. I have to be vigilant to make sure that at all times I am striving for perfection. I must constantly being on guard against the evil one and his minions who are seeking to creep into my daily life at any moment, ready to pull me and trap me into little lies and deaths to the truth, the love of God.In the perfect ‘Shalom,’ or peace, of God’s kingdom as he meant it to be (as in the garden of Eden before the fall) all can live in harmony: the lion lies down with the lamb, the family is together–not torn apart– as it enters into the garden.

We are created with so much potential to do and be good, to love all. Let’s try to remember, “love one another as I have loved you.” Pray it throughout this day, to remember our world needs this unconditional love poured out into each corner of the world.

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.

A Lamp To My Feet – A Light To My Path

In ancient pagan ceremonies, the lighted candles on Candlemas day had many meanings, one of which was to mark the middle of winter, looking forward to the coming of spring.  In the traditions of Christianity, the Feast of the Presentation (or Purification of Mary) on February 2nd is still known as Candlemas day. Over the ages, processions were held in our churches with participants carrying lighted candles to symbolize that Jesus Christ is the Light, the Truth, and the Way.  Even till today, we light candles at our altars as the symbol of Christ’s presence with us at every Liturgy, at every gathering for prayer. On Candlemas day, it has become a tradition in many churches to bless the year’s supply of candles that will be used at all Liturgies.

The lighted candle has many meanings for us: the steady glow of the candle we light for prayer, symbolizing Christ in our presence; the warm flame of the candles that welcome family and friends to our table. Or the birthday candles that gleefully flicker in celebration of life; the guiding light of the beacon candle that sees us through the darkness when our modern technology fails us.

I recall my retreats at Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky. The church for the monks is a long space. I would rise at 4:30 am, dress, run to the kitchen for a cup of coffee (which was always available, thank you!) and wind my way through the corridors and staircases to the balcony of the church. It was dark. I would sit quietly in the balcony where the only thing visible was the glow of the Sanctuary light, waaaay up front, next to the Tabernacle. I cherish the memory of mesmerizing prayer in that space, until I would hear the first ruffle of a monk’s robes, coming in to prepare for Mass.

Before today’s Gospel, we pray the Gospel Acclamation:

“A Lamp to my feet is your word, a light to my path.”  (Ps 119:105)

I have always found this to be one of the most comforting images in Scripture. Knowing that Christ is our Light, guiding us as the beacon through life. He enlightens us with His presence and his Word, always giving us what we need to get through the darkness of night, fear, despair, depression or uncertainty. I find that physically lighting a candle when praying goes a long way to calm my mind and uplift my spirit.

Not everyone travels in darkness, but all of us seek answers in one way or another. Keeping that light near will remind us we are not alone – ever! Christ is the Light to the Nations, the Dispeller of Darkness.

Light a candle today. Light up the rooms of your heart to feel the warmth of Christ’s presence. Use the Word of God to enlighten, strengthen and comfort you along your journey.

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.

Constant Conversion

Someone once asked my friend, “If your boat sank and you could only save one of your parents, which one would you save?” Without hesitation, she answered, “My dad.” Everyone was shocked and couldn’t believe that she would leave her mother, one of the nicest people I’d ever met, to drown and die. Everyone loved her mother, Mandy, so we had to ask, “Why wouldn’t you save your mom?” I remember her shrugging and saying, “My mom told me that she lived her life full of love and faith. She said that she’s ready to go at any time because she knows that she’s done her best.”

Wow. Can you imagine knowing that you’ve done the best in making all the right choices? I know for a fact that if God came down right now to take my life, my brain would react the same as when you have an unexpected house guest. My brain would be on high alert, throwing things in the closet, shoving things into cabinets and yelling, “Just one second” through the door.  I knew I should’ve gone to Mass every Sunday. I haven’t gone to confession in years. I should’ve taught my boyfriend how to love Jesus. I shouldn’t have let them bully that kid back in 5th grade. Quite frankly, I’d be slightly terrified that I wouldn’t make it to heaven.

Today’s second reading reminds us that we will all one day, “appear before the judgement seat of Christ” and be judged for each act, good or evil. Now, I’m not saying that I believe I would go to hell, and I’m not saying that my friend’s mom has no regrets. What I’m trying to say is that she consciously lives a faithful life, everyday. It’s not just Sundays and it’s not just when it was convenient for her.

