Take up your Cross with a Smile

Last week Friday I was positive about the direction this post would take, based on today’s readings. I love the Deuteronomy reading when Moses, almost chiding the Israelites about the wonders they had seen; the wonders God performed for them to bring them out of Egypt and to freedom. The Israelites did not always appreciate it.

And then we have today’s Gospel about taking up your cross and following Christ. We are told that this is the way to gain eternal life in the Kingdom, regardless of what we gain here on earth.

Yup! I really thought I had this down. Until this past Saturday, when I attended the funeral of my friend and neighbor, Bob. Bob and his wife Ann live next to me in my condo complex (so close that we cannot open our condo doors at the same time!). I’d call over there, and Bob would ask if I was calling “long-distance”, or if I was visiting, he’d ask if I needed a ride home. It always made me smile. I’ve known them for years, but there is always more to learn about someone’s story.

My original instincts for today was to take the route through the Gospel that, while carrying our own crosses in life, big or small, we would ease our own burdens by somehow easing the burdens of another. And, quite frankly, that is exactly what Bob did all his life. He made people smile. And that made people happy. And that would if only for a few short moments, make life a bit more bearable for some.

Now, I’m not a social media person. I don’t have a Facebook page. Bob had one. I now feel a bit cheated that I was not connected to him in this way, also. Because all I heard at the funeral was about how Bob’s page made people smile. Often he would tell me that he was going to “check on his peeps.”  We were all Bob’s Peeps. He posted his corny Dad Jokes, as he called them; every day he would in some way wish everyone a good whatever day it was. He loved Wednesdays, Hump Day. His Facebook page was called “If You Grew Up in Grand Rapids/Kent County You Remember” – and it had 23,000 followers. Yes, 23,000! People he would never meet or get to know. But they knew Bob.

He wore smiley face suspenders and considered the smiley face his family crest! Now come-on, you’ve just got to smile at that!

Bob was 72 when he died last week. His last few years were hard ones because of medical issues and complications thereof. But he always tried to put on a happy face when with others. I don’t recall him ever really complaining about his health, but to occasionally mention that walking was getting harder. According to Ann, he was even cracking jokes to the doctors when he was having toes amputated due to diabetes. I expect the smile put on the faces of the doctors also made their job easier.

The point of all of this is that we can, no matter what cross life has given us to bear, make the cross borne by others easier to bear. It often doesn’t take much: a smile, a joke, a warm handshake, or a hug.

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 jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

Praying with Peter

“Thou art Peter and upon this rock, I shall build my church.”

These are the first words I saw when I walked into my new church. I had been offered my new job just a few days prior and wanted to attend Mass as I began to get to know my new parish. The words to this verse are written on an arc above the sanctuary.

When I took my seat in the pews, I finally got my first look at the sanctuary space and I was struck by the full image: a stone mosaic of Peter kneeling at the feet of Jesus, who is handing down the keys to the kingdom to the first Bishop of Rome as a miter falls on his head and the verse above it all.

You see, before I even started working at St. Peter Church, I’ve always been fascinated by this particular Gospel passage. There is such a stark contrast in the words spoken by Peter across the entire passage.

Today’s Gospel begins with a question posed by Jesus to the disciples, almost like a survey. I picture it in modern times with Jesus asking, “Hey, what’s the gossip? What’s the scuttlebut? What are people saying about me?” But then the question turns personal.

I’ve reflected on that personal question in prayer many times. Who do YOU say that I am? I feel like my answer depends on a lot of factors, where I’m at in my spiritual life. When things are going well, I’m not afraid to claim Him as Lord of my life who is abundant with blessings. On the flip side, during periods of desolation, I hope that I am able to turn to the Lord as Comforter.

Regardless, I find myself wishing I had the faith and courage shown in Peter’s response, confessing Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Look at how Peter is rewarded for his faith! With the great responsibility of being the rock, the foundation of the Church who holds the keys to the kingdom.

Peter continues to show that same, steady faith throughout the rest of the Gospels, right? He wishes! Just a few short verses later, Jesus proclaims Peter to be an obstacle to Him. “Get behind me Satan.” Where did that faith go?

We can learn just as much from these words as we can from Peter’s great confession of faith. We can learn not to be our own obstacle on our journey of faith and especially on the journeys of others.

