Wednesday, August 31, 2016

You Don't Miss A Thing by Amanda Cook

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pilgrimage to Turin, Rome and Assisi: Days 1 and 2

Greetings from Turin, Italy!  I am currently finishing day 2 of my pilgrimage to Turin, Rome and Assisi and have had a full day.  Fr. Steve Shafran and I arrived yesterday morning to Rome and flew to Turin in the afternoon.  After arriving here in Valdocco we found our rooms inside the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians!  I literally slept in a room in Don Bosco's great Basilica to Our Lady!  I know this is a great blessing.  We spent some time around the Basilica, and were able to have mass in the Pinardi Chapel.  I was able to celebrate mass in that humble first home for Don Bosco's Oratory.  After dinner with the community we walked in to town for an excellent gelato!  On the way home we were hit with a storm.  This storm felt more like a deluge and was accompanied by golfball sized hail!  We arrived back to the Basilica soaking wet!  Needless to say it was a great but tiring first day!

Today was another day filled with blessings!  We began the day with a visit to Don Bosco's rooms and were able to have mass at one of the altars that Don Bosco used for many years in his mission to the young in Valdocco.  It was the exact spot where some of the oratory boys witnessed Don Bosco levitate during his daily mass!  What great devotion to the Holy Eucharist!  After mass and lunch with the community we had an opportunity to join the director of the house on a walk to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.  This Church is of great importance to us Salesians!  It is the sight of Don Bosco's first mass as a newly ordained priest!  Also the site of the Convitto Ecclesiastico where Don Bosco studied pastoral ministry for 3 years as a student of St. Joseph Cafasso.  Don Cafasso was Don Bosco's confessor and spiritual guide for almost 30 years!  Don Cafasso spent almost all of his priesthood in this holy place and where he heard countless confessions.  Don Cafasso literally taught Don Bosco how to be a priest in the Convitto located next to this church.

It was in the Sacristy of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi that Don Bosco met young Bartholomew Garelli and invited him to learn his catechism.  He said one Hail Mary with him and from there Don Bosco began his work for poor youth and the Salesian Oratory!  30 days after the death of Don Cafasso, Don Bosco delivered the sermon reminding everyone of the great virtues of Don Cafasso.

After our visit to St. Francis of Assisi we visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Consolation (Consolata).  This is the church where Don Bosco went to pray after the death of Mamma Margaret.  He invited Our Lady to be his mother and assist him with the work of the oratory!  St. Joseph Cafasso is buried here in this beautiful church.

Then we walked down to the Church of Divine Providence and the tomb of St. Joseph Cottolengo.  St. Joseph founded 5 institutes to care for the needs of the poor and the sick.  So many saints lived and worked in such close proximity to one another!

Fr. Steve and I  joined the community again for prayers and dinner and made another pilgrimage for gelato!  Needless to say we had a full and blessed day.  I will try to keep you posted on the days events every day of the coming week!  Thank God for the internet!  Please continue to pray for us and know of my prayers for all of you!  God is blessing us in this year of mercy!

Friday, August 26, 2016

You Don't Miss A Thing by Amanda Cook

Our Lady of Częstochowa and my vocation!

I wrote this reflection a few years back and it all still holds true.  I have been blessed in so many ways by our merciful God!  With great gratitude I am preparing for a pilgrimage to Italy as I am celebrating my jubilee of religious life (25 years).  I will carry all of you in my heart as I visit Turin and the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, the rooms of Don Bosco and the original oratory.  I have the chance to visit Becchi and the place of St. John Bosco's birth!  Rome and Assisi are also on the itinerary!  We will be there for the Wednesday Audience with our Holy Father on September 7.  And, amazingly, I will be present for the canonization of Mother Teresa!  She is a woman that I actually saw at the UNO Lakefront arena back in 1984.  To be there for her canonization is an immense blessing! August 26 is also Mother Teresa's birthday!   If you have prayer intentions please send them to me via Facebook or you can post them in the comments below.  Please pray for me and for my provincial Fr. Steve Shafran who accompanies me on this pilgrimage in the Year of Mercy!

Today, August 26, is the feast of Our Lady of Częstochowa! I never had a great devotion to this image until the year 2000. That was when I was ordained a priest! That makes today the 14th anniversary of my ordination! When I first found out my ordination would be on August 26th I was a bit disappointed that it would not be on a feast day, but later found out about Częstochowa. It was made more special when I realized the great devotion that Pope John Paul II had for her as well. Pope John Paul II, native of Poland, visited the shrine in 1979 and 1983.The miraculous portrait of Our Lady of Czestochowa is venerated by many as an actual portrait of the Madonna, painted during her lifetime by Saint Luke the Evangelist on the top of a cypress-wood table. Our God is a God of miracles and He is so very generous!

It is in this context that I wanted to write a few words about vocations and about my own vocation story. I am especially mindful of the great gift that ordination brings to the Church, to my family and to the Salesian Family, as well as to me personally. During this Year for Priests it is good to reflect more on this mystery of vocation and the gift that it is for all of us who love the Church and her mission.