Write down the things you would regret if you died right now. Now, many of these post-mortem regrets are things you can change now. You can’t change the past, but you CAN change your future. I haven’t gone to Mass every Sunday, but I can from now on. It really had been 6 years since I’d gone to confession, but I finally felt the healing graces of the sacrament this past weekend. I should be sharing my love of Christ with my boyfriend, so I will begin talking freely about my joy and love for God. I should be standing up for what I believe in, so next time I will borrow Christ’s courage and say something.

Today’s Gospel is all about Jesus explaining the kingdom of God with a parable. The man scatters his seeds and they sprout and grow, even though “he knows not how.” I doubt that Mandy knows that my mother has often said, “I only wish I could be as holy as Mandy,” because that’s the kind of inspiration that you feel from her. I am not sure if she knows that people see her kindness, her selfless love, her compassion, her family’s love of Christ, her happiness and are inspired. Yet there are countless people, myself included, that are touched by her actions.

We should live our lives in the same way so that our faith inspires others to live faithfully as we do. We should live out our faith in a way that inspires people to show their kindness, their selfless love, their compassion, and their love of Christ in everything we do. In fact, I think Diocesan’s motto defines exactly how we should live: Catholic Life Every Day.

(Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.)

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.

Jesus is the New Way

Jesus is intent on making clear that what he brings to the world is the fulfillment of the Old Law. The Old Law was good, and it drew hearts that were open into the truth, but there was more to come. Jesus brings MORE; he brings a new way.  Jesus IS the new Way.

Today’s Gospel is part of a long section in which Jesus points out the ways he has come to fulfill the Old Testament. He begins with what his listeners already know, and then nudges them deeper; what they know is a superficial observance, but the truth must be observed in the recesses of our hearts.

He begins by explaining that the commandment against killing (which is external) includes anger (which is internal), and the commandment against adultery (external) includes lust (internal). Then he turns to swearing falsely: his listeners already know that they should not take false oaths but be true to their promise; Jesus tells them they should not need to swear at all. In a sense, oaths are meaningless because whatever they would “swear on” is beyond their control. Where is all this going?

Jesus is calling his hearers upward, inward. They are to be people of integrity, who do not need to make an oath to increase their trustworthiness. If they are people who live truth in the heart, then their YES means YES, and their NO means NO. From the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.

Next, Jesus will raise the bar on loving one’s neighbor to include loving and praying for one’s enemies. This is unheard of in a culture that has lived by “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”! As he does in so many other interactions, Jesus calls those who hear him to move past any superficial or merely external observance of the law or ritual formalities and to internalize them, to be pure in heart, to worship him in spirit and truth. Even more, he calls all his followers to enter into something new and be transformed from within, so that their obedience and faith and trust are deep and genuine, rich with the light and peace of the Spirit. Only in this way can their interactions with one another be blessed.

What does this mean for us today? We must open our hearts to the light of the Spirit, and ask for the grace to see any areas where we are holding back something for ourselves, maneuvering for our own advantage, or remaining in a superficial or merely external mode of obedience. Do we show up for Mass on Sunday without preparing as well as we can, simply because “we should”? In our interactions with others, are we thinking of our own wants and needs before those of others? Are our habits of mind and action simple courtesies or genuinely impelled and guided by charity?

Let us pray for the grace to allow Jesus full access to our hearts and minds, so that we can be transformed by his love and become the true images of God we are created to be.

Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at or on Facebook @summapax.

Why Are You Here?

“Elijah, why are you here?”

That’s the question the voice of the Lord poses to the Old Testament prophet in our first reading today from the First Book of Kings (19:9a, 11-16). Elijah is on the run. He has challenged and beat the 450 prophets of Baal in a showdown to prove that the Lord God is the one true God. His actions are acclaimed by the Israelites, who have been under the wicked rule of corrupt King Ahab and his pagan queen, Jezebel. “The Lord is God! The Lord is God” they acclaim in their desire to return to and renew their covenant with God. Their fealty to God and not to her is much for Jezebel and so she places a bounty on Elijah’s head, vowing to kill him within 24 hours for what God has manifested of himself through Elijah’s actions.

