top of page
Father Edward Dougherty, M.M.

We would like to welcome Father Edward Dougherty, M.M., our newest board member, to an increased role with The Christophers.  The former Superior General of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Father Dougherty is currently stationed in Rome as his order’s Procurator General to the Vatican. He will be in the United States to touch base with our operations throughout the months of April and May and again around Christmas time. He is a man of wit and wisdom, and we know that everyone who has a chance to meet him will enjoy his great sense of humor and down-to-earth manner. Welcome, Father Dougherty! 

Peter and Paul Model Path to Redemption 

June 23

On June 29th, we will celebrate the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, which honors the twin founders of the See of Rome for their courage in proclaiming the faith, even unto martyrdom. Saint Augustine once said, “Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith.” 

For centuries in Rome, the pope has presided over a Mass on this feast in which new archbishops are presented with a pallium, and celebrations abound throughout the city. Flowers adorn Saint Peter’s Square and are laid in a trail along the Via Della Conciliazione all the way to the Tiber River. In the evening, the Piazza del Popolo is the staging area for a beautiful fireworks display.  

It is fitting that we honor these two saints with such festivities to bring attention to their heroic virtues in life and to the offerings they both made to Christ and His Church in their respective martyrdoms. Central to our celebrations must invariably be our recognition of all Christ did for them because that is at the heart of their stories, revealing a truth that echoes through the centuries of the hope for redemption held out for us all. 

Peter was the first to recognize the divinity of Christ and was named the “Rock” upon which He would build His Church. Yet Peter had his weaknesses, as seen in his loss of faith when Christ invited him to walk on water. He was even guilty of disloyalty when he denied Christ three times during the time of His Passion. 

As for Paul, he went beyond the mere human flaws exhibited by Peter and was consumed by a murderous hatred for Christians before Christ appeared to him and called him to repent and follow the way of salvation. 

Given their significance to the early Church, it’s easy to forget Peter and Paul’s failings, but it’s only in juxtaposing those failings with all they accomplished that we can see God’s glory at work in their lives. It’s a realization that helps us see how God can work in our lives to bring about great things. 

In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells of a moment in which he sought relief from his suffering, and Christ said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Interpreting the meaning of this, Paul then writes, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

These words demonstrate the wisdom at the heart of the Christian message that allowed both Peter and Paul to move beyond their personal failings to rest in Christ, who in turn strengthened them to proclaim the Gospel and share the message of God’s mercy with a world in need.  

So, let’s invoke the intercession of these great saints to raise us all up as a new generation of fervent believers, humble enough to surrender every bit of ourselves to God, even our weaknesses, in order to be transformed and inspire others to the path of salvation.  

A Time for Rest and Rejuvenation

June 9

The month of June is a time of celebration for students and their families as we mark milestones in educational pursuits. Even those just reaching the end of a long school year amid the journey of college or high school or even grammar school should be honored for their efforts, and we should take time to relax and gather in ways that will rejuvenate and prepare for the next phase of education, work, and life in general. 

            In Spain, towards the end of the month of June, one can witness the Bonfires of Saint John all along the coast. It’s a tradition that links back to the celebration of the summer solstice, which was then incorporated into the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. It’s a tradition that has endured for centuries and one that exemplifies the spirit with which we should approach each summer with a determination to come together with family and community to build each other up and strengthen the human spirit for the next leg of life’s journey. And just like the Bonfires of Saint John infused an ancient tradition with the light of Christ, our faith should kindle our respite and inspire our joy. 

            Allowing the faith to be a spark for our celebrations is not about replacing the good, wholesome fun of gathering with friends and family, but rather about enlivening those gatherings with a spirit of joy. So let’s lean on the beautiful rituals provided within our faith for spiritual sustenance in order to turn to the world around us and carry the light of Christ into all we do. 

            As we celebrate milestones and take respite together, we have some great models within our faith whose lives we can look to. In an article for U.S. Catholic Magazine, Molly Jo Rose shares a prayer written by Saint Thomas Aquinas that serves as a great way to train our minds away from distractions, which, Rose points out, is amazingly relevant in our age of technological distractions. “Point out the beginning, direct the progress, and help in the completion,” reads one part of Aquinas’ prayer for God’s guidance in staying focused on the task at hand. 

            And Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati is a wonderful model for blending respite, leisure, and extracurricular activities into the pursuit of excellence and education. A patron of students and young Catholics, Frassati grew up in northern Italy, where he led hiking trips into the Alps to bring his fellow students together in leisurely respite from their studies. They would often attend Mass together before or after these trips and take time for prayer along their hikes to kindle the fire of the joy of their experiences.  

            “A Prayer for the Courage to Be Great” invokes the intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and begins with these words, “Heavenly Father, give me the courage to strive for the highest goals, to flee every temptation to be mediocre. Enable me to aspire to greatness, as Pier Giorgio did….” 

            Let’s pray that our faith kindles our joy and inspires us to greatness as we gather with friends and loved ones during this time of year and throughout our moments of summer rest so that all may be rejuvenated, most especially the students in our lives. Let us take this time to celebrate their accomplishments and offer encouragement for future endeavors so they continue to find the strength to glorify God through the pursuit of their talents. 

Feast of Visitation Highlights Selflessness of Mary

May 31st is the Feast of the Visitation, when we honor the visit that Mary paid to her cousin Elizabeth after learning of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Mary received news of her cousin’s pregnancy in the most dramatic way. It was right after the Angel Gabriel announced that Mary would bear the Son of God. Then he said to her, “And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” 

            Mary’s reaction in rushing to Elizabeth’s side demonstrates an act of selflessness that provides a wonderful model for us all. Oftentimes, we have the tendency to turn inward when presented with such overwhelming circumstances as Mary faced. But our Blessed Mother turned from her own concerns to attend to Elizabeth’s needs and went “with haste” to her cousin’s side.   

It’s fascinating to imagine the rush of emotions Mary and Elizabeth must have experienced in their encounter. Upon Mary’s arrival, Elizabeth says, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Elizabeth then declares that the child in her womb leapt for joy when Mary arrived, and she exalts Mary for her faith in God, at which point Mary responds with the Magnificat, saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” 

Mary’s profession of faith is one of the most beautiful expressions of love for God ever recorded, and it speaks to the profound encounter she had with Elizabeth. It is within this encounter that Elizabeth demonstrates her own closeness to God by announcing the presence of the divine in their midst when she calls Mary “the mother of my Lord.” This short sequence, found in the Gospel of Luke, provides a glimpse into Mary’s world and the circumstances that surrounded her heroic “Yes” to God and faithfully caring for the Infant Jesus. We also see in this story how Mary was provided company in life and the ability to see firsthand how an elder of her family would handle a similarly unusual yet blessed occurrence. 

It’s also interesting to note that Elizabeth’s child, John the Baptist, provided that same closeness of mission to Jesus, demonstrating how God so often works in the life of a family, giving us to each other as the greatest gift we have to face life’s challenges. When John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb, he inspired her to know they were in God’s presence, foreshadowing the monumental role he would play in announcing the coming of Christ and preparing the way for His ministry. 

