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Of Mountains, Deserts and Angels – Mother Angelica on Suffering, Burnout and Faith

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 22:05

An image comes to mind.

It is of a car wreck aflame on the side of the road in a desert landscape.

Beneath the burning sky, forlorn, desolate, the wreck stands alone.

As terrifying as this image is, and, perhaps, as mysterious, it may be surprising to learn that it was one conjured into my mind whilst reading a book by Mother Angelica.

Mother Angelica is known to the world by the media empire she created, namely, Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). From its start in 1981, she became its main ‘star’; she proved a natural.  When it came to modern media her television presence was as strong, if decidedly different, from that of an earlier Catholic luminary in the television era, Fulton Sheen. In front of a live audience, she was more akin to an adept stand-up comedian than a preacher at a revival meeting. With both dynamism and wit, she would lull all viewing into a false sense of security before the real purpose of her talk was revealed. This 58 year-old nun, and one who looked very much like a nun, dressed as she was in full habit, would proceed to challenge her audience. On a deep level, while making the audience laugh, she would also make them think, reflect even on making resolutions for a better life.

Mother Angelica was not to everyone’s taste. Some complained that she was ‘preaching to the choir’; others dismissed her as ‘folksy’ – whatever that meant. Both criticisms missed the point. I suspect her critics had never really sat and watched her closely on screen. Perhaps, they saw the habit and her wide smile and simply imagined the rest for here was no bumbling amateur who had stumbled onto network television by accident. Instead, this was a talented and shrewd media operator who was consciously starting a revolution.

EWTN Publishing has just made available Mother Angelica on Suffering and Burnout. Like the television personality, there is more to this volume than one might expect.

Perhaps the title should have given the reader a clue. This was never going to be a book of soothing words or of some superficial spiritual reassurance. Instead, it is a book that charts the adventure, and the pain, of the interior life. In this text Mother Angelica employs images of mountains and ascent throughout.  These are classic tropes for progress in the spiritual life: leading one to the conclusion that she writes not for beginners, nor for those who have come only ‘to look at the view’, but for those who are serious climbers and who want to get to the top of this difficult mountain they have started to ascend.

This book is in fact a compendium. It contains 6 mini-books: His Silent Presence, Jesus Needs Me, Dawn on the Mountain, The Gift of Dryness in Prayer, His Pain – like Mine, Spiritual Hangovers and The Healing Power of Suffering. All six were written in the early 1970s. At that time Mother Angelica was unknown to the world, living a cloistered life at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. The series of books had a specific and small audience – her fellow Poor Clare contemplatives.

Reading these works today, decades later, it is interesting to note the times in which they were written as much as the audience for whom they were first intended. By the early 1970s, there was much confusion in the Church:  the reforms of Vatican II had not yet come to maturity. They had seemingly been hi-jacked by a spurious ‘Spirit of Vatican2’ – a spirit more poltergeist than holy. This was felt as much in the religious life as in the wider Church, indeed, maybe more so. In these series of books, Mother Angelica cuts through this confusion and reminds her readers that the spiritual life is as dynamic, as beautiful, as demanding and as tough as it has always been, and always shall be.  She writes as if she is a skilled mountaineer urging her weak-limbed charges on to the summit, with by the end, but only then, promising a view they could not have hoped for or even imagined.

Inevitably, there is a bracing toughness to her tone. Nevertheless, there is also a deep understanding communicated throughout these pages, namely that weak human beings should never be surprised by weakness – either that of others or of themselves. Mother Angelica takes the interior life seriously, and, therefore, also expects the reader to engage with the most important facet of all human existence:  a relationship with the Triune God.

There is also an unexpected beauty to her words. Anticipating a workman-like prose, I was surprised at the poise with which she marshals expansive and, at times, complicated concepts and imagery. Not only is her writing eminently readable, it is, in fact, a pleasure to read. It is also penetrating in its directness. I defy anyone to pick this book up, read it through, and then walk away without it having had an impact.

In a world where so much speaks to us of ‘pleasure’ and ‘fun’, all merely attempts at escaping from the reality we face every day, here is someone talking of the truths of our existence with its pain and suffering, discouragement and loss, limitation and fragmentation. This is the writing of a woman who has shared these pains. More importantly, though, they are also the words of one who through Grace has begun the process of transcending them, and now offers that experience to all.

A decade after writing her books, Mother Angelica was on a different divinely inspired mission.  That a media empire began with a cloistered nun in rural Alabama sounds a joke of sorts. No one is laughing now, however. EWTN is the largest religious broadcaster in the world. Some estimates put its global reach at 250 million souls – it is probably more than that given the network on line presence. Thoroughly orthodox and unashamedly faithful to the Magisterium, it is no Catholic media ‘ghetto’ but, rather, an apostolic force with the world as its mission territory. Without doubt, it changes peoples’ lives; and, now, those same people are appearing on the network. People who one night changed television channels, perhaps accidently, and, subsequently, found their lives changed too. If ever the power of the contemplative vocation can be seen in the wider world then it is in EWTN. And, it is here displayed on each page of Mother Angelica on Suffering and Burnout that we see the fire that burned in the breast of the woman to whom was first given that vision.

Two stories, one well-known, one less so.

Her ambition was as wide as her faith was deep when Mother Angelica started her first transmission, therefore, she needed not one but two satellite dishes. She ordered them; and, finally, they were delivered to her monastery. When the deliveryman asked for the payment, the nun in front of him was silent. She didn’t have the thousands of dollars needed to pay for this essential, if expensive, equipment.  Before she could explain, the monastery phone sounded. Down the line there came the voice of a man who wanted to donate the exact amount that the satellite dishes cost. Soon after, the deliveryman was paid in full; and the transmissions started.

Another less well-known story is of how on a real mountain the EWTN short-wave antenna was placed. Normally, such equipment is set up in open flat land so as to maximize transmission. Instead, EWTN’s network’s transmitters were placed on top of a mountain. Yet the signal proved perfect for radio transmission. In fact, it would not have been possible to find a better site. Such an unusual set up, and one that defied any known professional advice, baffled the experts. So much so, that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) sent a team of technicians to work out why the short-wave signal was so good. Their efforts proved fruitless, however, and the team returned to London more baffled than before. But Mother Angelica knew exactly why it was so good. Later, she would tell how, having been informed that this was where the radio antenna should be, she had been led to that exact spot. When asked how she knew? She replied simply that St. Michael the Archangel had led her there.

Man of Our Lady

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 22:02

I haven’t always been the lady’s man that I am today. Certainly not in junior high, nor even in high school, when I hadn’t yet really begun to play the part. It was only by the example of college friends, in seeing their devotion, that I began to deepen my relationship with Our Lady.

Not everyone is comfortable with Marian devotion—not even all Catholics. Why do we pay attention to Mary when Christ alone is our Savior? Marian devotion can be summed up like this: when we love someone, we want to share in all the things that they love. This doesn’t take away our love for that person, but deepens it. We can now begin to say, “I love all that you love.” And that’s the whole point of love, to form one shared life out of two. We all know the experience of Christian friendship: When we form community with others who are centered on Christ, they don’t distract us from Christ, but their faithfulness helps keep us faithful. This is exactly what devotion to Mary does. Growing close to her keeps us centered on Christ.

Jesus loved Mary, so those who love Jesus are moved to love Mary. He didn’t love her as someone who just happened to be his mother on earth (lucky her, we might say). God chose her from the beginning, to be his own mother when he came into the world, bringing “grace and truth… through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:17). And if he is made our brother by grace (Rom 8:14ff), then by grace she is made our mother. He said so in some of his last words from the cross, “Woman, behold your son” (Jn 19:26). And when he gave her to John the beloved disciple, he gave her to all his disciples. We sometimes overlook this moment as merely symbolic, but when the Word of God speaks, what he says happens. Bl. Columba Marmion writes that just as his words here really placed us under Mary’s care, they likewise changed Mary in this moment, creating in her heart a new and tender affection for all his disciples, all those who followed her Son and sought to become like him.

