Memento Mori

In his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde’s protagonist embraces a life of complete hedonism, participating in any debauchery that presents itself. His saving grace, or so he thinks, is that his face is not affected by his sins: he still looks young and beautiful and believes people perceive him as such. It’s only the picture in his attic that shows the depths of his degradation.

It’s a great example of the delusion most of us hold when we think of our sins. I’m not such a bad person, people like me. I may forget to pray some days, and sometimes I have to skip Mass (if I have someplace to go). I’m not sure when I went to Confession last, but then, I don’t have any mortal sins to confess. I look pretty good–no one needs to know about my anger at my neighbor, or my skimming from petty cash at work. 

We’re like the pseudo-righteous in today’s gospel, keeping up appearances for the praise of others. It can be difficult in our clean, well-fed, comfortable world to think we need to repent. Our ‘’problems” aren’t sins–they’re addictions or genetically predetermined personality traits, or hey–what’s the big deal— culturally normalized behavior. 

In his mercy, God gives us Ash Wednesday, a day to remember that we are on our way to death–to dust we shall return. The Church proclaims a fast so we can rediscover how far short we fall from God’s glory, and how much we need redemption.

Our lives, not to mention our world, will never be transformed if we don’t see our need for penance that leads to the conversion of heart and deeds of righteousness. In his apostolic exhortation on Penance and Reconciliation,  St. John Paul II wrote: ‘Penance is …a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds and then to the Christian’s whole life.” This Lent, ask God to open your heart to penance, so that you will be reconciled to him, and then to our brothers and sisters. Some day, the picture in the attic will be revealed.

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Pamela joined Diocesan’s staff in 2006, after a number of years in the non-profit sector. Her experience is in non-profit administration including management, finance, and program development, along with database management and communications. She was a catechist in her parish RCIA program for over 15 years, as well as chairperson of their Liturgy Commision. Received into the Catholic Church as an adult, Pamela’s faith formation was influenced by her Mennonite extended family, her Baptist childhood, and her years as a Reformed Presbyterian (think Scott Hahn).

Lessons in Humility

Today’s readings are all about being humble. The Gospel tell us to not worry about being the greatest, but rather to be as simple as children. I could attempt to wax eloquent on the subject, but who better to teach the lessons of humility than great writers, past and present. Here are some of the best:

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?

“As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” (Abraham Lincoln)

“True humility does not know that it is humble. If it did, it would be proud from the contemplation of so fine a virtue.” (Martin Luther)

“Learning to believe you are magnificent, and gradually to discover that you are not magnificent: enough labor for one human life.” (Czesław Miłosz)

“Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.” (Andrew Murray, Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness)

“Until you have suffered much in your heart, you cannot learn humility.” (Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives)

“The more humble and obedient to God a man is, the more wise and at peace he will be in all that he does.” (Thomas ᾲ Kempis, The Inner Life)

“Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.” (Ann Landers)

“Humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all.” (Andrew Murray, Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness)

“Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying.” (St. Vincent de Paul)

“You cannot exalt God and yourself at the same time.” (Rick Warren)

“Our humility before God has no value, except that it prepares us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellow men.”  (Andrew Murray, Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness)

And, on this day before the start of Lent, a little humor to get you started:

“On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.”
–Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

May your Season of Lent lead you closer to our Lord and nourish in you a humble spirit.

God Bless.
(Quotes taken from Goodreads:

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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

There is Power

Miracles and power. You know, those things that Jesus had two thousand years ago when he was present with us and then was zapped up into heaven and took his power with him. Wait, is that really the story?

I hear from so many people that they don’t see God working, that evil seems to be dominant, and that they don’t believe in miracles. But then I am reminded of this past weekend I had with 300 teens all praising and adoring God in the Blessed Sacrament for over 2 hours.

There were people laughing from pure joy; people silent with contemplation of the goodness of God, people who passed out as Jesus approached, and they rested in peace. People who were crying out words of praise.