My vocation is not so different from many others. Many folks had a hand in it! I think the wonderful prayerful example of my parents was a big part. I can remember seeing my mother frequently in her room with rosary in hand (no doubt praying for us kids!). Also, the hard working example of my Dad and his wonderful availability to others was and is a model to me. I don’t think we ever missed a mass on Sunday. Our parish was a second home to our family. Between school activities, scouting, fairs, picnics and altar serving the parish became a real extension of home.

I can remember being so impressed with the priests of my parish as a youngster and as an altar boy. Our Pastor, the late Msgr. Charles Pagluighi, was a great inspiration to all of us in the parish and he had a particular charism for young people. He had a way of getting his altar boys excited to do a great job at serving at mass. His love for the Chicago Cubs was well known and I remember marveling at the fact that he was an honorary team chaplain! I think the fine example and down to earth goodness of Fr. Pagluighi was a big part of my seeing priesthood in such a positive light.

Another priest of the parish when I was in grammar school was Fr. Arthur Calkins. Fr. Calkins was a very different personality from Fr. Paglughi. Fr. Calkins was a very thoughtful homilist and scholar and had the personality of a university professor. But, it was Fr. Calkins who was the first priest to ask me as a youngster if I had ever thought of the priesthood. I was very surprised by the question and I don’t remember how I responded to his question. However, I do remember that he asked me! The question stayed with me and remained something that I would think about from then on.

I think these good parish priests gave me such a positive view of priesthood that made it possible to say yes years later.

It was also in grammar school that I met Don Bosco. The Salesian Sisters came to our school as I began the 7th grade. They were wonderful, joyful women who had a clear love for God, the Church and this great Salesian Charism. Their love for St. John Bosco, Mary, Help of Christians and for young people was so clear. These sisters didn’t just talk about joy, but they were visibly joyful. I had never seen a religious sister in a habit play softball or basketball before, but these wonderful Salesians sure did! They also loved to tell the many stories of Don Bosco, his dreams, and his miracles to us kids. We saw old movies about the saint and even read comic books about him. This was a cool saint who could do it all! I left grammar school with a love for Don Bosco and his spirit.

I attended Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero, Louisiana and it was there that I encountered the Salesian Priests and Brothers. My parish priests and the Salesian Sisters tilled the soil and the priests at Shaw planted more seeds. During the summer between my Junior and Senior years of High School I had the chance to help out at a Salesian summer camp in Ipswich, MA. I needed to do 50 hours of service to graduate and the camp sounded like fun. I was supposed to work there for one week, but I was enjoying it so much that I called home to work out staying for a second! It was in working with the young people that summer that I began to see that Don Bosco’s spirit was really growing in me. Was God calling me to be a priest? Was God calling me to be a Salesian? Maybe, but I wasn’t ready to say that out loud!

By the end of my Senior year at Shaw I was all set to go to LSU and begin a new chapter in my life. Just before graduation the school Director Fr. Pat Angelucci called me into his office to ask me a question. He asked me what I planned to do after graduation. I told him I was headed to LSU. He asked the question again. This time he looked me right in the eyes and asked “what do you plan to do with the rest of your life?” Somehow I had the courage to say maybe I will become a Salesian! Six years later that is exactly what happened! On August 15, 1991 I knelt before my provincial and made profession as a Salesian of Don Bosco. Nine years later I was blessed to be ordained a priest!

Pope Benedict called us to celebrate a special Year for Priests in 2011 and I have been thinking about this wonderful mystery of priesthood and the great gift that it is to the Church. No man deserves to be a priest. I know that I don’t deserve this wonderful gift. However, I do know that God doesn’t call the qualified, but qualifies the called. Somehow God works through one’s limitations and brokenness to bring healing, hope and holiness to the people of God. Please pray for us priests that we might continue to grow more and more into the heart of Christ. The Church needs more and more men to say yes! Maybe God is calling you? Don’t be afraid to say YES!

In Over My Head by Jenn Johnson

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Surrendering to the Holy Spirit

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle!

Today is the Feast of St. Bartholomew! The following comes from the Ecole Glossary.

Nathaniel Bar Tolmai was a native of Cana chosen to be among the 12 Apostles and praised for his sincerity. The synoptic gospels and the Acts of the Apostles list Bartholomew among the Twelve, and the gospel according to St. John lists Nathaniel, who is elsewhere associated with Philip. Other gospels note an association of Philip with Bartholomew, and people have inferred that the writers of the synoptic books call Nathaniel by his patronymic, while St. John calls him by his first name.

Details of his subsequent career are unknown. He is said to have preached in India (or Ethiopia), Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, and Armenia. Eusebius reports that St. Pantænus of Alexandria found in India (by which Eusebius may have meant Ethiopia) a copy of the Hebrew text of the gospel of Matthew that Bartholomew had left there. A gospel attributed to Bartholomew is apocryphal.