Elijah has escaped and taken refuge in a cave on Mount Horeb. Despite remaining true to God’s call to him to prophesy to the people of Israel about their waywardness, he is dispirited. He is told to stand on the mountain for the “Lord will be passing by.” Then comes the wind, an earthquake and fire, but the Lord is not found in any of those shows of natural power and strength. Instead, God speaks to Elijah in a whisper.

How often are we like Elijah in our relationship with God? A Scripture professor I had in seminary used to refer to the crowds who followed our Lord as “The Jesus Show.” All most of them wanted was the spectacle— the dramatic healings, the mass feedings and more. They couldn’t be bothered with listening to Jesus’ teachings or seeing up close and personal what he was doing in his interactions with people.

Today, in prayer, imagine the Lord asking you, “Why are you here?”, and then wait in silence for His voice to whisper to your heart, to reassure you, to guide you and to bring you His peace.

Father Tim S. Hickey is a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford currently serving as a mission priest in the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas. A native Kansan, he was schooled at Benedictine College, Marquette University and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Prior to becoming a priest, Father Hickey was editor of Columbia magazine for the Knights of Columbus. He writes occasionally for Magnificat’s seasonal special issues and for Communion and Liberation.

Journey with Faith

After reading an article written by a former potato farmer, I was reminded of a movie I watched several years ago entitled “Faith Like Potatoes”. The films depicts a struggling family with several young children and a borderline abusive and faithless father.

After their circumstances force them to live out of a small RV for a time, he is able to obtain a plot of land to begin potato farming. Although plagued by drought and warned his crop will fail, his recent conversion assures him God will take care of them. Eventually, harvest time arrives and the workers doubtfully begin to dig up the dirt. Much to their amazement, large, healthy potatoes appear, row after row, and the family is saved. As everyone rejoices and dances around the field, it begins to rain. The drought has ended.

Just as God urged the father in this movie to plant potatoes despite the odds, Elijah urges Ahab to make haste in today’s first reading, despite no apparent sign of rain. Sometimes we are so stubborn, refusing to move and rooted to the spot by our obstinacy, when God only wants to shake us up for our own good.

God promises to bless us in abundance. Today’s Psalmist proclaims:

You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God’s watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain.
Thus have you prepared the land:
drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.
You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills.

God’s plans are so much better, brighter and more bountiful than our own. We corner ourselves inside of our own ideas, jealousies, or supposed needs. We are sometimes blessed to see the greater picture and sometimes we are not. But what we are always called to do is trust. Just as Ahab eventually trusted Elijah’s forecast and descended the mountain before he got soaked, God asks us to trust his ways in order to bless us abundantly. And since he desires to shower us something fierce, you may want to bring an umbrella, just in case.

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 ( and 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.

The Power of God

“You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Matthew 22:29

This verse from Matthew coupled with the first reading for today really make me ask the question. Do I know the power of God? I mean, I know God is powerful. I know He created the world. I know if He wants to do anything it will happen. But I don’t know that I believe that any of this power can be applied personally to me.

I think this is one of the major problems in our world today. We all need healing, hope, miracles, love, and power, but yet we don’t believe it is possible to receive any of this. We have lost faith.

Typically when faith in God is lost we disregard Him because we think He is holding out on us. We ask for one outrageous thing after another and when we don’t receive it exactly as we asked, then it is God’s fault and He doesn’t love us. We want our desires to be fulfilled no matter how twisted, instead of looking to the source of all desire and resting in the hope that He loves us.

C.S. Lewis once wrote,

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

It’s as if God looks at our requests and says, “that’s it? I want to give you so much more. Please let me.” But we are content with our mediocre desires. We are content being gods in our own little worlds where we claim God is holding out so we start to do everything ourselves.

Adam and Eve had this same problem. They thought God was holding out on them and not making them perfectly happy, so they turned to their twisted desires for satisfaction and found that they came up empty.

Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete once said, “The only temptation we face on this earth is the temptation to believe that God does not want to fill the deepest desires of our hearts.”

This was the struggle of Adam and Eve. This was the struggle of the people in the first reading. This is the struggle of you and me. Today, as we reflect on this scripture, lets pray for God to fill the deepest desires of our hearts, and then believe with certainty that He will, because He loves us.

