Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Groundhog Year

Do you remember that movie Groundhog Day? The one where Bill Murray repeats the same day over and over again?

That is the way I always felt this time of year. Except mine went like this:

1) Eat lots of cookies, cakes, pastries.

2) Wash that down with eggnog.

3) Repeat until there isn't so much as a sprinkle left.

4) Make New Year's Resolution to exercise and lose all of the new-found weight.

Every year it was the same thing. And every year I had the same New Year's Resolution.

Until last year.

Last year I decided that I needed to start exercising my
soul, and resolved to read the Bible. I am proud to say that, thanks to the Daily Audio Bible, I kept that promise. (For those of you new to my blog, I listen to it in my car every day.)

Empowered by this very small victory, I've decided that every New Year's Resolution from now on will include a religious component.

Every year I want to grow closer to God. To do something more for Him in the upcoming year than I did in the past one.

I guess you can say that I never want to have a spiritual "Groundhog Year" again.

I'd love your help as I look to write mine for 2010.

Any ideas? Are you making any Spiritual Resolutions for the New Year?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

"Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy
which will come to all the people.

For to you is born this day in the city of David
a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord."
(Luke 2:10-11)

May we all welcome Him into our lives and into our hearts!

Merry Christmas,
And may God bless all of you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Return to Tree

I was going to take a break from my usual reflective-type posts this week, and leave you with a picture of the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center.

For those of you that aren't in the NY area, I thought this would be a nice way to bring the tree to you.

But I feel like God wanted me to do more than that and go through the normal reflection.

So here goes ...

As you can see from the picture, I made my annual trek to the tree on a night full of rain and light snow. Part of me was disappointed at the less-than-ideal weather, while the other part was hoping some of that snow would stick to the tree. After all, what could be prettier than a 65-foot lighted tree with snow glistening from each branch?

Alas, the snow did not stick. And while the tree was as beautiful as always, I feel like my experience was less than optimal.

The more I thought about that experience, the more it reminded me of some Catholics this time of year. Like me to Rockefeller Center, they return to the Church year after year at Christmas-time.

And that's it.

Three hundred and sixty four days between visits (unless they also go for Easter).

Like that snow, it just doesn't stick. And while that day is probably beautiful for them, their overall experience with our Lord is less than optimal.

So I decided to start praying for those people this week. I pray for all those who only come to the Church a few times a year, and even more for those who have left the Church entirely. I pray that God guides them back regularly, so they can start living their lives more fully - the way He intended them to.

God Bless.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pregnant + Desert - Epidural = Sacrifice

I love looking at Nativity scenes.

Mary and Joseph proudly looking over their Son, who is in swaddling clothes and nestled comfortably in a manger.

Wise men on one knee, presenting gifts to the new King.

Shepherds looking on in adoration, with a sheep or camel nearby.

Maybe even a single light bulb casting a soft glow over the entire set.

Those scenes are always so peaceful, but they betray the challenges that must have led up to that perfect moment.

Take the journey, for example. Bethlehem is about 90 miles from Nazareth. That journey must have taken over 5 days given the trail and Mary's advanced pregnancy. I've never been 8+ months pregnant or on a donkey in the desert, but I have a hunch the combination is probably extremely uncomfortable. I'm sure it was also littered with bandits,
treacherous hazards, and extreme temperatures.

Or what about the delivery itself? In a stable? On hay? With animals around? And no drugs?

Let's not forget eight or nine months before all that, Mary had to find the courage to tell her parents and future husband that She was pregnant. Can you imagine how that conversation went, especially after She told them the Father was God? Not only was that probably a terrifying conversation, but one that could have led to her death!

And in between, I'm sure both Mary and Joseph had to overcome serious doubts, fears and concerns. What would the Son of God look like? Was He going to come out speaking? Glowing? Was it all really happening to them? How would they know what to say to Him? Would they be able to teach Him anything at all? Would He lead Israel in some kind of war? Would He be able to fly or walk on water?

I always take for granted that I know what happened thanks to Evangelists like Luke - but Mary and Joseph were running on 100% faith.

That's why every time I see a Nativity scene, I not only reflect on the birth of our Savior, but on the incredible sacrifices Mary and Joseph made, and the inspiring faith they had.

I hope you are having a blessed Advent.

P.S. I almost signed off without reminding you that Mary and Joseph went through all of that at the tender age of 16ish.

P.P.S. Stay tuned for follow up posts entitled "How to escape to Egypt when a king wants to kill your baby" and "Traveling through the desert with a Newborn"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

From a Guy in a Red Suit to a Baby in Swaddling Clothes


My, how that word has changed meaning for me over the years.

The word itself comes from the Latin word meaning "arrival" or "coming".

When I was a kid, the word Advent was always followed by the word calendar. And, unfortunately, back in those days, the only "arrival" I cared about was that of a portly old man with a red suit and some flying reindeer.

As I got a little older, I still viewed Advent as the "countdown" to my favorite day. But I also started to become more fascinated with the historical events that led up to Christ's birth. I started to spend more time trying to learn exactly what Mary and Joseph went through, what the real "Nativity" scene looked like, and what kind of clothes actually swaddled.

These days, now that I am wiser (cough cough) I finally appreciate Advent for what it is spiritually - a time to reflect on the amazing Gift our Father gave us on that Christmas Day, as well as a reminder to prepare for the next coming of our Savior.

To that end, I have been thinking a lot about the similarities between Christ's birth and His Second Coming.

No one knew when the Son of Man was coming the first time. They didn't know the time. They didn't know the place. They didn't even know the generation.

The truth of the matter is that the day the King of Kings was born, most people were probably going about their normal daily routines - good and bad. Worrying about money, events in town, and other worldly things.