Today, I encourage you to pray with Peter. Pray with this great extreme we see in his words, that we may always be able to proclaim in great faith that Jesus is our Lord and that we don’t follow the hard-heartedness and hard-headedness that becomes an obstacle to Christ’s plan of salvation.

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

It Just Has To Be Somebody

When I was in school—I went to a small Catholic girls’ school—I started writing. A lot. My reason for this burst of literary activity was revenge. I was most definitely not one of the cool girls, and as I stood in line for this or that and watched them (and watched them watching me, because they could only gauge their coolness when contrasting it with someone who wasn’t), I was determined to get even with them by someday publishing a novel à clef detailing how awful they’d been to me. A little like Chaucer threatening, “I will eviscerate you in fiction.” He carried through; I never did.

It was my literary ambitions that had put me there in the first place because they made me studious. I worked hard in school. I didn’t smoke in the girls’ room. The worst behavior I ever showed was in sliding down the banister in the great hall. So I was excluded.

It didn’t matter that it was me; as a person, I was irrelevant. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been somebody else. It just had to be somebody. For a group to feel exclusive, by definition, someone has to be excluded from it. There’s an “us” and a “not-us;” it’s how we all form group identities.

I didn’t look any different from the cool girls. I did act differently, though. I had clear goals and was determined to reach them. When I wasn’t studying or writing, I was out with my equestrian club getting blue ribbons at horse shows. I was driven to achieve. The cool girls didn’t see the point. Like me, they came from affluent backgrounds. They didn’t have to try as hard as everybody else. I showed the lie to their assumption of extra privilege, so I wasn’t one of them.

And I’d lie if I said it didn’t hurt.

I was thinking about that exclusion when I read today’s scripture passages, especially Matthew’s gospel. For all that we consider them saints today, Jesus’ disciples sometimes exhibited the worst of human behavior. Imagine the scene: they’ve taken their ministry on the road, traveled into Lebanon, when a woman from the area begs Jesus to cure her daughter. The disciples are brusque. “Send her away!” they say imperiously. It’s pretty much the same reaction they’d had earlier when Jesus proposed feeding a crowd of five thousand people. “Send them away,” was the disciples’ verdict; “feed them,” said Jesus instead.

We like that story. Jesus compassionate, Jesus making a miracle happen, Jesus using it as a teaching moment.

But this story strikes a discordant note, doesn’t it? Because Jesus says no. Not because she was a bad person, but because she wasn’t one of the group. Essentially he says, “I’m not here for you; I’m here for them.” And then he goes further still and, in a statement most of us find extremely uncomfortable, he compares her to a dog. She’s quick with her comeback—even dogs get scraps—but that doesn’t obviate his initial response to her, and neither does his subsequent healing of her daughter.

The problem with this passage is the light—or lack of light—it casts on Jesus. We want him to be fully human, but we don’t want him to be too human. It’s uncomfortable to see our own prejudices reflected in him.

Matthew doesn’t clean up this story or try to make it pretty. Matthew dares to give us a very human Jesus, and he paints a specific picture of this woman. She is called a Canaanite, which was an outdated and possibly derogatory term (by Jesus’ time, the people of the region were called Phoenicians, not Canaanites). Either way, she is not one of Jesus’ people. She is definitely on the “not us” side of the equation.

Yet she somehow knows about Jesus. She knows he has the power to heal. She knows he’s already fed a multitude of people. After all that, surely there has to be a little compassion left for her and her daughter! And, understanding what she’s asking, Jesus reverses course and heals the child.

This story shows Jesus enlarging his understanding of the people of God. He saw and heard a fuller revelation of God in the voice and the face of this foreign woman. She was not one of his people, but she was one of God’s people.

Jesus changed his attitude that day, and today’s reading challenges us to do the same. Every generation sees different people as “not-us,” as not part of that cool girls’ group at school. We need someone to not belong in order to assure ourselves that we do belong. And our insecurities at being not cool enough, along with our fear of anything or anyone different from us, make it critical that we continue to belong and continue to banish or refuse entry to others.

There are myriad people in the world from a metaphorical Tyre and Sidon. Different from us in race, customs, religion, gender. Who are today’s “Canaanites” who we feel can be treated as dogs? Are they Muslim? Women? Central Americans?

Jesus learned the importance of inclusion, of making sure everyone—not just his little band—had the opportunity to be part of God’s kingdom on earth. Is it really okay for us to do any less?

