The Compassion of Christ

“Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” 

In the first reading we hear Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians to be compassionate with one another. He calls them, and in turn calls us, to be imitators of Christ in everything we do. What St. Paul is urging us to do is not easy. Immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, and suggestive talk are all actions that we should rebuke. Rather than participating in deeds that distance us from Christ and His Kingdom, we are called to be thankful and compassionate. We are to live as children of light.

In today’s Gospel, Christ teaches us how to be compassionate. When he sees a woman who was “crippled by the Spirit” he calls out to her and heals her of her infirmity. In doing so, he angers the leader of the synagogue. The leader of the synagogue accuses Christ of not keeping holy the Sabbath because He cured the woman. Christ then rebukes him by calling him a hypocrite. Christ’s reasoning took me a very long time to understand. He asks the leader of the synagogue, “Does not each one of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering?” I thought Christ was comparing the work they do with their animals to the work He did in curing the crippled woman. What I now understand is that Christ sees the watering of animals as compassionate. One would not deny an animal sustenance on the Sabbath in order to keep the day holy. Rather, one would be compassionate to the animal and grant the animal its need for water and food. In the same way, Christ did not deny the woman the compassion of healing her from her infirmity. By watering the animals their physical needs are met. In curing the woman, not only are her physical needs met but her spiritual needs are as well because we are told it was Satan who kept her in slavery and caused her infirmity. Curing the woman from her physical infirmity shows us that Christ came to cure us of our spiritual infirmities.

May we be Christ-like in our compassion toward others and may we always look for and find the face of Christ in one another.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Total Abandonment To The Will of God

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that we should pray with faith and persistence. When we pray faithfully and persistently, we admit how much we need God in our lives.

Oftentimes we think of persistence in prayer as continually asking God for the same thing until He gives it to us. Sometimes that looks like “I promise I’ll stop gossiping if I get that promotion at work”. Sometimes it looks more serious like, “I promise I’ll come back to church if you allow my loved one to live through this disease”. But I think the prayer Christ is speaking about is the prayer in which we genuinely ask for His will to be done in our lives. Christ says, “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

We get so caught up in asking for material things, those things which we need most immediately, that we forget that the greatest gift God can give us is the Holy Spirit. When God doesn’t grant us the sign we prayed for, we think He denied us our desire. But God’s will is greater than our own and He knows what we need even when we do not. In those moments that we feel as though God has not given us what we prayed for, perhaps He has given us what we need: the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we have been granted the gift of the Holy Spirit in order to help us bear whatever cross we are carrying. We learn that ultimately, we need God and God alone.

Since I was very young, my mom has told me “God’s delay is not God’s denial”. As a kid (and sometimes even now) that’s a hard thing to accept. It helps to remember that His greatest gift to us is Himself and that is always enough.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Rejoice!

In today’s Gospel reading we hear the Beatitudes. Christ tells us, “Blessed are you who are poor…who are now hungry…who are now weeping…when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man”. Then he tells us to “Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!” That feels hard to do: leap for joy in the face of persecution or poverty or hunger or despair. I know most of the time when I’m experiencing any of that, the last thing on my mind is joy. But then, looking back on those times of sadness or persecution or any other type of hardship, I realize how much easier and how much more fruitful my thoughts and prayers would have been had I allowed myself to empty my heart of everything but God. For it is only in Him that true happiness and joy are found.

Today is also the feast day of St. Peter Claver who spent his life ministering to slaves in Cartagena. Thousands upon thousands of slaves were traded through Cartagena and St. Peter Claver, to the best of his ability, provided food, medicine, and drink to those who needed it. He chose a life of poverty, hunger, and persecution in order to serve those who had no choice but to live that way. St. Peter Claver is an example of why we should rejoice when we experience hardship: our reward will be great in Heaven!

May we always unite our own sufferings with those of Christ on the Cross and allow ourselves to open ourselves fully to His love and His mercy. Following the example of St. Peter Claver, may we rejoice in the face of poverty, hunger, despair, and persecution.

St. Peter Claver, pray for us!

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

We Belong To Him

I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.”

In today’s first reading, Paul addresses division among the Corinthians. He asks them, “While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and walking according to the manner of man? Whenever someone says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another ‘I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely men?” How often do we get caught up in the jealousy and rivalry of this world? St. Paul urges us to turn our attention away from the temptations, strife, and conflicts of this world and look instead toward our Heavenly Father for He is the one who, ultimately, is the cause of our growth. Although we follow priests and bishops and other holy people, they are the vessels through which God is doing His work. So even though Paul and Apollos were doing God’s work, it was God who changed hearts and minds and souls.