Of all of the followers of Jesus, we should remember priests.  Today in the Province of St. Joseph, we Dominicans have seven new priests! Sometime shortly after 10:00 am this morning (Mass begins at 9:30), they will receive the laying on of hands, and by this act they are conformed to Christ in an entirely new way. Of course, all Christians are joined to Christ by baptism, as St. Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). This is echoed by C.S. Lewis who said that all who have faith are “little Christs.” Our neighbor is Christ to us also, as Jesus himself says, “Whatever you did to the least of these, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). Or as Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., echoes this truth in verse:

For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

Yet priests are something different. They share in the office of Christ the head. They share in the leadership of the Church as shepherds, and they speak in the name of Christ: “This is mybody, which will be given up for you.” “I forgive you of your sins…” When they speak, it is Christ who is speaking.

Priests are the real Lady’s men of the Church. As they are conformed closer to Christ, they are conformed closer to Mary. For they have been called by grace, changed by grace, made priests by grace. And where does grace come from? Only from Jesus Christ, who chose to come throughMary: “In giving Him to the world by bringing Him forth, she, so to speak, gave grace itself to the world, because she gave Him Who is the source of it” (St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III.27.5).

In a pithy way Mother Teresa put it best and briefest. When asked about this devotion, she offered her usual reply, “No Mary, No Jesus.” And if there was no Jesus, there would be no Christian discipleship, no Catholic faith on earth, and no priests to foster and guard the faith in their role as pastors. Mary has a unique love for these men joined closely to Christ by this sacrament. Like her, they received a call from God and responded with generosity. Like her, they are called to bring grace into the world, because they bring Christ into the world. Their mission is her mission, so how could she not reserve a particular care for these men? How could she fail to guard them and bless them in their mission?

To finish, we can recall God’s first words to Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). Often, people think of priests as people who are alone. “It must be so hard,” they think. But in the Genesis passage, God continues, “I will make a helper fit for him.” So he makes Eve as a companion to her husband. We all need companionship in our lives, natural and supernatural. We need friends below and friends above. The priest’s life is full of communion with others: with Christ himself and with the Church faithful to whom he ministers. But he is also given Mary as a spiritual helper. She is the new Eve, the true “mother of all the living.” She is close to all priests, interceding on their behalf, for the grace to remain faithful and to make fruitful their mission to the world.

image: allensima /

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Dominicana, the student Dominican blog of the St. Joseph Province and is reprinted here with kind permission. 

Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 22:00

Following the Annunciation in which the angel Gabriel came to Mary and pronounced she would become the mother of our Lord, Mary traveled from Galilee to Judea to visit her cousin Elizabeth, an elderly woman, who after a lifetime with a barren womb had conceived a child. Elizabeth, whose pregnancy also followed a message from the angel Gabriel, would give birth to John the Baptist.

And while Gabriel greeted Mary with the words, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women,” Elizabeth proclaimed, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” These two moments recorded in Scripture form the first part of the Hail Mary prayer we say today. The entire Visitation account is recorded in Luke 1:39-56.

Here, scripture goes on to tell us that John the Baptist, still unborn, leapt for joy in Elizabeth’s womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. We are shown in this passage the transition between the Old and the New Covenant. On the one hand, we have a woman too old to conceive a child through ordinary means, yet through the extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit, her womb is prepared and granted the grace to bear the last prophet of the Old Covenant. On the other hand, we have a woman quite young and not ready to conceive a child through ordinary means, but again through the extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit her womb is chosen and prepared to bear the New Covenant Himself.

It is through this powerful encounter between these two holy women that the Old and New Covenant intersect and the totality of salvation history is made clear.

This feast was formerly celebrated on July 2, but was changed to fall between the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and the birth of John the Baptist to more closely mirror the gospel accounts.


1. How did Elizabeth know that Mary was carrying our Lord? What made her understand that her young cousin would be the most blessed woman of all time? She knew it because she recognized the Holy Spirit’s presence within her signified through the extraordinary life “leaping for joy” in her womb.

2. We must learn to recognize the Holy Spirit’s presence in our own lives and mirror the experience of Elizabeth and Mary. Through the submission of will and the acceptance of extraordinary grace, Christ can grow within each of us and we will be driven more and more to act and react with peace, thanksgiving, and joy.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Petronilla (1st Century), Virgin

Christian Dating in a Godless World – DI Radio Show and Podcast

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 02:35

Description: What is the best way to approach dating through a Catholic perspective? Dan and Melissa speak with author, Father Thomas Morrow about his book Christian Dating in a Godless World to gain insight.

Topics/Questions covered in the show:

  • Why should we listen to a priest give dating advice?
  • What is the difference between dating and courtship?
  • Is it acceptable to date just for fun?
  • What is “friendship dating”?
  • Is there such a thing as a single vocation or is the single state a transitional one?
  • How much effort does one need to put forth to find a spouse?
  • Is it a good idea to use a Catholic internet dating service to meet people?
  • What are some resources for parishes to help minister to singles looking to get married?
  • Why is chastity before marriage important?

Resources for today’s show:

What is Divine Intimacy Radio?

The Divine Intimacy Radio Show is a haven of rest and wellspring of spiritual life for those seeking intimacy with God and the enlightened path of Catholic mystical and ascetical wisdom.

Twice a week, Dan Burke and Melissa Elson explore topics related to the interior life and Catholic teaching. On Tuesdays, they interview various authors about their spiritual books and about the authors’ own insights on those books. On Fridays, they get specific on subjects which, primarily include prayer, spiritual direction, meditation, contemplation, and holiness.

Please click on the arrow below to listen to today’s show! Don’t forget to tell your friends about the show and help us get the word out. Click HERE for mobile devices or on the arrow below to listen to the show:

About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio – Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.





This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

What is Redemptive Suffering?

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:07

“This may be a wicked age but your lives should redeem it” (Eph. 5:16).

The word “redeem” means to rescue, set free, ransom, and to pay the penalty incurred by another. We often lose sight of the definition to “set free,” and we miss the power of our example as Christians to do exactly that — set our neighbor free.

We must look at this aspect of Redemptive Suffering if we are to understand its role in our daily lives. St. Paul told the Corinthians that, “indeed, as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so, through Christ, does our consolation overflow. When we are made to suffer, it is for our consolation and salvation” (2 Cor. 1:5, 6).

Paul did not want the sufferings encountered by being a Christian to discourage or dishearten anyone. He realized that when Christians saw the blessings and grace that poured upon him after his many trials, they would gain courage to suffer in their turn. The example of fortitude and fidelity exhibited by this man of God released them from the fetters of fear and cowardice.

Paul knew that Christ’s example of every virtue was as redemptive as His death. By the example of his holy life, the Christian was to release and set his neighbor free from the bondage of sin in which he was immersed. Holiness reaches out to touch everyone and gives them the courage to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The Christian’s suffering was acceptable to the Father for the salvation of mankind because he was so united to Jesus through the grace of the Holy Spirit and because whatever he suffered, Jesus suffered in him. “It makes me happy,” Paul told the Colossians, “to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church” (Col. 1:24). It is Jesus who continues to suffer in the Christian for the good of all mankind.

This article is from “Mother Angelica on Suffering and Burnout.” Click book cover to see other chapters.

Whatever we do to our neighbor, we do to Jesus, and all the sufferings our neighbor encounters in his daily life helps to build up the Mystical Body of Christ. To Paul, everything he suffered was for the Christians to whom he preached and for those who were to come. “I want you to know,” he said, “that I do have to struggle hard for you . . . and for so many others who have never seen me face to face” (Col. 2:1).

What was the purpose of all this suffering for others? “It is all to bind you together in love,” he told them, “and to stir your minds, so that your understanding may come to full development” (Col. 2:2).

Paul offered his sufferings for the good of his brethren, the Jews, for he told Timothy, “I have my own hardships to bear, even to being chained like a criminal — but they cannot chain up God’s news. So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it” (2 Tim. 2:9-10, emphasis added).

Here we have Redemptive Suffering offered to God for the sake of others. Paul’s desire to suffer for his brethren reached almost to extremes, for one day he said, “My sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood” (Rom. 9:2-4). Paul knew that God would never exact that price for the salvation of others but he went to extremes in his desire to suffer for others so they too might come to know Jesus and enjoy His Kingdom.

Paul even thought that God would use his conversion for the sake of others. In writing to Timothy, he said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of His inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust to Him to come to eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15-16).