I don’t think any of those girls in school remembers my name, perhaps not even my existence. But I remember theirs, everyone. And how much what they did to me hurt.

With God’s help, I’ll never hurt anyone else like that. Not ever.

Are you in?

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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 http://www.pauline.org.

Be Transformed

While sitting down to write the reflection for today’s Gospel I was stuck on what to say. I have felt lukewarm in my faith lately, struggling to find the passion and fire that I typically have since converting to the Catholic faith. Life has been so crazy, but good, and I tend to lose track of all the things I need to be grateful for when I hit a slump in faith.

After reading the Gospel a few times I started to think about the word transfiguration. When I think of this word I think of being changed or transformed, and ultimately becoming the saints we are destined to become. We are called to be dazzling and pure with the Lord, and Christ has purchased for us the rewards that we may gain in eternal life. How can I not think of this and automatically be on my knees in thanksgiving?

If I am being honest, I think it is easier to live a life of lukewarm faith, going through the motions. It is harder to stand up for what is right, to live a life full of joy, and to trust God in all the ways He is transforming us. While struggling with depression and anxiety, it is easier for me to feel sorry for myself rather than reflect upon all of the blessings in my life. Anxiety is very debilitating and I pray for all those that carry this cross on a daily basis – be encouraged that with continual prayer and pursuit of Christ He will help us carry this cross on a daily basis, even when we don’t realize it. No matter your cross, ask yourself one question: how is God using this cross to make you more like Christ?

I believe that ultimately this is what God was speaking to me through today’s Gospel: we are all called to be transformed, and we have to go through the highs and lows of spiritual life in order to reach this transformation. We must experience all of these facets of the human experience so that we may more fully realize our call to live according to our original state in Creation and our identity in the Lord.  

Look to St. Teresa of Calcutta for inspiration: she experienced silence while praying to God for decades of her life, but she consistently chose joy and pursued Christ. She exercised virtue and good will in choosing the road that wasn’t easy, a road that was narrow, a road full of trials – ultimately this road led to sainthood and deep relationship with Christ.

Be strong, be brave, and be persistent. No matter how many times you are knocked down ask Christ to help you back up. He is always there and will always be there – all He desires is that we ask great things of Him and trust. Please know of my prayers for you as we all endure the daily struggle and grow in virtue as we choose Love over comfort.

“Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” –St. Teresa of Calcutta

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

In Our Pain

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book, then learned a fact about it that changes everything? That was me today. I’ve always heard Jesus’ miracle of the fish and the loaves, but I never knew that it was literally right after Jesus finds out about the death of John the Baptist. I always thought that the miracle was just another day for Jesus, walking from city to city, preaching to huge crowds every time he stepped outside. 

I was wrong. This time was so different.

On this day, Jesus was in mourning. His cousin, with whom he met in the womb, the one who baptized him in the Holy Spirit, had been murdered and beheaded. 

While we know that Jesus is divine, we also know that he is human. He has emotions, just like us. Understandably so, when he heard of his cousin’s death, he withdrew to a deserted place by himself. 

When we are mourning a death, a relationship, an injustice, we too want to withdraw from the world. In our pain, we need to take the time to be sad and upset. We need time to process. Even Jesus, our mighty savior, knew that sometimes we need to be alone for a moment. 

However, as Genesis 2:6 says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Jesus came back to where he had left his disciples and saw the crowds that had gathered in his absence. He did not send them away because he wasn’t in the mood.  Even while experiencing grief, “his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.” Then, once the disciples tell Jesus that it’s late and dinner time, He does not agree to dismiss them so they can buy their own food. Instead, he provides them with food by the miracle of multiplying the fish and loaves, feeding five thousand men and many more women and children. 

Like I said before, I knew about the miracle. I even remember when I first heard about this miracle. It was when I was about 5 or 6, watching a cartoon on local TV channel. I remember seeing the bread and fish shimmer and appear in everyone’s hands as the crowds were filled with shock. 

Today was like hearing it, really hearing it, for the first time. 

To know that Jesus was in mourning? To know that even while He was dealing with the death of His cousin that He knew before birth, He did this for us? That blows my mind.

It blows my mind because when I’m in emotional pain, I find it hard to get past the part where I withdraw to a deserted place by myself. I struggle to find my way past the hurt and injustice. I forget to empathize and sympathize with others’ problems. Yet, today, we read about how Jesus is able to mourn and still puts His people and the glory of God above His own pain. 