Likewise, we don't know when Jesus will come again. Nor do we know when God will call us individually.

The best we can do is to make sure we are always prepared. Always ready. Always thinking about things important to God and the Kingdom.

Easier typed than done, of course. But at least these days, I am preparing for Jesus, instead of an imaginary man from the North Pole.

God Bless.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Today, I am thankful for many, many things.

Here are three that are related to this blog:

1) I am thankful that I have "met" all of you that visit and comment here, and even more thankful that you help me spend more time with God. I am eternally grateful for that.

2) I am thankful that our forefathers founded this great country with gratitude to God and with a nod towards freedom of religion. It is partially because of them that I was able to attend Church this morning without fear.

3) Most of all, I am thankful that our Lord sent His only Son here to die for our sins. Thank you, Jesus, for giving us the greatest gift of all.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. May God bless you and your families.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Are We So Afraid Of?

Just about every survey result on people's greatest fears will list "death" in the top three. Usually, its numero uno.

I thought about that a lot this week, especially coming off last weekend's Gospel (Mk 13:24-32). Death, and the End of Time, are always described so ominously. It's no wonder just the thought of it worries us.

But should it?

Imagine if we got to interview someone who had passed away and gone to Heaven.

When asked what Heaven is like, I imagine they would tell us that Heaven is perfect. It is a place of beauty. A place of joy. There are no tears, no crying, no anxiety, and no pain. Angels rejoice. Love is abundant. Peace is overflowing. In short, it is Paradise.

But when asked what Earth was like, in retrospect, they might tell us it is a place of sin, anxiety, and sorrow. A place where there is little harmony, and even less peace. A place where there is far from enough prayer, love and honor. A place where people kill each other, born and unborn out of spite, fear, hatred, and greed. And a place where people worry about possessions more often than they worry about serving the Lord.

After those responses, we might be tempted to ask them one more question...

So, what exactly were you so afraid of again?

God Bless.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


The following was inspired by this very moving post by Christopher. My prayers to his family - both living and deceased.

The next time I find myself complaining about doing some sort of physical task, I will remind myself that there are plenty of people in this world who have debilitating injuries and would love to be able to fold laundry or mow a lawn.

The next time I wonder if I can squeeze a call to a friend or family member into my busy schedule, I will remind myself that there is a chance that person might not be around tomorrow.

The next time I think about putting in an extra hour in at the office, I will remember that no one, when on their deathbed, ever wishes they spent just one more hour working.

I will also remember that, when on that same bed, no one ever wishes for more money. They wish for more time.

The next time I feel hungry, I will remind myself that there are people in this world that wonder if they will eat at all today. Or even this week.

The next time I get annoyed that I have to fix something in my house, I will remember that some people only have a cardboard box between them and the elements. And 20
degree air hurts.

The next time I wonder how long mass is going to run, I will remind myself that there are many people on this earth that fear for their lives every time they step into a church. And they go anyway.

The next time I find myself whispering a hymn at that same mass, I will remind myself of this gentleman.

The next time I think I have a difficult decision to make I will remind myself about the decision Mary and Joseph had to make, the decision the Apostles had to make, and the decision Jesus had to make.

The next time I wonder if I can really do something to promote God's Kingdom, I will remind myself what a few fishermen and tax collectors did. Many without an education. Or the internet.

The next time I feel nervous about anything, I will remind myself what Jesus must have felt like at the Last Supper.

And the next time I wonder how much God really loves me, I will remind myself to look at the nearest crucifix.

God Bless.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

If You Got One Wish

Last week's Gospel reading (Mark 10:46-52) was the story about Bartimaeus, a blind man who's persistence led Jesus to restore his sight.

Just about every homily and sermon I have heard on this passage highlights what great faith Bartimaeus showed. This is true, of course. People all around him were shouting at him and telling him to keep quiet. But he persisted. He kept calling for Jesus.

That in itself is a beautiful lesson for all of us.

But the part that always gives me pause is what happened next.

Jesus asked Bartimaeus "
What do you want me to do for you?"

His response?


Oh how I wish he had been like that thief crucified next to Jesus, and asked for a ticket to Paradise instead! I always wondered why this poor man wasted his "one wish" on such a physical, worldly thing, when he could have asked for something so much greater! After all, his sight came with an expiration date. But a place in the Kingdom would have been forever!

Of course, every time I lament about his "wish", I realize that there have been plenty of times in my life where I did the exact same thing. Times where I asked for - or worried about - silly things. Meaningless things. Times I pestered God for things that He knew weren't important. Times I should have been "asking" God for a seat at His table instead.

And so, whenever I hear this passage, I stop and thank Bartimaeus for giving me a lesson in persistence.

And then I thank him for, inadvertently, giving me a good dose of perspective as well.

God Bless.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pray Like it's 1999

What have you been doing since 1999?

(That's ten years ago, for those of you keeping score.)

If you are like me, and the years are starting to blur together, here are some random events from 1999 to give you some perspective:
  • The Euro was born
  • The first episode of Sponge Bob SquarePants aired
  • The DOW crossed 10,000 for the first time (ironic, as we just crossed it again)
  • Apple launched the first iBook (not iPhone)
  • Exxon completed its merger with Mobil
  • JFK Jr. died
  • Fight Club and Matrix were top movies
Oh, and some folks in Kansas City started praying.

And haven't stopped since.

St. Paul tells us to "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17), and the folks at the International House of Prayer in KC have been doing just that.

Ten straight years of prayer. Day and night.

I can't even remember watching the Matrix for the first time, and these people have been praising God relentlessly ever since.

And as I think back to some of the silly ways I spent my time over the past ten years, I ask myself, "Who spent their time more wisely, these people or me?"

