British writer Houselander

An Eccentric Soul In Love With God: Carryl Houselander

Not many people know about Carryl Houselander, a British, Catholic writer. It’s a pity, because in her short life (she died at the age of 52), she produced some amazing poetry and spiritual reflections.

Houselander had a rough childhood. Her parents were “beautiful people,” who put great stock in appearances. Carryl was rather an ugly duckling, and was abused by her parents.

Had she been a less gifted person-she was, in fact, a mystic, a poet, and a woodcarver-she might well have ended up living the kind of lonely and impoverished existence that is the lot of so many eccentric souls.

Her spiritual teaching is a testament to the capacity of the human soul to wrest beauty and wisdom out of personal suffering, a witness to the power of grace to supply what is lacking in nature’s provision. Because she was an artist, Houselander’s teaching is infused with an intuition so strongly visual that it manifests itself as a kind of iconography. This extraordinary visual intuitiveness permitted her to write such vividly descriptive prose that it is impossible not to visualize what one reads in Houselander. More, perhaps, than any other spiritual writer of our time, she achieves the effect she desires by illustrating (rather than by telling us) what we need to know.

Fellow spiritual writer Heather King says that Houselander “swore, drank, had an affinity for wounded children (her own childhood was nightmarish), [and] was a Catholic convert” What drew to her to the Church? Christ, of course. She saw His humanity, His desire for us to be joyful.  She saw the saints as a reflection of Christ.

[The grain of wheat] must be buried in earth, that is, in us, who are made from the earth. The seed of Christ is not buried in angels, but in men. It is to flower and bear fruit through human experience: through our loves, our work, our sorrows, our joys, our temptations. It is to be literally our living and our dying.

We are the soil of the divine seed; there is no other. The flowering of Christ in us does not depend upon pious exercises, on good works outside our daily life, on an amateur practice of religion in our leisure time. It is in the marrow of our bones, in the experience of our daily life.

Houselander’s life teaches us a number of things. First, any situation can be redeemed by God. Houselander’s rather wretched childhood gave her the ability to connect with others who were suffering, especially children. Rather than wallow in self-pity, Houselander chose to use her experience to help others. Although she was not a particularly out-going person, she allowed God to use her outside of her “comfort zone.” She likely would have been content to isolate herself, reading, studying, praying. But she didn’t; she reached out – opening herself and her home to those in need. In World War II England, that meant many children who were traumatized by the relentless German bombing. Houselander’s life reinforces what all the saints teach us: that Christ must be the focus of our lives. We must spend time with Him in prayer if we hope to ever share our gifts and talents with others.

If you’ve never read about Houselander or, better yet, read her work, take some time to do so. You’ll find a treasure, a modern woman whose life bore rich fruit precisely because of her love of God.

slave to saint

From Slave To Saint: The Life of Julia Greeley

There is no dispute that the institution of legalized slavery is one of the darkest hours of American history. The wounds of slavery are still felt today, as Americans work to sort out issues of racism on a daily basis. Every story of slavery is one of cruelty, oppression and tragedy: no human being can ever be “owned” by another and no human being is to be treated as a “thing” to be used.

One woman, however, was able to rise above the extreme hardships of slavery. She redeemed her life through her faith in Christ, choosing love over anger. Born in Missouri sometime between 1833 and 1848, Julia Greeley lived first a life of slavery and then a life of service. Her cause for canonization has been officially opened by the Archdiocese of Denver. The Julia Greeley Guild gives this biography:

Freed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Julia subsequently earned her keep by serving white families in Missouri, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico—though mostly in the Denver area. Whatever she did not need for herself, Julia spent assisting poor families in her neighborhood. When her own resources were inadequate, she begged for food, fuel and clothing for the needy. One writer later called her a “one-person St. Vincent de Paul Society.” To avoid embarrassing the people she helped, Julia did most of her charitable work under cover of night through dark alleys.

Julia entered the Catholic Church at Sacred Heart Parish in Denver in 1880, and was an outstanding supporter of all that the parish had to offer. The Jesuits who ran the parish considered her the most enthusiastic promoter of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus they had ever seen. Every month she visited on foot every fire station in Denver and delivered literature of the Sacred Heart League to the firemen, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

A daily communicant, Julia had a rich devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin and continued her prayers while working and moving about. She joined the Secular Franciscan Order in 1901 and was active in it till her death in 1918.