I want to glorify God in all that I do, no matter my pain, and for this reason, I pray:

Dear Lord,

As we mourn, let us find Your plan for us,
For Your glory is greater than our pain.

As we mourn, help us to withdraw into our faith and not the darkness,

For You are our rock in turbulent times.

As we mourn, remind us of Your presence in our lives,

For You are forever by our sides. 

Finally, My God, 

As we mourn, allow us to be open to others,
For we are not alone in mourning nor on this journey of life. 

If you are mourning the loss of a loved one, I urge you to read this article for some guidance and helpful words from Fr. Eamon Tobin.

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.

Do Not Deal Unfairly

I admit it. I did not want to write today’s blog. It chose me. In 1985, this was a day of jubilee. I married the man I loved. Our family and friends gathered, and we celebrated life and new beginnings. The date holds a bittersweet place for me in 2019, as an un-niversary. It is a poignant, very personal reminder that there are some people who do not deal fairly with their fellow man.

The passage today from Leviticus speaks about a year of jubilee. ‘Jubilee’ is from the Hebrew word jobel which means ‘rams horn’, which is blown as a trumpet to signal the beginning of the jubilee year to proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. In regards to liberty, the text mentions several times, “do not deal unfairly” with your neighbor.

Our Catholic faith makes it quite clear. We are called to, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34). The Catechism of the Catholic Church is very eloquent in its explanations of how ‘dealing unfairly’ applies to the Ten Commandments and our morality. When someone is dealt with unfairly or unjustly, it is an act that takes us away from love, which can lead us so easily into sin. It chips away at our own love of God. As when a snowball starts to form, something very small and seemingly harmless can grow into a very significant life-threatening event (picture an avalanche).

The path to being a good Catholic Christian is not easy. C.S. Lewis wrote this in his essay, ‘Mere Christianity,’ “If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you; you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. But, fortunately, it works the other way around. Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself.”

I must keep learning how to act justly and to love tenderly. When I’m angry about injustice or how I (or another has been wronged), I need to remember that other people can learn to change in spite of how they’ve previously acted. As Pope Francis says, “being a Christian isn’t just following the commandments. It’s letting Him take possession of our lives and change them, to transform them, free from the darkness of evil and sin”.

“Let us ask God to grant that violence be overcome by the power of love, that opposition give way to reconciliation and that the desire to oppress be transformed into the desire for forgiveness, justice, and peace. May peace be in our hearts so that they are open to the action of God’s grace. May all members of the family community, especially children, the elderly, the weakest, feel the warmth of this feast, and may it extend subsequently to all the days in the year.”

-Pope Benedict XVI


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 bprice@diocesan.com.

Living the Liturgical Year

I LOVE this time of year! The pace of summer touched with the anticipation of another school year. As a teacher, I am so grateful for the change of pace of summer and the opportunity to step back and prepare for all of the challenges of the coming school year. (I am even more grateful since in 2018 I had a year-round job and had some serious adjusting to do when I didn’t get to set my own schedule in July. How do you do it? Lol! As much as I like summer, I also like getting back to the routine of the school year.

And that is why I love today’s Old Testament Reading. God is setting out a calendar that helps the Jewish people to incorporate their worship into their day to day lives. God knew that if he didn’t help them set aside days to focus on their relationship with him, the busy-ness of just living would encroach and leave them lost. It ends with, “These, therefore, are the festivals of the LORD on which you shall proclaim a sacred assembly, and offer as an oblation to the LORD burnt offerings and cereal offerings, sacrifices and libations, as prescribed for each day.”

We may not celebrate the same festivals as the ancient Jews, but Holy Mother Church knows her children so well, and she provides. We too need feasts, celebrations, and solemnities to help us not to get overwhelmed with all the stuff of life and to reflect on what is essential.

As we head into the tail end of summer, use this as a time to revisit the Liturgical Calendar and think about how your family can celebrate with the universal Church. Here are some ideas for getting started:

-Look ahead to see what Saint Days are approaching. You can find information and a full calendar at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website. (Link: USCCB Liturgical Year Calendar) You don’t need to celebrate all of them, but pick out a family favorite and perhaps a new Saint friend for the month.