It seems to me that there still is power; what is lacking is faith. I encouraged the teens this past weekend that it can be hard to believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist because what we see is still bread. So I encouraged them to ask God for help. And not help on an intellectual level where they no longer see bread at all, but on a relationship level. Ask God to talk to you, speak to you, move in you, and then the intellect will follow.

I encourage the same with all of us today. Jesus is waiting in every tabernacle in every Church across the world. When was the last time we stopped in and prayed for and expected a miracle? It’s not too late. God Bless!

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Tommy Shultz is Director of Marketing for Ablaze ministries as well as Director of Evangelization for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative. In these roles he is committed to bringing all those he meets into a deeper relationship with Christ. 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

I Shall Not Want

Today’s Responsorial is one of the most poetic and well-known Psalms. I remember reciting it as part of an English assignment in high school. “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” And it goes on and on to describe verdant pastures, restful waters, abundant tables, anointed heads, and overflowing cups.

Surely David was in a very good mood when he wrote this because my life surely doesn’t look like that! (Unless I’m on a Hawaiian vacation, maybe…but let’s get real.) The part about walking in a dark valley sounds more like it. So many uncertainties, so many unknowns, so much wondering how I will do this or when I will have time to do that.

But maybe it’s not so much about whether my life is full of picturesque scenery and rich foods, but rather the second part of each of these phrases: I shall not want. He gives me repose. He leads me. He refreshes my soul. You are at my side. You give me courage.
It is YOU who are spreading the symbolic table, YOU who are anointing my head, YOU who are the source of the goodness and kindness that follow me.

Now THAT is something I can chew on, because despite the uncertainties, the unknowns and the wondering, I DO know that I will never go without necessities, that he will always give me the opportunity to rest in Him, He will consistently guide me, He will refresh me, stay with me and grant me courage.

The self-inflicted troubles come when I try to do it all on my own. I try to take the reins of my own life. After all, it’s mine to live, right? If I want something, I push, push, push, trying to obtain it, often amid angst and frustration. Why don’t I just ask Him if that’s what He wants? When my kids or my financial situation or my family problems build upon my heart, I want to explode and end up crying like a spoiled child. Why don’t I just place them in His hands and see what wonderful things unfold?

So often, I try to “lord it over” my life, as the First Reading mentions. But in the end, I am just making it harder for myself.

Lord, show me, lead me, guide me. Grant me that assurance, that rest, that courage that I need to follow you in all things, knowing that you will make my cup overflow.

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Tami grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. She spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, studying theology and philosophy, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Western Kentucky. She loves tackling home improvement projects, finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby and finding unique ways to love. She works at Diocesan, is a guest blogger on and, runs her own blog at and has been doing Spanish translations on the side for almost 20 years.

A Hard Take on Discipleship

When I interviewed for my current youth ministry job, my now-coworkers asked me, “So what do you know about St. Peter Church?” Thanking the Lord I had spent time looking at the parish website the night before my interview, I confidently replied that the purpose of St. Peter Church is to make missionary disciples.

Mic drop, crushed it … or so I thought. Until they asked me something along the lines of “So how would you make missionary disciples out of the teens?” Although I don’t remember my answer in full, I do remember stating that we needed to start with the question, “What is a disciple and what does it take to be one?”

You see, we are all called to be disciples – everyone, more than just the parishioners of St. Peter Church. And we learn a lot about what it takes to be a disciple in today’s Gospel reading. Verses 34-38 present many short teachings on the conditions of discipleship, with verses 34 and 35 perhaps being the most well known: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

In these verses, Jesus presents a challenge to his current disciples and all those disciples still to come. Discipleship involves a choice and He lays it all on the line, not holding anything back about what it takes to be a disciple. A true, authentic disciple will totally commit himself or herself to the task at hand, all the way to the point of suffering or death. As a result, a disciple who is loyal to Christ will have fullness of life, even despite earthly suffering and death.