Fr. Blaine Burkey, OFM Cap, worked on a manuscript for the Archdiocese of Denver, using historical documents from both the state of Colorado and the archdiocese. Since Greeley herself was illiterate, she left behind no personal writing, but Burkey found many news articles about her. Mary Leising, president of the guild promoting Greeley’s cause for canonization, said Julia Greeley’s life is testament to the fact that sainthood is for all:

Overall, Greeley stands as an example of how ordinary people can become saints, Leisring said.

“When looking at her, (we see) she was an ordinary person who did extraordinary things,” Leisring said. “All of us have that same opportunity.”

Read more about Greeley and the cause for her canonization here.

Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew

St. Andrew: A Saint For Advent

Today’s Advent reflection for the 2nd Tuesday of Advent, 2016

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you guest posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s guest blogger is Fr. Colin Mulhall, reflecting on the Mass readings for November 30, the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle.]

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Apostle St. Andrew, the “first-called” of the Apostles.  He is so named because in the Gospel of John, he is the first of the Apostles to follow Jesus.  Andrew is the one who introduces Peter to Jesus in the Gospel of John.

It might be said that it’s because of a bit of fraternal nagging that Peter met Jesus and eventually became the Prince of the Apostles.  It is fitting that we celebrate his feast during Advent, a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.  Here was a man who was eagerly awaiting the coming of the Messiah, and was most likely a follower of John the Baptist.  When John pointed out Christ, the Lamb of God, Andrew was probably filled with curiosity, and followed Jesus, eventually being invited to “come and see” where He was staying.

The attitude of Andrew, that hopeful expectation of the coming of Christ, is the attitude we are all called to emulate this Advent season.  We are invited to commemorate the coming of the Christ Child, and to prepare ourselves for the triumphant return of Christ in glory.  St. Andrew reminds us Christians that our fundamental attitude is one of preparation and eager anticipation.  We are in a constant of state of tension, an eschatological tension, awaiting the definitive victory of Christ, which has been accomplished in the Paschal Mystery of His suffering, death, Resurrection and Ascension, but has yet to be fully realized.  St. Andrew teaches us what it looks like to wait with the certainty of a hope based in the sure promises of God in Christ Jesus.

Take the opportunity this Advent season to welcome Christ into your life in a new way, letting St. Andrew and all the Saints lead us all into deeper relationship with the Lord.

Fr. Colin Mulhall is associate pastor at St. Robert of Newminster Parish in Ada, MI.


new saints

Meet The Church’s Newly Proclaimed Saints

This past Sunday, Pope Francis proclaimed seven new saints, once again reminding the faithful that sainthood is for everyone, not merely for a select few.

In his homily, Pope Francis said:

The saints are men and women who enter fully into the mystery of prayer.  Men and women who struggle with prayer, letting the Holy Spirit pray and struggle in them.  They struggle to the very end, with all their strength, and they triumph, but not by their own efforts: the Lord triumphs in them and with them.  The seven witnesses who were canonized today also fought the good fight of faith and love by their prayers.

The newly-proclaimed saints are:

  • José Sánchez del Río, a 14-year-old boy who was killed in 1928 in Mexico during the “Cristero” struggle which opposed the government’s anti-Catholic and anticlerical policies.
  • Brother Salomone Leclercq, a martyr of the French revolution, who like many religious at the time, refused the government’s orders to either revoke their vows or to leave the country
  • José Gabriel del Rosario Brochero, an Argentinean priest known as the “Gaucho priest,” who lived and worked among the poor; Pope Francis praised him for smelling “of sheep”
  • Spanish Bishop Palencia Manuel González García, founder of the Congregation of the Eucharistic Missionaries of Nazareth, the Disciples of Saint John, and the Children of Reparation; known as the “bishop of the tabernacle” for his devotion to the Eucharist
  • Father Lodovico Pavoni of the Italian city of Brescia, founder of the religious congregation ‘Sons of Mary Immaculate’ or ‘Pavonians’
  • Alfonso Maria Fusco, a priest from the southern Italian city of Salerno, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. John the Baptist, commonly known as Baptistine Sisters
  • French Discalced Carmelite mystic and writer Elizabeth of the Trinity who died aged just 26 in 1906 from Addison’s disease, but not before leaving behind writings of great faith and depth