The Visitation is the second joyful mystery of the Rosary, so whenever we pray this mystery, we should take the time to contemplate this beautiful family visit and the way Mary came to the aid of her cousin in need. It’s a moment that demonstrates Mary’s character in relation to each one of us as well, because Mary will most certainly come to our aid whenever we call upon her.  

So let us honor Mary on the Feast of the Visitation and recall the hasty visit she made to her cousin Elizabeth, remembering how our Blessed Mother comes to all who open wide the doors of their hearts to her intercession and to the mercy of God, made tangible in the world in Jesus Christ.

Mary is a Sure Path to God

May 12

On May 13, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, who appeared to three shepherd children in Portugal six different times over the course of five months in 1917, culminating in a final miracle witnessed by 70,000 people, when the sun defied the laws of physics and danced in the sky. This event was so consistently verified by those present that secular newspapers of the time reported on the miracle.  

            In the apparitions leading up to what came to be known as the Miracle of the Sun, Mary shared insights about events still to come in the 20th century, and she implored the faithful to offer prayers and sacrifices to God so that peace may come upon the world, promising that, after a period of trial, “My Immaculate Heart will triumph.” 

            Before becoming pope, Cardinal Joseph Razinger interpreted Mary’s declaration of a future triumph of her Immaculate Heart in this way: “The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Savior into the world – because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time…. God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good.” 

            The message of Fatima inspires hope that Mary can triumph over the hardest of hearts so that those most in need can find their way to the mercy of God. Turning to our Blessed Mother is a sure path to God because she points the way to her Son, who will never turn away those who honor His mother.  

Mary is our perfect guide in the spiritual life because she knows the heart of Christ, and her tender and motherly relationship with Him is what makes her such a powerful intercessor for us. Consider the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana, when Mary told Jesus, “They have no wine,” and he said to her, “My hour has not yet come,” and her response was simply to tell the servants, “Do whatever He tells you,” with the clear assumption He would do what she asked, at which point He turned water into wine, defying His own initial instinct in an amazing demonstration of loyalty and respect for His mother’s wishes.  

This is the intercessor we have when we turn to Mary. Her exhortations for prayer and sacrifice at Fatima remain the truest path we have for entering into relationship with Jesus. Prayer is the ritual that returns us to a disposition open to the love of God. And sacrifice unites us with Christ, fulfilling His call to each of us to take up our cross and follow Him.  

On May 13, 2010, 500,000 people gathered in Fatima for the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, where Pope Benedict XVI offered Mass in the square outside the shrine. He emphasized the continuing relevance of Fatima’s message, calling Mary a “teacher” who introduced the children of Fatima “to a deep knowledge of the love of the Blessed Trinity and led them to savor God Himself as the most beautiful reality of human existence.” 

May we all turn to Our Lady of Fatima on her feast day with humble hearts, ready to learn from her so that we can find our path to “the most beautiful reality of human existence,” her Son, Jesus Christ.

A Saint’s World-Changing Influence

April 28, 2024

As the month of April draws to a close, we celebrate the feast day of a truly amazing saint who remains a model for us all. April 29 is the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, whose writings have earned her a place among only 37 people ever named Doctor of the Catholic Church.   

            In her major treatise, The Dialogue of Divine Providence, written between 1377 and 1378, Catherine draws a simple yet profound analogy regarding the relationship between God and man, saying that God is like “a sea, in which we are the fish.” This image helps us understand that God is not our adversary, but rather the infinite being that holds everything in existence and the source of all the good in our lives.  

            Saint Catherine’s ability to arrive at such beautiful insights came through years of prioritizing her relationship with God above all things. Though her family could provide her comfort and she had opportunity to marry, she chose a life of poverty and chastity so that she could devote herself to serving God and others.  

            After a period in her young adult life in which she spent most of her time serving her family, Catherine had an experience that she later described as a mystical marriage to Christ. It left her with the certainty that she was called to enter public life in service to others. She began with an outreach to the poor and sick, visiting hospitals and the homes of those in need. She soon attracted others who wanted to join her mission, so she was able to grow this outreach and have a major impact on people’s lives. 

            Catherine’s mission in the world grew exponentially when she began to travel and felt called to evangelize, encouraging people to focus their lives completely on love for God and neighbor. She promoted reforms within the Church aimed at greater fidelity to the Gospel, and she became an advocate for the Pope, promoting loyalty to the Church among Italian city states during a time of political tumult.  

            Catherine was also instrumental in convincing Pope Gregory XI, who was the last Avignon Pope, to return to Rome, furthering her efforts to bring stability to the Church. Later, when the Western Schism broke out under Pope Urban VI, Catherine was summoned to Rome by Urban to help him convince nobles and cardinals not to go into schism. She worked tirelessly towards this end, meeting with influential figures at court and embarking on a letter-writing campaign on the Pope’s behalf. 

            It is astounding to contemplate the immense impact Catherine of Siena had on her time period, and that impact began with a simple outreach to those in need. The trajectory of her life—from charity worker to world influencer—is not uncommon among the saints. Consider the life of Saint Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa, whose calls from God began as simple ones, then grew into something larger.  

It’s a lesson to us all as we set about to change the world for the better. Don’t be afraid to start small and stay focused on the things of the heart that transform ourselves and those around us. It is from this type of humble starting point that God tends to grow our efforts beyond what we ever imagined. May Saint Catherine of Siena intercede for us as we set about to change the world so that we place God first and attend to the lifegiving things of the heart and soul.

The Song of Bernadette

April 14 

On April 16, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. The 1943 film The Song of Bernadette dramatizes the amazing events in her life relating to the Marian apparitions that occurred in Lourdes, France, in 1858. Many Catholics have enjoyed this beautiful film, and it’s a great one to share with those who haven’t seen it, especially younger generations.  

            The Song of Bernadette features Jennifer Jones in the title role, and she delivered a breakout performance that came early in her career, garnering her both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actress. The accolades Jones received were well deserved because she vividly brings to life Bernadette’s profound encounters with our Blessed Mother.  

            One of the great measures of Bernadette’s faithfulness was her respect for her parents, for the Church, and those in authority, even while they doubted her claim to experiencing apparitions of the Virgin Mary. In one scene early in the film, Bernadette’s mother instructs her not to return to the grotto where her visions were taking place, and she obeys until her mother finally relents due to the influence of a trusted relative.  

            This is the model the saints provide us down through the centuries as they strive to balance their fervent faith with the demands of those God has placed in their lives and calls them to respect. It requires much self-sacrifice out of love for God and for others, and it is the path of humble obedience we are all called to follow.  