Nathaniel is thought to have been martyred by King Astyages of Babylon, who ordered him flayed and beheaded. The place of Nathaniel's death is uncertain. Some say it was Derbend on the Caspian Sea, but Armenian sources assert he died at Arbanoupolis in Armenia. St. Bartholomew in Rome claims his relics.

For more information on St. Bartholomew please check out the Patron Saints Index!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Holy Spirit by Francesca Battistelli

Depending on Providence

The following comes from Mark Mallett:

THESE are the days of Elijah, that is, the hour of a prophetic witness being called forth by the Holy Spirit. It is going to take on many facets—from the fulfillment of apparitions, to the prophetic witness of individuals who “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation… shine like lights in the world.” [1] Here I am not speaking only of the hour of “prophets, seers, and visionaries”—though that is part of it—but of every day people like you and me.
Perhaps you are saying, “Who, me?” Yes, you, and here’s why: as the darkness gets darker, so too, our witness as Christians is going to be forced into the open. One will no longer be able to sit on the fence of compromise. Either you will shine with the light of Christ, or out of fear and self-preservation, hide that light beneath a bushel basket. But remember St. Paul’s warning: “if we deny Him, He will deny us”, [2]but also Christ’s reassurance: “everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.” [3]
Thus, Jesus says with joy:
You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Today’s Gospel)
And so, let me straight away repeat the words of St. John Paul II: “BE NOT AFRAID.” There is a strong spirit of fear that has been loosed into the world [4] that is operating under the guise of “tolerance”, but in truth, is a bully. Anyone who disagrees with the “new agenda” is being met more and more with violent words or actions. But don’t be intimidated by this spirit. Stand strong! Have faith in the power of Truth and Love, who is Christ.
…for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (2 Cor 10:4)
Stand your ground, “but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.” [5] Otherwise, the light in you will fade, and your salt will lose its taste.
Last, keep in mind that…
Christ… fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy… but also by the laity… [who] are made sharers in their particular way in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 904, 897
Know that the Father will look out for you as He has all His “prophets.” Elijah surrendered himself completely into the arms of Divine Providence. Can you not see, my dear brothers and sisters, that you and I must do the same? That soon His arms will be all that we’ll have as Christians are forced out of the public sphere? So be it. But Abba knows how to care for His own.
The brook near where Elijah was hiding ran dry, because no rain had fallen in the land. So the LORD said to Elijah:  “Move on to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have designated a widow there to provide for you.” (Today’s first reading)
What is most remarkable is that God sent Elijah to a widow who also had nothing! She was down to her last meal. Why would the Lord do this? Precisely to demonstrate His power in the midst of disaster, His love in the midst of drought, His providence in the midst of famine. God multiplied her food such that:
She was able to eat for a year, and Elijah and her son as well. 
In this way, Elijah’s courage was strengthened, as was the faith of the widow. Look, food is easy for God. That’s the least of your worries. Being faithful is your concern:
Know that the LORD does wonders for his faithful one; the LORD will hear me when I call upon him. (Today’s Psalm)

Read the rest here! 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Art of Contemplative & Mystical Prayer

The following comes from The Catholic Exchange:

Contemplative prayer has the tendency to become ever simpler and more silent. As we gain experience in this form of prayer we need fewer and fewer thoughts, until finally one single thought may be sufficient to find the way to truth and God. Fewer thoughts demand fewer words. St. Francis used the phrase “My God and my all” as his theme of contemplation for a whole night.
In contemplation our mode of thinking changes. From its usual restlessness it becomes a quiet beholding and a comprehending, a watching and a witnessing. Our voice changes: it becomes softer and lower. Finally, speech dies down and its place is taken by a silent regarding and longing between the soul and God. If we should reach this stage in contemplation, we should not force ourselves back into the diversity of thought. When simplicity contains the essence, there is no need for diversity; when silence is eloquent, it is greater than words.
There are people to whom a profusion of thought and words are alien. With them, the state of quietude, which others take consid­erable time to establish, is very quickly reached. They require only very few words; anything beyond it would merely confuse them. They may not even need any words or thoughts in order to establish the state of mind in which they experience the presence of God. If that is so, they need not search any farther. They should, however, not take this for granted. It may happen that on another occasion they need a proper subject for contemplation and must have recourse to a proper text.
We cannot do more here than give a general description of the character and practice of contemplative prayer. It must take differ­ent forms with different people. Thus what we have said should not be regarded as a general rule but merely as a survey which may give some guidance in individual cases.
Some people find contemplation very much easier than others. Some people are by nature quieter and more introspective than others who are highly strung and permanently keyed up for action. Again, the form of contemplation must vary with individual disposition. The slow, plodding, and methodical person will set about it in a different way from someone who is quick and impres­sionable, the imaginative person in a different way from the abstract thinker.
There are no general rules. What matters is that we should seek the truth and that through truth we should strive after God. Also, contemplation changes in character with time and circumstances.