God would use the manifestation of His Mercy towards Paul as an opportunity for the conversion of other souls. Great sinners throughout the ages would look to Paul for courage and strength. Yes, the suffering and humiliation Paul endured was Redemptive for it freed sinners of fear and made them look to God for mercy.

Jesus told His Apostles at the Last Supper that “a man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). Jesus laid down His life for our sake, and He desires that we do the same for our neighbor if and when that opportunity presents itself. A soldier gives his life for his country, and he is a hero because his act of sacrifice is unselfish — he dies that others may live in peace. Most Christians are not asked to make the supreme sacrifice, but God chooses some to participate in the salvation of souls, not by giving up their lives but by enduring sufferings that are over and above what they need for themselves. All those whose suffering is Redemptive can say with St. Paul, “Never lose confidence because of the trials that I go through on your account; they are your glory” (Eph. 3:13).

Every pain we endure with love, every cross borne with resignation, benefits every man, woman, and child in the Mystical Body of Christ. Those who are chosen to bear a greater portion of suffering than others are called by God to heal the souls of many whose lives are bereft of the knowledge and love of God. Redemptive Suffering not only helps poor sinners directly by suffering for them but edifies and consoles good and holy souls as they journey through life striving for holiness. This dual role of Redemptive Suffering merits for those chosen by God for such a role, a glory and happiness in the Kingdom beyond our concepts or imagination. Like Jesus, their sufferings, united to His, rise to Heaven and obtain grace and repentance for those who are straying from God and His Love.

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Mother Angelica on Suffering and Burnoutwhich is available from Sophia Institute Press

image: photogolfer /

The Marian Option

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:05

I had been looking forward to reading this book for months. I was in the middle of another book when the Marian Option arrived last week; but once I read the first chapter, I couldn’t put it down. The title of course brings to mind Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option. Gress is quick to explain that the Marian Option is not offered as a criticism of Dreher’s thesis. Rather, what she terms the Marian Option is a fundamental orientation compatible with all schools of authentic Catholic spirituality and all of the so-called “options” for addressing our civilization’s crises. Mary is, after all, the icon of the Church – the corporate body as well as each individual soul. What God has done in her and through her, he wishes to do in each of us…and that is how civilization will be renewed. This book is about intimacy with the Trinity, about serving Christ with the heart of His Mother. It is about holiness, and how Jesus entrusted our growth therein to His Mother.

Dr. Gress argues – quite successfully in my opinion – that cultures thrive when the Blessed Mother is venerated. She deftly points out how as western culture’s veneration of Mary deepened, so too did its esteem of womanhood – motherhood in particular. Men, instead of regarding women as trophies or objects of gratification, were instead led to ponder the mystery at the heart of every woman and to embrace men’s God-given mission of laying down their lives in service to wife and children. Women, in turn, recognize the incredible dignity with which the Creator has endowed them – their unique genius for cooperating with God to bring new life (both individual and cultural) into the world and nurture it to adulthood. When Mary’s place in salvation history and our devotional lives is forgotten – or worse yet, rejected – then Christian culture begins a process of deformation: the exaltation of the “I” in place of the “we,” marital breakdown, contraception, abortion, moral relativism, militant feminism, same-sex “marriage,” gender “confusion,” etc. We see the results all around us. The answer? We must accept Jesus’ gift from the Cross, Mary, and allow her to mother us into a life of radical discipleship.

Cultural change always begins small – look no further than Mary and Joseph in the cave of the Nativity…or Mary and the small cluster of disciples awaiting Pentecost…or Mary and Juan Diego and the conversion of the Americas…or Mary and Cardinal Wojtyla behind the Iron Curtain.  Mary is always there, waiting to introduce us, as she has countless millions of other disciples, into deeper intimacy with her Son, greater receptivity to the stirrings of the Spirit, and heroic obedience to the Father.

There is a great deal to love about this book but at the top of the list, at least for me, is the way Dr. Gress explains the theology of consecrating oneself to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She pulls together insights from saints such as Bernadine of Siena, Louis Marie de Montfort, Maximilian Kolbe, and John Paul II, as well those of theologians like André Feuillet and Johann Roten. (My “to read” list has grown as a result.) I especially appreciated her discussion of Mary’s relationship to each Person of the Trinity; it is extremely well done.

At just over 200 pages, this book is not so thick as to intimidate. As soon as one begins reflecting upon what he or she has read, however, the scope of the discussion and weighty insights give it the feel of a much longer work. The Rosary is a subject woven throughout, but Dr. Gress also discusses Marian apparitions, devotional items like the Miraculous Medal and Brown Scapular, as well as drawing a number of historical connections of which I was unaware. (Fulton J. Sheen fans likely know of the connection between Fatima and Islam, but who knew that the same was true of Lourdes? The Marian Option is filled with these kind of historical gems.)

There is a great deal of buzz about this book and deservedly so. The Marian Option: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis is a gorgeous book, both inside and out. (Seriously, online images cannot do the cover justice!) I heartily recommend picking up a copy and allowing the Lord to renew the fire to live your vocation.

image: Sarycheva Olesia /

10 Ways You Can Love Mother Mary

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:02

We often discuss who might be the best athletes, the best artists, the best writers, the best musicians; also, it must be said, there are the best of mothers. By far—and in a class by herself—the Blessed Virgin Mary was, is and always will be the best of all mothers.

This being said, mothers should recognize the fact that Mary is the best of all mothers and contemplate Mary’s words, actions, gestures, looks, intentions and life to become better and better mothers.

For our great consolation Mary is the Mother of God and she is the Mother of the Church, but also Mary is our dearest Mother too! Let us try to please Mary our Mother and as a consequence, the many mothers in the world will make huge strides in becoming better mothers all the days of their lives!

Below we will present ten different ways that we can show Mary, our Mother, our great love for her and without a doubt, through her most powerful intercession, she will attain for us the most choice graces to help us become the saints that we are called to be, and many of us as mothers.

1. Talk to Her

We have to get into the habit of talking to Mary, our dearest Mother, very often. To confide in her, speak to her from our hearts, love her and entrust all of our lives to her is most pleasing to her, as well as to her Son Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is our Model, our Guide, our Friend and our dearest of Mothers. She loves us so much and desires to have frequent conversations with us.

Let us start today! Good friends think about each other and talk frequently! Mary is our Mother, but she is also our friend and confidant.

2. Start Your Day With Mary

Upon waking up every morning, our first action should be that of prayer, and what prayer? Why not start your day by giving yourself totally to Jesus, in all you say, do and think, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary? Give to Jesus through Mary your eyes, your ears, your mind, your heart, your body and even your intentions—in a word, give everything to Jesus through Mother Mary. How important it is to start our day well through the Heart of Mary!

3. Love Her

A Mother never gets tired of hearing her child say: “Mom, I really love you; you are the greatest!” The temptation might be to say the following: “Well she already knows it, why tell her something that she already knows.” True, a good Mother most likely already knows it. However, it should be expressed in words. By saying: “Mom, I really love you”, the heart of the mother will leap with joy. The same must be said about Mary our Mother. In the simplest of words when we say: “Mother Mary, I love you”, then Mary the Mother of God experiences great joy in her most pure and Immaculate Heart. Therefore, during the course of the day we should simply say: “Mother Mary, I love you!”

4. Walk With Her

There is a well-known song in both Spanish and Italian dedicated to Mary related to this topic with the title:Santa Maria del Camino—meaning, “Our Lady of the Way”. Therefore, when we travel, and it can be a short trip or a very long one, we should invite Mother Mary to come along with us. She is a good traveling companion and can protect us from many dangers in our travels, perils both physical and moral. How many accidents, both physical and moral, have surely been prevented by traveling with Mary—Santa Maria del Camino!