            The Song of Bernadette masterfully presents the series of events that led to widespread acceptance of the Marian apparitions at Lourdes. It is Bernadette’s innocence and faith that first wins over the common people, who recognize her humility and have hope in the intercession of our Blessed Mother. Eventually, healings are attributed to the spring that bursts forth from the grotto; but later the grotto is closed, and the Bishop of Tarbes declares he will not investigate the matter further unless the Emperor himself orders the grotto open. When the Emperor’s infant son is healed of an illness from water brought from Lourdes, the Empress demands the grotto be reopened, prompting the Bishop to finally investigate the validity of Bernadette’s claims.  

            We see in this sequence of events how God acted to bring about faith in the Marian apparitions at Lourdes and to protect and aid Bernadette in the difficult task she was given to share our Blessed Mother’s message of healing for the entire world. Over the years, many have made pilgrimages to Lourdes, seeking both physical and spiritual healings. Stories abound about the profound encounters that have taken place there. The Song of Bernadette was produced at a time in Hollywood when many great films championed the faith of the U.S.’s growing Catholic population. Father James Keller, M.M., founded The Christophers during this period and advocated for more films like this to be made. He was able to exert an important impact on the industry. 

            The Song of Bernadette helps us to recall that vision of faith in film during a time when it was more prevalent. Though much has changed since that time, films that celebrate Christ and bring hope to people’s lives still exist. Whether these great films are made today or were produced decades ago, let’s be sure to share them with those we love; and may Saint Bernadette of Lourdes intercede for that next generation of filmmakers to bring stories of faith to the screen.  

The Purpose of Lenten Observances

March 24, 2024

  As we approach the great celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, it’s important to recognize the way our Lenten observances help us to understand the full meaning of Christ’s sacrifice so that we grow in our appreciation of all He has accomplished for us. And just like Christ carried the strength of spirit He cultivated in His 40 days in the desert into all He did to win our salvation, so too must we carry the detachment we practice during our 40 days of Lent into the celebration of Easter and the entirety of our lives going forward.

  We walk in the footsteps of Christ at this time of year, especially as it pertains to His suffering, as a matter of the ritual practice of our faith. It is enriching to observe this practice every year because we progress incrementally in the spiritual life in such a way that new fruits await us as we grow closer to Christ.

  Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote daily meditations for Lent that many like to follow or at least reference. Aquinas begins one meditation by first quoting Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans, where he wrote, “Be not conformed to this world.” Interpreting that sentiment, Aquinas adds, “that is, to the things which pass away with time.”

  It’s an idea that gets to the heart of the very purpose of our Lenten observances because we detach from the things of this world in order to be in tune with the things of God and that which is lasting and will not pass away with time.  Aquinas points out that the things of God are marked by wisdom and charity and encourages us to immerse ourselves in good works in order to grow closer to God.

  There are many great readings like Aquinas’ meditations to incorporate into our Lenten observance, and the fast and abstinence days are important reminders of the detachment from worldly things that we should strive for daily. Another great practice during Lent is to follow the Stations of the Cross. The Little Sisters of the Poor have promulgated a Way of the Cross with Mary, wherein we are invited to experience the Stations of the Cross as seen through the eyes of our Blessed Mother. It’s such a beautiful way to meditate upon the Passion of our Lord, to walk with Mary in her sorrow over all Christ endured for our salvation.

  Whatever observances we practice during any given Lenten season, it’s important to focus on the end goal of getting ourselves to Easter with greater love in our hearts for Jesus. So, as that glorious day approaches, let’s not get caught up in overly analyzing how austere a Lent we are undertaking. Even for those we know who don’t seem to have been observing Lent at all, let’s remember how much Christ wants to gather us all in and most especially those who go astray.

After the good thief proclaimed Christ’s divinity while hanging beside Him on the cross, Christ said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Let’s remember these words await anyone who comes to Christ, no matter how late in life or in Lent. And regardless of where we stand in our spiritual journey, when Easter comes, let’s run to Him with joy over the mercy of God realized for us in the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 


St. Joseph’s Strength and Humility

March 17

On March 19, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Joseph, when we honor the role he played as the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, for instance, we read of the dilemma Joseph faced upon discovering Mary’s pregnancy. He was, “unwilling to put her to shame” and “resolved to send her away quietly.” Then Matthew writes, “But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’”

            This scene speaks volumes about Joseph because we first see that he is a merciful man in the way he reacts to Mary’s pregnancy. He doesn’t want to see her shamed. And his reaction to the divine revelation given to him by the angel shows his willingness to follow the hard road to do God’s will.

            So, we can see why God chose Joseph to care for Mary and for the child Jesus in His infancy and formative years. Joseph could be depended upon to do what was right regardless of his own self-interest. At the birth of our Lord, we see Joseph caring for Mary and Jesus under trying circumstances. And it was only in Joseph’s heeding the warnings of the angel of the Lord that the Holy Family was able to avoid the wrath of Herod and flee into Egypt. Later, Joseph shares in Mary’s anxiety as they search for Jesus and eventually are relieved and astonished to find Him teaching in the temple at a mere 12 years old. We see in these actions that he was a loyal protector of Mary and Jesus.

            After Luke’s account of the finding of Jesus in the temple, we read that Jesus went with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth and “was obedient to them” and “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.” That’s the last we hear of Joseph until Jesus is an adult and referred to as “the carpenter’s son” and also simply as “the carpenter,” which draws us to conclude that He had learned the trade of carpentry from His father.

            From these scant yet beautiful nuggets of family life, we can glean important aspects about Joseph. First, we see that Jesus was obedient to him, demonstrating that Joseph was chosen by God for his decency to act as a guide to Jesus as He was growing up. And Joseph’s guidance produced good fruit because Jesus grew in wisdom.

So much of what Jesus learned from Joseph would have come from the work they did together as carpenters. And in this trade, we can imagine what was perhaps the greatest wisdom Joseph was able to pass down to Jesus: his toughness and humble work ethic, two qualities that were essential for Christ to carry out His mission.

It seems fitting that Joseph’s feast day should occur during Lent in the time leading up to Christ’s Passion because the toughness and humble submission to the will of God that Joseph taught Jesus carried Him through all He accomplished for us. So, let’s honor Joseph and carry his memory in our hearts as we approach our commemoration of these climactic events in salvation history, remembering all he did for Jesus and all he can do for us as an intercessor and a model of humility before God.

Pursue Reconciliation in Lenten Journey

Feb 18, 2024

            Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday until the evening of Holy Thursday. If you exclude Sundays, when we take a break from penance, that time period amounts to 40 days. This serves as a remembrance of the 40 days of Christ’s trial in the desert, and it is a time when we should challenge ourselves to walk in His footsteps, striving for the detachment necessary to face down the temptations of this world.

            There are many ways to take up this challenge during Lent, such as prayer, fasting, abstinence, and renunciation of pleasures of all kinds that exert an undue hold on us. And there are things we can do during Lent to try to reorient ourselves towards lives of service to God and others—and away from excessive focus on our own concerns.

            But there’s one simple yet vital activity that can serve as a springboard for these many potential approaches to Lent, and that’s to avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This healing sacrament is a great starting point because it entails self-examination, which is essential if we are to tailor a Lenten plan to suit our struggles and our needs.