Mystical prayer erases barriers between man and God

It may happen in contemplation that we have a strange experience. We may have been reflecting on God in faith alone. Suddenly, God is present. This is not due to any intensity of devotion on our part, nor does it imply that we have an especially vivid idea of God or that our heart is overflowing with love for Him. It is not anything of this kind. It is a sudden feeling that we are faced with an entirely new and different experience: a wall which was there before is there no more.
Usually the idea of God is before us like everything else, including ourselves. It is before us in the space of our conscious­ness as a concept or thought. This concept of God affects us, moves us to love, or exhorts us to certain actions. In the experi­ence which we are discussing, the barrier of thought disappears and gives place to immediate and direct awareness.
This, at first, may be most confusing. We feel moved in an entirely new way; we feel that we have been transported into a state hitherto unknown. Our intuition tells us that this is God or at any rate connected with Him. This intimation may frighten us. We do not know whether we dare presume that this intuition is true and we are uncertain what to do. However, the intuition becomes a certainty, even an absolute certainty which leaves no room for doubt. The doubts may come afterwards when, for exam­ple, we discover that our usual ideas about the inner life have lost their meaning or when we discover that other people have no knowledge of these things.
Another element of confusion is that we lack the words to describe our experience. We know what it is but we also know that it cannot be conveyed in words — not only because it is so great and powerful, but simply because there is no expression for it. We can merely say something like: “It is holy; it is close; it is more important than anything else; it is sufficient in itself; it is quiet, tender, simple; it is almost nothing and yet it is everything — it is He.” We could put it this way, yet know that it would convey nothing to our listener unless he also had experienced it.

Don Bosco's Popes: St. Pius X

The following comes from

Joseph Sarto was born at Riese (Treviso) on 2nd June 1835. He was elected Pope on 4th August 1903. He died on 20th August 1914 and was canonised on 29th May 1954. Not just as Pope, but also as priest, bishop and patriarch, he gave evidence of his good will towards the Salesian Society When he was a Canon, he met with the Founder in Turin on 15th August 1875; he sat at table with the Saint, was enrolled amongst the Salesian Cooperators and left much edified. A few days after he became Pope, he sent Don Rua a letter with a blessing on the Salesian Society. On 23rd July 1907 he signed the decree introducing the apostolic process for John Bosco, and on the 10th February 1914, did the same for Dominic Savio. In 1903 he promoted Bishop Cagliero as the titular Archbishop of Sebaste and in 1908 nominated him as Apostolic Delegate to Central America. He was the first Salesian Cooperator to be elevated to the honour of the Altars.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

How He Loves by David Crowder (w/ Matt Chandler & John Piper)

How He Loves - David Crowder (w/ Matt Chandler & John Piper) from Fiti Oameni on Vimeo.

Saint of the Day: Bernard of Clairvaux

Today is the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux! a Cistercian and founder of the abbey at Clairvaux. The following is from the Ecole Glossary:

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153 AD) was born into nobility in Burgundy, France and was educated at the school of secular canons in the town of Chatillon-sur-Seine. At the age of twenty-three, he entered the Cistercian abbey of Citeaux near Dijon. Bernard spent a short time at Citeaux before being asked to found the monastery of Clairvaux and become its abbot. His success at Clairvaux prompted Pope Innocent II to call on him to intervene in a conflict between Innocent and the antipope Anacletus in 1133 and 1137. Once again successful, Bernard was drawn further from the cloister into the public life of the Church. He spent the next fifteen years condemning heretics and instituting religious reform until 1147 when Pope Eugenius III asked him to organize the Second Crusade. He lived to see the crusade fail and died shortly thereafter in 1153 at Clairvaux. Bernard wrote many spiritual treatises, including the celebrated On Loving God.

You can read more about St. Bernard at the Patron Saints Index!

Friday, August 19, 2016

He Knows My Name by Francesca Battistelli

Padre Pio on Anxiety

Wisdom of Padre Pio: “Do not anticipate the problems of this life with apprehension, but, rather, with a perfect hope that God, to whom you belong, will free you from them accordingly. He has defended you up to now. Simply hold on tightly to the hand of his divine providence, and he will help you in all events, and when you are unable to walk, he will lead you; don’t worry . . . Don’t think about tomorrow’s events because the same heavenly Father who takes care of you today will do the same tomorrow and forever.