“The LORD’s fire came down
and consumed the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust,
and it lapped up the water in the trench.
Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said,
The LORD is God! The LORD is God!”

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

Saved By Grace

On my ankle, I have a tattoo that reads I>˅˄ and it stands for I AM (Yahweh/God) is greater (>) than my highs(^) and my lows (v). It reminds me that no matter where I am in my life, no matter how overwhelmed I feel, God’s plan is greater. Actually, I got this tattoo as a reminder of a time I was so depressed that I had planned to end my own life, but instead chose to turn to my family and God.

I know this is pretty heavy for daily inspiration, but I tell you this because I know that I am not the only one with a history of depression, especially in our society today. Specifically, I tell you this because I am still here for the same reason the widow in today’s First Reading did not commit suicide. You see, when Elijah met the widow, she had already decided to use the last of her flour to bake a cake that would kill both herself and her son. She was convinced that her life of struggle could not go on any longer. She would not put herself, nor her son, through famine and more tragedy.

When I read that the widows was about to “go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die,” I immediately wanted to cry. I had been there. I had gotten to that point. For years, I had felt as though my life had no purpose or direction. Yet, God had a plan.

God sent Elijah to this widow because he knew she had planned to die. The widow instead chose to tell Elijah of her internal struggle, and Elijah tells her not to be afraid, citing God’s words in order to remind her that God would provide for her. In a similar way, when I told my parents, they told me that everything would be okay; that God has a plan for me and put people in my life so that I would always be loved and protected.

It was soon after telling my parents about my depression that, through the church bulletin, my mother found a retreat titled, “God’s Plan For Me.” Going to this retreat reminded me that I was not alone. It reminded me that God knew what he was doing by giving me challenges. My life was never meaningless, and struggle was never a reason to give up.

Unfortunately, this newfound hope did not make everything instantly perfect. I still had a harsh reality to deal with. I had just graduated university and had no job lined up, so I moved back home. Being surrounded by my supportive, faith-filled family was a wonderful, yet difficult choice. Quite honestly, I hadn’t planned on living this long and had no idea how I was going to pay my bills, especially in a town with a population of less than 300! But as always, God had a plan.

Within a week of moving home, my hometown parish office called me and asked if I was interested in their part-time position as bulletin editor. I remember saying yes and crying thankful tears of joy when I hung up the phone. Using the bulletin, Our Heavenly Father had not only found a way to remind me that my life was worth living, but had also given me a job and further added purpose to my life.

Once I began working at the parish, I promised myself that wherever I worked next would be a Catholic company so that I could help God’s people the same way he helped me. I wanted to “pay it forward” ten-fold. This is how I ended up moving over a thousand miles for the opportunity to work at Diocesan. Funnily enough, though applying for Catholic jobs across the country, Diocesan was the only bulletin company I applied for. Coincidence? I prefer the term “act of God.”

Our Lord did not create us, his pride and joy, so that he could watch us struggle. He did not create us to be alone and keep our struggles to ourselves. Nor did God did not create you, or me, so that we would lose hope. He created us with everlasting love and undeniable purpose. As my favorite verse, Deuteronomy 31:6 reminds us to “be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” The powerful I AM is greater than our highs and our lows. He is always there, always watching and always ready to remind us that we have purpose and hope. God always has a plan.

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.

Blessed Are They

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.
Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

What a rich selection of readings.

I want to say everything because the Beatitudes sing such a beautiful song, but I also want to say nothing because they are perfect as they are.

I suppose somewhere in between everything and nothing will have to do.

“Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.” 
(Matthew 5:4)


Reading this verse reminds me of an encounter I had at an event a number of years ago. My band was leading worship for Adoration; the drums aren’t a vital role in leading people through quiet/reflective prayer, so I will take breaks to kneel and pray during the Holy Hour. As I was at this event, I felt the Holy Spirit inviting (or nudging) me to leave the stage. I didn’t know why, but it was pretty clear I should walk away from the drums.

Nerves and courage pulling me both ways, I finally decided to make my way down the stairs of the theater-made-church and kneel next to the teens attending the event.

What am I supposed to be doing?

Maybe I am supposed to pray with them?