(Please don't answer that, I already know who.)

May God continue to inspire the folks at the International House of Prayer.
And may they, in turn, continue to be an inspiration for all of us.

God Bless.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I've Been Tagged

First of all, apologies for disappearing for two weeks. I ended up going on a last minute trip, and will be posting some pictures in an upcoming post!

(Here's a hint, in case you want to play Where in the World was Michael: October 4th and Top 5. Any guesses?)

In the meantime, Christopher tagged me with the Honest Scrap award and I will fulfill my obligation in this post. Christopher's blog, Sanctus Christopher, is a nice mix of wit, photos, and religious commentary. I always enjoy stopping by. (And thanks for tagging me Christopher.)

Without further ado, here are "Ten Honest Facts About Myself". And since there don't appear to be any guidelines about topics, I will share 5 religious facts and 5 non-religious facts.


1) I really don't like talking about myself. Jesus, yes. Peter and Paul, yes. Myself, not so much.

2) Stealing a topic from Christopher ... I sing Sinatra in the shower. With over 300 singles to choose from, I take really long showers.

3) Speaking of which, I have always wished I could sing. Maybe even make it my profession. (But since this is an Honest Fact post, I must admit I could shatter windows.)

4) You don't believe me? In 2nd grade we put on a singing concert for all the parents. After the third rehearsal, the teacher pulled me aside and said that instead of singing, I would be playing the triangle. Said it was a very important role that only I could perform. I believed her.

5) I am an optimist. About life, and about people.


6) I listen to the bible every morning in the car. (Thank you Daily Audio Bible)

7) I have never been to the Holy Land, but would love to go someday. I can't even imagine how spiritually moving it must be stand where Jesus and His Apostles stood.

8) I think Ave Maria is the most beautiful song in the world.

9) Embarrassingly enough, for a good part of my life, I thought Mark and Luke were Apostles.

10) And to show you that I still have a long way to go, I just tried to name the 12 original Apostles off the top of my head and I missed one. (Sorry, Thaddeus!)

Ok, Christopher, I believe this fulfills my duties. For the rest of you, I am sorry you had to sit through this!

God Bless all of you.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I was in the park the other day when I saw a middle aged gentleman sitting rather quietly.

All of a sudden, he started waving his hands frantically in the air, and then began hitting himself in the head. This outburst was followed by 20 seconds of laughing, and then silence.

As he repeated this sequence a few more times, I realized he had some sort of mental or physical disability - or both.

I don't know about you, but when I see someone like that I get a huge knot in my stomach, followed by a giant tug at my heart.

The huge knot is my conscience raining perspective down upon me - reminding me how fortunate I am.

The giant tug is God reminding me of Luke 12:28:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded;
And from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
"Much", of course, is a relative term. But the fact that I am typing this blog, and can read all of yours, pretty much means I am in the "much" camp.

Which means I've got work to do.

God, please help all of us to be your vessels here on Earth; to use the unique gifts you have given us to promote your Kingdom.

God Bless.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What If ....

Imagine your priest was killed right before your eyes at Mass.

Now imagine the murderer turned to the congregation and asked if anyone else would like to continue the mass ... and suffer the same fate?

What would you do?


I've been thinking a lot about Peter and the Apostles this week, and how scary Jesus' final days on Earth must have been for them.

And my stream of consciousness led me to the following question ....

What if they just went back to living life the way they did before Jesus?

After all, look at their choices.

Go forth into a hostile world that hates them, will most likely torture them, and will eventually kill them
Spend their mornings on a fishing boat and evenings having dinner with their wife and kids.

Of course on paper 2000 years later it's an easy choice. But I really thought hard about the magnitude of that decision back then.

They had just seen Jesus publicly embarrassed, tortured beyond human comprehension, and left to die in a horrendous fashion. To follow in his footsteps would mean the same for them.

And yet they did.

It would have been so easy to just go back to the simple life they were leading. To leave the whole "promoting-the-Kingdom" thing for the next generation to worry about. To assume God would just send someone else to finish the job.

But they didn't.

Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and without their Leader physically with them, they looked death straight in the eyes and changed history.

I am in such awe of them, and so very, very grateful to them. It is because of their strength that we have the Gospels and teachings that can get us to Paradise.

God Bless.


As I write this post from the comfort of my home, I imagine what kind of strength it would take to give that up, walk into town, and start preaching the Word of God to a square full of people that did not want me there. As daunting as that sounds, I imagine what kind of strength it would take to walk to the next town of angry people and do the same. And the next town. And the next...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It ALL Matters

I'm hooked on the song History by Matthew West.

If you haven't heard it, you can listen to it free here (in the upper right corner of the screen there is a mini player - just hit the big play button).

I like it for the melody, but also because of the wonderful message Matthew gives us.

The chorus ...

Yesterday is history
And history is miles away

So leave it all behind you

Let it always remind you of the day

The day that love made history

... reminds us that no matter what mistakes we have made in the past ... no matter how many times we have turned our back on God ... we can put it behind us because of what Jesus did for us.

That really is a comforting thought.

It's also something we should never, ever forget.

But the song intertwines another beautiful message regarding "history". One of the refrains is as follows:

Every word that you are saying
Every prayer that you are praying

Every chain that you are breaking

History is in the making

In other words, everything we do matters. We are making history every day. Maybe not like Jesus did, but in our own little way.

Every time you pass on the Word to someone, you can change their perspective.
Every good deed or act of charity can alter a life. And every prayer we offer up for someone - or some soul - can change their future - here or in Paradise.

It all matters.

And on that note, I wanted to thank all of you that read this blog or host your own. From a post or picture that brightens my day, to a new prayer or spiritual reflection that feeds my soul ... you are helping to shape my history.