We see that only God causes growth in the Gospel when Christ heals Simon’s mother-in-law. Christ became man to save us from our sins. While He walked this earth, He performed countless miracles in order to show us the saving power of God. He is the one that heals, the one that proclaims the good news of the Kingdom of God. Without Him, even the holiest of men are nothing.

May we always remember that it is through God that we grow. May we always turn our thanks to Him, the one who loves us fully.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

It Is Fitting

“It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God”  

-St. John Damascene- 

The quote above is long but I feel like this fully encompasses the beauty of the feast we celebrate today.

In today’s Gospel we hear Mary’s Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” In carrying our Lord she is remarkably humble. She does not boast of her own merit but rather acknowledges herself as “his lowly servant” and praises God for giving her the grace to bear His Son. She knows oneness with Christ in a way we never will. She carried Him in her womb, taught him, and walked with Him during His Passion. It is for that reason that she did not suffer the pains of death and was assumed, body and soul, into Heaven. Since she was the first to be united with Christ in the flesh by His Incarnation, it is only fitting that should also be the first to be fully united with Christ, body and soul, in the Resurrection.

In the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissiumus Deus, in which Pope Pius XII defines the dogma of the Assumption, he says that he is “…confident that this solemn proclamation and definition of the Assumption will contribute in no small way to the advantage of human society…It is to be hoped that all the faithful will be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their Heavenly Mother…” In times of great suffering may we renew our devotion to our Heavenly Mother, for not only does her Assumption teach us about the Resurrection, but she also teaches us how to live our lives in unity with Christ while we are still on Earth.

Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

 

Lord, It Is Good That We Are Here

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. People often ask for signs in moments of despair or hopelessness. No greater sign can be given than the Transfiguration. In order to strengthen the Apostles-specifically Peter, James, and John-and give the three of them a glimpse of His divinity, a sign of hope for what they believe in. Peter’s response to Jesus’ transfiguration and the appearance of Moses and Elijah is, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”

Lord, it is good that we are here. 

What a powerful statement! It is good that we are here. Not only in His glory, but at the foot of His Cross, as John was. The Transfiguration is a sign of what Christ’s suffering will bring about for the world: glory! However, that glory was not attained without suffering. Jesus endured the Passion to bring about our redemption. When we unite our sufferings to the suffering of Christ, we are filled with the hope of the glory of the Resurrection. That hope is what Jesus gives to us in the Transfiguration. He gives us the hope that will get us through whatever present suffering we might be experiencing and the hope that guides our faith.

May we remember that it is good that we are “here”…wherever “here” is. Be it with our families, with our friends, at work, at the grocery store. It is good that we are here and that we know the Glory of God. When “here” is a place of despair, loneliness, or suffering, may we remember the Transfigured Lord and pray, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

God’s Proposal

Store up in your minds the Lord’s words, which you receive through your ears, for the Word of the Lord is the nourishment of the mind. Be careful that the seed received through your ears remains in your heart.” – Pope St. Gregory the Great

In today’s Gospel, we hear the Parable of the Sower, the parable in which Jesus compares the Word of God being received by different types of people to seed being sown on different types of ground. This is one of my favorites because not only does Jesus tell the parable, He tells us how it should be interpreted:

The seed sown on the path represents the person who hears the Word of God without understanding it.

The seed that falls on rocky soil represents the person who received the Word of God with joy but quickly falls away.

The seed that falls among thorns represents the person who hears the Word of God but is distracted by worldly things and does not share the Word.

The seed that falls on good soil represents the person who hears the Word of God, understands its meaning, lives according to God’s Word, and encourages others to do the same.

This Gospel is an invitation to evaluate how we are living our own lives. When we hear the Word of God, what do we do? What harvest do we reap? Do we dismiss the Gospel message because we do not understand it or do not think it is relevant in today’s world? Are we afraid of persecution and therefore fall away from the Word of God? Are we distracted by the messiness and complicated nature of our world right now and not make time for the Gospel? Or, do we live every day with God and His Word at the center and allow ourselves to be vessels of His Word and His love?

Pope Francis says that in this parable Jesus presents himself as the sower because he does not “impose but proposes”. He throws the seed, inviting us to Him and giving us what we need to grow in faith (the seeds). However, it is up to us to determine what kind of foundation that seed will land upon.