A few years ago, I was privileged to be featured in a short video series on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which can still be found on The Christophers’ website. In that series, we focused on sharing unique perspectives to help people open their hearts to the healing nature of this great gift of forgiveness that Christ has given to the Church.

One of the things we highlighted was the disposition we are trying to return to in availing ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s a state of innocence we seek, and we arrive at that state by unburdening ourselves from the weight of sin and the sense of guilt that goes along with whatever wrongs we’ve committed.

Let’s face it: even minor transgressions against God and others can weigh us down, so it is tremendously healing to humble ourselves, admit our faults, and be reconciled with God and anyone we have wronged, even in small ways. The reward that awaits us on the other side of this sacrament is immense because reconciliation can transform us if we know what to look for in its outcome and if we make the process part of our regular routine.

After chastising the unrepentant, Christ exalts the humble of heart, saying, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

Christ exalts the humble because it takes humility to be repentant. It’s not hard to see that we’re all imperfect people, but it requires humility to look into our own hearts and admit our faults. Christ’s promise to those who engage in this process is to lighten our burden so that we can turn to those around us with a generous spirit, overflowing with the love of God, and not be held back by guilt or the pride that causes us to bury our guilt.

So, let’s remember what we’re aiming for and approach this Lenten season with a sense of purpose, knowing that our courage to face down temptation can lead us back to innocence, through the mercy of God, won for us by Christ’s redemptive sacrifice.

A Saint in Schio

Feb 4, 2024

            During World War II, the industrial town of Schio in northern Italy, like other places in the country, endured bombings. This happened even after the overthrow of Mussolini due to the Nazi occupation that kept the people in peril. But in the bombings of Schio, not a single death was recorded. The townspeople credited this to Mother Josephine Bakhita of the Canossian Daughters of Charity, who was living amongst them and had already been identified by many as a saintly figure. Josephine Bakhita was canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II, and today her image hangs over the front door of the Church of the Holy Family, adjacent to the Canossian convent in Schio.

Her life of holiness began in Sudan, where she was raised in a loving family with three brothers, three sisters, and a prosperous father whose brother was the village chief. Tragically, at the age of nine years old, Josephine was abducted and sold into slavery. She suffered horrible abuse for many years, until she was sold to an Italian consular agent stationed in Africa. While this man and his family treated her in a kindlier manner, they still maintained an unjust sense of ownership over her. Nevertheless, when the family was returning to Italy, Josephine requested to go with them, so they brought her along as their servant.

In Italy, Josephine had the opportunity to learn about Jesus through the Canossian Daughters of Charity, who also lobbied for her to be granted freedom, which she won in a court case, enabling her to devote herself to learning the faith. On January 9, 1890, Josephine received baptism, confirmation, and first communion from the patriarch of Venice, who had been instrumental in helping her attain freedom. In 1902, she made her profession as a Canossian Daughter of Charity and was asked to serve in the town of Schio.

Over the next 45 years, Josephine became known for her devout prayer life and the tremendous mercy she showed to others. She contributed to her community through simple tasks of cooking and sewing, her artistry as an embroiderer, and her selfless service to the many visitors they received. As she grew older, she began to suffer physical pain and eventually had to use a wheelchair to get around, but she was known for the joy she displayed even amid her suffering. She had a great devotion to Mary, writing in her autobiography, “Mary protected me even before I knew her!” Josephine died on February 8, 1947. Just before passing, she cried out, “Our Lady, Our Lady!”

The people of Schio continue to venerate Saint Josephine Bakhita, and the Canossian Daughters of Charity maintain a permanent exhibit dedicated to her memory. She has also been designated as the patron saint of Sudan, where there has been much turmoil in recent years. Her feast day is on February 8th, which is a great time to pray for her intercession for an end to war and violence in Sudan and for the people of Schio and all those who make pilgrimages there.

The life of Saint Josephine Bakhita is a testament to God’s grace at work in the world. Through all her hardship, she did not give up, and God led her to a better place, where she could then inspire others to know they were protected even amid the horrors of war. May Saint Josephine Bakhita inspire us all to the holiness she displayed on her road to sainthood.

The Seed Planted in St. Paul’s Heart

January 21, 2024

      January 25th is the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, when we commemorate a monumental event in the life of the early Christian Church. Occurring in the years immediately following Christ’s death and resurrection, Paul’s conversion happened abruptly, but its effects have remained with us ever since, resounding throughout the centuries and speaking to humanity of the astounding power of God to intervene in our lives.

            It happened on the Road to Damascus, where Paul was on his way to capture Christians and bring them to Jerusalem for punishment. Just before entering the city to terrorize the followers of Christ, Paul was met with a flash of light and fell from his horse. Jesus then spoke to him, saying, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

            Paul was blind for three days after that miraculous encounter, until Jesus appeared in a dream to one of the Christians of Damascus telling him to go to Paul. The man went and laid his hands on Paul, who was healed in the name of Jesus. He was baptized, became part of the Christian community, and went on to become the greatest evangelist of his time.

            It’s interesting to note that Saint Stephen’s martyrdom laid the groundwork for Paul’s conversion because something happened at that event to plant a seed in Paul’s heart, a seed just waiting to grow once he discovered Christ. Paul was present at the stoning of Saint Stephen, when the great apostle gave witness to the depths of his faith by forgiving his attackers even as they put him to death. As a figure in authority, Paul may have ordered the execution or was overseeing it in some manner, and one can only imagine the lingering effect Stephen’s act of forgiveness would have had on Paul and others involved.

            Looking at these key points in time bracketing the conversion of Saint Paul—from the seed of forgiveness planted in his heart at Saint Stephen’s stoning, and culminating with the healing intervention of a follower of Christ—we see a dynamic that has played out repeatedly ever since the Holy Spirit was given to the Church after the Resurrection. This dynamic that comes to life so vividly in the story of Paul’s conversion is rooted in the reality that God desires to work through each one of us. This is why Christ came into the world, to enter the struggle of humanity in the most intimate and sacrificial way.

      In working through us, Christ calls us to witness to each other, like Saint Stephen’s witness of forgiveness. And He calls us to go to each other on healing missions in the way His follower from Damascus went to Paul. These witnesses were joined to the miraculous intervention of Christ on the Road to Damascus to help inspire Paul to spend the rest of his life providing witness to others through preaching so exquisite, it is handed down to us as part of Sacred Scripture itself.

      Paul witnessed to us in the way he lived after his conversion and right up to the way he died, following in the footsteps of Saint Stephen as a holy martyr of the Church, giving up his life to join with the other martyrs and Christ Himself in becoming the seed that produces good and lasting fruits. May Saint Paul intercede for us and inspire us daily to take up our cross and follow Christ.

The Holy Name of Jesus

January 7, 2024

            The entire month of January is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus, and we celebrated the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus on January 3rd, an optional memorial with a rich tradition of devotion. The Franciscans were the first to obtain official recognition for the feast in 1530, and the Carmelites, Augustinians, Carthusians, and Dominicans were early adopters.