-Don’t forget August 15, the Assumption of Mary. Mark your family calendar now so you don’t neglect going to Mass. (It is a holy day of obligation.) Plan for ice cream or treat after to make the day even more special. We should be celebrating!

-Check out Catholic Icing (Link: https://www.catholicicing.com/) She is a Catholic mom who shares her ideas for how to help her littles get in on the act of celebrating in ways that are doable for busy families and lots of fun.

-Families celebrate the day someone joins their family, try celebrating the day each member of your family joined the family of God. It doesn’t need to be a huge production, but allowing children to choose a favorite food or dessert, or even better stopping to pray for 5 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament to say thank you for the gift of being in God’s family is a great way for children (big and small) to remember the importance of their Baptismal Day.

-If you don’t have one, create a family altar. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but a small space in your home that is dedicated to God. A small crucifix and a candle are a great beginning. As you go through the year, add likenesses of the Saints (the best ones are hand-drawn!) or notes about people for whom you have promised to pray. Let children add flowers and stones and small found treasures as gifts to God. Catholic Mom’s blog has some ideas from the simple to the ornate. (Link: https://catholicmom.com/2012/12/23/home-altar-ideas/

Of course, there is always Pinterest! You will find more ideas than you will know what to do with. The key, keep it simple and just start.


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 figuring out a new knitting or quilting pattern. Since every time she thinks she gets life all figured out, she realizes just how far she has to go, St. Rita of Cascia is her go-to Saint for intercession and help. Home includes Brea, a Bernese Mountain dog and Carlyn, a very, very goofy Golden Retriever.

Bad Fish

What could be worse than bad fish? Not much and Jesus tells us in the parable in today’s Gospel that bad fish are thrown away, and “thus it will be at the end of the age.” The “bad fish” will be thrown into the fiery furnace.

The moral of the story: Don’t be a bad fish.

But there is more here: Jesus begins this parable by saying that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a wide net, that collects “fish of every kind,” gathering in whatever it can reach (which is everything) and whomever it can encompass (which is everyone). The Kingdom includes ALL GOOD THINGS and EVERYONE who doesn’t refuse it, and even those who refuse it are gathered in to receive the place to which their choices have led them.

We become “good fish” or “bad fish” according to what we choose and why we choose it. Not by the judgment of an arbitrary opinion, not by ROI or outcomes, not by our achievements or recognitions, not by what others think of us, not even by what we think of ourselves, but by what we choose and why we choose it, which God sees clearly.

In the Old Testament reading from Exodus at Mass today, we read several times that Moses did as the Lord commanded him, even to the details of the Dwelling built for the Ark. And because of this, “the glory of the Lord filled the Dwelling.” We could say Moses was a “good fish,” not because he knew everything or did everything perfectly, but because he chose to follow the Lord, even when it seemed difficult or unreasonable or even impossible.

And that is the beauty of the Kingdom: If we resolve to choose always to do as the Lord commands us, the Lord will fill us and dwell with us, just as He filled the Dwelling built by Moses. And those in whom the Lord dwells are not bad fish.

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

Destined for Radiance

The first reading today from Exodus describes a fascinating transformation that happened to Moses at Mt. Sinai. After conversing with God on the mountain, and whenever he spoke with God in the tabernacle, Moses’ face glowed. His skin shone so brightly that his brother Aaron was afraid of him and the people begged him to wear a veil. While this story may be odd, it offers us a beautiful image for what our own relationship with God should, and can, look like.

Catechism 221 says that the reason God created us, our destiny, is to share in the divine life of the Holy Trinity. And Catechism 460 says, “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” We are destined, our ultimate purpose is to become divine. This idea goes by many names, theosis, divinization, sanctification, and growing in holiness, but they all express the same belief. As the priest says at Mass when he mixes the water and wine at the altar, “May we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

When St. Matthew wrote about Jesus’ Transfiguration on the mountain he had in mind the story of Moses’ glowing face in mind. The glorified and resurrected body of Jesus is the image for our own destiny.

The Responsorial Psalm today proclaims, “Holy is the Lord our God.” In the Old Testament, the holiness of God was a truly frightening thing. When God revealed Himself to the whole people of Israel on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19 and 20, they were so afraid that they begged Moses to make sure God never does that again. Even when Moses asked to see the Lord’s face in Exodus 33, God said no because the glory of the Lord’s face would have killed Moses on the spot.

