Boredom, Our Need for the “New” and the Pandemic

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Stuff — whether material possessions or fleeting entertainment experiences — can’t make us happy. We all know this. Yet many responses to COVID-19, despite its convergence with Lent, proved the depth of our consumerist proclivities. Americans are binge-watching streaming video and indulging in endless hours of video games. Pornography consumption has also skyrocketed. Other Americans continue to hoard various necessities, ensuring some will be able to make sourdough peasant loaf and macaroons ad infinitum. With Lent over, and stimulus checks in the mail, we may be tempted to jettison all restraint. To resist such urges, we require a more robust indictment of avarice than a Marie Kondo checklist or a “life-hacking” regimen. That's the opening paragraph of this article at Catholic World Report. Give it a read and then consider what one or two things God might…
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Our Lady of Fatima

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Today is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Read this blog post to find out more about this feast, about Mary's appearances in 1913 in Fatima, Portugal, and about the spectacular miracle witnessed by tens of thousands -- believers and atheists alike -- at her final appearance.
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Growing as a Disciple of Jesus Christ

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Jesus invites every one of us to follow Him as His disciples. But what, exactly, does it mean to follow Him? And how do we do that in our daily lives? Tomorrow night, May 13th at 7:00pm central, I’ll be offered an hour-long livestream at YouTube, exploring the basics of Christian discipleship: its meaning, why it matters and how to grow in it. You can watch below, or go directly to my personal channel at YouTube to submit your questions in the livechat. https://youtu.be/h1CMruWGHC0  
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No Christ, no Church; know Christ, know the Church

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Perhaps you, like me, know people who express belief in Jesus, but have no interest in the Church. I once conversed with a young non-Catholic man who summed up this approach by saying, matter-of-factly: “I’m into Jesus, not the Church.” There were several reasons for his attitude, including the faulty belief that since the Church is only an external institution (as he apparently perceived “the Church”), it can have little to do with inner, spiritual transformation. However, since Jesus did found the Church—described by Saint Paul as the body of Christ (cf., 1 Cor 12:27; Eph 5:23; Col 1:24)—it behooves us to be both “into Jesus” and “into the Church.” Today’s readings help us appreciate this since they provide insights into the nature and purpose of the Church. Those are…
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Why the Easter Season Matters

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We are Christians, who belong to the Risen King, and thus we know something others do not. That's the tagline for this great article. As we continue through this pandemic-impacted Easter season, I'd invite you to read and ponder this article, and then ask yourself: How is God asking me to live out the rest of this Easter season?
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The Saints of Wuhan

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Two of China's saints are Francis-Regis Clet, CM, and Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, CM. They lived in the 1800s in the Wuhan district (where the novel coronavirus came from). What's fascinating is that they lived in fear because of the chaos and turbulence that churned around them; they were isolated; and they died from strangulation. In fact, they are among the few Catholic saints who died because they could not breathe. Read more about them in this intriguing article.
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On Taking Pleasure in the Ignorance of Others

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Netflix’s Tiger King is a sad example of how so much entertainment today is based on viewers feeling better about themselves by watching the ignorance or immorality of others. That's the lede of this great article about our culture's bad habit of getting a laugh or otherwise finding pleasure in the public faults of others. It's another way in which we need to grow in mercy, a subject I mentioned in a few posts last week.
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Jesus, I Trust in You (Part 2)

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Many people are commenting on the "strange times" in which we are living, in which tens of thousands of lives have been lost and billions -- billions -- affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. And many people are asking, "Where is God?" Tonight, April 29th at 7:00pm central, I'll be offered an hour-long livestream at YouTube, continuing my explanation of the Church's teaching that God cares for each and all of his creatures, most particularly each and every human being. You can watch below, or go directly to my personal channel at YouTube to submit your questions in the livechat. https://youtu.be/P6wH8xEzglY  
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This Is My Body

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These weeks after Easter are a common time for First Communions to take place. Our youngest, in fact, was scheduled to receive her's this Sunday. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic and the suspension of Masses with a congregation necessary to combat it, her First Communion has been delayed for the time being. Nonetheless, this is still a good time to reflect on the gift of the Eucharist, a gift which many of us long for and -- if you're anything like me -- realize that we've taken a little bit for granted. The truth of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is something which is well-established in Scripture, Tradition and history. However, many people -- including many Catholics -- are unaware of another way in which it is…
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God: Rich in Mercy