            Though the feast has been widely celebrated in January, different orders chose different days for the observance. The Church eventually set the feast for January 3rd, a date that now serves as the titular feast day for the Jesuit order because the name Jesuit is a celebration of the name of Jesus. In fact, the word Jesuit originally meant someone who used the name of Jesus too frequently. It was a word invoked as a rebuke against members of the Society before they decided to embrace the title, seeing no shame in boldly proclaiming the saving power of Jesus’ name.

            In Acts of the Apostles chapter 3, we read of a crippled beggar who lay outside the temple every day. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Then we read, “Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’” Then Peter took him by the hand and raised him up, and the man walked of his own accord into the temple, where he leapt for joy.

            The Apostles knew that it was the name of Jesus through which they were able to bring healing into the world, just as countless believers throughout the centuries have invoked the name of Jesus to invite people into miraculous encounters with God so they can find healing, both physically and spiritually. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux wrote, “The name of Jesus is light, and food, and medicine. It is light, when it is preached to us; it is food, when we think upon it; it is the medicine that soothes our pains when we invoke it… For when I pronounce this name, I bring before my mind the man, who, by excellence, is meek and humble of heart, benign, sober, chaste, merciful, and filled with everything that is good and holy, nay, who is the very God almighty – whose example heals me, and whose assistance strengthens me. I say all this, when I say Jesus.”

            In every age since the Resurrection of Our Lord, those with the courage to preach the saving power of His Holy Name have been raised up, from Saint Peter to Saint Bernard to all those in our own time who share Christ’s message with others in a myriad of ways. We have a chance to be those courageous people today, pointing the way to Jesus by echoing the words of Saint Paul when, in his letter to the Philippians, he encouraged his brothers and sisters in faith to believe in the divinity of Jesus and reverence His Holy name, writing, “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Movies Show Christ’s Guiding Hand 

December 17

            The Bells of St. Mary’s and It’s a Wonderful Life are two of the great classic films to watch around Christmastime. Released in back-to-back years, The Bells of St. Mary’s in 1945 and It’s a Wonderful Life in 1946, these films have the power to evoke the hopeful outlook on life that the birth of Jesus Christ should inspire in us all. 

            The actor Henry Travers features prominently in both films. In The Bells of St. Mary’s, Travers plays Mr. Bogardus, a wealthy man told by his doctor that doing good deeds can improve his health. This sends him on a spree of generosity that results in his donation of a new building for a school run by Sister Benedict, played by Ingrid Bergman, and overseen by Father O’Malley, played by Bing Crosby.  

In It’s a Wonderful Life, Travers plays the guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, who rescues George Bailey, played by James Stewart, from jumping to his death from a bridge into a frigid stream while in a state of despair. Of course, Clarence does this by jumping into the stream himself, prompting the good-hearted George to abandon his own concerns and jump in to save him. 

A delightful take on the workings of grace in the world links both above-mentioned plot points in these Christmas classics. In The Bells of St. Mary’s, it seems entirely improbable that Mr. Bogardus will just give his building to Sister Benedict for her school. He’s a businessman wanting to make a profit on his endeavors, and that is most certainly understandable and expected. But a more important imperative presents itself, and he begins to see how his own well-being is intricately connected to his treatment of others. 

This may seem like an oversimplified turn of events resulting in a satisfying conclusion, but it reveals a profound truth about the way God speaks to our hearts through the needs of those around us. It’s a Wonderful Life reflects this same reality in that George Bailey turns from his destructive impulse on the bridge to respond to another’s need. Clarence knew he would do this because he’s George’s guardian angel and understands what a good heart he has. Clarence only needed to awaken George to a need beyond his own concern to get him to act for the greater good. 

It's inspiring to watch films like these at Christmastime because they remind us of the reality of God’s loving hand at work in the world, guiding us towards the right decisions so that we look beyond our own desires to the needs of others. This is the message at the heart of the Nativity. There was so much selflessness involved in that moment. We have Mary’s “yes” to God despite the challenges it would bring to her life. We have God’s gift of His only Son to redeem the world, and we have the submission of Christ to the will of the Father from the moment of His birth to His death on the cross. 

The Incarnation happened precisely because of our need for a redeemer, and we must reverence the Infant Christ during this time of year to awaken ourselves to this tremendous gift and prepare ourselves to answer God’s call to move beyond our own cares and concerns to attend to the needs of others. When we do this, we respond to the deepest mystery of our faith, a mystery that points to the saving power of Christ through His perfectly selfless love. 



Facing Addiction During the Christmas Season 

December 10

            People battling addiction face unique challenges during the Christmas season. Times of celebration create opportunities to share drinks with others or overindulge in food. While these things can simply be the occasional splurge for some, they can trigger bad habits for others. What’s more, our culture has attached high expectations to our way of life during this time of year, and this has the tendency to raise stress levels, which in turn can exacerbate addictive behaviors.  

Achieving the joy that we all strive for at Christmastime can be easier said than done for those carrying heavy burdens. However, when we approach the season with a willingness to address difficulties, we create tremendous opportunities for healing and for growing in our understanding of the meaning of the Incarnation. 

The birth of Christ is all about working through our difficulties because God gave His only Son to redeem us from our fallen nature and offer us the opportunity for eternal life. So, the best way to honor Christ is to become fully engaged in the gift at the heart of Christmas. 

Many have found that the most important first step in overcoming an addiction is the recognition that it can’t be done alone. Healing from destructive impulses requires surrender to God and a plea for help in overcoming that which can’t be overcome on one’s own, and here is where those fighting addiction have something to teach us all, because this is a universal truth regarding our fallen nature. We can’t overcome it on our own. We need Christ. That’s why God sent Christ into the world, and it’s this miraculous saving grace that we celebrate at Christmas.  

The life of Venerable Matthew Talbot, now considered a patron for people struggling with addiction, provides a beautiful example of the fruits that spring up for those who surrender their lives and their struggles to God. Talbot became an alcoholic in his early teens but took the pledge of abstinence when he was 28 and lived for another 40 years devoted to Christ and our Blessed Mother. Though he remained poor throughout his life, Talbot was known for his generosity to others and his outreach to those in need. He died on June 7, 1925, in Dublin, Ireland, the same city where he was born and where he lived and worked as a humble laborer his entire life while witnessing his special devotion to Mary.  

Let’s never forget the powerful intercession our Blessed Mother can provide to all who turn to her loving arms. In our weakness, she cradles us just as she did with the Infant Jesus when He was at His most vulnerable in the Nativity at Bethlehem. So, let’s pray for Mary’s intercession for all those struggling with addictions and vulnerabilities of all kinds during this Advent season.  

And let us also pray for the intercession of Venerable Matthew Talbot, who once said of his own experience with addiction, “It’s as hard to give up the drink as it is to raise the dead to life again. But both are possible and even easy for Our Lord. We have only to depend on Him.” 

This is the profound message that awaits all who have the courage to look deep into the mystery of the Incarnation, that God sent His Son to us to experience the vulnerabilities of humanity in order to join us in our suffering, to help us carry our burdens, and to lead us beyond those burdens to eternal life. 