Jesus takes it a step further in verse 36 and puts the conditions of discipleship in monetary terms, such as “profit,” “forfeit” and “exchange.” Here, He is asking, “What is worth more, your riches or your soul?” Today’s society places such an emphasis on monetary gain at the expense of almost everything else while Jesus reminds everyone of the danger of wealth.

Meanwhile, the final verse serves as a stern reminder to uphold the truth of Jesus’ teaching. Anyone who is afraid to speak the truth or dilutes it in any way will be ashamed when he or she comes before the Lord.

How do we stack up? By these conditions, how does our discipleship look? Do we need to take a hard look at ourselves and make some difficult changes? May we look to this Gospel for the right direction.

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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.


“However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” (James 2:8-9)

If I show partiality, I commit sin; this phrase jumped out at me. I haven’t been able to dismiss it, nor the rest of the sentence in this quote, ‘and convicted by the law as a transgressor.’ Crud bunnies! What a lot to examine in one sentence.

I find myself looking forward to Lent beginning in a few days. These two sentences from James will probably be my focus this year. Why only probably? I need to leave room for confirmation from the Holy Spirit, as there are still a few days before Ash Wednesday. 

If I show partiality, I commit sin; man o man, what a phrase to deal with! I don’t think 40 days will be long enough to break me of habits, lack of awareness, bias, prejudice, and my obliviousness to my own racism that has been ingrained in my thought processes. I will continue to work on ridding myself of the biases that I have absorbed during my life and opening my eyes to how privileged I have been in all stages of life. I need to be vigilant to increase my awareness of all in the world around me; how my actions or inactions affect others.

Cardinal Blase Joseph Cupich sums this up beautifully in his keynote address at the Catholic Social Justice Ministry gathering, held January of this year. He begins by quoting Pope Francis’ words, “We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty” (Gaudete et Exsultate, [Rejoice and Be Glad] nos. 95, 101).

He continues, reminding us of our Catholic responsibility, “to bear witness to the Church’s commitment to a consistent ethic of life in every corner of our society. We are called to protect the life and dignity of all those who are vulnerable and embody Christ’s image, from the unborn to migrants, our brothers and sisters around the world whose lives are threatened by war, poverty, racism, or climate change, persons with disabilities, and persons on death row.”

What are you called to reflect and act on in the days ahead? Here are a few resources to help you on your way with this topic. I will be revisiting the Church documents “Open Wide Our Hearts” and Bishop Braxton’s “The Racial Divide in the United States.”

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Beth is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She brings a unique depth of experience to the group due to her time spent in education, parish ministries, sales and the service industry over the last 25 yrs. She is a practicing spiritual director as well as a Secular Franciscan (OFS). Beth is quick to offer a laugh, a prayer or smile to all she comes in contact with. Reach her here

Walking Toward Heaven with Christ

The Responsorial Psalm for today is, “Who shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord?” Isn’t that a question we ask ourselves pretty regularly? Maybe it’s weird, but I often think about the people who are in Heaven (or who are not). Is Abraham Lincoln in Heaven? What about Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks? Marie Curie or Albert Einstein?

There are so many people who did a lot of good in the world that I often think, “There’s no way they aren’t in Heaven.” There are a lot of people who affected the world negatively, and I think, “I wonder if somehow they renounced their evil deeds before they died and fully converted on their deathbed.” After reading Psalm 15, I realized I don’t have to ask those questions. I know exactly who is in Heaven: “He who walks blamelessly and does justice, who thinks the truth in his heart and slanders not with his tongue…who harms not his fellow man, nor takes up reproach against his neighbor…”. We are told who is in Heaven and, in turn, we are told how we should act, how we should live our lives in order to join those who are already with our Father in His Heavenly Kingdom.