5. Imitate Mary

If we know somebody in a very deep way, that often leads to imitation, and imitation to following, and following to a deep love for that person. Saint Louis de Montfort highlights the ten principal virtues of Mary that we should strive to imitate: her deep humility, lively faith, blind obedience, unceasing prayer, constant self-denial, surpassing purity, ardent love, heroic patience, angelic kindness, and heavenly wisdom. (True Devotion to Mary, St. Louis de Montfort #108)

6. Trust and Entrust to Mary

If we truly have confidence in a person then we can entrust our cares to that person, knowing that this special person will care for us and protect us. God the Father entrusted His only begotten Son to the care of Mary. Therefore, we can entrust our lives totally to the care of Mary, our dearest and most loving Mother. “Never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection was left unaided.” (The Memorare, St. Bernard)

7. Tell Mary of Your Sorrows and Failures 

We could be tempted by the enemy, the devil, who truly hates Mary, to feel inhibited in telling Mother Mary our sorrows and deep sufferings. The contrary should be the case! The best of mothers, Mary knows very clearly that when a child is most hurt and wounded, that is when the child needs the most tender love and care. So it should be with us! When the days seem to be the most cloudy, bleak, gloomy and downright depressing in the depths of our souls, it is then that we really need to open up and talk to Mary our Mother! Mary is both refuge of sinners and health of the sick—two titles for Mary in her famous Litanies!

8. Call Upon Mary When Tempted

Our life is a constant battle; we are soldiers of both Jesus and Mother Mary. That means that we are on a constant battle-ground. Our enemies are three: the devil, the flesh, and the world. Aware of this intense reality of spiritual combat, we should call upon the Holy Name of Mary in the midst of the battle and the victory will be ours! The famous Battle of Lepanto proved a striking victory through invoking Mary and the recitation of the most Holy Rosary, at the insistence of Saint Pope Pius V. May we entrust our battles to Mary, who is more powerful than a whole army in battle array! The mere name of Mary causes terror and fear in all of hell!

9. Promote the Love for Mary as Mother

If indeed we have truly experienced the love, care, and tenderness of Mary in our daily lives, then undoubtedly we will want to make Mother Mary known far and wide.  Mary is not loved and honored due to one principal reason: she is not known! How can she be made known? In many ways! Encourage the reading of good books on Mary like The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus Liguori, True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort, and Mater Redemptoris and The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary both by Saint Pope John Paul II.

Encourage recitation of the Holy Rosary and praying it daily, give out Rosaries with pamphlets on how to pray the Rosary, and finally, encourage the wearing of the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

10. Die in the Arms of Mary

The most important moment in our life is the very moment that we die. This moment will determine for all eternity our eternal destiny—either heaven or hell.  Why not prepare to die in grace, to die a holy death, at least 50 times a day? How, you might ask? Simply by praying the most Holy Rosary. Every time we pray the Hail Mary, we are preparing ourselves for a holy and happy death with these words: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Therefore, let us rejoice with the keen awareness that we all have a heavenly Mother, Mary the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, and our dear Mother. She knows us, cares for us, protects us, but especially, she loves us! Indeed, in the midst of the trials, struggles, intense battles of life let us find our refuge in the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

“The more generously the priest

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:00

“The more generously the priest and the faithful offer themselves to God in the Mass, the more will grace flow into their souls and draw them into close union with God. So, when we go to Mass, let our offering come from the heart.”

-Fr. Killian J. Healy, O. Carm, Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God

In the first reading Paul, calmly and

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:00

In the first reading Paul, calmly and courageously, bids farewell to the believers in Ephesus, telling them that he was ready for persecution and imprisonment.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus asks his Father to glorify him just as he glorified the Father. The obedient Son, he has glorified the Father by his obedience to the Father’s will.

He also prays for his followers, that they may remain faithful to his word and that they may be united to the

Father. We pray that this same prayer of Jesus at the night before he died is also his prayer for us who follow him and his word.

General Audience

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:00

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on Christian hope, we now consider the Risen Jesus’ encounter with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Unrecognized, the Lord walks with them and listens as they tell of how their hopes were shattered by the tragedy of the cross. Jesus then slowly opens their hearts to a new and greater hope by explaining how the Scriptures were fulfilled in the suffering and death of the Messiah. Only later, in the breaking of the bread, is he revealed as the Risen Lord, present in their midst. He then disappears and the disciples return to Jerusalem to bring back the good news. The Emmaus account shows us Jesus’ “therapy of hope”, based on a patient accompaniment that gradually opens us to trust in God’s promises. It also shows us the importance of the Eucharist, in which, like bread, Jesus “breaks” our lives and offers them to others. Like the disciples, we too are sent forth to encounter others, to hear their joys and sorrows, and to offer them words of life and hope based on God’s unfailing love, which accompanies us at every step of life’s journey.

St. Joan of Arc

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:00

On January 6, 1412, Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d’Arc, as she is known in France) was born to pious parents of the French peasant class, at the obscure village of Domrémy, near the province of Lorraine. Joan seems to have been the youngest of a family of five. She never learned to read or write, but was skilled in sewing and spinning. At the age of 13, she experienced her first supernatural visions: it was at first simply a voice, as if someone had spoken quite close to her, but the voice was accompanied by a blaze of light. Later on she clearly came to discern those who spoke to her as St. Michael, St. Margaret, St. Catherine, and others.

At first the messages were personal and general. But in May 1428, the voices told Joan to go to the King of France and help him reconquer his kingdom. She was originally laughed at by Robert de Baudricourt, the French commander at Vaucouleurs, but his skepticism was overcome when Joan’s prophecies came true and the French were defeated in the Battle of Herrings outside Orléans in February 1429.

After an examination by theologians at Poitiers cleared her of all suspicion of heresy, the 17-year-old girl was given a small army with which she lead an expedition to relieve besieged Orléans on May 8, 1429. She then enjoyed a series of spectacular military successes, during which the king was able to enter Rheims and be crowned with her at his side.

In May 1430, as she was attempting to relieve Compiègne, she was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English while Charles and the French did nothing to save her. After months of imprisonment, she was tried at Rouen by a tribunal presided over by the infamous Peter Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, who hoped that the English would help him to become archbishop.

Charged with heresy and witchcraft, her visions were declared to be of diabolical origin. Joan was trapped into making some damaging statements and was later tricked into signing a form of recantation on May 23, 1431. But when she again dressed in male attire, which she had agreed to abandon, she was condemned as a lapsed heretic and burned at the stake at Rouen on May 30, 1431, the victim of her enemies’ determination to destroy her. She was nineteen years old.

A court appointed by Pope Callistus III found her innocent in 1456, and she was canonized in 1920. She is considered one of the patrons of France, as well as the patron of soldiers.


1. While it’s unlikely that any of us will be called upon by God to perform such extraordinary deeds as Joan, why do we find it so hard to deal with ordinary peer pressure? Joan was no doubt fully aware how ridiculous it would seem for a young girl to come forward and claim that God had given her the power to free France — but she did as God commanded anyway, and people eventually came to see that God was indeed with her. Let us pray to Joan for the courage to do God’s will, no matter how unpopular or ridiculous we may seem in the eyes of others.

2. While historians puzzle over the fact that Joan returned to her male dress after agreeing to abandon it, one likely theory is that she did it to protect her honor against the rude attentions of the English guards, whom she had complained about bitterly. If this is so, then it becomes clear that Joan, knowing that male attire would lead to her being condemned once again as a heretic, chose modesty over the preservation of her own life — something to think about in a time when modesty seems to be an all-but-forgotten virtue.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

St. Felix I (274), Pope, Martyr

St. Ferdinand III (1252), King of Castile & Leon

Mary’s Prayer

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 02:35
Mary’s Prayer

Presence of God – O Mary, faithful adorer of God, show me how to make my life a continual prayer.


In order to have even a slight understanding of Mary’s prayer, we must try to penetrate the sanctuary of her intimate union with God. No one has ever lived in closer intimacy with Him. Let us reverently observe this intimacy from the viewpoint of the divine maternity. Who can imagine the secret communications between Mary and the Incarnate Word while she carried Him in her virginal womb? Although there was nothing to distinguish her exteriorly from other women in the same condition, yet, in the secrecy of her heart she led a life of the closest possible union between God and a mere creature. “Omnis gloria ejus ab intus”; all her glory is from within (cf. Ps 45:14). All Mary’s glory and grandeur were interior. In this true sanctuary which concealed the Holy of Holies, Mary, living ciborium of the Incarnate Word, was aflame with love, absorbed in adoration. Carrying within her the “burning furnace of charity,” how could Mary not remain all inflamed by it! The more she was inflamed with love, the more she understood the mystery of love which was taking place within her. No one ever penetrated the secrets of Christ’s heart as Mary did, or had a greater knowledge of the divinity of Christ and of His infinite grandeur. No one ever felt, as Mary did, the consuming need to give herself to Him, to lose herself in Him like a little drop in the immensity of the ocean. This was Mary’s unceasing prayer: to adore perpetually the Word made Flesh within her; to unite herself closely with Christ; to be immersed in Him and completely transformed in Him by love; to join the infinite homage and praise which ascended continually from the heart of Christ to the Trinity, and to offer this praise unceasingly as the only homage worthy of the divine Majesty. Mary lived in adoration of her Jesus and, in union with Him, in adoration of the Trinity.