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This last Sunday we celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday. God's mercy is a theme that has been central to the teaching of Pope Francis, just as it has been for our last several popes. In fact, John Paul II's second encyclical (an encyclical is a teaching document from a pope) was titled "Dives in Misericordia" which is latin for "rich in mercy"... it's a quote from St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians in which he refers to "God, who is rich in mercy" (Eph. 2:4). In it, JPII discusses both God's mercy and the need for human mercy. Many Catholics take up some spiritual reading for Lent... perhaps JPII's encyclical might be some spiritual reading for your Easter season.
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Faith Seeking Understanding

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Today the Church celebrates the life & teaching of St. Anselm of Canterbury, an italian monk whose work took him to France and eventually England, where he became the archbishop of Canterbury. You can read more about him online here, but for the purposes of this post I'd like to highlight the importance of his definition of theology, which is the title of this post: faith seeking understanding. Too often, many Christians -- including many Catholics -- have the idea that we are supposed to "check our brains" at the door of the church; in other words, to be Christian means to not-think. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Does being Christian require faith? Yes. But then, so does being human, if we're going to do anything in life.…
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Walk, then Run

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Fr. Mike Schmitz is one of the best teachers of the faith online today, and in this 10 minute video, he talks about the importance of mastering the basics of the faith before finding out particular Catholic "style". Take a look! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR6T4qOrdDc  
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To See and to Touch

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Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. The Gospel reading for today is the powerful account of the Apostle St. Thomas' encounter with the Risen Jesus a week after the Resurrection. I found Pope Francis' homily for this feast from 2018 to be very profound. Consider his opening words: In today’s Gospel, we hear, over and over, the word “see”.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord (Jn 20:20).  They tell Thomas: “We have seen the Lord” (v. 25).  But the Gospel does not describe how they saw him; it does not describe the risen Jesus.  It simply mentions one detail: “He showed them his hands and his side” (v. 20).  It is as if the Gospel wants to tell us that that is how the disciples recognized Jesus: through his wounds.  The same…
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Discernment in Plague-Times

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When someday our children ask us “What did you do during the coronavirus pandemic?,” it won’t seem exciting to tell them, “I moved my book club to videochat.” It’s more exciting to imagine that the sacrifices asked of us will be dramatic and romantic. But it’s no surprise to Christians that we should value the invisible economy of grace over more worldly signs of effort and accomplishment. We are a people who believe that cloistered sisters, praying privately, have a powerful effect on the world. We are a people who believe that prayer, fasting, and humiliation are as much a part of our response to a pandemic as work on antivirals. That's a quote from this thought-provoking article by Leah Libresco Sargeant, who converted to Catholicism a few years ago. It's the…
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Jesus, I Trust in You

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Many people are commenting on the "strange times" in which we are living, in which tens of thousands of lives have been lost and billions -- billions -- affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. And many people are asking, "Where is God?" Tonight, April 15th at 7:00pm central, I'll be offered an hour-long livestream at YouTube, expanding on the Church's teaching that God cares for each and all of his creatures, most particularly each and every human being. You can watch below, or go directly to my personal channel at YouTube to submit your questions in the livechat. https://youtu.be/EjtHOaPhhNA  
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Christ is Risen! Now… What Does It Matter to You Today?

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[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="422"] Resurrection, by Andrea Mantegna[/caption] Happy Easter! Or, in the traditional Easter greeting, Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed! As we continue our Easter celebration -- liturgically speaking, Easter lasts till Sunday, and then Easter season goes for yet another six weeks after that! -- I'd like to share with you the 400th episode of Ignition, in which I talk with our Bishop, Bp. Donald DeGrood, about the importance of the Resurrection of Jesus for us today. The Ignition homepage is here, or you can click here to listen to the podcast directly. Enjoy!
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Holy Saturday

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[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Andrea Mantegna, Christ's Descent into Limbo[/caption] Today we celebrate Holy Saturday, the strange time of waiting between Jesus' death & burial on Good Friday and His Resurrection early on Easter Sunday. For most of us, today is simply a day of preparation for Easter. However, it has its own spirituality, reflecting its distinct theology. To get a flavor for this, following is an ancient, anonymous homily which is part of today's Liturgy of the Hours (the psalms and prayers prayed daily by Catholic priests, deacons and religious as an obligation and by many laity by choice). The Lord descends into hell   Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King…
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The Way of the Cross