I asked the teen at the end of the 1st row if they would pray with me and invite the rest of the row to join.

1st row.

2nd row.

3rd row.

When I inched back to the 4th row, I heard hysterical crying. Years later I still don’t know why this adult volunteer was weeping, but I put my arm on her shoulder and by the Holy Spirit I said:

“Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.”

Amidst tears, with a sigh of healing and an affirming nod, she thanked me.

We both turned towards the Tabernacle in thanksgiving, she because she didn’t mourn without being comforted, and I for the unique privilege to love her at that moment in that particular way.

Many have described the Beatitudes as “instructions for a happy life”. And I agree. However, I also believe the Beatitudes are a portrait of a Christian who is sincerely guided by the Holy Spirit.

We just need to say yes!

Yes to the invitation to be close to Him, and we need to be continually saying yes. He will equip us to be merciful, to be a peacemaker, to be a comforter. Blessed are they who subscribe to the Beatitudes, for their life will be awesome.

Be blessed.

Be awesome.

Say yes.

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

How Did You Know You Were Naked?

God created us with a desire to be like Him. We have a tendency to confuse that innate wanting to be like God with a desire to be God. In the first reading, Adam and Eve disobeyed God. God created them, set the parameters and gave them dominion over all creation. They decided that instead of being like God and operating within the order He created, they wanted to be God and determine what is good and evil for themselves. This crossing over from desiring to be like God to acting as God is what resulted in the break in the relationship with God and as a result of the break in Adam and Eve’s relationship with God, they experience shame in their bodies and tell God they have hid because they are naked.

God doesn’t yell. He doesn’t chastise. He doesn’t lecture. He simply asks them how they knew they were naked.

How often do we not feel shame when we should? Someone wiser than me once explained that drawing closer to God is like turning and driving into the sunrise. The dead bugs, smears, and flotsam on our windshield doesn’t really bother us, until we drive into the sunlight. The sins and wrong choices in our life aren’t always obvious, until we start to align our lives with what God calls us to be. Sinning is not so much choosing evil over good as it is wanting to choose for ourselves what is good and what is evil. As we stop deciding for ourselves what is good and evil and trust God, just like our windshield in the morning light, all the little things that separate us from God start to stand out.

In the Gospel, Jesus says that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Our culture tells us over and over that there are so many other things that we should put first. But just like Adam and Eve, when we put the created (including ourselves) before the Creator, we are that divided house and we will not be able to stand.

I love how all these readings go together. Our hope is found in the words of the Psalms, “If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered.” I think of the disciples choosing a replacement for Judas Iscariot, they put first being a witness to the Jesus’s resurrection, once that was in place, they could leave everything to chance and know they were oriented in the right direction.

We can do that too. As we discern right and wrong, as we prioritize our time, talent, and treasure, we can ask ourselves which decision will help us to be the best witness to the resurrection of Jesus. Once that is in place, we have oriented ourselves to the Light and will be able to recognize when we have confused being God with desiring to be like God.

And, as I recognize my own shame, my own nakedness, I can rest in, “With the Lord there is mercy, and the fullness of redemption.”

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

Mary, Mother of Jesus

Today the Church celebrates the obligatory Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so the sequential readings are set aside so that we can hear in the Gospel something about the Heart of Mary. The verses that have always struck me to the heart and refocused my attention are repeated in two places in the second chapter of Luke: And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart (Luke 2:19); And his mother kept all these things in her heart (Luke 2:51).

She knew how to “BE WITH” events and circumstances and to know God in them, which is something that can only be done if we are open to the Spirit in our lives. We often see the events and circumstances and people in our lives as hurdles to overcome, tasks to be checked off, goals to reach. But if we open our hearts to the influence of the Holy Spirit, these things can reveal to us the will of God, and the gifts He is pouring over us. This is what Mary did.

But Mary sometimes gets a bit sidelined; we’re not sure what to make of all this, so we can sometimes reduce her to a kind of sweet “conduit” through which Jesus appeared on earth for us.

This would be to misunderstand the nature of motherhood in general and of this motherhood in particular – the mother-child relationship can never be reduced to mere passing “functionality.” We don’t give birth and then a child has no need for us! And in this particular case, it would be ridiculous to think that God would use a person and then minimize the role that person would play in the rest of the story.