November 26

The Gift of the Eucharist

We are in the midst of a National Eucharistic Revival, which began on June 19, 2022, the Feast of Corpus Christi, and will culminate with our nation’s first National Eucharistic Congress in nearly 40 years taking place in Indianapolis, Indiana, from July 17 to 21, 2024. All Catholics should look to take part in some way in this beautiful celebration as we join in honoring Christ’s great gift of the Eucharist to the Church, giving thanks for the gentle way it enables us to grow closer to His loving heart.  

            In his address to young people in Bologna, Italy, in 1997, John Paul II said, “The Eucharist is the secret of my day. It gives strength and meaning to all my activities of service to the Church and to the whole world…Let Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament speak to your hearts. It is He who is the true answer of life that you seek. He stays here with us: He is God with us. Seek Him without tiring, welcome Him without reserve, love Him without interruption: today, tomorrow, forever!” 

            These words exemplify the fire of love the Eucharist can kindle in our hearts when we open ourselves to its transformative power. We see this fire in all the great saints throughout history, as well as in the many humble and faithful Catholics in the world today, people who treasure every opportunity to draw close to Christ in the Eucharist. It is always amazing to see the solace that reception of the Eucharist can bring to people of faith when they are facing the most trying situations in life. This is truly one of the great proofs of the power of this Sacrament. History is filled with stories of Eucharistic miracles, but we are also called to see the spiritual miracles at work in the Eucharist on a daily basis.  

            In the Gospel of John, we read about how Christ responded to Thomas’ doubts about the Resurrection by allowing him to see and touch the wounds of the Crucifixion. But then Jesus says to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” We see here that, although Christ does provide amazing proofs of the miraculous in the Gospels and throughout history, He prizes the faith of those who believe without experiencing such occurrences. Perhaps this is why the most important gift He left to the world manifests itself in a way that engages our faith rather than simply revealing its miraculous nature in a visible way at every sacrifice of the Mass.    

            In establishing the Eucharist, Christ called us to exercise our faith in His power to perform miracles even when we don’t clearly see how this is happening. The Eucharist is the starting point for understanding His hand at work in the world. Christ has made it clear to us that the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass entails a miraculous transformation of bread and wine into His body and blood, but believing in this relies on our faith.  

So, we are left with the question Christ posed to His disciples after He first presented this profound mystery that would take place in the Eucharist. Some followers recoiled at that point, and Christ turned to the disciples and asked, “Will you also go away?”  

            To this question, we must always be prepared to join with Simon Peter in answering, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”  

November 12, 2023

The Mission of Mother Cabrini 

            On November 13th, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. Many people know her simply as Mother Cabrini, and her story exemplifies how perseverance and faith can produce the most amazing fruits.  

            Born in 1850 in the region now known as Lombardy, Italy, she grew up in a farming family in which only four of thirteen children survived beyond adolescence. Her survival amid such a difficult life seems like a miracle given that she was born two months prematurely and was known to have a delicate constitution throughout her life.  

            But it’s clear that God had a plan for young Cabrini and that her strength of spirit made up for whatever she lacked physically. When she was a child, it is said that she would make little boats out of paper and place flowers in them. She would call those flowers “missionaries” and launch the boats into a canal with a swift current, sending them off to far flung places of the world to share the faith. 

            This story demonstrates the dream she had of becoming a missionary, and in 1870, she asked to join the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, who had been her teachers and inspired her to pursue religious life. But the Daughters of the Sacred Heart deemed her too frail to join their order, so she pursued a different path into religious life, one that initially did not afford her the opportunity to become a missionary.  

But Mother Cabrini did not give up on her dream. We see from her life story that sometimes God denies a person one path to lead them in another direction and to a more important mission. So, in 1880, ten years after being denied entry into the order of her choosing, she joined with seven other women religious to found the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She wrote the Rule and Constitutions and served as the order’s superior general for her entire life. In their first five years, they started seven homes for orphans, along with a free school and nursery. They also pursued endeavors to help fund their charities, such as opening a day school, offering classes in needlework, and selling embroidery.  

The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus became so prolific that they gained the attention of Pope Leo XIII. Never one to let an opportunity pass her by, Mother Cabrini seized upon this attention from the Pope to petition for the opportunity to establish missions in China. But the Pope famously said to her, “Not to the East, but to the West,” deciding to send her order to the United States, where many Italian immigrants were arriving by the day, often in states of extreme poverty.  

This is how Mother Cabrini’s mission to our country was born. She has left an amazing mark in so many places where her order established schools, hospitals, orphanages, and played an important role in serving those on the margins of society. She died in 1917, and when she was canonized in 1946, 120,000 people packed into Chicago’s Soldier Field for a Mass of Thanksgiving.  

Mother Cabrini’s life exemplifies how God can work through a person of good will and lead them to accomplish more than they ever dreamed. Let’s pray for her intercession so that God might guide each of us in our efforts to bring good into the world, and may those efforts be blessed and lead to even greater things than we dreamed.     


The Purpose of Angels 


            October 2nd is the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels. The Church’s teaching that each person has a guardian angel is rooted in Sacred Scripture and in the words of Christ, when He said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10) 

            Angels have a three-fold purpose: to praise God, to act as His messengers, and to watch over human beings. In many instances throughout Scripture, we see angels referenced in relation to these important functions. For instance, Psalm 103 states, “Bless the Lord, O you His angels, you mighty ones who do His word, hearkening to the voice of His word!” So we see here how important the role of praise is for angels, and we should remember, when we praise God, we are joined in an integral way to the function of our guardian angel. That should give us confidence that we are never alone in prayer. Our guardian angel is always there, amplifying our praise of God. 

            In Exodus 23, God says, “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice….” In these words, we see the function of angels as both guide and protector established clearly by God. So angels are messengers entrusted to share the wisdom of God with us, and they are protectors, guarding us amid the challenges of life.  

            Stories abound about saints and their awareness of and interaction with their guardian angels and even the guardian angels of others. Saint Padre Pio was known to communicate with the guardian angels of those who needed his help. Saint Veronica of Binasco and Saint Gemma Galgani both saw their own guardian angels regularly and were constantly aware of their presence. Saint Catherine of Laboure was once awakened by her guardian angel and led to a chapel to converse with our Blessed Mother. 

            Christ’s reference to guardian angels in relation to children demonstrates the care God has even for the littlest among us. This is also a reminder that our guardian angels are with us at every moment of our lives, especially at our weakest and most vulnerable points.  

            Saint Basil the Great wrote, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that from the very beginning of our lives until death we are surrounded by our angels’ “watchful care and intercession.” And the Catechism concludes, “Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God” (CCC 336). 