However, God became man and bridged that chasm between divinity and humanity. Seeing God in his holiness won’t kill us; it will transform us into him. As St. John says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

“I call you friends,” says Jesus. What an incredible thought. We can converse with God like he is a friend. Only God can make us like himself, can make us divine, but we must cooperate. This divine life is the treasure, the pearl of great price, that Jesus speaks of the Gospel. One of the primary ways we cooperate with this process of growing in holiness, of becoming like God, is through prayer, conversation with God.

In his document on holiness, the pope speaks about the necessity of prayer. At one point, he says:

“Are there moments when you place yourself quietly in the Lord’s presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when you bask in his gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart? Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire. How will you then be able to set the hearts of others on fire by your words and witness? If, gazing on the face of Christ, you feel unable to let yourself be healed and transformed, then enter into the Lord’s heart, into his wounds, for that is the abode of divine mercy” (Gaudete et Exsultate 151).

Just as Moses’ face became radiant when he basked in the presence of God, so to can our hearts, our whole being, become radiant through prayer. Take some time to sit with the Lord in silence. Share with him whatever is on your heart, your insignificant worries, and your deepest longings. Then sit in his presence and let Christ share his heart with you. Let him speak into your life. Let him make you radiant.

Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and a parish director of religious education. He can be found at his website, Rejoice and be Glad: Catholicism in the Pope Francis Generation or read his work at Where Peter Is.

Mercy Always and Everywhere

I was with a group of amazing young women the other night. They are in that time of life where they are pretty recently married and starting their families. As they shared their stories of the antics of their babies and the missteps and small victories of family life with young children, I sat and watched them in awe. They are gorgeous, and they were so comfortable with one another. They teased and chided; supported and encouraged one another. They spoke of their faith, and one discussed how she and her husband had been praying about a change in job. I was basking at being included in their tribe.

Then the subject of the conversation changed, and suddenly, we were discussing television and the Bachelor and other shows which make a game show out of finding a partner and hooking up. “Oh, yes, on _____________________ if they aren’t in bed with someone by nighttime, they are off the show!” This was followed by a round of laughter and discussing the pros and cons of the different formats, each of which involved finding a partner, “hooking up” and generally making sport of finding a spouse and getting married. As the conversation turned again, I sat there and felt deflated and defeated.

Our culture. Ugh. What are we doing to our young people? What is it that makes these beautiful, incredible young woman, who aren’t living by those twisted values think that this is okay entertainment? And why didn’t I say something?

I have been rereading and praying over today’s Scripture for some time. But it was after this, that it made me sit up straight and take a serious accounting.

At the end of His explanation of the parable of the seeds, Jesus says, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.” Wait. What was that? “They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” Hold on a minute. Did Jesus really just say that not only evildoers but those who cause others to sin will be cast into the fire for ETERNITY? Yessiree Bob, that is precisely what he said.

I am not only responsible for not doing evil myself, but also for making sure I don’t cause others to sin, and that is going to include talking about sinful, stiff-necked behavior (as Moses called it), both mine and theirs. This just got hard. This just got real.

From the Introduction to “Divine Mercy in My Soul”, the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Koiwalska, “We must draw near to Him who redeemed us by His suffering and death borne for us, and, out of love for Him, draw near to our poor and suffering brothers and sisters and bring them relief through spiritual and corporal works of love and mercy. Jesus expects this from us: I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere.”

What does it mean to show mercy to my neighbors always and everywhere? Of course, it starts with making sure their physical needs are met. But it doesn’t end there. The greatest act of mercy we can do for someone is to help them draw closer to God. In this crazy mixed-up world we live in, it means being able to recognize and oh-so-gently point out when we are not living consistent with what we know and profess about Jesus Christ.

I could give you 100 reasons why I didn’t speak up on that evening. I am also sure that listening to an old, grey-haired Aunt pontificate on the evils of the Bachelor wouldn’t have done much good either. I need to be better at finding loving, charitable ways to fulfill Jesus’ demand for deeds of mercy because helping people I love and care about live a life aligned with Christ in word and deed is the most merciful and loving thing I can do. Is it going to put me out there? Yes. Are some people going to take it badly and not like it? Yes. Do I need to practice so that I can do it with as much kindness and charity as possible? Absolutely. Jesus demands it.