There is one moment in the day when we, too, can share in this prayer of Mary in a most excellent way: the moment of Holy Communion, when we receive Jesus, real and living, into our heart. How we need Mary to help us profit from this ineffable gift! She teaches us to submerge ourselves with her, in her and our Jesus, that we may be transformed in Him; she teaches us to unite ourselves to that adoration which ascends from the heart of Jesus to the Trinity, and she offers it with us to the Father, thus supplying for the deficiencies in our adoration.


“O Mary, I can imagine how you must have felt when, after the Incarnation, you had within you the Word made flesh, the Gift of God! In what silence, what adoring recollection, must you have withdrawn into the depths of your soul to embrace the God whose Mother you were! Your attitude, O Blessed Virgin, during the months preceding the Nativity of Jesus, seems to be the model for interior souls, for those whom God has chosen to live within, deep in the unfathomable abyss. What peace and recollection accompanied your every action! You made ordinary things divine, because through them all, you remained the adorer of the Gift of God” (cf. Elizabeth of the Trinity, Letters First Retreat, 10).

“O Mary, you are the throne of God, the ostensorium of His love. You are the living monstrance of Jesus, and when I adore Jesus within you, it is as if I am really adoring the Blessed Sacrament exposed, adoratio in ostensorio, adoration in the monstrance. O Mary, all theology confirms your beautiful title: Ostensorium of Christ! Ostensorium of Christ at Bethlehem, at the Presentation, at Cana, on the Cross, in the Eucharist, in heaven. Yes, even in heaven. Do we not say: ‘After this our exile show us (ostende) Jesus, the blessed Fruit of your womb?’ … O Mary, teach me to see and love Jesus as you see and love Him. Teach me to long for Him with your love, to give myself to Him to be wholly His as you are, and to adore Him with your own sentiments. O sweet Mother, teach me how to find Jesus and to pray to Him; fill me with Jesus, transform me into Him. O Mary, show me how to contemplate the life, the work and the divinity of your Son. Be the way which leads me to Jesus, the bond which unites me to Him, and which, with Him and in Him, unites me to the Most Blessed Trinity” (cf. E. Poppe).


Note from Dan: These posts are provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contain one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.

Art for this post on Mary’s Prayer: Virgin by the Host, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1852, PD-US published in the U.S. prior to January 1, 1923, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.

About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio – Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.





This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

Why are Saints Sometimes Pictured with Skulls?

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 02:30
Why are saints sometimes pictured with skulls?

Does that mean they are preoccupied with death? There sure seems to be an awful lot of that in old art. God bless you and your ministry.

Yes, indeed, skulls make frequent appearances in Christian art, even today. I can understand your question about this practice; because, putting skulls everywhere can seem kind of morbid – especially for those of us who live in a secular, consumer society which systematically avoids thinking about the deeper truths like death and what happens after death.

A Healthy Skull

When Christian art depicts skulls near a saint, it symbolizes the saint’s wisdom and prudence. The skull represents, vividly and compellingly, human mortality. We are all going to die, and death may come at any time. Keeping this fundamental truth in mind helps us live each day more meaningfully. Instead of storing up riches and over-indulging in pleasures, we choose to live for the mission Christ has given us, for spreading his Kingdom and deepening our relationship with God. That Kingdom and that relationship will endure beyond death, so investing in them is the wise thing to do. The saints have their priorities straight. They are living “in the light of eternity”, as an ancient phrase puts it. The skull, far from indicating a morbid preoccupation with death, is a symbol of the wisdom that comes from living in the light of the truths that Jesus revealed to us; it helps us live each day to the full because it reminds us of the bigger picture.

Wisdom in Action

Skulls aren’t just artistic symbols, however. Through the centuries many saints, canonized and non-canonized, have kept close to them some kind of reminder of their mortality. It may have been a real skull, or it may have been something else – flowers, since they fade so quickly, have been used in this way; a little sculpture of a skull or a picture of a skull sometimes was enough; Pope Alexander VIII even had the great baroque artist, Bernini, sculpt a mini, marble coffin for him when he was chosen as pope. He kept this on his desk to remind him that he would some day pass away and have to give an account to the Lord about how he lived his papal ministry. St. Elizabeth of Hungary used to use a simple coffin as a container for all the goods and riches she would gather and give away to the poor. This reminded her of the passing nature of earthly things.

Memento Mori

In our tradition of Catholic spirituality, these types of practices are referred to as memento mori, a Latin phrase that means “remembrance of death” or “remembrance of mortality.” The practice of receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday is one of these.  And, in general, taking time to reflect on our mortality has proven to be a powerful and healthy impetus for spiritual growth. St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises include a meditation on death as a central contemplation during the First Week. And every time we pray the Hail Mary, we finish with a prayer that reminds us that our earthly journey will indeed come to an end, sooner or later.

I thank you for your question because it has given all of us an opportunity to reflect on one of the realities that can help inoculate us against some of the secularist sicknesses polluting our present culture.

God bless you!
In Him, Fr John +

Art for this post on why saints are sometimes pictured with skulls: Detail of San Francisco Meditando de Rodillas (Saint Francis Meditating on His Knees), El Greco, Ca. 1586-1592; Partial restoration detail of Saint Catherine of Siena, Francesco Vanni, 17th century; Death Comes to the Banquet Table (Memento Mori), Giovanni Martinelli, circa 1635; all PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; all Wikimedia Commons.

About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, “Inside the Passion”–the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: “The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer”. His most recent books are “Spring Meditations”, “Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength”, and “Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions”. Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at






This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

The Hidden Meaning of the Storm-Cloud God of Job

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:04

Who is this who darkens counsel with words of ignorance?

With these words God appears out of a whirlwind, or storm cloud, to Job, the despondent Old Testament character who had lost his family, health, and wealth to a series of misfortunes. Job had since vacillated between bemoaning his misery and calling upon God to let him plead his innocence before Him.

And so, finally, in Job 38, God appears.

This theophany is exactly what Job had demanded but nothing like what he had expected.

“Then call me, and I will respond; or let me speak first, and answer me,” Job had said (Job 13:22). Later, imagining what it would be like to chance upon God, Job said he was ready to make his case before the Almighty: “I would set out my case before him, fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:4).

Job had longed to find God. “Would that I knew how to find him that I might come to his dwelling!” (Job 23:3). The opposite had happened: God not only came to Job, but did so in such a way that it would be impossible for Job to find Him on his own. For whirlwinds have no ‘dwelling,’ no fixed place. “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes,” (John 3:8).

The storm-cloud and God’s first words to Job are steeped in irony.

Job had earlier cursed the day of his birth, wishing that dark storm clouds had brooded over it (Job 3:5). He was ready to die. Instead, he gets what is effectively a second birthday. For his encounter with God really does mark a rebirth for Job—his relationship with God his restored and he gets a new life.

Storm clouds are typically dark, not bright and reflective. But it is God who accuses Job of ‘darkening’ counsel. Job considered himself in the know—enlightened, one might say—about the true state of his soul and his place in the world. But the light of man is really darkness. And what appears to be the darkness of God is true light. Put another way: “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Job had expected answers from God. Not only does he never get to even ask his questions, he finds himself being questioned:

Who is this who darkens counsel
with words of ignorance?
Gird up your loins now, like a man;
I will question you, and you tell me the answers
Where were you when I founded the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its size? Surely you know?
Who stretched out the measuring line for it? (Job 38:2-5).

These lines go on in what becomes a long soliloquy, in which God describes the creation of the world and all the creatures that inhabit it. All this is in the form of a question, which amounts to, Who are you to ask questions of me?

Job had been in the dark about God’s true nature. And, in encountering God, he remains in the dark about God, who remains cloaked behind the storm-cloud. But here is the beginning of enlightenment for Job: the realization that God is beyond His own self-made standards of what is right and how the world should work. God is beyond his grasp. And this, ironically, is the first step towards knowing God.