“Live tranquilly. Remove from your imagination that which upsets you, and often say to the Lord, “Oh, God, you are my God, and I will trust in you. You will assist me and be my refuge, and I will fear nothing . . . “ 

Saint of the day: John Eudes

How Can It Be by Lauren Daigle

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Live And Die by The Avett Brothers

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher (with Audrey Assad)

A Prayer in Discouragement

My Jesus, relieve me of my discouragement. My devotion has vanished; spiritual thoughts no longer soothe my troubled soul. Even the remembrances of Your passion and of Your Blessed Mother grow dim before my vision. O Jesus, do not forsake me. Help me, help me! I am resolved not to omit a single one of my devotions. Hear me, O my God, strengthen and increase my faith. Keep me from yielding to temptation. You said, “My yoke is sweet; my burden is light.” Have mercy on me, for wheresoever I turn I see only obstacles and difficulties. Were my faith strong I would accept my trials; but alas, I feel only impatience, doubt and discouragement. My soul, hold fast to Jesus. How faint-hearted and childish I am! All my comfort, all my joy must come from You. Bring me closer to You when temptations assail me. Help me not to fail. O Lord, my God, I cast myself entirely into Your Hands. Worn out by the struggle, I will rest beneath Your cross; pray for me in my desolation of soul. Jesus, be merciful to me. Amen.
Saint John Neumann (1811-1860)
Collected by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, in his book “Praying to Our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

This Love by Pat Barrett (Housefires II)

Miracle in Medjugorje: Atheist Author Finds God

I recall reading Randall Sullivan's excellent book on Marian apparitions a few years ago.  It was really excellent!  It is a good introduction to those who may not be exposed to the miraculous nature of our faith.  I may read it again!
The following comes from the Mystic Post:
Randall Sullivan is a former agnostic, raised by atheists, an Ivy Leaguer, and was a  contributing editor to Rolling Stone for over twenty years. He is also the author of The Price of Experience, Labyrinth, and the great book about Medjugorje The Miracle Detective, the book that inspired a television show which he hosted on the Oprah Winfrey Network. 
Do miracles really exist? Or is there a logical explanation to the seemingly inexplicable?
Randall Sullivan is an author and journalist who, while travelling as a war correspondent in Bosnia, saw an inexplicable vision on Cross Mountain in Medjugirje during a violent thunder and lightning storm.  It changed his life, and he is convinced it was a miracle.  Mr. Sullivan took a moment out of his busy schedule to talk with Mystic Post about that “Inexplicable vision that changed his life”

Friday, August 12, 2016

What Are Words by Peter & Evynne Hollens and the Piano Guys

Angels, Visionaries and the Virgin Mary

The following comes from the Mystic Post:

A Medjugorje visionary Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti speaks of Angels to Pilgrims:

Q. Our Lady continues to be present here despite the fact that many ask what she does and why she appears for so long. Is this so?
aug42008A. “I always say that Our Lady loves us and that is why she stays with us and desires guiding us on the path which every Christian should be on and would be on if it weren’t because they are inert, dormant. A Pope once said that if a Christian is not Marian he is not a good Christian.
That is why I would like to make you fall in love with Our Lady. I recall that once Our Lady asked us to offer her some time in prayer during the night for nine consecutive days, so we went up the Hill of Apparitions and she would appear to us at 2.30 in the morning.
We went up the hill for the entire novena, and offered it for Our Lady’s intentions. As I said, Our Lady appeared at 2.30 in the morning, but we, and the people who came up with us, wanted to stay on to give thanks for her apparition, and because we didn’t know many prayers we decided that each of us would say an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be. So it would often happen that we’d be there till 5 or 6 in the morning.
At the end of the novena Our Lady appeared very happy, but the nicest thing was that she was accompanied by many Angels, some of whom were big and some little. We have always noticed that when Mary comes with Angels if she is sad they too are sad, but if she is happy their expression of joy is even more intense than hers.
That particular time the Angels were very happy. At the moment of the apparition all the people who were with us saw a great number of falling stars, and they firmly believed in Mary’s presence. The day after when we told the priest what had happened he told us that the day before was the feast of Our Lady of the Angels! Mary’s most important messages are: prayer, conversion and fasting. She asks for prayer, but even before this she asks for conversion. Our Lady asks us to begin praying so that our lives become prayer.
I remember the time that she asked us to dedicate three hours to Jesus and we said: “Isn’t that a bit much?” She smiled and said: “When one of your best friends pay you a visit you don’t look at how much time you spend together.” So that’s how Our Lady invited us to make it so our best friend was Jesus. Mary’s invitation to prayer was gradual. The first prayers we said with her were the seven Our Fathers, Hail Mary’s and Glory Be’s, plus one Apostles Creed. Then, bit by bit, she asked for the Rosary, then the complete Rosary, and then she asked us to complete our prayer with Holy Mass. Our Lady does not force us to pray; she invites us to change our lives through prayer. It is her desire that we live prayer in a way that our lives become a continuous encounter with God. Our Lady calls us to give joyful witness with our lives. That is why, when I speak, I try to transmit the joy that she gives me. Her presence here in Medjugorje is not one of chastisement or sadness, but of joy and hope. That is why she is appearing for so long. Once, in a message to the parish, she said: “If there is need I will knock on the door of each home, of each family.”
I see many pilgrims who feel the need of conversion once they are home, because improving the quality of one’s own life means to improve the quality of the entire family, and of the world; and in doing so we begin to put into practice the request in the Holy Scriptures: become light and salt of the earth.
Our Lady is calling us in a special way so that we may begin with all our strength to be her joyful witnesses.