May our hearts always be open to the Word of God and our mouths always willing to share His love.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

The Vineyard of Faith

Today’s Gospel message is one that I struggle with quite often. I find myself saying, “I got here first” or “I’ve been waiting longer”. Sometimes I ask myself, “I’ve worked harder and longer. Why am I not reaping the same benefits or rewards and someone else who has not worked as hard or as long as I have?” Then I hear this parable and am immensely humbled. How many people serve God in a greater capacity than I do? A ton! Great saints like John Paul II, Gemma Galgani, Jose Luis Sánchez, and Martin of Porres dedicated their lives to Christ and His Church. Comparatively, I do very little. But rather than resigning myself to the fact that I may never “measure up” to their faith, I look to the saints as inspiration for my own life and I ask for their intercession. And what about those who have not yet come to the faith? Would we reject them just because they are coming to the faith later than we are? Absolutely not! We welcome them with open arms because we are grateful that they have come to know the same love of God that we know.

Today’s Gospel serves as a humbling reminder that God is generous and merciful. He desires for us to be united with Him in His Heavenly Kingdom whether we come to His vineyard at 5 years old or at 95. It is not an effort of ours or merit we can earn that grants us God’s love. Rather, He loves without condition and makes His love equally available to all.

When we come to God’s vineyard, He envelops us in His love which we hear of in today’s Responsorial Psalm. Every time I hear or read Psalm 23, I think of myself in preschool. I don’t have many memories of preschool; in fact, I don’t even remember my teacher’s name or the names of any of my classmates. What I do remember, however, is being taught Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” For a long time, I wondered why that psalm and why at such a young age? Looking back now, I think I understand. Our teacher wanted us all to be confident in and of God’s everlasting love for us. If we know that love at a young age we can grow up knowing Him and loving Him, and even perhaps begin bringing more laborers to His beautiful vineyard.

May we always remember the love of God and may we continue working as laborers in his vineyard.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Set Solidly

“How easily we could win Heaven day by day just by doing what we have to do — but doing it for God!” -St. John Vianney

In today’s Gospel, we hear the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The first words we hear are powerful and clear: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Later, Jesus uses the analogy of a house built on a rock–a strong foundation. Those who build their houses on rocks are safe and protected from dangers such as floods and winds. Those who build their houses on sand–a weak foundation–however, are susceptible to those dangers. In a homily on this Gospel, Pope Francis distinguishes between “Christians of words” and “Christians of action and of truth”. The “Christians of words” are those that say “Lord, Lord” but do not bear witness to those words with their actions; these Christians build their houses on sand. The “Christians of action and truth” are those that bear witness, through their actions, to the Truth of Christianity; these Christians build their houses on rock.

We were made to know, to love, and to serve God. It is part of our nature to follow His will. Yet, how often do we find ourselves saying the words but not following them with our actions? St. Teresa of Avila, in The Interior Castle, wrote “What value is there in faith without works? And what are they worth if they are not united to the merits of Jesus Christ, our only God?” Christ died on the Cross to save us from our sins. He did not simply say, “You are saved”. Rather, He became man, suffered persecution, and ultimately sacrificed His life for our sake. He is asking us to follow His example. He showed His love for us through His words and His actions. So too should we show our love for Him and be “Christians of action and truth”.

May we remain set solidly on the rock that is Christ and the Church and may we put our trust in the One who gave His life for our Redemption.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Fiat

Today’s first reading is from the Book of Kings. The purpose of the Books of Kings is to encourage the faithful to remain faithful so we hear stories of the faith of the Kings of Israel or, oftentimes, the stories of their lack of faith. The stories of the prophets, like Elijah, are also told and the prophets are always more faithful than the kings. The message is to follow the example of the prophets. In the first reading, we hear of Elijah throwing his cloak on Elisha, an act signifying Elijah’s call for Elisha to succeed him as a prophet. Before following Elijah, Elisha “says goodbye” to his previous by praying (the slaughter of the oxen). Elisha, recognizing his calling, wholeheartedly says “yes” to following Elijah and departs his previous life to serve Elijah as his attendant.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells the disciple “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One” which seems like an easy command. But let’s think about the fact that “Anything more is from the Evil One”. Anything more. Anything more–in addition to–yes or no. That means any doubts, any hesitations, any apathy, any moments of indecision are feelings from the Devil that prevent us from giving God our whole-hearted fiat, our wholehearted ‘Yes!’. It works the same way with our ‘No’. Our rejection of temptation should be just as emphatic and unfaltering as our ‘Yes’ to Christ.