The Holy Father exhorted the faithful to prayer, saying, “To pray is not to take refuge in an ideal world, nor to escape into a false, selfish sense of calm.  On the contrary, to pray is to struggle, but also to let the Holy Spirit pray within us.  For the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray.  He guides us in prayer and he enables us to pray as sons and daughters.”

church triumphant

The Church Triumphant: “Holy, holy, holy”

We’ve spent a few days examining the three states of the Church: militant, suffering, triumphant. The Church Triumphant is not our triumph, a victory of our own doing. No, the Church Triumphant is the triumph of Christ over sin and death. The Church Triumphant is the eternal glory of God. The Church Triumphant is the eternal fellowship of those whom Christ has saved and who have given over their lives to Him. These souls become, in essence, citizens of Heaven.

A citizen of Heaven is a saint. Some of them have been given the title “Saint” by the Church, but others go unrecognized by the Church Militant. Peter Kreeft:

Saints are not freaks or exceptions.  They are the standard operating model for human beings.  In fact, in the biblical sense of the word, all believers are saints.  “Sanctity” means holiness.  All men, women and children, born or unborn, beautiful or ugly, straight or gay, are holy, for they bear the image of God.

Saints are not the opposite of sinners.  There are no opposites of sinners in this world.  There are only saved sinners and unsaved sinners.  Thus holy does not mean “sinless” but “set-apart:” called out of the world to the destiny of eternal ecstasy with God.

You are called to be a saint, meant to be set apart and holy for God. You have a passport to Heaven, should you decide to use it. Yes: you. Your eternal soul, now embodied, is meant for a life before the throne of God, in His company and the company of all the angels and saints forever. That is the Church Triumphant.

Impossible, you may say. I am no saint. Saints are people like nuns who spend their whole lives praying the Rosary. (There are not any nuns who do this, by the way.) Okay then; a saint is a Jesus freak, talking about Him all the time to the point of annoying others. (Well, a saint may be annoying, but every saint was at some point a person who had to get up in the morning, make the coffee, go about his or her daily business, whether as a parent, a spouse, an accountant, a priest, a truck driver, a teacher. Nothing freakish about that.)

Yes. You are meant for sainthood. Your sainthood will lead you, should you put all your energy into sainthood, to the Church Triumphant. Your sainthood will not look like anyone else’s, because you are unlike anyone else. God created you in a unique manner, for a unique task. Yet ultimately, He created you to be a saint.

At Mass, just after the Eucharistic prayer, we pray the Sanctus:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

That is the hymn of Heaven. In Revelation 4, John gives an account of his vision of Heaven. Those before the throne of God sing this hymn. That means that, during the Mass, at that moment when we sing this hymn, we are joined with all the angels and saints. This is our destiny. This tiny little glimpse of Heaven that we have during the Mass is meant to be our home forever.

So many of us stumble about, searching for our heart’s deepest longing. Some look for it in sex or drugs or work. We search obsessively for it. We may not even know what we are looking for, but God made our hearts for Him and for Heaven. So, what is the “secret” of the Church Triumphant? Thankfully, it is no secret at all; again, Peter Kreeft:

The existence of heaven, the desire for heaven, the nature of heaven, and the relevance of heaven are all important questions. But there is only one question that’s absolutely essential, one question compared with which how we might save the world from a nuclear holocaust is trivial: “What must I do to be saved?” When I’m honest enough to look through the door of death, infinite joy or infinite joylessness loom up as my only two possible destinies. What decides for joy? What is heaven’s entrance ticket? What is the Way, the Truth and the Life?

I am horrified to report that I’ve asked this question of hundreds of Catholic college students, and far fewer than half have known the answer. This means that the Church’s religious education has been not a failure but an inexcusable disaster. Most reply either “God is good to everybody” or “I’m basically a good person.”