Saint of the day: Jane Frances de Chantel

The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Born to the nobility, the daughter of the president of the Parliment of Burgundy who raised her alone after the death of her mother when Jeanne was 18 months old. Married in 1592 at age twenty to Baron de Chantal. Mother of four. Widowed at 28 when the Baron was killed in a hunting accident and died in her arms. Taking a personal vow of chastity, she was forced to live with her father-in-law, which was a period of misery for her. She spent her free time in prayer, and received a vision of the man who would become her spiritual director. In Lent, 1604, she met Saint Francis de Sales, and recognized him as the man in her vision. She became a spiritual student and close friend of Saint Francis, and the two carried on a lengthy correspondence for years. On Trinity Sunday, 6 June 1610 she founded the Order of the Visitation of Our Lady at Annecy, France. The Order was designed for widows and lay women who did not wish the full life of the orders, and Jeanne oversaw the founding of 69 convents. Jeanne spent the rest of her days overseeing the Order, and acting as spiritual advisor to any who desired her wisdom. Visitationist nuns today live a contemplative life, work for women with poor health and widows, and sometimes run schools.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

In Over My Head by Jenn Johnson of Bethel Music

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Evangelizing Power of Eucharistic Adoration

The following comes from Adam Janke at Patheos:

Before my wife and I entered the Catholic Church in 2005 I found myself spending increasing amounts of time in Eucharistic Adoration at our local perpetual adoration chapel in Grand Rapids, MI. As a young twenty-something Baptist I was struck by the sense of peace I found in this "sacred space." During my three-year journey into the fullness of faith I started attending Adoration even before I went to Mass on a regular basis. The fast pace of life had left me constantly strained and stressed out and Catholic friends suggested I spend quiet time in prayer at Adoration to regain my bearings. The chapel was less distracting than praying at home and Protestant churches were not open late at night.
As time went on I started to retreat there more and more often and Jesus allowed me to enter into His rest. The very act of spending time before the Lord, exposed in the Eucharist, transformed me even if I did not yet fully realize the implications for my family.
The Catholic Church offered something that would fulfill an immediate need I had in my life. Looking back I realize now how Christ was working on my heart in those silent moments. In speaking about the Eucharist Benedict XVI said: "Christ's death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against Himself in which He gives Himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form" (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 8).
Cardinal Raymond Burke follows up, "The Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord are, in fact, only fully understood in the context of the Lord's Supper, the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Banquet" (Divine Love Made Flesh, 80). No wonder then, that I felt so at home and at peace in Adoration. I was with Christ who was pouring out His love for me.
After my conversion and since accepting work as a Director of Religious Education (who also does youth ministry), I take every opportunity I can to help my parishioners spend time with Our Lord in the Eucharist. Many of my parishioners have also been transformed by the evangelistic power of Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration. 
Our youth started experiencing Adoration in the summer of 2007 at their first youth conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville. With no prior knowledge, prompting, or leading by any of the staff, two of our teens experienced a gift from the Holy Spirit known as "resting in the Spirit." While it is difficult to define, Fr. Robert DeGrandis describes this grace as a "full surrender of the body during prayer when a person can be literally overwhelmed by the power of the Holy Spirit and falls to the ground in a peaceful state of prayer." Many of them experienced healing and one teen even felt convicted by Jesus to immediately go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This girl told our youth group about how she had been resistant to go at first, but how free she felt after Confession. When we got back to the parish our teens cornered our pastor in the sacristy after Mass and demanded more opportunities for Adoration at the parish. They had fallen in love with Jesus. Our startled pastor was only too happy to oblige.
Over the next few years we expanded opportunities for Adoration at youth ministry events such as our New Year's Eve lock-in and our opening and closing of the year ceremonies for our Parish School of Religion. Our parents share with me how much they love having Adoration and how it has given them a new and deeper relationship with Jesus.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Without You by The Piano Guys

Remembering Edith Stein - Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Today in the Catholic Church we remember Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). The following comes from EWTN:Edith Stein, saintly Carmelite, profound philosopher and brilliant writer, had a great influence on the women of her time, and is having a growing influence in the intellectual and philosophical circles of today’s Germany and of the whole world. She is an inspiration to all Christians whose heritage is the Cross, and her life was offered for her own Jewish people in their sufferings and persecutions.

Born on October 12, 1891, of Jewish parents, Siegried Stein and Auguste Courant, in Breslau, Germany, Edith Stein from her earliest years showed a great aptitude for learning, and by the time of the outbreak of World War I, she had studied philology and philosophy at the universities of Breslau and Goettingen.

After the war, she resumed her higher studies at the University of Freiburg and was awarded her doctorate in philosophy Suma Cum Laude. She later became the assistant and collaborator of Professor Husserl, the famous founder of phenomenology, who greatly appreciated her brilliant mind.