God Bless all of you.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More Wondering

Happy Feast of the Assumption everyone!

I have to admit, I thought long and hard about what to write today. After all, there are just so many things to say about our Blessed Mother.

I went back and read one of my older posts on proof the Assumption happened.

I thought about Her amazing faith in our Father.

I pondered how she found the strength to watch her Son go through what He did for us.

But mostly, I wondered.

I wondered what it was like on that glorious day. Most of the time when I think about the Assumption I think of the physical raising of Mary's body into Heaven. What was that really like? Was she carried away by angels? Did she float up on a cloud? Did it happen during the day or at night?

But Happy to Be Catholic gave me a whole new perspective in her comments on my last post.

She noted how wonderful it must have been for Mary to meet our Father for the first time! I have to admit, I never thought about it like that! Mary is such an important figure in our faith that sometimes I forget she only met God after her time here on Earth.

HC also stated how happy Mary must have been to see her Son again! Again, I had never really looked at the Assumption through Mary's eyes. Of course she must have been overwhelmed with joy be reunited with Jesus after all the suffering they went through here on Earth.

And of course, everyone in Heaven must have rejoiced to finally have Mary join them in Paradise.

What a beautiful day it must have been.

Mary, please pray for us.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Five and Two

Last weekends Gospel reading (John 6:1-15) is about one of Jesus' most famous miracles - the Miracle of the Loaves and Fish.

If I could have seen one miracle - aside from The Resurrection of course - this would have been it. It is the miracle that has always left me most curious.

Don't get me wrong, all of Jesus' miracles were wondrous. But I would love to know the details on this one. How did the loaves multiply? Was it when immediately after He blessed them? Did he break a piece of bread off, only to have it regenerate then and there? Or was the basket covered and every time He reached in a new loaf was ready for Him?

Some of His other miracles are easier to imagine. The raising of the dead: the person "simply" wakes up and comes back to life. Giving sight to the blind: They can immediately see again. The changing of the water to wine: the water is covered in a jug so no one can "see" the transformation take place.

I guess the Loaves and Fish has always been a wonder to me because it doesn't seem to be an instantaneous thing. John doesn't tell us that the five loaves instantly turned to five hundred. He just says Jesus kept passing them out until everyone was fed. Its the gradualness that peaks my curiosity.

Anyway, please don't take this post as a lack of belief! It is quite the opposite. I have great faith that all of Jesus' miracles happened.

This one just happens to put my human curiosity into overdrive.

So what miracle would you choose to watch if given the chance?

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Hope My Name Is On That List

I just went through Luke 10, and one phrase really gave me great perspective.

Jesus had sent out 72 disciples to preach the Good Word, and upon returning, they were ecstatic that even the demons were subject to them because of Jesus' name.

Jesus "Do not rejoice because the Spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in Heaven."

Wow! What beautiful words those are!

But aside from that, there is a very powerful message in there for them - and of course, for us.

Getting to Heaven is the ultimate goal for all of us here. No matter what worldly successes we have (even driving out demons!), none is greater than reaching Paradise.

As I reflected on all this, I realized the same applies to our failures here on Earth. Not sins, of course, but those things that feel important at the time but really aren't when compared to what awaits us in Heaven. Like making a mistake at work, or saying something stupid in front of a crowd. None of them matter as long as they don't get in the way of our journey to God.

They say perspective changes everything, right?

Well, I know what my perspective is.

Its got pearly white gates and St. Peter holds the keys.

God Bless.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Who Are These People Anyway?

I have a confession to make.

I used to gloss over all the genealogies in the Bible.

Take 1 Chronicles 1 for example. I would read Adam, Lamech, Gomer, Nemrod ... .and skip to the next chapter or book.

When it came to the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1 for example), I paid a little more attention. Maybe because it is a direct line to Jesus. Or maybe because more of the names are familiar to me. But I still ended up skipping every other name or so.

To be honest, I struggled mightily to figure out what I could learn from these exhausting lists. There was no teaching. No sign. No message. Just a list of people. Someone's family tree.

But Brian over at the Daily Audio Bible gave a very good perspective on these lists - one that has changed the way I look at them.

I'm going to paraphrase big time here, but he commented that while each person or family may look like just a name on the page, they were followers of God that helped perpetuate His kingdom here on Earth. They each played some role, even if it was to give us the next generation of followers. And that is as important as the other wonderful miracles and feats in the bible.

It made me reflect a lot about my life here on earth. If someone read my family tree 2,000 years from now, they would probably gloss over my name too. I haven't healed anyone or performed any miracles. I haven't parted any seas, or preached to the masses. I've just done little things here and there to promote the Kingdom. (It kinda reminds me of this post I wrote, reflecting on a wonderful post from my friend Carol at Charli and Me)

Anyway, I can't promise I will read every name from now on. But I can promise will take the time to think about how each of them did their part for God.

And I hope to meet them all in Paradise one day.

God Bless.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kenya Believe This?

This weekend we had a visiting priest (Father Tom) from Kenya at our parish.

Showing us that God works in mysterious ways, Fr. Tom told us the story of how he became a priest.

When he was a little boy in Kenya, his friend told him he had seen a "white man" in their little town. Having never seen a "white man" before, Tom went running to find him. When he did, he learned the man was an Italian priest and missionary. To make a long post short, the Italian missionary took Tom under his wing and Tom became a priest after time in the seminary.

All because he had to see what a "white man" looked like.

What made the story even more beautiful, was that a German woman had sponsored Fr Tom's time in the seminary. He didn't have to pay a cent (which he couldn't have anyway). He said he hopes to someday meet this blessed woman to thank her and show her what a difference her contribution made.