In yesterday’s Gospel, we heard Christ reprimand the disciples because of their blindness. In today’s Gospel, we hear of Christ, healing a blind man. Again we are reminded that only by seeing Jesus for who He truly is–the Son of the Living God who became incarnate to save us from our sins–that we are able to enter Heaven. Many times, like the man whom Christ heals, it takes more than one touch, more than one sign from God to convince us His presence in our lives. We need Jesus to work in our lives, and we need to recognize that work, in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We cannot do it alone. We need our faith to guide us to become people who walk blamelessly and do justice, who think the truth in our hearts and do not slander with our tongues.
It is only through Christ that we are saved, and it only through faith that we come to know Christ.

As we prepare for the season of Lent may our prayer be, “May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to his call” so that we may enter ever more deeply into the light of 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

Joy in Christ’s Presence

In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks His disciples, “Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?” Christ is pointing out the blindness of His own disciples and, in turn, when we hear this Gospel, we hear of our own blindness. The disciples take Christ’s word literally and fear that He is upset with them for not bringing enough food for the journey. This reaction in and of itself is proof of their blindness. Jesus has to remind them of the times in which He fed the multitudes with little food, yet food remained left over. Despite being witness to these miracles, the disciples are still unable to recognize who Jesus is and what He is doing in their lives. Ultimately, it is an obstacle right in front of their faces that blinds the disciples. They forgot the food. That obstacle prevented them from being fully present with Christ, thereby preventing them from recognizing who He is.

How many times do we allow ourselves to become blinded by the obstacles before us?

Personally, I had a rough week. Nothing seemed to go right; plans were canceled, we had car troubles, there were snow days that messed up schedules, and it was just messy in general. It was really easy for me to get caught up in that “where’s-the-good-in-the-world” attitude. I couldn’t recognize Jesus working intimately in my life. The plans that were canceled allowed my husband and me to have two lovely three-day-weekends in a row together; despite car troubles and snow, I got to work all week safely; my students were joyful.

What is it that hardens our hearts?

In the first reading, we hear, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above…” God gives us so many wonderful gifts every single day. The gift of life, of friendship, of warmth, of intellect, of faith, of humor, of joy, of strength. It is so easy to overlook those gifts and focus on the negative, on the difficulties. But it is in focusing on those negativities that we are prevented from understanding the Good News of Christ. That Good News is that He loves us and that He will care for us if we only put our trust in Him.

“The most beautiful act of faith is the one made in darkness, in sacrifice, and with extreme effort.”
St. Pio

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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

Seeing Signs

He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign?:’” -Mark 8:12

There are four thousand hungry people who had come to a deserted place to hear Jesus. They came hungry to hear what Jesus had to say. But their bodies caught up to their souls and they soon were just plain hungry for food. The disciples start to worry. You can imagine the quickly escalating conversation. “There are so many of them.” “We can’t even send them back to where they came from because they won’t make it because they are so hungry.” “They’ll collapse.” “They’ll die of starvation on the way.” “What are we going to do?” 

Jesus simply asks them what they have, he blesses it and it is enough. More than enough. The disciples get in the boat to go with Jesus. They have seen and they follow. 

The Pharisees have a distorted world view. They look but they don’t see. Jesus has fulfilled the signs by doing what Moses did in feeding the hungry in the desert. This act itself signifies that he is the New Moses. And still the Pharisees ask for a sign. Jesus’s reply, “Amen, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” (Mark 8:12) 

The lens through which the Pharisees viewed the world held a certain world order. If keeping the law was good, then their scrupulous adherence to the law had to be better. They saw themselves as the chosen ones of the chosen people. It was them and the rest of the world. As happens every time we humans start to see ourselves as separate from the rest of humanity, what divides us becomes more important that what unites us. Their own adherence to seeing themselves as better, more faithful, set apart prevented them from seeing the miracles happening all around them.  