In the midst of all her studies, Edith Stein was searching not only for the truth, but for Truth itself and she found both in the Catholic Church, after reading the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila. She was baptized on New Year’s Day, 1922.

After her conversion, Edith spent her days teaching, lecturing, writing and translating, and she soon became known as a celebrated philosopher and author, but her own great longing was for the solitude and contemplation of Carmel, in which she could offer herself to God for her people. It was not until the Nazi persecution of the Jews brought her public activities and her influence in the Catholic world to a sudden close that her Benedictine spiritual director gave his approval to her entering the Discalced Carmelie Nuns’ cloistered community at Cologne-Lindenthal on 14 October 1933. The following April, Edith received the Habit of Carmel and the religious name of "Teresia Benedicta ac Cruce," and on Easter Sunday, 21 April 1935, she made her Profession of Vows.

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Prayer for the Lonely

The following comes from the Proverbs 31 site:

There were many feelings I expected to have at this conference I’d been looking forward to attending. Acceptance. Fun. Camaraderie.

On paper, these were my people.

They lead organizations. I lead an organization. They are vulnerable. I am vulnerable. Like me, they know the stresses of deadlines, trying to balance kids with ministry, and the nagging sense that we should keep hidden the fact that we have the pizza delivery place on speed dial.

Yes, these will for sure be my people.

And the great thing about gathering with people you just know you’re going to bond with is that they will get you. Really get you … like on the level of having inside jokes that makes every conversation comfortable and delightful.

I couldn’t wait to be with these people.

And I couldn’t wait for the deep friendships that would surely bloom as a result of our time together.

I walked into the meeting room and quickly located the table of the people I was excited to meet. Every seat had a nametag attached so I circled the table looking for mine. As I got to the last chair and realized my name wasn’t there, I got a sinking feeling.

I milled around the room looking for my name, feeling increasingly out of place. Finally, at a table on the opposite side of the room, I found my name. I rallied in my heart that the Lord must have a special plan for me to meet and connect with the others assigned to my table. I took my seat and pulled out my cell phone as I nervously waited for my tablemates.

I waited.
And waited.
And waited.

As the prayer for the meal concluded and the event got underway it became painfully apparent to me that the others assigned to my table weren’t able to come for some reason. So, I’d be seated alone. Very alone.

In reality, I don’t think anyone else really noticed my predicament. After all by this time everyone in the room was busy passing rolls and salad dressing options.

In my head I started to have a little pity conversation: Well self, would you like a roll? Or ten perhaps? It’s certainly an option when you’re sitting single at a table for ten.

And that’s when a very clear sentence popped into my head, “You aren’t set aside, Lysa. You are set apart.” It wasn’t audible. And it wasn’t my own thought. I knew it was a thought assigned by God that I needed to ponder.

To be set aside is to be rejected.

That’s exactly what the enemy would have wanted me to feel. If he could get me to feel this, then I’d become completely self-absorbed in my own insecurity and miss whatever reason God had for me to be at this event.

To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.

That’s what I believe God wanted me to see. If He could get me to see this, I’d be able to embrace the lesson of this situation.

Have you ever been in this place? Maybe you’re there this Christmas season. It’s tough when everything around you screams “merry” while you’re aching with loneliness and feel anything but.

I wasn’t just in this place at the dinner that night. I’ve been in whole seasons of my life where, though I had people around, I felt quite alone in my calling.

Can I give you three thoughts that might encourage you today?

1. Look for the gift of being humbled.
Proverbs 11:2b reminds us that “with humility comes wisdom” (NIV). In this set apart place, God will give you special wisdom you’ll need for the assignment ahead.

2. Look for the gift of being lonely.
This will develop in you a deeper sense of compassion for your fellow travelers. You better believe when I walk into a conference now I look for someone sitting alone and make sure they know someone noticed them.

3. Look for the gift of silence.
Had I been surrounded by the voices of those people I was so eager to meet that night, I would have surely missed the voice of God. I’m trying to weave more silence into the rhythm of my life now so I can whisper, “God what might You want to say to me right now? I’m listening.”

I know it can be painful to be alone. And I know the thoughts of being set aside are loud and overwhelmingly tempting to believe in the hollows of feeling unnoticed and uninvited.

But as you pray through your feelings, see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than you being overlooked.

There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to look past being set aside to see God’s call for her to be set apart.