He also told us that he recruited many other boys in Kenya to be priests as well ... many doing so only because they had him to go through the process with.

In essence, the German woman's contribution affected many people's lives - not just Fr. Tom's.

His homily took over 20 min (he said in Kenya it takes over an hour!), but it was well worth it to hear about how God's Kingdom is progressing in other parts of the world.

And it was beautiful to see how a little charity can make such a difference.

God Bless.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th

Just wanted to wish everyone in the U.S. a happy 4th of July. (And for those of you outside the U.S., a blessed Saturday)

May God bless the United States of America, our leaders and our people.

May He bring independence to those who seek it, and to those who are oppressed.

And may He bring peace to a world that desperately needs it.

God Bless.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Paul Said II

"Rejoice always;
Pray without ceasing;
in everything, give thanks;
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Thank you Saint Paul, for those simple, yet wonderful words of advice.

God Bless.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Paul Said

“If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” (Romans 8:31-32)

Thank you St. Paul, for reminding us just how much our Father loves us.

God Bless.

Friday, June 19, 2009

St. Paul Outside the Walls

Since the Jubilee Year of St. Paul ends this month, my next few posts will be about this great Apostle.

Today I wanted to share some photos of my trip to see St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
(St. Paul's, by the way, is considered to be one of the four great churches/basilicas in the Catholic faith.)

This basilica is built over the place where
Paul was believed to have been crucified. The front is picturesque with the palm trees, statue, mosaic and pillars...

The back of the basilica is equally beautiful...

Inside, there is a huge tabernacle that marks the spot where St. Paul was believed to be beheaded...

A closeup of the ceiling shows the exquisite detail (I don't know about you, but my church doesn't look like this!) ...

In 2006, the Vatican announced that it had found the sarcophagus believed to contain the remains of St. Paul himself! There is only a small part visible to the public, and it is behind a gated area, so you will have to excuse the poor photo...

It was a very moving experience, to say the least, especially given that it was during the Jubilee Year. If you ever have the fortune to go to Rome, don't miss St. Paul's. It it outside the city walls (thus the name), but a quick 20 minute subway ride lets you off right across the street from the basilica.

St. Paul, please pray for us.

God Bless.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

"Take it; this is my body" (Mark 14:22)

"This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many" (Mark 14:24)

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes." (St. Paul in 1 Cor 11:26)

There are two beautiful things about the quotes above:

  • In Mark 14 (the Gospel reading for today), Jesus uses the word is. He does not say is a symbol of or represents. He says is. This is my body. What better reason do we need to know that the Eucharist and Cup we receive at Mass every week is the Body and Blood of our Lord?
  • In 1 Cor, St. Paul tells us that the Body and Blood are also a reminder of the extreme sacrifice Jesus made for us. We are proclaiming that He died for our sins and will come again.
I try and remember these two things as I prepare to receive our Lord every week.

On one hand, I remind myself of the tragic and unselfish sacrifice Jesus made for us. He gave up His Body and His Blood for us on the cross so that we can be with Him in Paradise.

On the other had, I am overjoyed to receive Him and enjoy all the graces that come with this Blessed Sacrament.

How do you prepare to receive our Lord?

God Bless.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Joseph Was What???

We had a guest speaker the other day at our church, who gave a very moving lecture on Joseph and Mary.

Some of the discussion was reflection on their Holiness, and some of it was thinking about what life for them was like. (You know I love doing that)

I almost fell off my chair, though, when our speaker said "Well, you know Joseph was only about 16 right?"


The Earthly father of our Lord .... a teenager?

The strong carpenter I've seen in pictures - like the one in this post? A mere boy?

The blessed man who had the maturity to trust in God despite the "unique circumstances" around his wife? He was how young?


Like I said, I was blown away.

I'm not sure why I never thought about it, to be honest. Probably because every statue and picture of Joseph shows him as ... well, older.

I knew Mary was probably young. And it would make sense to assume Joseph was around the same age. But I never took time to think about it.

Shame on me.

I know 16 back then was a lot more mature than 16 is now. But it still magnifies how amazing Joesph's (and Mary's) faith was.

St. Joseph, thank you for saying "yes" to God. Please help us to have the great faith and trust that you had.

God bless.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Need Another Reason to Keep Blogging?

When I started this blog, I did so hoping that in some very small way I could help promote God's Kingdom in the digital world.

Our Holy Father apparently agrees. Check out this article at the CNA.

Pope Benedict XVI said "
I appeal to you: bear witness to your faith through the digital world!"

That's enough motivation for me! And to all of you that are much better at this than I am - keep up the great work!

God Bless all of you.

P.S. On that topic, I just recently signed up for Twitter. You can join me at @reachparadise or just read my recent "tweets" in the right hand corner of my blog. Hey, the Pope already beat me to YouTube ... I can't let him out-tweet me too!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Missing Jesus

I was listening to Mark 2 on the Daily Audio Bible the other day, and was moved thinking about the hoards of people that tried to find their way to Jesus when he came into their town.

I have to admit, it's usually a fact that I just gloss over. Of course lots of people came to see Jesus ... ok what happened next? What did Jesus do. Get to the good stuff ....

But imagine what it was like back in those days. First of all, people got their news by word of mouth. No real-time announcements on the radio or postings on the internet. Sometimes the news was reliable - sometimes it wasn't. Sometimes it was timely - sometimes it wasn't. So I'm sure people were never quite sure when Jesus was going to be in their presence.

Likewise, many of them probably weren't quite sure who this Jesus was. They may have heard that he cured the sick, or preached to the learned. But I'm sure there was some skepticism on their part. Is he a magician? Is he a hoax? Is he holy? Can he really cure my cripple friend?