If anyone out there is unsure of the correct answer, then for the love of God get out your Bible and study for your finals! To save you time—since you may die while reaching for your Bible—I will quote God’s scandalously simple answer to the most important question in the world, how to get to heaven: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Lift your voice and sing, with all the angels and saints: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts. And then, set about today on the road to Heaven.

cosmic river

Jump Into That River!

When you open your heart and soul and life to God, you enter another life, another bloodstream, another cosmic river. This river takes all who swim in it to the sea of Heaven. But not everyone jumps into that river. It’s a free choice. – Peter Kreeft, How to be Holy: First Steps in Becoming a Saint

If you’re not familiar with Peter Kreeft, my suggestion would be that you find any or all of his books and begin reading. Despite the fact that he is a philosopher (and philosophers can be incredibly difficult to read or listen to or understand), Kreeft (who teaches at the Catholic-Boston College) is quite understandable and – even more important – greatly helpful in helping us understand the Catholic Faith.

In his book, How to be Holy, Kreeft lays out a rather simple plan in a rather small book. He bases many of his comments here on the writings of Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751), a Jesuit priest.

I know what you’re thinking. I can tell what your objections may be. Let’s examine them.

  1. Objection 1: A 17th century priest? Really?? How relevant could this stuff be to MY life? If we were talking about cooking or medicine, this objection would be well-founded. However, the matters of faith are constant whether you just got off the Ark, are being chased by a saber-toothed tiger or fondly remembering your acid-washed jeans. Both practically and theologically, the truths of faith remain the same. What Cain and Abel struggled with is exactly the same as what you and I struggle with. The only difference is that we have Christ. (And yes, we acknowledge that this is a tremendous difference.)
  2. Objection 2: I don’t have any time to read! That’s too bad. First of all, reading good quality books is far better for the soul than an evening spent watching reruns of sitcoms. Padre Pio, the saintly Italian priest, said, “If the reading of holy books had the power to convert worldly men into spiritual persons, how very powerful must not such reading be in leading spiritual men and women to greater perfection?” If you are serious about your faith, you should read about your faith.
  3. Objection 3: Um, I don’t really want another “life” or jump into some “cosmic river.” I’m happy just where I’m at, thanks. There is no doubt you are happy. But happiness is not the same as joy, which is a point all the saints understand. As one writer puts it:

Happiness is easily taken away when the “state of well-being” ceases; in times of hardship, trial, or need, happiness seems elusive. Something more satisfying is needed than the mere pleasure or contentment associated with happiness.
Joy, in contrast, is defined as an intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness or the expression of such feelings. The antonym of joy is “sorrow.” “Enjoying” (related to happiness) is not the same thing as “rejoicing.” Joy has several deeper meanings than happiness, which are further clarified in Holy Scriptures.

Kreeft goes on to say that choosing not to swim in this “cosmic river” is an insane choice. Yep: insane. Why? Because that choice leads to Hell.

In order to choose Hell, you must be insane: you must choose misery over joy. Why would you do that? Because you can understand and control misery but not joy. This is insane. But it is what we all do in some degree whenever we sin. For all sin is choosing misery over joy. We are all insane. That is what Original Sin means. But God deeply loves His severely brain-damaged children. If He did not, we would have no hope. But He does, and therefore we do.

  1. Objection 4: I don’t want to jump in that river. I just don’t want to. And no one can make me. On this last point, you are right. Not even Almighty, Eternal God Who Is Love can make you. He won’t sneak up behind you and push you. He won’t spend all of His time trying to cajole you into just sticking your big toe in. Nope.And no one else can do that either. If someone who loves you, thinking this is the best for you, tries to yank you in, it won’t matter. It only matters if we enter the river of our own free will.Now, that doesn’t mean we might still have doubts. Or that we might climb out and some point (stupidly) and then get back in again (smartly). But we all must understand: this cosmic river of truth and love and joy and peace and unity with God is the only way to Heaven. To not get in is to choose Hell, which is eternal misery.

    What are you waiting for? Go jump in that river!


The Canonization Process: How Does The Church Declare A Saint?