Dear Lord, help me see the gifts hidden in this season of loneliness. I’m believing today that I’m set apart, not set aside. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

John 15:16a, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you.” (NLT)

Saint of the day: Dominic

The following comes from the Catholic Herald:
One of the most influential figures in Christian history in the second millennium, St Dominic invigorated the Church during one of those periodic times when man’s imperfections had led it down the wrong roads and so inspired heresy.
Born in 1170 in Calaruega, Castile, he studied at the University of Palencia and was (it is thought since the details are sketchy) ordained there.
Joining a monastery known for its strict adherence to the rule of St Benedict, in 1203 he accompanied his local bishop to Languedoc, which was then overrun by the Cathar heresy.
Although following the murder of a papal legate, the Cathars were brutally defeated by Simon de Montfort’s Albigensian crusade and Dominic preached against the heresy, there is no suggestion he had any involvement in any of the brutality that took place at the time. (At the famous massacre at Béziers 20,000 people, Cathars and Catholics, were slaughtered by the northerners, whose leader is supposed to have responded to the point that they were about to kill lots of non-heretics by saying: “Kill them all, God will know His own.”)
By all accounts Dominic did not have much success with the heretics, but did set about reforming the Cistercians and founded an institute for women deep in Albigensian territory.
In 1214 De Montfort (father of the English political leader in the Barons’ War) gave him a castle at Casseneuil. Dominic, along with six followers, founded an order devoted to converting the Cathars, and though canonically approved, failed to win approval at the Lateran Council of 1215. It was only a year later that Pope Honorious III allowed him to set up the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans.
From there he travelled all over Spain, France and Italy attracting new members and building houses, and gaining many converts. Part of the attraction was Dominic’s appeal to learning and the mind, and he is today the patron saint of astronomy. But perhaps the one everyday thing he most changed for Catholics was use of the rosary, which he and his order helped to spread.
Influenced by the Benedictine vows of his youth, Dominic lived an austere life, abstaining from meat and observing periods of fasting and silence. He always, according to one chronicler, “selected the worst accommodations and the meanest clothes” and “never allowed himself the luxury of a bed”. He would also walk barefoot, “however sharp the stones or thorns, he trudged on on his way”.
Before Christmas 1218 Dominic arrived at Bologna, where he established a convent and he settled in a nearby church, where he died in 1221, “exhausted with the austerities and labours of his career” .
In the last moments of life he asked his followers to “have charity, to guard their humility and to make their treasure out of poverty”. He was canonised in 1234 and his remains, buried in a simple coffin, were moved to a shrine in 1267.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Thousand Years by the Piano Guys

Get Tough With Yourself!

Sid Phillips, left, with W.O. Brown

This is a post from The Art of Manliness, and Men Who Lead Well.

One harmful mindset that can keep a man from fulfilling his calling and potential is self-coddling. This is when he convinces himself he deserves a break, and runs to something that ultimately harms himself.
The WWII Marines of K/3/5 had been fighting on Guadalcanal for weeks. C-rations had run out, and the men ate twice daily portions of coconuts and wormy rice they’d confiscated from the Japanese.
PFC Sid Phillips (featured in HBO’s The Pacific) grew increasingly concerned for his hometown friend, W.O. Brown, racked with severe dysentery. Everything W.O. tried to eat ran straight through him. There was no medicine. No cots to lie on. The sick were simply stretched out on the ground. W.O. grew so emaciated he was too weak even to sit up. Flies covered him as he lay in his own diarrhea.
“It was bad,” Phillips reported in an interview with me. “I didn’t think W.O. was going to survive.”
Each day, Phillips carried W.O. to the ocean and helped him get clean. I asked Phillips if he remembered any specific conversations he had with W.O. during these times of carrying him. Here, I was expecting a poignant story. I pictured this young battle-hardened Marine carrying his nearly-dead buddy to the water. “Keep holding on,” Phillips would whisper. “Have courage. Just think of mom and apple pie.” Something like that.
But Phillips just chuckled. “Oh yeah, I remember. I told W.O. to stop being such a faker and take a salt tablet.”
The response threw me. I asked Phillips (who eventually became a medical doctor) what his strategy was.
“Well, it didn’t help a man to overly commiserate with him,” Phillips said. “If you did, it just depressed him. But if you kidded him, it made him smile. The ribbing was all good natured. He’d fire back some wisecrack at you, and soon he’d get to fighting again.”
Phillips respected W.O. Brown as someone who had the capacity to get up and go on. So let’s believe the same about ourselves.
Anytime a man is in a downed place—i.e. he’s annoyed, angry, tired, hurt, lonely, stressed, or frustrated—he is tempted to become overly sympathetic with himself. He gets that insidious, creepy, pampering mindset that tells him he deserves a break—just this once.
I’m not talking about kicking back on the couch with a bag of Doritos. Not that kind of a break.
I’m talking about blowing it: the lie that it’s okay to run to a favorite vice. We’ve all got them. We run to whatever ultimately harms us, because we’ve convinced ourselves it helps. It’s the worst form of coddling.
Get tough with yourself. Knock it off, ya faker. Take a salt tablet, and get back to the battle. Sure, frustrations exist. But you don’t need that bottle. You don’t need that porn. You don’t need to give in to that moment of rage on the freeway. You’ve only convinced yourself you do.
By the way, the strategy works. W.O. Brown survived the dysentery—and the war.