Not only had Job been ignorant of God. He had also been ignorant of his own true nature:

Look, I am of little account; what can I answer you?
I put my hand over my mouth (Job 40:4).

Here is the total humility that is required of us—that we not only admit that God is beyond all our concepts, but that even we, as His creatures, are not the masters of our own reality. Our lives are, in a sense, ‘hidden’ with Him (see Colossians 3:3). Faced with such a profound truth, we can only respond in silence. And it is precisely in silence that God is truly encountered.

image: By Reinhardhauke (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In Harm’s Way: The Forgotten Service of Military Chaplains

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:02

In Otto Preminger’s 1965 classic movie In Harm’s Way, starring John Wayne as “Rock Torrey” and Kirk Douglas as “Commander Paul Eddington,” there’s an interesting dialogue that ensues after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent return of the cruiser Swayback to the lagoon-shaped sanctuary, now burial ground for thousands of American sailors, in Oahu. It’s a direct reference to a famous quote from John Paul Jones: “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way.”

As then, Captain Torrey, commander of the Swayback, is allowed to release into his custody his second-in-command, Eddington, from the brig, after a dust-up stemming from Eddington’s wife’s infidelity and subsequent death in the infamous Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, they walk down to the pier and gaze out at what’s left of the Pacific fleet.

One of Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s cruisers was just getting under way.

Captain Torrey: “A fast ship going in harm’s way”

Commander Eddington: “She’s a tiger.”

Captain Torrey: “A lousy situation.”

Commander Eddington: “Lousy”

There’s a moment of doubt and abandonment that passes between them. Not only because of their own personal implications in the disastrous defeat that beset America (the Swayback wasn’t zigzagging when it took a torpedo from a Japanese sub because Torrey thought his orders meant that his ship was expendable), but because of their inability to do anything about their purgatory onshore pending an official inquiry as to their conduct. Initially, they both shared an enthusiasm for the conflict, because the Swayback was given orders to seek out and destroy the enemy: “…a gut-bustin’ navy war,” Eddington declares to his captain, who he refers to as “the rock of ages.”

But, now, their destinies are completely in the hands of naval bureaucrats. As fighting men they feel the pain of not being in the thick of things.

The whole world was at war. From Europe to Africa to Asia and, now, America, war engulfed planet earth. It was a maelstrom never seen before in the history of mankind. Millions died – millions more suffered unspeakable horrors. All because of the egotistical pride of Hitler and Mussolini and Tojo, who wreaked havoc upon the world in their servile obedience to Satan and his minions. Later, Stalin and Khrushchev, Mao and Minh, Che and Castro would follow.

Yet, there was one unstoppable force to stand against the demons of war: the faithful service of chaplains in the service of the United States military. No service personnel place themselves, time and again, in harm’s way more than our chaplains. And this is where our story begins.

David and Goliath

Then David spoke to Saul: “Let your majesty not lose courage. I am at your service to go and fight this Philistine.” But Saul answered  David, “You cannot go up against this Philistine and fight with him, for you are only a youth, while he has been a warrior from his youth.” Then David told Saul: “Your servant used to tend his father’s sheep, and whenever a lion or bear came to carry off a sheep from the flock, I would go after it and attack it and rescue the prey from its mouth.”

Since David spoke with such determined resolve and no other soldier in Saul’s army would volunteer for such a dangerous confrontation, the king relented and placed the future of his kingdom and of his people in the hands of a boy.

So, David, who bore no armor or sword or shield (although, Saul offered his own battle armor to the lad), and armed with only a staff and sling, charged the giant Goliath and took the day. The fact that he charged into the field is important. There is no timidity here. David was so faith-filled, so emboldened by his love for the Lord, that he had no doubt as to the outcome of the seemingly impossible combat which he faced. But, his weapons were not just his sling and the smooth stones he carried in his pocket. They were his faith, the words he spoke and the actions he took that astonished both the Philistine and Israeli armies. David vanquished Goliath with truth.

A military chaplain is not armed for battle. Like David, the chaplain’s weapons consist of faith, the word, and the will to act, even while confronting certain death. A death he felt fellow soldiers would certainly face and that he could not shield himself from. This is pure guts. This is true grit. This is what the “Four Chaplains,” whose monument, in stained glass, exists to this today at the Pentagon is emblematic of: a Catholic, Methodist, and a Dutch Reformed minister, and a Jewish Rabbi, freely gave their life preservers to their shipmates. As the troopship Dorchester quickly sank into the North Atlantic in World War II, in 1943, after a German U-Boat attack, the four chaplains were last seen holding hands, praying and praising the Lord.

Take a Knee, Save a Life

Perhaps, the greatest chaplain in our nation’s armed forces was George Washington himself. Although armed, he rarely drew his sword, yet freely rode along the lines encouraging and giving comfort and direction to his troops in every battle he engaged in. There is no definitive, primary source material on whether he did or did not retire by himself to a solitary wood at Valley Forge and kneel in solemn prayer. As a history teacher and student of Colonial American history, my question has always been: why in God’s name wouldn’t he? Washington certainly and consistently, gave orders to his command to pray.

Catholic chaplains in our military were enlisted primarily at the outset of the American Civil War and on both the Union and Confederate sides. During the Battle of Gettysburg, Father William Corby gave general absolution to the recruits of the Irish Brigade. This was depicted in the 1993 movie Gettysburg, adapted from the best-selling novel The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, starring Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen.

Perhaps the greatest chaplain in the Civil War was Confederate Army officer, Father Peter Whelan, who ministered to Union soldiers at the notorious Andersonville POW camp in Georgia. Here was a man and a minister who did his utmost to provide comfort and aid to the enemy because it was the right thing to do. Testimonies abound as to his personal sanctity. Bread and wine were, indeed, transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of our Lord. In Andersonville, they were also earthly sustenance that kept men alive. This writer does not know if there has ever been a cause for Father Whelan’s sanctification. If not, perhaps our brethren in Georgia should champion this endeavor.

“Angel of the Trenches”

The Twentieth Century brought new chaplains into the ranks of our military. Those who, like Washington, chose to not separate themselves from their “parish.” It could be a beach head, on the deck of a ship being strafed or bombed by the enemy, a POW camp, a forced and deadly march, or on the fields of the most unholy of places called “No Man’s Land.” They would deliberately put themselves in harm’s way because that was where they were most needed. It was where God led them to be.

Father John B. DeValles earned the nickname “Angel of the Trenches” because he was divinely inspired to venture into the deadly killing fields time and again. It was during World War I, ironically called “The War to End All Wars,” where Father DeValles ministered to both Allied and German soldiers. He died from the horrific exposure to mustard gas like many of his “parishioners.”

Of course, no mention of the “Great War” can be replete without recognizing and honoring the service of Father Francis Patrick Duffy, the chaplain of the “Rainbow Brigade” and the “Fighting Sixty-ninth” from New York, the same regiment that fought as part of the Irish Brigade at Gettysburg, but who were now combined with an Alabama regiment who bested them during the Civil War. Father Duffy would help to make the impossible happen: combine Yankees and Confederates under one flag in a united fight against the Kaiser’s front line troops. Both DeValles and Duffy consistently risked their lives for the men whose souls they were responsible for with valor and were highly decorated.

Medals of Honor and Servants of God

In the Second World War there are too many chaplains to name and recognize within the short purview of this essay. They were everywhere: on the beaches, in the trenches, a part of each and every landing from D-Day to Iwo Jima. Aboard the ship USS Franklin, Father Joseph T. O’Callahan, ministered to the crew after their ship had been hit by a kamikaze attack off Japan, in March, 1945. Because he put himself in harm’s way again and again, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Yet, this was not atypical. There are over 400 chaplains in our military history who have given their lives in combat.

During the Korean War, Father Emil J. Kapaun, recently recognized and decorated by President Obama with the Medal of Honor, and, now, named a Servant of God by the Roman Catholic Church, served not just in the field of battle, but gave everything he had after his capture by the communists. He died saving his brothers. Foregoing meager rations to give to others, he literally starved himself as he provided the sacraments to his fellow POWs.