The Catholic Church will be declaring its newest saint on September 4, 2016: Mother Teresa of Kolkota. As you might imagine, the Church has a rather rigorous method of formally declaring a person a saint. (Keep in mind, too, that just because a person is not formally declared a saint does not mean they are not in Heaven in the presence of God for all eternity. The Church simply cannot go through this process with every single person.)

The formal process of the Church entails several steps: being declared a Servant of God, then Venerable, Blessed and finally Saint. Usually the process cannot begin until the person has been deceased for at least 5 years, unless the pope waives that time period. St. John Paul II waived the period for Mother Teresa, and Pope Benedict XVI waived it for John Paul II. Once the 5 year waiting period has concluded, the bishop of the diocese where that person lived petitions the Vatican to begin the process. If there are no objections, the process begins.

The road to canonization can seem like a very long one, and it is, for good reason. The Church must invest a great deal of time and research into that person’s life, making sure that the person did indeed lead a holy life in all matters, both public and private.

Once the process begins, the person in question is given the title, “Servant of God.” If you’ve ever wondered why so many priests and nuns are declared saints and not so many lay people, it lays in this step. All the person’s writings must be collected, including private writings such as diaries and letters to friends and family. The person’s entire life must be documented. For a religious, the diocese or the religious order may designate people to do this work. For a lay person, it is much more difficult to have someone devote so much time for this. It is essentially a full-time job for at least one person, and usually more.

Once that step has been completed, the person is declared “Venerable.” At this point, one miracle must be attributed to the intercession of this person. In the case of John Paul II, it came from a French nun, who suffered from Parkinson’s (the same disease that claimed the life of the pontiff.) Her miraculous recovery from the disease in 2011 was the first recorded miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II’s intercession. Such miracles must be investigated and confirmed by two tribunals, one scientific and one theological:

The scientific commission must determine by accepted scientific criteria that there is no natural explanation for the alleged miracle. While miracles could be of any type, those almost exclusively proposed for Causes are medical. These must be well-documented, both as regards the disease and the treatment, and as regard the healing and its persistence.

While the scientific commission rules that the cure is without natural explanation, the theological  commission must rule whether the cure was a miracle in the strict sense, that is, by its nature can only be attributed to God. To avoid any question of remission due to unknown natural causation, or even unrecognized therapeutic causation, theologians prefer cures of diseases judged beyond hope by medicine, and which occur more or less instantaneously. The disappearance of a malignancy from one moment to another, or the instantaneous regeneration of diseased, even destroyed, tissue excludes natural processes, all of which take time. Such cases also exclude the operation of the angelic nature. While the enemy could provoke a disease by his oppression and simulate a cure by withdrawing his action, the cure could not be instantaneous, even one day to the next. Much less can he regenerate tissue from nothing. These are, therefore, the preferred kinds of cases since they unequivocally point to a divine cause.

The theological commission must also determine whether the miracle resulted through the intercession of the Servant of God alone. If the family and friends have been praying without cease to the Servant of God exclusively, then the case is demonstrated.

The next step is “beatification” and the person is given the title “Blessed.” This means that the person may be given private veneration or veneration in their own diocese or home. The Church’s investigation continues, and since the declaration of sainthood is considered infallible, the Vatican withholds the decree until all study of the person’s life is complete. At this point, a second miracle must be established. For John Paul II, this came from a man in Colombia, Marco Fidel Rojas, who also suffered from Parkinson’s:

Fidel remembers experiencing the first symptoms of the disease in December 2005. After a series of examinations, doctors determined he had suffered a stroke, which led to the development of Parkinson’s.

Little by little, the disease began to get worse. “I felt like I could collapse at any moment. Various times I fell down outside on the street,” he recalled, adding that once he was almost run over by a taxi.

As the years went by and his health continued to deteriorate, Fidel suddenly remembered on the evening of Dec. 27, 2010, that during a trip to Rome he had met Pope John Paul II after Mass and spoke with him for a few moments.

I have a friend up there, Fidel thought that night, amid his pain. “And he had Parkinson’s. Why didn’t I pray to him before? Venerable Father John Paul II: Come and heal me; put your hands on my head.”

After praying, Fidel said he slept perfectly that night; the next morning he woke up with no symptoms of the illness.

El Tiempo reported that Dr. Antonio Schlesinger Piedrahita, a renowned neurologist in Colombia, has certified Fidel’s healing and says he is in good health.