            In Matthew 26, Christ mentions “legions of angels,” so we know that there are multitudes of angels, and it stands to reason that God, in His infinite care for humanity, would assign these heavenly beings to watch over us. Resting in the assuredness that we each have a guardian angel strengthens our faith in God and guides us to have greater confidence in all situations in life. So, let us cultivate a greater awareness of this heavenly protection that has been bestowed upon us, heeding the guidance of these great messengers, recalling their presence when we praise God, and walking in the path of peace and safety they lay before us.   

Becoming a Wounded Healer


            Twentieth century Dutch Catholic priest, professor, and theologian Henri Nouwen wrote, “Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’” 

            These words reveal what it means to follow in the footsteps of Christ, who, through His redemptive sacrifice, meets each of us in our suffering. When we join our struggle to His suffering on the cross, we allow Him to help us carry our burden and offer up to God all we are left to bear for the good of others. 

            Becoming a Wounded Healer is a Christopher News Note that explores the stories of those who have learned how to move beyond tragedy so they can shower blessings on those around them, such as U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills. After an I.E.D. explosion took parts of both of his arms and both of his legs, he was left with difficulty functioning and struggling with anger towards God.             

           Worried he would become a burden to his wife and their baby daughter, he found relief in the prosthetics that allowed him to function, and a revolutionary treatment helped ease his pain. Soon, he turned his sights to serving others and founded the Travis Mills Foundation, which helps wounded warriors and their families realize their full potential.  

            In a Christopher Closeup interview about his award-winning book Tough as They Come, Travis said, “I realized it’s not okay to just be a believer when things are going your way…As much as I was upset about the situation, God had a plan for me to keep going forward.” 

            Sister Ave Clark of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville, NY, was a healer before she became a wounded healer. The founder of Heart to Heart Ministry, she offers pastoral counseling to parents who have lost a child due to miscarriage, those with post-traumatic stress, victims of crime, survivors of suicide, survivors of abuse, post-abortive women, those dealing with depression and grief, and many others. But when a 120-ton runaway train slammed into her car while she was driving in Queens, Sister Ave was hospitalized for close to a year, undergoing intense physical therapy to be able to walk again. In a Christopher Closeup interview about her book Heart of Courage, Sister Ave recalls feeling sorry for herself for the first few days in the hospital, asking, “Why, God?” But then she began to ask a different question: “God, what am I going to do now?”   

            She soon found her answer in the people who came to visit her while she was waiting for therapy, waiting for lunch, or waiting for dinner. Many people began to seek her out for conversations, and rather than traveling to churches to give retreats, she was bringing healing to those in her midst. She realized, “This is where God wants me. So, there was a struggle, yes, but I think that’s part of life, too. Struggles make us stronger, sometimes in broken places.” 

            We find strength “in broken places” because Christ meets us there, guiding us to join Him in redemptive suffering. So, let’s never be afraid to pick up our cross because that’s where we find Christ, where we learn to love like Him, and where He leads us to the hope of the Resurrection.  

The Faith of a Child 

September 3, 2023

            One of the great joys of working with The Christophers is hearing from people from all walks of life who share their stories of faith. For instance, we recently heard from a man who has been a Christopher since he read one of our News Notes as a young man and was touched by its message. Now in his mid-70s and a widower, he shared a beautiful story about his grandson that reminds us that God works in amazing and unexpected ways.  

            After his wife passed away, this man’s six-year-old grandson came to him and asked if all his grandparents were going to die. At this point, the man asked his daughter if he could bring the boy to a faith formation group at the Catholic church to comfort him. The man’s daughter had married a good man, but one who wasn’t Catholic and so they weren’t practicing the faith. Nevertheless, she agreed to her father’s request to help her son find answers to his questions and cope with his emotions. 

            After only a few visits to the faith formation group, the man’s grandson asked to be baptized and brought to Mass on Sundays. The child’s faith moved his mother to return to church as well. The boy has even convinced his father to make sacrifices during Lent as a way to test the waters of the faith. Now eight years old, the boy has confided in his grandfather that he wishes to attend a Catholic college so he can learn more about God every day and not just on Sundays. He even started saving money to pay for it himself. 

            We can only imagine the joy our longtime Christopher supporter must have experienced in seeing his family draw closer to Christ through the faith of his beloved grandchild, and it goes to show that we never can predict what God has in store for us and for those we love. In grieving the loss of his grandmother, the child was awakened to a need that could only be answered in Christ. The child’s grandfather, who had been left alone after losing his wife, was called upon to lead his grandson in the direction that only he could. In essence, he was able to find purpose, even amid the pain of his loss. 

            This is so often how God works. He brings us together in our pain to discover one another’s needs and to respond to those needs in a way that draws all involved closer to Christ. Mother Theresa once said, “Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.” 

            These profound words remind us that Christ will always meet us in our suffering. We must also remember that He will transform our suffering to joy. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” So, we must always be prepared to discover the purpose God has in store for us, even amid life’s trials. 

            Faith enabled the man in our story to see that purpose and turn from his own sorrow to ease the sorrow of his grandson. What an amazing reward he discovered in seeing a child touched by the light of faith and sharing the message of Christ with their entire family.  

Finding God in Nature

August 13            

Summer is a great time to enjoy nature, and there are many saints and people who have lived holy lives whose devotion to the outdoors can inspire us to venture into God’s creation. St. Francis of Assisi, St. Pope John Paul II, and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati were all known for the spiritual strength they drew from time spent hiking in the mountains, and they follow in a long tradition that dates back to the Old Testament, when prophets would go into the wilderness to pray to God.   

            St. Francis of Assisi is one of the first figures who comes to mind when considering the relationship between spirituality and a love of nature. He spent much of his time praying outdoors, walking in the wilderness, hiking up mountains, sleeping in caves, and living in hermitages. He grew so close to nature that he came to realize a kinship with all living things. 

            The Christophers have a News Note entitled God’s Good Earth in which St. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “We need to find God and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” 

            Many holy people have drawn closer to God through time spent in nature. St. Pope John Paul II was known for making spiritual retreats into the mountains as a young man, and he continued that practice even as pope. In his book, Pope Wojtyla and the General, General Enrico Marinelli, who provided security for 15 years for John Paul II’s travels in Italy, writes, “When the Holy Father told his entourage that he wanted to spend a few hours, sometimes a few days, outside the Vatican, he always surprised those who naturally thought of Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence: for John Paul II, ‘outside the Vatican’ meant going to a wild, remote and isolated place.”  

            Marinelli recalls that on Tuesdays the Pope would have a free day when he would often venture into the mountains of Italy in the same way he had done in Poland as a younger man. Of these excursions, Marinelli writes, “Pope John Paul II used to say that every climb that involves difficulties and fatigue is rewarded by the possibility of touching and experiencing God.” 

            Mountain climbing was also a favorite activity of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who died in 1925 at the age of 24 from an illness he contracted while tending to the sick. He influenced many Catholics who followed in his footsteps through his dedication to those in need and robust defense of the faith. Frassati was also known for organizing outings into the mountains that served as opportunities to share his faith with his friends, who he would lead to Mass as well as pray the rosary and read Scripture with.  