Transportation was a whole other issue. How did they get their sick and cripple to Him when he was miles away? No cars or ambulances. And not everyone had a mule or donkey. Mark 2:3 tells us they carried one man on a mat.

So can you picture the effort that went into these people trying to find Jesus? First, they had to receive timely and accurate news that Jesus was coming. Then they had to muster up the faith to go find him. If they were carrying a cripple friend, they had to walk a good distance - perhaps even to the next town - while holding a hundred and fifty pound person by the corner of a mat.

And if they actually found Jesus, they had to fight their way through thousands of people to even get close to Him.

But what if they missed Jesus? What if they went through all that and Jesus disappeared across the sea in a boat like he did in Mark 4:35.

I felt a great deal of sorrow as I thought about those people that missed Him. All that effort for naught.

My sorrow deepened as I pondered how many times I've missed Jesus in my everyday life.

Jesus, give us the strength and faith to keep looking for you in every part of our lives. And when our time here on Earth is done, please help us to find You in Heaven.

God Bless.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Unsung Hero

I just got done reading The Day Christ Died by Jim Bishop.

My goal was to have it done by Easter but, alas, I just couldn't read quick enough.

I have posted before about how I sometimes wish Gospel writers were historians so we had more detail about the life of Jesus. Well, in this book, Bishop combines a ton of historical research and Church teaching to paint every detail of Jesus' last day on Earth. It is very well written - so much so that there were times I had to remind myself that I wasn't reading a live account of what happened!

Needless to say, I highly recommend it.

But there was one paragraph at the end of the book that really moved me. Bishop tells the familiar story of how Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked if he could take Jesus' body to a tomb.

To me, that has always been a sidebar in the Passion. I never really took the time to reflect on what a brave thing Joseph really did. Bishop explains that while Joseph was an important member of the Sanhedrin, he was a secret follower of Jesus. By asking Pilate for Jesus' body, he "outed himself" and put himself in great danger.

That brave act becomes even more meaningful when you realize that it was Joseph - and not one of the 11 Apostles - that took the lead to care for our Savior's body. What love! What faith! What a great example for all of us.

God Bless.

Many Thanks To Booklady

A special thanks to Booklady for giving me my first ever Blog Award! I am honored to receive it, but even more honored that she enjoys my posts. Thanks again Booklady!

Apparently there are rules to accepting this award and they are:

1) Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.
2) Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.
3) Link to your nominees within your post.
4) Let the nominees know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5) Share the love and link to the person from whom you received your award.

That being said, I am passing this award onto the following Blessed Blogs - in no particular order (note: descriptions of blogs are in my words, not the owner's)

1) Happy to be Catholic: A wonderful blog - I learn (and remember) so much by spending time here. Very well written to boot.

2) Charli and Me: The first word that comes to mind when I think of Carol's blog is "happy". Her posts mix the everyday with the Holy and never fail to make me smile.

3) My Catholic Oasis: Anne has such love for Christ, and her posts are so heartfelt, that she always inspires me.

4) Simply Catholic: Darcee posts her thoughts on daily life with a Catholic lens. I enjoy reflecting on her posts.

5) Happy Catholic: Julie's blog is very informative, and mixes fact, with photo, with humor.

6) OSV Daily Take: This is where I go to get my Catholic news fix. The team there does a great job of passing it on (and providing some great perspective on it)

Of course, I would add Booklady to that list as well. My list of Spiritual books to read grows exponentially thanks to her!

May God Bless all of you - keep spreading His word!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Poor Peter

I hope all of you had a wonderful Easter!

Most of my posts during Lent focused on our Lord, and rightly so. And, given that it is the Pauline year, I have also spent some time focusing on St. Paul.

But it was Peter that really moved me this Easter Triduum. For some reason I couldn't get his denial of Jesus out of my head.

Poor Peter.

Here is a favored disciple of Jesus - one who has been told he is the rock on which Jesus will build His church. Peter continually professes his support and love for Jesus throughout the Gospels.

But imagine what it was like for him when, after proclaiming his undying loyalty to Jesus, was told him he would deny Christ three times. He must have been shocked, right? I mean, Peter just got done telling Jesus that he would follow him to death. And Jesus replies by telling him he will pretend he never even knew Him.

Peter must have spent much of that Last Supper pondering how that could be possible.

Of course, it gets worse.

What about that moment when that prophesy came true? That exact second Peter realized what he had done. I'm sure he didn't realize what he was doing at the time - having probably been afraid for his life. But when that cock crowed, and reality hit, it must have been an awful feeling.

But I imagine that still wasn't the worst of it.

Imagine what Peter must have felt once Jesus breathed his last. Oh the guilt and sorrow that must have weighed on his heart knowing that the last thing he did while Jesus was alive was deny Him! Imagine what those two days were like, not knowing for sure if he would ever see Christ again to apologize.

This really gave me pause this Easter, partly because I had never really focused on the Passion from Peter's point of view and partly because I know that every time I sin I am doing the same thing Peter did. (And it's happened more than three times, trust me!)

The good news, is that Peter's denial leads to one of the most beautiful events in the New Testament. In John 21:15, the Resurrected Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. Peter seems annoyed at the questioning at the time, but the love that Jesus shows there is amazing. Our Lord asks Peter to tell Him he loves Him three times ... one time for each denial. What a conscience cleaner that must have been!

Jesus, thank you for forgiving us even when we turn our back to you.
St. Peter, thank you for your courage and perseverance. Please pray for us.

God Bless.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Glorious Easter!

"Why do you seek the living among
the dead?

He is not here but has been raised!"

A very Blessed and Holy Easter to all of you.

God Bless.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

I have watched Mel Gibson's The Passion every Good Friday since it came out in the theaters. It has become somewhat of a yearly tradition for me.