Father Vincent Robert Capodanna and Father Aloysius Paul McGonigal did the same in Vietnam. Throughout our history, military chaplains have given the ultimate sacrifice.

On this Memorial Day, we should take pause and remember all those souls who sacrificed their lives so that we may live free. Especially, our military chaplains, because they gave their lives for a specific purpose: that we may have the right to worship and give glory to God despite religious differences.

I know, it sounds trite, even, perhaps, a bit nostalgic. Because we have gotten so used to freedom:  to practice our religion without governmental interference, to pray in the public square and profess our belief in God, to share those beliefs with others without pain or punishment.

Yet, the time is coming, as Cardinal George said, when our society, our government, will stop us from doing just that. May God grant us the fortitude and strength to survive during the coming trials that are sure to come.

(My thanks to Major James A. Harvey III, for his inspiring article of July 14, 2011, in his article “Catholic Military Chaplains: America’s Forgotten Heroes” and the source material he has provided.)

image: Fr. Joseph T. O’Callahan, USNR(ChC) Gives “Last Rites” to an injured crewman aboard USS Franklin (CV-13), after the ship was set afire by a Japanese air attack, 19 March 1945. The crewman is reportedly Robert C. Blanchard, who survived his injuries.

We are taught that we receive the Holy

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:00

We are taught that we receive the Holy Spirit when are baptized, in the sacrament of initiation into God’s life and Church. We are also taught that in the sacrament to prepare us for adulthood, Confirmation, we receive more fully the Holy Spirit to enable us to lead responsible adult lives as followers of Christ.

In the Gospel reading after the Last Supper, before Jesus was arrested and endured his passion and death, Jesus prepares his apostles for his leaving and return to the Father. He assured them that, when he leaves, they will not be left orphans as the Holy Spirit, the Helper, will come to remind them all the things

Jesus taught them.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul explains all this to the Church at Ephesus. Paul then baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus and laid his hands on them “and the Holy Spirit came down upon them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy.”

We pray that the same Spirit who came down on the followers in Ephesus and whom we received at our baptism and confirmation may remain with us with similar power.

St. Maximinus of Trier

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:00

St. Maximinus (d. May 29, 352), also called Maximin, was educated and eventually ordained by St. Agritius, the Bishop Trier.

He was born at Poitiers and was related to Maxentius, bishop of that city before St. Hilary. The reputation of the sanctity of St. Agritius, bishop of Triers, drew him to that city, and after a most virtuous education, he was admitted to holy orders, and, upon the death of Agritius, chosen his successor in 332.

When St. Athanasius the Great was banished to Triers in 336, St. Maximinus received him as a most glorious confessor of Christ, and thought it a great happiness to enjoy the company of so illustrious a saint. St. Athanasius stayed with him two years; and his works bear evidence to the indefatigable vigilance, heroic courage, and exemplary virtue of our saint, who was before that time famous for the gift of miracles.

St. Paul the Confessor, having been banished by Emperor Constantius II, found also a retreat at Triers, and a powerful protector in St. Maximinus. Our saint, by his counsels, precautioned the emperor Constans against the intrigues and snares of the Arians, and on every occasion discovered their artifice, and opposed their faction. He was one of the most illustrious defenders of the Catholic faith in the council of Sardica in 347, and had the honor to be ranked by the Arians with St. Athanasius, in an excommunication which they pretended to fulminate against them at Philippopolis. St. Maximinus is said to have died in Poitou in 349, having made a journey thither to see his relations. He was buried near Poitiers; but his body was afterwards translated to a monastery in Triers on the day which is now devoted to his memory. St. Maximinus, by protecting and harboring saints, received himself the recompense of a saint.


1. St. Maximinus was known for his great hospitality, especially in providing refuge to two of the great saints of Orthodoxy. We can use his example to encourage us to open our home to our neighbours and to other distressed persons.

2. As well as giving aid, St Maximinus was also vocal in his defence of Christian truth, even when so many elements seemed to be against him. Our struggle is also great and we ought to remember his example of strength and charity.

image: Rh-67 / Wikimedia Commons

Quote of the Day

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:00

“Be merciful to all who have died in the service of our country.
Console those who have lost their loved ones in the struggle.
Help our fighting men to be always clean of heart
and therefore unafraid. Soothe the wounded in battle.”

-Fulton Sheen, Wartime Prayer Book

Blessed Margaret Plantagenet Pole

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 22:00

Margaret Plantagenet, daughter of the Duke of Clarence and niece of King Edward IV and Richard III of England, was born in 1471 at Farley Castle near Bath, England. When she was about 20 years old, she married Sir Richard Pole and bore him five children. When Henry VIII became king, she was widowed and had her estates, which had been forfeited by attainder, returned to her by Henry, who made her countess of Salisbury in her own right.

She was governess of the king’s daughter Mary, but incurred his enmity by her disapproval of his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Despite his remark that she was the holiest woman in England, she was forced to leave the court. When her son Reginald Cardinal Pole wrote against the Act of Supremacy, Henry swore to destroy the family. In 1538, two other sons were arrested and executed on a charge of treason, even though Cromwell had previously written that they had “little offended save that he [the Cardinal] is of their kin.”

Margaret was arrested ten days later and in May 1539, Parliament passed a bill of attainder against her for complicity in a revolt in the North, and she was imprisoned in the Tower for two years, where she was “tormented by the severity of the weather and insufficient clothing.” When another uprising occurred in Yorkshire in April 1541, it was then determined to enforce without any further procedure the Act of Attainder passed in 1539.

On the morning of May 28, 1541, Margaret was told she was to die within the hour. She answered that no crime had been imputed to her; nevertheless she walked calmly from her cell to East Smithfield Green, within the precincts of the Tower, where a low wooden block had been prepared, and there, by a clumsy novice, she was beheaded at the age of 70. She was never tried and no guilt was ever proven against her except her possession of a white silk tunic embroidered with the Five Wounds, which was supposed to connect her with the uprising in the North.


1. Every one of us hopes to die peacefully in our beds, and what else should a 70-year-old widow have expected? She had been a faithful wife, mother, and governess to a princess, loyal to her king in all things except for his unlawful marriage to Anne Boleyn. Perhaps she could have saved her life by keeping quiet or by denying her son’s position against the king. But Margaret remained faithful to her true King; while she suffered on earth, we know that she has been rewarded according to His promise: “Everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children, or land for the sake of my name will be repaid a hundred times over, and also inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).

2. Today our lives may not be on the line for our beliefs, but are there opportunities to speak the truth that we are avoiding because we don’t want to lose friends, the respect of our co-workers, or because we fear possible derision? Let us pray to Blessed Margaret to help us calmly and fearlessly stand up for the truth, no matter the cost to ourselves.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Augustine of Canterbury (604), Bishop, Apostle of England

St. Bernard of Montjoux (1081), Priest, Religious, Patron of Mountain Climbers

St. Germanus (576), Abbot, Bishop

Can You Pray for Me? 12 Points to Consider

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 02:35

Can you pray for me? 12 Points to Consider

Can you pray for me? These five words, when strung together, form one of the more important questions in the spiritual life. In and through intercessory prayer, God is asking us to enter more deeply into His outgoing love and mercy.

God wants us to think like He thinks, act like He acts, live like He lives, and praying for others is a beautiful way of thinking, acting, and living like Christ. “We pray as we live, because we live as we pray” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 2725). So let us live to intercede and pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ!

How might we do this? Below are 12 points to consider:

First, intercede in faith. Faith is primary. Faith is the door that opens us up to God. Whenever we approach God we do so in faith. As Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” We read of such faith in the Roman centurion. After Jesus told the centurion he would go to his home to heal his paralyzed servant, the centurion responded, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed…When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith’” (Matthew 8:8-10). Praying with faith is praying with the spiritual confidence that God will come through!

Do you pray with such confidence for our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Second, intercede in the Spirit. All good prayer is prayed in the Spirit. We read in Romans 8:26-27 that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). When healing the deaf man with a speech impediment, Christ looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh prayed “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened” (Mark 7:34). Often, when we push ourselves athletically, we “dig deep” with sighs and groans. God asks us to “dig deep” into the interior life and pray with sighs and groans. Those who ask for our prayers needs our sighs and groans!

Do you intercede with sighs and groans?