St. Anthony, whose feast day is today, serves as an example of how to say and how to mean ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. He said his ‘Yes’ to follow Christ when, as a young man, he left his wealthy life to join the order of St. Augustine. Inspired by the Franciscans who were martyred in Morocco, St. Anthony eventually joined the Franciscans and, knowing the risk of martyrdom, asked to go to Morocco to continue the mission of evangelization. His ‘Yes’ was fervent and unqualified; he said ‘Yes’ to Christ regardless of the consequences and with deep love. In one of his homilies, St. Anthony said, “The joy of the saints consists in three things: the resurrection of the body, the blessedness of the soul, and freedom from the sting of the flesh and the temptation of the devil”. He knew the importance of saying ‘Yes’ to Christ and following his commandments and also knew that a wholehearted ‘Yes’ entails a ‘No’ to anything that is from the Evil One.

May we follow the examples of Elisha and St. Anthony who said “yes” and meant “yes”.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Perseverance Through Faith and Hope

Both readings for today urge us to have hope in the presence of Christ. In the first reading, we hear of St. Paul’s experience in Corinth. He is confronted with persecution but is able to persevere because of the faith and hope he places in God’s presence: “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.” In hearing the words of God, St. Paul is emboldened to continue preaching the Gospel despite what hardships may befall him. In a homily from 2014, Pope Francis described St. Paul as a “very courageous man” and encouraged us to follow the example of St. Paul. We, like St. Paul, experience fear, pain, and suffering and sometimes that causes us to question our faith or to ask God why. Why me? Why this feeling? Why do I have to suffer? I suppose the answer to those questions is joy. We experience fear and pain and suffering so that we can encounter true joy. Christ in His passion showed us that in order for us to be redeemed, we must first carry a cross. He carried His own cross so that we might enter into eternal life with Him, but in doing so, He also called us on to live a Christian life. The Christian life is not easy, nor is it meant to be, but the reward is the fulfillment of our greatest desire.

In the Gospel, Christ tells the disciples exactly that; they will feel great sorrow when He leaves them, but the joy they feel in the Resurrection cannot be taken from them. I think it is also important to note that this sorrow the disciples will feel when they are separated from Christ is the same sorrow that we experience when we are away from the Sacraments, especially that of Confession. We need Christ in our everyday lives. We need His love and His forgiveness if we want to enter into eternal life with him. At this time, I know it feels difficult to participate in the Sacraments, but Christ suffered for us so that we may place our hope in His Resurrection. As Christ said to His disciples, “…you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve but your grief will become joy…But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you”.

May we continue to hope in Christ and His Resurrection!

St. Rita, pray for us!

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

The Peace and Glory of God

I wish I could have a nickel for every time I’ve read a blog post, social media post, or news article that starts with “In these strange/uncertain times…” I would be a very rich woman. So, at the risk of sounding cliche…

In these strange times, I have found great comfort in the readings that seem truly timeless right now. In today’s Gospel, we hear what Jesus tells the disciples at the Last Supper. He is telling them of what will occur in the days that follow: His Passion. He opens His discourse by saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as this world gives do I give it to you”. The difference between His peace and that of the world is that Jesus’ peace consists of consolation in the knowledge that God is with us. Right now it seems to me that the world is offering us a lot of “peace”: car commercials telling us that “we’re in this together,” news articles telling us how to “make the most of quarantine,” social media posts telling us to not compare our experiences to others in order to “avoid anxiety.” Every time I encounter this rhetoric, I feel like something is missing. It wasn’t until reading today’s Gospel that I realized what is missing in all those good-hearted messages: the peace that only God can give.

Even to his disciples, Jesus says to not be afraid because He knows they will grow fearful without Him. His words to his disciples ring true and striking today. He reminds them that He is going to Heaven to be with a Father. The comfort He offers the disciples is what we should take to heart as we persist through this trying time. God is with us now, just as He was with the disciples at the Last Supper. If we place our trust in Him, we will have peace, and our hearts will not be troubled.

Today we celebrate the Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, 1st century martyrs who converted to Christianity after being part of the Roman Army. Part of the epitaph for their tombs reads, “They suddenly gave up their savagery, they were converted, they fled the camp of their evil leader, throwing away their shields, armor, and bloody spears. Professing the faith of Christ, they are happy to witness to its triumph…understand what great deeds can be brought about by Christ’s glory”. May we, like Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, in our suffering, be happy witnesses of the joy of our faith. May we continue to recognize the certainty of Christ’s glory amidst our feelings of uncertainty.

Sts. Nereus and Achilles, pray for us!

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.