The pope must assent to the findings of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Once the Holy Father gives his consent, the person may be canonized.

By the Rite of Canonization the Supreme Pontiff, by an act which is protected from error by the Holy Spirit, elevates a person to the universal veneration of the Church. By canonization the Pope does not make the person a saint. Rather, he declares that the person is with God and is an example of following Christ worthy of imitation by the faithful. A Mass, Divine Office and other acts of veneration, may now be offered throughout the universal Church.

Note the wording: “the Pope does not make the person a saint.”

The Catholic Church doesn’t make saints like Hollywood makes movie stars. Catholics saints are men and women who lived holy lives in obedience to God’s will, and they became saints at the moment they entered heaven. However, the Church does recognize those souls that the Church can confirm are in heaven as saints.

It is always a great celebration when a person is declared a saint for the Universal Church. We look forward to Mother Teresa’s canonization and the celebration of her dedication to the will of God.

career advice

Career Advice For Your Spiritual Life

That’s an odd title, isn’t it? What does “career advice” have to do with one’s relationship with God? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Carey Nieuwhof is a Protestant pastor who writes on a variety of topics: leadership, strategy and team building, and entrepreneurship, for example. He recently wrote a blog piece entitled, 25 Random Pieces of Advice for Leaders in their 20s, 30s, or 40s. While many of these things pertain to one’s job and career, they can also help us in our spiritual life.

For instance, Nieuwhof suggests: Study and practice faithfulness. Study your faith. You don’t have to get a Ph.D. in theology to be a holy person, but you do need to know your Faith. Read the lives of saints. Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (not all at once.) Earnestly study the Bible. As for faithfulness, if you are married, you must remain faithful to your spouse in both thought and action. For those called to religious life, they have vows and a community to which they must remain faithful. All of us must be faithful to our baptismal promises.

Another bit of advice: Be generous when you have no money. Mother Teresa of Kolkata (who will be canonized on September 4 this year) told this story:

One night a man came to our house and told me, “There is a family with eight children. They have not eaten for days.”
I took some food with me and went. When I came to that family, I saw the faces of those little children disfigured by hunger. There was no sorrow or sadness in their faces, just the deep pain of hunger. I gave rice to the mother. She divided the rice in two, and went out, carrying half the rice. When she came back, I asked her, “Where did you go?” She gave me this simple answer, “To my neighbors; they are hungry also!” I was not surprised that she gave-poor people are really very generous. I was surprised that she knew they were hungry. As a rule, when we are suffering, we are so focused on ourselves, we have no time for others.

Being generous is more than just giving money to people. It is about being aware of the needs of others.

Next, Nieuwhof says: Wrestle down your pride. Pride is the father of all the mortal sins. St. John Chrysostom said, “[N]othing so alienates men from the loving kindness of God, and gives them over to the fire of the pit, as the tyranny of pride.” God endows all of us with gifts, and we must give Him the glory for those gifts.

Persevere through the dry season. If you have a strong prayer life, it is almost guaranteed that there will be a time when you feel distant from God. In the Catholic tradition, it is often referred to as the “dark night of the soul,” after the class spiritual writing of St. John of the Cross. For whatever reason, God allows this challenge. Be faithful. Hold fast to God’s promise, even if you don’t feel like doing so.

Nieuwhof also says leaders must be bold. Indeed! If we are to be faithful servants of God, we must be bold in our faith. Think of St. Peter, the man who ran away from Christ when he was most needed, denying he even knew him. That same man was transformed by the Holy Spirit to preach and teach boldly to hostile crowds. St. Joan of Arc boldly led an army because she knew that was what God was calling her to, even though the cost was her life. Bl. Miguel Pro led the Church in Mexico at a time when the government had virtually outlawed all Catholic actions, including the celebration of the Mass. Fr. Pro used disguises, escape paths and his wits to stay one step ahead of the law in order to bring the sacraments to the people He died in front of a firing squad, with his last words being: “Viva Christo Rey!” {“Long live Christ the King!) Yes, be bold. Be joyful, and be bold.