I don’t have any great words of wisdom for you today. I can’t even shine the flashlight backward to help you to see the path because I am not ahead of you. The best that I can give you today is to let you know that you are not alone. Jesus is calling me, and he is calling you to live out our faith, to profess it AND to live it. I am right beside you on this path, and I pray it will lead us to the Kingdom of the Father, both now and forever. Amen.

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 figuring out a new knitting or quilting pattern. Since every time she thinks she gets life all figured out, she realizes just how far she has to go, St. Rita of Cascia is her go-to Saint for intercession and help. Home includes Brea, a Bernese Mountain dog and Carlyn, a very, very goofy Golden Retriever.

Have Eyes Only For Jesus

Much ink has been spilled around Jesus’ words to Martha: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.” Does this mean the contemplative life is better than the active? That time in prayer is more important than time doing our duties? That there is no way to integrate the battling aspects of our life for solitude and responsibility?

If Jesus was holding Mary up as the epitome of the one who has chosen “the better part,” then what exactly did he mean? If he meant that contemplative life was a more truer form of discipleship than any other, then every other person in the Scriptures who was called as a prophet, priest, king, apostle, evangelist, was invited into a lesser form of discipleship. Jesus himself chose to stay and teach the multitudes rather than take much earned, and much wanted time away with his apostles in prayer and rest. His heart reached out to them who were like sheep without a shepherd. The many nights Jesus spent in prayer were followed by days of intense teaching and healing. Jesus even called his mother into a lifetime of daily chores and hospitality.

Is the life of witness and testimony and servant of less value than sitting at the Lord’s feet? Or is that what the Lord was talking about at all?

Perhaps what the Lord may have been holding up to us all, was Mary’s single-heartedness, her “undistractedness,” her poverty of spirit in the face of her sister’s complaints. Mary’s eyes were only for him, and her ears listened only for his voice. Mary, Jesus’ mother, had a similar round of duties to prepare meals and care for Joseph and Jesus. But I can only imagine the singleness of purpose, the gentle focus, and intentionality, the deep and quiet love, with which the duty of every moment was carried out by the Mother of God. Perhaps Jesus was suffering for all Martha was going through, knowing that the vexation she was experiencing was hurting her, and was not necessary. He wanted so much more for her to be at peace with her soul soaking in his tender love.

So, the Lord sent his apostles to the whole world to baptize people in the name of the Father, of the Son, of the Spirit. However, they were first to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Spirit. Their work was not to be their own, marred by competition, rivalry, anxiety and stress, and other “distracted” emotions. Through the Spirit they were to have their eyes only on him, be the conduits of God’s grace to the world, be obedient servants of the Word, and spend themselves for the Master they loved up to and including their ultimate death.

Therefore, on this Feast of St Martha, let us look to our own hearts that we might have the grace to live without distraction as we eagerly fulfill all that God calls us to do in life.

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

Website: www.touchingthesunrise.com

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Modern Day Wheat

Upon reading the first few lines of today’s Gospel, I thought to myself, “Yes, the Parable of the Sower! I can write about this!” Then I kept reading, and I panicked. This parable, the “Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat” is not a Gospel passage I’m familiar with at all.

So I kept reading Matthew 13, a chapter full of parables and explanations of parables. Thankfully, verses 36-43 offered a far more intelligent explanation for the “Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat” than I could ever provide. I encourage you to read those verses if you are as confused as I was.

Taking all of these words of Scripture to heart, what I wish to offer you today is a modern-day take on this Parable.

Put yourself in the shoes of the man who sowed. Your good seed is the word of God, the good news of the Gospel, while your field may be your work, your school, or your community. While your back was turned, your enemy came and sowed weeds of hatred, intolerance, and every kind of evil and left. What is the result? You see good and evil at war within your “field,” both coming up together and intertwining in the hearts you are trying to reach.

Fellow disciples come to you, asking how evil got mixed in with your group. You recognize it as the work of the devil, of Satan, and so you come up with a plan. Then comes the time for repentance, the harvest time, where choices will need to be made. Times get tough for the man doing the sowing as he has to continue to share the good news in the face of adversity.

What are you going to do? Let your field – your work, your school, your community – get caught up in the works of evil, or will you bring them into the light, into a relationship with Christ?

We talk about evangelization a lot. I know it has been the subject of a few of my blog posts. But it is time for us to take responsibility and action. Let today’s Gospel be another call to action for us to evangelize, for the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. The more that we share Christ with others, the more laborers we will have in the field.

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