I have to think that when Jesus sees us start to think in terms of “us” and “them”, he still sighs from the depth of his spirit. At times it feels like everything in our culture is geared towards creating a sense of us and them. The false dichotomies abound on social media. Are you A, meaning you are with my group and we are happy to have you 100% along, or are you B and against my group, meaning it is okay to completely discount you. As soon as we begin to think in terms of divisions, we are adopting the lens of the Pharisees. 

Keeping this reading in context, we can’t totally let the disciples off the hook either. One chapter later in Mark, John sees someone driving out demons in Jesus’s name and forbids them because they are not one of us. “Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.” (Mark 9:39) Jesus is teaching us to see that what unites us is more than what divides us. 

The signs are there. They are all around us. We have blessings upon blessings. Do we have eyes to see? Jesus took what the disciples had, blessed it and it was enough, more than enough. In this crazy time in which we live, don’t let the constant clammer to divide us from one another keep you from seeing the signs all around us. When we offer to Jesus all that we have, he will bless it and it will be enough, not just to care for our own needs but all those around us.

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Sheryl delights in being the number 1 cheerleader and supporter for her husband, Tom who is a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Kalamazoo. They are so grateful for the opportunity to grow together in this process whether it is studying for classes, deepening their prayer life or discovering new ways to serve together. Sheryl’s day job is serving her community as the principal for St. Therese Catholic School in Wayland, Michigan. 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.

The Power of Christ

Today’s Gospel is quite long but so rich. At first, it can seem like Jesus is in a bad mood during these readings and is just calling people out left and right, condemning them. While these readings are very clear that Christ is making the Ten Commandments even harder than what people were used to, he isn’t doing this to spite or condemn them, he is telling them of his power.

Moses allowed divorce in the times of the Old Testament. Why was this allowed? Because people did not yet have the power of Christ. They did not have the grace that flows from the power of the cross. They lost their grace with original sin and had not received power from Jesus.

However, the people in the Gospel are different, and Jesus wants to make that known. The difference is himself and his power. You have heard not to commit adultery, but I say do not even lust. It can be easy to look at that as a condemnation, but I prefer to look at it as a call. It shows how far we are actually able to go if we believe in and accept grace from Christ.

In our original state in the garden, we had the grace of God and walked with him; after the fall, we lost it, all that remains is to gain it back. Thankfully this grace is a free gift, and we now live with the reality of Christ dying for our sins. All that is left for us to do is to be open and to ask for grace. This is what makes it possible for us to live in the way Jesus commands in the Gospel today. It gives us real power. This should give us great hope. Let’s take stock in that hope this week. God Bless!

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Tommy Shultz is Director of Marketing for Ablaze ministries as well as Director of Evangelization for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative. In these roles he is committed to bringing all those he meets into a deeper relationship with Christ. 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

The Amazing Value of Not Much, Not Many

How much time do you have?
How much money do you have?
How much patience do you have?
How many talents do you have?
How much energy do you have?
How much prayer time do you have?
How many gifts do you have?

You’re probably thinking: not much, not many.

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked his disciples as he looked on the thousands of people who were hungry because they had been following him for days.

The disciples were probably thinking: not much, not many.
Notice that Jesus did not ask them how much EXTRA food they had. They were hungry, too, of course. Jesus did not ask them if they had a surplus to help feed others. He asked them how much they had, and they gave it all to him.

Then he gave thanks, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples to distribute to the crowd. It would have been unbelievable if everyone had gotten a bite. It would have been incredible if everyone ate enough to be satisfied. But it is amazing that everyone ate and was satisfied, and there were still seven baskets of fragments leftover.

Jesus is not just doing this to amaze, of course. Jesus is acting out of compassion and addressing a real need of the people who were following him to hear about the Kingdom, who would not have had enough strength to get back to their homes.

Jesus, as always, is also teaching a lesson: he wants us to participate in his saving mission by putting what we have at his disposal. Jesus did not make bread out of thin air (which he could have), nor did he distribute the bread himself. He asked his disciples to give what they had and asked them to hand out the gift. They entrusted their meager resources to the Master, and they must have been in consternation as they continued to hand it out to the people without running out!