While perseverance in one’s career usually brings about financial gain, our faithfulness to God holds a better promise. St. Paul said it like this:  I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. (2 Timothy 4:4-8)

crazy for God

Crazy For God, Trusting In Christ

One thing many saints have in common is, well, they are a little over the top. One might look at things they’ve done and think, “That’s crazy!” Who in their right mind would sail across an ocean to uncharted territory in order to bring the Gospel to a hostile and dangerous people? What kind of people would joyfully sing on their way to their own execution? And it’s a little weird, isn’t it, to strip down completely naked in a very public place, disavow your wealth and head off to preach the Gospel? Crazy, right?

Indeed, our world thinks such behavior is crazy. As Catholics, however, we don’t belong to this world. We belong to the Kingdom of God. And what might seem totally crazy in this world (like allowing yourself to be nailed to a cross) makes perfect sense in the Kingdom of God. As Catholics, we walk by faith and not by sight.

Justo Gallego knows that people call him crazy. He says that he is just trusting in Christ. For 53 years, he has been nearly single-handedly building a cathedral near Madrid, Spain. Not a little chapel in his backyard: a cathedral.

It’s crazy to abandon your business, and follow a Man who promises to make you fishers of men. It’s crazy to say “yes” to becoming the Mother of the Messiah when an angel visits you. It’s crazy to build an ark, or to care for the poorest in the streets of Calcutta. Remember, though: we are people of the Kingdom of God. Maybe it’s time to show this world what it’s like to trust in God, regardless of how crazy it might make us look.

Here is Justo Gallego’s story:

prayer journal

Prayer Journal: A Love Letter To God

Prayer journaling is nothing new: many saints have kept them. The point of a prayer journal is not to be a diary, or a chronicle of one’s day. A prayer journal is a love letter to God.

One great thing about a prayer journal is that it’s easy to do. All you need is a notebook – fancy or not – and a pen. You can take your journal with you anywhere, tucked into a purse, a briefcase or backpack. Sure, you could keep a journal online or in a computer writing program, but using your own hand to write your prayers is really best. It requires a different part of the brain to get a thought from brain to fingertips. Using your own hand to write is far more personal than a typed journal.

If you’re not sure what to journal, start with blessings or gratitudes. What are you grateful for, right here and now? It might simply be that you have food for breakfast. Perhaps you’re grateful for a cup of coffee in the quiet of the house before everyone else starts their day. Even in our darkest moments, we can find blessings. A shoulder to cry on perhaps, or a nurse who gently cares for a dying loved one: once we tune our ears and eyes to gratitude, we find it in abundance. If you’re really not sure where to start, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. The Spirit of God never disappoints.

Another way to journal is to use a Scripture verse as a starting point. Perhaps it’s a line from the Mass readings on Sunday that struck a chord with you. Write that line down, and let your prayer flow from that. One might do the same with a song or a line from a hymn.

A prayer journal should be real; don’t hold back. There are times in our lives that we are really mad at God – maybe we aren’t really mad at Him, but we have no where else to place our anger. When a loved one dies unexpectedly, we might rail at God, “Why did you take her so suddenly?? I wasn’t ready!” Pour out your heart. Remember, a prayer journal is not getting turned in for a grade; it’s a conversation between you and God.

Prayer journaling can be easier if you follow a formula, at least at the beginning. Start with gratitude and praise. Then let God know what is on your heart right now. Nothing is too trivial. Maybe you’re worried about your health or there is a difficult situation at your job. Maybe your toddler is sick and you just want her to feel better. Ask God to give you whatever it is you need to manage for that day. Move towards an examination of conscience. Perhaps that situation at work is partially your fault; ask for the grace to mend it. Finally, end with asking a favorite saint or the Blessed Mother for intercession.

A prayer journal can be as simple as a notebook and a pen. Other people like to draw or decorate their prayers; the process of creativity helps them to “zone in on” prayer. Use markers, colored pencils or whatever feels right if you decide to be more creative in your prayer. This process is terrific because it forces one to slow down and really examine what’s on one’s mind and heart.

Finally, don’t get discouraged. Finding your own way of prayer journaling can take some time. It’s a process, and you have to find your own manner of prayer. Just remember: this is your love letter to God, and like any parent, He loves to hear from His children.