Third, intercede in humble love. Humble love is unselfish love and is the foundation of all intercessory prayer (CCC 2559). To love is to will the good of the other and praying for others is a great act of willing the good of the other.

What’s more, all great acts of love include the gift of our time. Humble love sees and seeks out the needs of others because unselfish love is always willing to give the gift of time. Let us give those who have asked for our prayers the gift of our time.

Do you rush through your prayers or pray in a humble love willing to give the gift of your time?

Fourth, intercede in obedient love. From humble love, we will learn the language of obedient love. The virtue of obedience is rooted in our joyful response to what has been requested of us. We see obedient love modeled perfectly in Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel: “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). This Greek [passage] is best translated as a joyful desire to do God’s will. In other words, Mary’s response is motivated not by what she has to do, but what she wants to do. Obedient love is never a chore, but something “we get to do.” We should see our intercessory prayer as something ‘we get to do.”

Do you want to pray for those who have asked for prayers?

Fifth, intercede on the spot. As we respond in loving obedience, we should do so on the spot. In other words, our intercessory prayer should not waste time. Our intercessory prayers should be mindful of Saint Paul’s words: “Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).

Do you pray with a sense of urgency?

Moreover, when you pray on the spot, the person you are praying for will know that you are serious about prayer and this can be a source of consolation for the person requesting your prayers.

Are you a consolation for others?

Sixth, intercede from the heart. The Bible has many examples of men and women praying from the heart. I am particularly fond of the exchange between Isaiah and King Hezekiah. In 2 Kings 20:1-3, the prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah he would die. In response to this message, King Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and weeping bitterly prayed: “Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in faithfulness, and a whole heart, and done what is good in thy sight” (2 Kings 20:3). Interestingly, before Isaiah could even leave the middle court, God sent him back to King Hezekiah with a second message, which was a response to the king’s prayer. In this second message, God said, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears” (2 Kings 20:5). God answered Hezekiah’s heartfelt, tear-filled prayer by adding 15 years to his life.

In the end, God wants more than just lip service (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 7:21-23), but a people who seek Him with their whole heart (Psalm 119:2).

Do you pray with an open heart or closed heart?

Seventh, intercede fervently. This step is the natural outgrowth of the previous six. The “fervent prayer of a righteous man is powerful in its effects” (James 5:16), because he sets himself up like an electric current between God and man. The fervent man is filled with God’s love and grace, and consequently is energized in his faith. In many ways, to pray fervently is to add kindling to the already existing faith that God rejoices over.

Do you set yourself up like an electric current between God and man in your intercessory prayer, praying with an enthusiastic fervor?

Eighth, intercede in specifics. Don’t be generic before God! He desires to know the details of our intercessory prayers. This is not so much for His sake (He already knows the details), but for our sake. There is great power when we sound out our prayers of intercession. As a father, I rejoice when my child is detailed in his requests. It shows me that he knows what he wants. God rejoices over the same deliberate prayer.

Is your intercessory prayer detailed?

Here, I would like to offer two practical tips. I encourage all readers to consider writing down a list of the people and their intentions in a notebook (you can also do this in your iPhone). Sometimes I get so many requests that I don’t know if I have prayed for all of them unless I have written them down. Typically, if you have prayed for them on the spot and have internalized their requests, the requests will be remembered, but it does not hurt to write them down, especially if you tend to forget things.

When was the last time you wrote down a prayer request?

Also, our specific intentions should be presented to God the Father during Mass, especially during the consecration of the Eucharist. I cannot think of a greater time for intercessory prayer than when the whole hosts of heaven are mediating on behalf of the body of Christ.

When was the last time you offered up a name to God during the prayer of consecration?

Ninth, intercede with fasting. Fasting is praying with the body and a great expression of our seriousness towards intercessory prayer. To sacrifice that which we are closest to, food and drink (and also those other things that we are attached to), goes a long way in fruitful intercessory prayer. Essentially, fasting is to enter more deeply into Paul’s exhortation to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, our spiritual worship (Romans 12:1). Fasting is like sweet incense, an odor that is pleasing to God.

Do you offer up fasting to God as a form of intercession?

Tenth, intercede in friendship. Saint Teresa of Avila once said that “prayer is nothing more than being on terms of friends with God.” Prayer is conversation with God, and it is in our friendship with God, that prayer becomes more regular (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and life-giving.

We tell our closest friends everything. Do we go to Jesus with everything on behalf of our friends?

Eleventh, intercede with trust. We should bear in mind that God does not always respond to our prayer with a “yes,” but sometimes with a “no” or “not yet.” Why? Because the most perfect prayer is “Thy will be done.” We might see something as a good, but it might not be God’s willed good in that moment. However God responds, this should not detract us from being intentional and specific in our prayer but rather open us up to the Father’s loving plan of salvation for all people!

Do you pray with a sense of how God works in our lives for the greater glory of God’s loving plan?

Twelfth, intercede in thanksgiving (and praise) to God. At the beginning of prayer, faith opens the door of the heart to God. After a period of prayer, God fills us with hope and love (charity) for ourselves and the one we are praying for. For this, we are eternally grateful and for this we praise God!

When was the last time you thanked God for a prayer He answered?

In closing, I have a request: can you pray for me? Be assured, I will pray for you! Please, send me your requests to (or hit the contact link at

Philippians 1:9-11

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”


Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your help or sought your intercession,
was left unaided.

Inspired with this confidence,
I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother;
to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.

O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in your mercy hear and answer me.



Art for this post on intercessory prayer asking, “Can You Pray for Me?”: St Carlo Borromeo, Orazio Borgianni, between 1610 and 1616, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported; Jesús y el centurión (Jesus and the Centurion), El Veronés, circa 1571, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; Christ the King Catholic Church (Ann Arbor, Michigan) – interior Holy Spirit window, Nheyob, 5 August 2013, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported; all Wikimedia Commons. The Annunciation, Auguste Pichon, 1859, Restored Traditions, used with permission. Detail of  The Prophecy of the Recovery of Hezekiah, Jacob de Backer, 16th century, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, PD-Worldwide; La Virgen en Oración (The Virgin in Prayer), Rosario Weiss Zorrilla, circa 1840, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; Detail of Prière du Chapelet (Rosaire) [Prayer of Rosary Chaplet], MoocFunWikiDex, own work 18 March 2016; Detail from Canonization ceremony of Brazilian Friar Frei Galvão celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at the Campo de Marte, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Fabio Pozzebom/ABr, 11 May 2007, CCA; Modified detail of Santa Maria della Passione church in Milan, Italy. Left side nave – 01 – Baptistry Chapel  Il digiuno di San Carlo Borromeo [St. Charles Borromeo Fasting], Daniele Crespi, undated, photographed and copyrighted by Giovanni Dall’Orto, 26 February 2008 own work, use permitted for any purpose provided copyright holder properly attributed; Detail of La Saeta (The Sacred Song), Julio Romero de Torres, 1918, PD-US author term of life plus 80 years; all Wikimedia Commons.

About Joseph Hollcraft

Over the past thirteen years, Dr. Joseph Hollcraft has taught at the Middle School, High School, and University level. Founder of Seeds of Truth Ministries, Joseph is an Adjunct Professor to the Avila Institute and host to the Seeds of Truth Radio program. Seeds of Truth airs daily to the north state of California and can be found as an iTunes Podcast where it reaches thousands of listeners in over 40 countries. In his first book with Emmaus Road, A Heart for Evangelizing, Dr. Hollcraft reflects into the principles of spiritual and pastoral theology, and its impact upon the new evangelization. Joseph has also been published with the likes of The Catechetical Review and the Homiletic and Pastoral Review. Joseph earned his B.A. and M.A. from Franciscan University of Steubenville, and received his Ph.D. from Graduate Theological Foundation with studies being completed at Oxford University. Most importantly, Joseph is a devoted husband and father. He lives in Chico, California with his beautiful wife Jackie, and their four children: Kolbe, Avila, Isaac, and Siena.




This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

The mission of St. Mary’s Parish is to proclaim and celebrate our salvation through Jesus Christ,our pilgrimage to the Father’s Kingdom enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Our Catholic faith community is nourished by our sacramental life, especially the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. With Mother Mary as our model, we demonstrate our faith through worship, education, vocations and service.