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[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="332"] Christ Crucified (c. 1632) by Diego Velázquez[/caption] Today, we commemorate the greatest crime in the history of humanity, the greatest crime that was ever and will ever be committed: the crucifixion of the Perfect Man, Who Was God. And I was the criminal, for it was my sins that put Him there. And yet... It was also my salvation. In 2006, meditating on the Way of the Cross, Pope Benedict said this: The Way of the Cross is the way of mercy, the way of mercy that puts a limit on evil:  this is what we learned from Pope John Paul II. It is the way of mercy, hence, the way of salvation. Thus, we are invited to take the way of mercy and with Jesus, put a limit on evil. Let us pray to the Lord to…
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Holy Thursday

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Beginning at sundown today, we're beginning the most holy time of the year: the Sacred Triduum, or Sacred "Three Days": tonight to tomorrow night, tomorrow night to Saturday night, and Saturday night to Sunday night. In these days, we commemorate Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection, by which He gave His life and rose again out of love for the Father and love for us. As we enter into this most sacred time, here are some things for you to consider, ponder and reflect on, particularly about Holy Thursday... First, I'd like to offer you the introduction which the monthly devotional Magnificat offers for tonight's Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper: This evening's Gospel "contains a phrase that is the very core of what Jesus did for us: having loved his…
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Spy Wednesday

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Today, Wednesday of Holy Week, is traditionally called Spy Wednesday. Why? Take a look at today's Gospel reading from Mass and you'll see. In this article, author Matthew Bunson not only explains more about Spy Wednesday, but invites us to ask ourselves: are we, too, spies for the darkness? As we approach the conclusion of Holy Week, let us remember Jesus' first words in Mark's Gospel: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
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St. John Paul II and Holy Week

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[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="488"] Pope John Paul II during Holy Week in 1983. (NCRegister)[/caption] If you ask what it is about the Christian religion that distinguishes it from every other competing creed on the planet, here it is. It is shown on this hill of Calvary, where Jesus Christ wills to hang in mortal agony for the world’s salvation. That image and quote come from this article by Prof. Regis Martin. As we continue through this strange Holy Week, I invite you to read and ponder the entire piece.  
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John Bergsma’s Reflections on the Palm Sunday Readings

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[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="592"] Pietro Lorenzetti, The Entry into Jerusalem[/caption] Dr. John Bergsma is one of my favorite Catholic biblical scholars working today; an adult convert to Catholicism, he teaches at Franciscan University of Steubenville and has written many outstanding books, for both beginners and scholars alike. Each week he offers some extensive reflections on the Scripture readings at Mass... as we begin Holy Week, consider taking a look at his thoughts on the readings for Palm Sunday.
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The Strange Battle of Staying Home

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My home is my battlefield, and maintaining peace and joy for my family is my fight. I cannot treat those infected by Covid-19, but I can help flatten the curve. This is my time to keep our homefires burning with gusto, as if each meal I set before my family were a punch in the teeth to the chaos caused by this deadly illness. We may be stuck at home for weeks or months, but by God we’ll have fresh sourdough bread and afternoon tea every day.   That's the summary and image for this fantastic article on what one woman and her family are doing to make a difference through small sacrifices and acts of love just within their home. As we begin Holy Week, let us consider how…
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Praying Holy Week at Home

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For many of us, Holy Week is the most important week of the year, culminating as it does with the Sacred Triduum (latin for "three days"): Holy Thursday night through Easter Sunday night, in which we commemorate Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection. That makes this year's Holy Week that much more difficult, given that there are no Masses with a congregation being celebrated in our diocese or most dioceses. And yet, there are still things that we can do to make this coming week Holy. So, stroll on over to this website that my friend and colleague here at the Diocese, Emily Leedom, has created, which includes some resources for celebrating Holy Week at Home. Then take a peek at what Sophia Institute Press is offering while you're at it!…
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John Paul II, We Love You!

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My friends, today on the fifteenth anniversary of the death of St John Paul II, let us seek his intercession for a hasty end to this pandemic. If you unsure of a prayer, consider the opening prayer from Mass (aka the Collect) for his feast day on October 22: O God, rich in mercy, who willed that Pope Saint John Paul the Second should preside over your universal Church, grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, we may confidently open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of the human race. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Another option is to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. St. John Paul II, pray for…
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