I know there are a lot of discussions about whether the film paints Jewish people or Roman people in a bad light, but I try and put that debate aside and enjoy the film as a way to spend time with Jesus. To me, the film helps me connect with what Good Friday is all about - Jesus suffering for our sins. And on this topic, Mel scores a 10 in my book.

The film is dark, depressing, and painful. And this is exactly what a movie about Christ's suffering should be. There is a 10 minute clip - where the Roman guards are whipping and beating Jesus - that is excruciating to watch. There is one part in particular where it seems like they can not beat him any more ... and then they roll him over and continue to torture him. It makes me sick to my stomach - and that is exactly the way I want to feel on Good Friday.

If I feel that bad just watching a reenactment, I can only imagine how it felt to those who witnessed it live. (And of course, how horrific it must have been for our Lord.)

But He endured it all. He endured for me, and for you, and for everyone else who will follow Him.

Thank you, Jesus, for suffering so greatly for our sins. May we never forget your Sacrifice.

I hope you all have a very Spiritual Good Friday.

God Bless.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lenten Perspective #4

What if someone told you that if you left your house today you were going to get hit by a car and die?

Would you leave your house?

I know I wouldn't.

For those of you that were brave enough to say yes, what if instead of getting hit by a car you were going to be tortured and beaten,
mocked in front of everyone you care about, and left to die a slow
painful death?

Would anyone in their right mind leave their house?

But Jesus basically did that. He headed towards Jerusalem knowing that He was going to die a painful death. He kept walking, knowing full well that He was going to be beaten and mocked. Knowing full well that He was going to have to carry a heavy cross - and an even heavier burden of our sins - past a jeering crowd. Knowing full well how painful those nails would be as they pierced His skin.
And knowing full well he was going to die in one of the most evil ways humanity ever invented.

How did He put one foot in front of the other with that knowledge?

How did He even get any sleep the night before he broke bread with his Apostles?

And how did He push on, knowing he was doing all this for a bunch of sinners?

Jesus, thank you for doing all that just so we can one day be with you in Paradise. There are no words that can express our gratitude.

God Bless.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hail Holy Queen

I just finished reading Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn. Since most of the books I read are about Jesus and his Apostles, or the Biblical Evangelists, I wanted to make sure I gave the Virgin Mary her due.

I certainly don't want to ruin the book in case you want to read it, but I do want to highlight two learnings.

Hahn spends part of the book defending Mary's place in our Faith to naysayers.

The first question he answers is one of the most popular - "how can we prove the Assumption, especially since it wasn't made popular until centuries after Mary's death"?

Hahn gives a few answers, but the one that stood out to me was that there are no relics of her bones. Given her status as Christ's mother, her bones would have certainly been kept and her burial place marked and frequented. Back in those days, and the ones to follow, Crusaders would have gone after those bones as a "trophy" to bring back to their lands. And yet, there is no record of that anywhere.

The second question he answers is "how do we know Mary was sinless"?

His answer is so obvious that I'm upset I did not come up with it myself. Hahn asks - if you were God, and you had to create your own mother, would you make her (a) full of sin, or (b) sinless? I thought that was just brilliant. Instead of looking for written evidence, his response is simple and irrefutable.

Hail Holy Queen isn't the easiest book to read, but I enjoyed spending the time with it and reflecting on our Blessed Mother.

God Bless.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lenten Perspective #3

I thought I would change it up a little for my third Lenten Perspective.

This song, "This Man" by Jeremy Camp, has a similar theme to my first Lenten Perspective (but with a much better soundtrack of course).

So the only question is ... would you take Jesus' place?

(YouTube video should load above)

God Bless.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Be Not Afraid

I attended mass at St. Patrick's (in New York City) this weekend. For those of you that have never been there, it is beautiful. It is large, ornate, and in my opinion, is one of the few churches here in the U.S. that can stand up to its European brethren.

Because of its sheer size, music tends to echo and bounce around its cavernous interior - which makes every song seem even more beautiful. But when they sing "Be Not Afraid", like they did this weekend during Communion, it is simply ethereal.

Aside from being one of the most moving songs in our faith (my humble opinion of course), that hymn struck me as very relevant as we get closer to the Easter Triduum.

"Be not afraid ... I go before you always"

I've always interpreted this line as God leading the way for us in our everyday life. But viewed through the lens of Lent, it takes on even more meaning.

Jesus went before us - through a horrific death - so that we would be saved. Our death could have been much worse. But He went out ahead. He took the pain. He paved the way for us so that we could have Eternal Life with Him. And He continues to lead the way for us ... as long as we let Him.

It is so moving to play back that line in my head while thinking of what Jesus did for us.

"Come follow me ..."

I will Jesus. Just hold my hand!

God Bless.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Transfiguration of Jesus

I was so moved by last week's first reading about Abraham, I didn't get to post my thoughts on the Gospel reading (Mark 9:2-10) - otherwise known as the transfiguration of Jesus.

Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain (believed to be Mt. Tabor, pictured to the right), where they witness him transfigured and "chatting" with Moses and Elijah.

I had always wondered why Jesus did this, and our priest actually gave me the answer in his sermon. At this time, it is believed that His apostles still did not understand who Jesus was. They thought He might be Moses or Elijah, or another prophet.
By having them see Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah, God was making it clear that Jesus was neither. And by transfiguring Him, Jesus is shown to be elevated in stature. (And, just in case they missed all of those hints, God flat out told them "This is my beloved Son".)

I can't help but wonder what Peter, James and John thought after that. Mark notes that they "were terrified," and one can certainly understand that! What a startling event that must have been!