‘The Religion Of Maximum Hope Born Of Despair’

Andrei Sinyavsky was an interesting man. Not the type of “interesting man” who sells us beer as he sits, surrounded by beautiful women. No, Sinyavsky was interesting in that he spoke the truth in a time and place where doing so could cost one’s life.

Sinyavsky was a writer in Soviet Russia. In 1966, he was sentenced to hard labor for “anti-Soviet activities” and for his “pro-Zionist” opinions (he wrote under a Jewish pseudonym.) He considered himself a Christian, but primarily a writer and promoter of freedom. Yet the imprint of faith was found his work. He once said, “The text of the gospels explodes with meaning. It radiates significance, and if we fail to see something, this is not because it is obscure, but because there is so much …”

He writes of faith like that of a foot soldier: one whose faith has been tested and found true. He has no illusions of Christianity being a faith of false cheerfulness or of gripping drama. It is not a play that once seen, sends the audience home thinking that they’ve seen something entertaining, but not terribly meaningful. No, Sinyavsky knows that to be a Christian is to be embattled in this world. Just as some would judge a soldier rushing into battle to be a fool rather than brave, so to the Christian.

Look at them, the heroes of Christendom. You won’t find many prudent ones among them. Their story is a long succession of martyrdoms and deaths … They are soldiers, displaying their scars and wound to the world as decorations.

And who enlists with them? People of all nations, the scum of the earth, even criminals, but always those who have taken the cross. Anyone can join: the ignorant, the sinful – provided he is ready to throw himself into the battle. If is the religion of maximum hope born of despair.

Is there any better symbol of that “hope born of despair” than Christ on the cross? We Christians stand with one foot in the grief and despair of Good Friday and another foot in the bloom of hope on Easter morn.

And so, we rise again to battle the evil of this world. We join the ranks of Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Paul, Dorothy Day: fools for Christ, heroes for Christendom. We dare to hope in a world of despair because we know Christ, and trust in His promise of everlasting life.


4 Reasons To Have A Crucifix In Your Home

We are used to seeing crucifixes in church and that seems “normal,” but why have a crucifix in our homes?

(By the way, there is a difference between a cross and a crucifix. A cross is a simple reminder of the instrument the Romans used to execute criminals. A crucifix is a cross with a corpus, or body, of Jesus on it.)

  1. We should have a crucifix in our homes because the saints have set this example for us. Prayer in front of a crucifix is encouraged as a means of focusing contemplation on Christ. Many of the saints practiced this, both in everyday prayer and also when they were suffering. Catherine of Siena was known to look upon a Crucifix for hours each day and when Joan of Arc was martyred, she asked a member of the clergy present to hold a crucifix before her.”
  2. It reminds us not to run from the tough stuff. Jesus relied on his twelve Apostles for so much. The night before He died, He begged them to stay with him throughout the night, and they all fell asleep. On the day when He needed them most, only John stayed with Him, choosing to remain with the Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross. John didn’t leave, and we should try and emulate that.
  3. Our home is a “domestic church,” and it is a holy place. Think about it: your home is inhabited by people who belong to God through baptism, are confirmed in the Holy Spirit, sanctified through the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage and fed with Christ’s Body and Blood. It is a place where forgiveness is taught and sought, where our faith is passed on from one generation to the next and Christ’s love is exemplified (though imperfectly.) Our home should reflect all of this with a prominent sign of Christ’s sacrificial love: the crucifix.
  4. The crucifix is a constant reminder that Christ has conquered sin and death, and ultimately conquered evil. We are surrounded by evil. Sometimes, it seems as if evil has the upper hand. That is not so, and Christ’s death on the cross is proof. Simply have a crucifix to gaze upon in our homes is a reminder of this, and a way to strengthen us for battle. The traditional hymn, Lift High the Cross tells us: Come, brethren, follow where our Captain trod, our King victorious, Christ the Son of God. Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore his sacred Name.

If you’ve never had a crucifix in your home, consider getting one. Ask your priest to bless it (it only takes a moment!) If you do have a crucifix, consider putting more in your home: in the bedrooms, for example. The crucifix ix a sign of God’s overwhelming love for us; who doesn’t need a constant reminder of that?