Christ did not fall to earth, ready-made and complete. He, too, required loving and nurturing and instructing. Christ is the seed of the Word, planted by the Father and the Spirit in the womb of the Virgin of Nazareth; and Mary is the fertile earth that nourished and gave growth to that Seed so that we may eventually eat the fruit of the Tree of the Cross, the Eucharist. The Flesh that feeds us was formed under the Heart of Mary. The Blood that we receive from the altar first flowed through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Mary was made for this, and she cannot ever be anyone other than the Mother of God; everything before the angel Gabriel came to her prepared her for this role and there is no point at which she is not the Mother of God. Mary did not stop being the Mother of God once Jesus was born, or once he came of age, or when he left her to preach, or when he died on the Cross, or rose and ascended into Heaven. She is Christ’s mother and – because we are members of his Body through baptism – she is our mother too.

In her fiat at the outset of the work of redemption, she is both accepting God’s gift of redemption for herself and prefiguring/making possible the act of faith of the whole church yet to come. She speaks her YES on behalf of all of humanity, as the new creation begins in her womb.

In fact, “Mary, Mother of God” underlies the whole mystery of our redemption; from the Son’s conception in her womb by the overshadowing Holy Spirit to our own conception in the womb of Mother Church “until Christ be fully formed in us,” Mary is part of our salvation. And the Scriptures tell us that this is because of her great faith: blessed are you because you believed (Luke 1:45). Mary’s deepest identity is believer: one who encountered the Word of God, accepted it, assented to it, and never wavered, all the way to the cross and beyond.

There is nothing that Mary does without its being undertaken under the impulse of that original and ever-active grace of the Spirit that filled her from the beginning. This grace that filled Mary drove her in haste to the hill country of Judah to help her cousin Elizabeth, and also made her sensitive to the needs of the family hosting the wedding feast in Cana; we see in these events Mary’s essential role as Christ-Bearer and ready intercessor, who comes to our aid even without our asking! She is, in a sublime and motherly way, attentive to our needs.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary is the example for us of complete receptivity to the Word and a ready YES to every breath, every movement of the Holy Spirit. Let us allow her to mother us into the arms of her Son, Jesus, and into eternity with him.

Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at or on Facebook @summapax.

The Heart of Jesus

Sometimes people in the Church speak about devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as goopy spirituality. I prefer to think of our different expressions of devotion as a matter of preference. Some people love gaudy colors and lights, and some people prefer something understated and are happy with minimalist ascetics. But no matter which way we prefer to slice the cake, today is a Solemnity. It is not a memorial with or without a capital ‘m” and it is not a feast day. It is one of the highest expression of our adoration and worship of Almighty God.

Yet, does this devotion stop at a beautiful image on a mantle piece that is there as a sign of Our Lord’s protection and blessing upon our homes and families?

Does this devotion stop at warm thoughts about God’s heart being pierced by a lance, as is recounted in today’s Gospel?

Does it stop at the amazing reality that many Eucharistic miracles have been blind tested by scientists all over the world and they all confirm that the host that had become flesh is living heart tissue of a man who has been brutalized?

Does our devotion stop at the fact that Our Lord has appeared twice to bring awareness to the Universal Church that His Sacred Heart is the fount of Divine Mercy from which blood and water gush forth as expiation and salvation for the whole world?

God’s love for us is “crazy” or stated in a more sanitized fashion; “God’s love for us is other. God is Other.” His Sacred Heart is limitless love and mercy, and therefore our devotion to Him can always be growing and always be more and more total.

Today’s Solemnity is the perfect opportunity for us to run to the Lord with our hearts and to ask Him for the great-grace of receiving His abundant love. Today we can ask for the great-grace of loving God with our whole minds, hearts, souls, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves for love and obedience to Him who St. John says, “loved us to the end.”

His Heart is outside of His chest. His Heart is burning and pining for love. The only way to satiate our Lover’s thirst is to return love for love. Let us set no bounds to our devotion.

And not only that, but we can also count on St. Paul who says, “God is never outdone in generosity.” So I pray that today you and I will experience a huge influx of His infinite grace in our hearts, minds, and souls. We were made for this. We were made to be in communion with His Sacred Heart and to adore Him for all eternity.

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.