What would have happened if the disciples had decided that they had no surplus, and kept those loaves for themselves? This would not have been unreasonable. But God calls us to act beyond reason, to act in faith.
Jesus asks each one of us to entrust our meager resources to him, knowing that God’s work is done beyond our small human abilities, reason, and calculations. We may think we do not have much to give, but when we give generously, he is able to give more generously. In fact, God does his best work when we are at the end of our capabilities and lean into him for results. And God’s results far surpass the sum total of what we give.

Let’s confidently hand him all we have – our meager loaves and little fish – and then watch what he can do.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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

The Circus Won’t Be Coming To Town

Recently my small town got very involved in a major brouhaha.

We’re a tourist destination, and most people meet their financial obligations by working in the summertime and then trying to live on what they made for the balance of the year. It’s tricky. It’s also important for us to have continued reasons for tourists to keep coming here, and that’s especially true this year, because it’s the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower, and we’re bracing for more people than ever.

Cirque du Soleil is a traveling show offering a unique take on the circus arts: animal-free, striking, dramatic, beautiful, and reflective, it features outrageous costumes, magical lighting, and original music. The organization receives 3,000 requests a year to produce customized shows, of which they only accept twelve worldwide. Some individuals in my town proposed that Cirque produce a show specifically for the 2020 summer celebration, and a long process of negotiations began. They were done perforce under nondisclosure terms, and as the time to announce the show drew near, a reporter overheard something about it and wrote a highly inaccurate scare piece in the local newspaper. Too many people! It will overwhelm the town! It will take away from the artists who already perform here! We’ve never done it before!

The town was in an uproar, fiercely divided over the issue. The producers issued a press release explaining the legalities of why it hadn’t yet been publicized and showing that it would in fact be the jewel of the festival season—but it was too late. Another misleading article was published, and the inevitable happened. Cirque will not be coming.

I’ve been feeling sad about that decision, not only for the lost opportunity but also because it showed how we let fear and ignorance take the driver’s seat in our lives; and then I read today’s Gospel and realized that human nature is exactly the same today as it was in Jesus’ time. I don’t know whether to be relieved or disheartened!

He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.”

We all want to be the first ones to know a secret. From childhood, when we taunt each other with “I know something you don’t know” (best when done in a singsong voice), through the cherished tale-tattling of our adolescence, and finally into adulthood, when being “in the know” indicates access, power, prestige: we want to be first to share the news. Who wants to be the last person in the office to hear that Rosemary was fired? Who wants to learn their best friend in the Mommy Club is seeing a counselor and told with everybody else?

Maybe I’m being too harsh here. Maybe when Jesus admonished people to not talk about his miracles, they disobeyed out of love for their fellow sufferers, so that more people might flock to him, more miraculous cures could happen. Could be. But I don’t think so. I’ve seen too much of “I really shouldn’t tell you this, but…” to think their motives were entirely selfless and pure.

Jesus had good reasons for asking for discretion. He didn’t want people coming to him exclusively for healing; he wanted them to come to him in faith. He was fulfilling his life’s plan and needed to keep the Messianic secret until the end, until his resurrection. But whether or not he had good reasons, the point is that he made the admonishment, and the man he’d healed disobeyed. He just couldn’t help himself. He had to break the news, be the important one, the bearer of the secret.

And when that happens, it always ends badly.

In my example, one could wish the reporter who uncovered the story had done due diligence before printing her piece. It was biased and distorted (and one has to wonder how biased and distorted the cured man’s sharing of his news was, as well!), and perhaps most importantly, she saw her sharing as giving her prestige. Thank goodness for her, she broke the news, she saved everything. And never mind who got hurt in the process.

We all get hurt in the process. We’re supposed to be “the least of these,” but we puff ourselves up and want to be the ones who have all the good stuff, the gossip, the details. “But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.”

And the circus won’t be coming to town.

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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