But I am also guilty of wondering "Why didn't they 'get it'? Why did they need so many signs?" After all they were with Jesus! They saw Him perform miracles and talk about God and Heaven. But I know that isn't fair. We have history, including
their accounts of the Resurrection to make it crystal clear for us. They did not have that at this point so its hard to look at it through the same lens.

So I am thankful for the Apostles' accounts of what they saw, and thankful that the Gospel writers captured them. And I am even more thankful that God has given me the faith to believe 2000 years later without such overt signs. To quote John 20:29, "blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed."

Thank you God, for my faith in you.

God Bless.

Friday, March 13, 2009

God's Plan for Us

Carol has a wonderful post today over at Charli and Me.

She quoted a reflection from Bishop Ken Untener that offers an excellent view of our role in God's plan. The ending, in particular, was an eye opener:

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end result, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not Master Builders, ministers, not Messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen

I often wonder if what I am doing for God is "enough" or "the right thing", mainly because the results are often unseen. But Bishop Untener puts things in the proper perspective. We should stop worrying about the "how much" and keep doing what we do best. God has given us all a role in His master plan and our goal should be to execute that role as best we can.

It reminds me of a comment I heard a few weeks ago. A visiting priest told us to remember that God puts everyone right where he wants them to help promote his Kingdom. Our role might not be to preach to the masses or lead a religious community. Instead, our role might be to just change one person's life, or one family members perspective. That might be God's calling for us, and He has chosen other folks to take care of other tasks.

Thanks again, Carol, for sharing that post. And keep up the great blog!

God Bless.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lenten Perspective #2

As I go through Lent this year, I'm really trying to get some perspective on how amazing God's love for us is. In my First Lenten Perspective, I spent time trying to come to grips with the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

This week, I'm trying to wrap my mind around God's sacrifice.

As I was listening to the first reading this Sunday (Genesis 22), I was moved by Abraham. This passage always redefines what faith means to me. Abraham was ready and willing to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, because God had asked him to.

I'm sure this was not an easy decision for Abraham, and I'm sure the writers of Genesis left out most of his agonizing and pain. But can you imagine the pit in Abraham's stomach when Issac looked up to him and asked where the lamb was for the offering? It's gut-wrenching.

Yet, Abraham was ready to do it because he loved God above all else.

But what about God?

If we are moved by Abraham, then surely we should be moved even more by God's sacrifice.

For starters, no one stopped the killing of Jesus. This was no test. It was the real thing.

Second, we are told Abraham took out his knife to kill his son. I'm not an expert here, but my guess is that that sacrifice would have been a lot quicker than the brutal one Jesus went through. Imagine watching your son, daughter, or even loved one go through what Jesus went through. God had to watch every painful moment.

Lastly - and this is a big one - while Abraham was going to sacrifice his son for God, God sacrificed His Son for all of us sinners. He sacrificed Him for those that love him and for those that defy him. In my first Lenten reflection I tried to imagine dying for someone I disliked. Trying to sacrifice a child or loved one for that same person is not any easier!

In any case, the point of my post is certainly not to criticize Abraham - his faith is unimaginable. My point is to try and understand how great God's love is.

Yet, as hard as I try, it is still beyond my comprehension.

Thank you, Lord, for loving me so much that you gave up your only Son.

God Bless.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What if Jesus Lived One More Year?

Last night at the Stations of the Cross, I read a phrase about Jesus' death that was new to me:

Station 11: Crucifixion
They killed Jesus and ended his earthly teachings.

I'm accustomed to the phrase "Jesus' death" being followed by a higher order of things. For example, "Jesus died so we can be saved" or "Jesus died and rose on the third day".

In other words, His death is always the predecessor to something very spiritual and positive.

But that phrase "ended his earthly teachings" brought out the very tangible result of Jesus' death. His daily lessons - the way his followers had come to know them - stopped.

Centuries later, its easy to make the leap from Jesus' death to confident Disciples proclaiming His Word. But the reality is, on that day, they lost their teacher and their leader. Aside from losing a loved one, they also lost their compass and their guide. There was no one there to give them all the answers anymore. Can you imagine the void they must have felt in their lives?

I also couldn't help but wonder ... what if "they" hadn't ended his teachings right then and there. What if Jesus lived another month, another year, or another 10 years. I wonder how many more lessons He could have left for us?

God Bless.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lenten Perspective #1

Lent, more than any other time, causes me to think long and hard about what Jesus did for us.

For example, all too often, I hear and say the phrase "Jesus died for our sins". And most of the time I accept that at face value - He died a horrible death on the cross so that we can enjoy peace with God.

But Lent gives me a reason to meditate on that more deeply ... to try and "feel" what that means.

Today's second reading - The First Letter of Peter 3:18-22 - gives us the following:

Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous

In other words, Christ, who had no sin, died for all of us sinners.

Sometimes I find that easy to accept because Jesus is God. His love far exceeds any love here on Earth. But in an attempt to really understand what that love is like, I came up with the following exercise.

Imagine the person you like least in this world. Maybe its someone you know or maybe its a criminal you saw on the news. (For this exercise it can even be a made-up "villain") Really think hard about how much you dislike them or the things they did.

Now imagine you are in a room with that person, and one of you has to die.

Would you give up your life for that person? After all the terrible things they did?

Imagine if you were perfect, and never did a single thing wrong here on Earth. Would you die for them?

To be honest, I don't think I would. (Ok lets face it, I know I wouldn't) But Jesus did. He died for me and for you and for all the other sinners out there until the end of time. He died for those that steal from the dollar store and for those that commit murders and abortions, so that one day, everyone has a chance to meet Him in Heaven.

I know that isn't a perfect comparison, but it's my attempt to really try and feel how awesome Jesus' gift to us is.

Thank you Jesus, for loving us that much.

God Bless.