            There are many ways in which we can commune with God in nature. For those who can climb mountains, hiking is certainly an excellent activity. But finding a simple place to walk in nature is a great way to immerse ourselves in the beauty of God’s creation. And while these can be solitary and prayerful activities, let’s also remember to spend time sharing these experiences with others, so we can demonstrate how the beauty of the natural world reflects the glory of God.  

Increasing Our Faith in Christ’s Divinity 

August 6, 2023

            Our Sunday Gospel readings throughout this month of August are taken from the Book of Matthew and feature a succession of stories that reveal the divinity of Christ and the power of faith in the lives of His followers. These readings begin with the Transfiguration on August 6th and culminate on August 27th with Christ declaring Peter the Rock upon which He would build His Church.  

            In between these two monumental moments, we have the reading on August 13th in which Christ walks on water—and August 20th presents the Gospel where Christ answers the prayers of a Canaanite woman imploring Him to heal her daughter. In that scene, Jesus at first refuses the woman’s request, declaring, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she persists in her supplications and finally He relents, saying, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”  

            This beautiful scene demonstrates how Jesus wants us to follow in His footsteps by persevering in faith amid the trials of life. The importance of faith is a recurring theme throughout August’s Gospel readings. When Jesus walks on water, Peter’s faith prompts him to join in this miraculous feat by first asking Jesus to summon him and then walking out onto the water with Him. It is only when Peter’s faith falters that he begins to sink.  

Peter’s faith is also at the center of the scene in which Christ declares him to be the Rock. After asking the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” it is Simon Peter who speaks up, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is at this point Jesus says, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” 

           We see here that Christ founded His church on a man with faith in His divinity, and it is this kind of faith that we are all called to cultivate within our hearts. Peter’s faith was not perfect, and we see it falter at times, such as when he joins Christ in walking on water but then begins to sink. But even in this moment when Peter’s faith falters, Jesus takes his hand and lifts him up. So, our faith in Christ’s divinity must also assure us that He will rescue us when we falter. 

           Christ’s divinity is made plain for all to see throughout the Gospels and in the entirety of the message of salvation. The Transfiguration is an important scene that helps to reveal this reality. What a beautiful thing it must have been to witness for Peter, James, and John, who were present for this miraculous event when Christ’s “face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light,” and Moses and Elijah appeared beside Him, and the voice of God declared from the heavens, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” 

           These words of God—heard by Peter, James, and John and passed down to us in the Gospels—should seem as relevant to us today as though we had been standing there when they were spoken. Responding to this call, let us challenge ourselves to believe more fully in the divinity of Christ, because it is in that belief that we will find the faith to take up our cross and follow Him. 

The Courage of the Early Christians 

July 30

            We conclude this month with the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29th—and the Feast of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome on June 30th, two remembrances that take us back to the days of the early Church, when our faith was in its infancy and those preaching and converting to Christianity faced extreme persecution.  

            Saints Peter and Paul were among the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome, and their leadership galvanized the early Christians to remain true to their faith even in the face of death. It was a terrifying time for the followers of Christ as Nero was trying to obfuscate his own inept governance by unjustly blaming a devastating fire in the city on the Christian community. 

            A few decades after their deaths, Clement of Rome sent a letter about Saints Peter and Paul to the Church in Corinth, writing: “Peter, who because of unrighteous jealousy endured not one or two, but numerous trials, and so bore a martyr’s witness and went to the glorious place that he deserved…. Paul pointed the way to the reward of endurance; seven times he was imprisoned, he was exiled, he was stoned, he was a preacher in both east and west, and won renown for his faith, teaching uprightness to the whole world….” 

            It is fitting that the Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul and of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome coincide with each other because the heroism of Peter and Paul exemplifies the courage of so many Christians whose names are lost to history but who gave up their lives for their love of Christ.  

The stories of Peter and Paul are also representative of the early Christian community in ways that remain relevant today and teach lasting lessons about how to follow Christ in our own lives.  

When Simon Peter first met Jesus and saw his nets miraculously filled with more fish than his boat could hold, he fell to his knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Yet Christ called Peter and later declared him “the rock” upon which He would build His Church. What an amazing title to place upon an ordinary “sinful man,” and we know that, despite Christ’s declaration about Peter being “the rock,” he failed in such a dramatic way through his three famous denials during the Passion. But that was not the end for Peter, and that kind of failure is never the end for those with the courage to admit their faults and allow themselves to be redeemed by the love of God.  

            Paul was so corrupt that he persecuted Christians and even put them to death. Yet Christ called Paul to repent of his evil ways, and he went on to become one of the great evangelists of the early Church. The amazing redemptions experienced by both Peter and Paul exemplify the astounding grace at work in the lives of all those early Christians who faced martyrdom with the fervent faith that death was not the end. 

            Let’s pray for the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul and those First Martyrs of the Church of Rome so that we may always know that failure, sin, and even death do not define us when we accept God’s mercy and set our eyes upon the redemption won by Christ’s sacrifice for us all.  


July 2, 2023

On July 6, we celebrate the Feast of St. Maria Goretti, who died on that date in 1902 at age 11 after suffering a brutal attack by 20-year-old Alessandro Serenelli. On her deathbed, Maria forgave Alessandro, an act that inspired him to convert while he was in prison for his crime, setting him on a course of penance and service to God for the rest of his life. 

The Gorettis and Serenellis were sharecroppers living in the same house in the Italian countryside outside of Rome. Alessandro betrayed the trust that existed between their families by trying to rape Maria. When she resisted, he stabbed her multiple times in a fit of rage. Their parents returned home to find the horrible crime that had occurred, and Maria was rushed to the nearest hospital in the town of Nettuno. She died a day later after having declared her forgiveness for Alessandro and her desire for him to be with her in heaven.  

Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He spent the first three years of his sentence unrepentant, but then he began to correspond with Monsignor Giovanni Blandini, a local priest who visited him in jail. Alessandro informed Monsignor Blandini that Maria had appeared to him in a dream in which she gave him lilies that burned to ash in his hands.     

Upon being released from prison, Alessandro went to Maria’s still-living mother and begged her forgiveness, which she granted, saying that if Maria could forgive him, she could do no less. The next day, they attended Mass together and received Holy Communion side by side.  Alessandro went on to become a lay Capuchin Brother of the Order of Friars Minor. He lived in a monastery and worked as a receptionist and gardener until his death in 1970 at the age of 87. 

It seems clear that Alessandro’s path to God was only made possible by Maria’s forgiveness, which revealed to him the immense mercy of God. His dream of her giving him lilies seems to represent his realization of the profound gift of her mercy. And when they turned to ash, it seems he was realizing the state of his own soul and his need for repentance.  

Maria’s gift of mercy Maria reveals the mercy that we must all continually seek to reveal to the world. Christ demonstrated this mercy for us in His prayer from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” It is not about ignoring the reality of evil, but rather about mercy for those caught up in evil. Christ shows us that mercy is sometimes the only way to rescue those who have gone astray.  

And we know what Christ says about those who have gone astray. He says, “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?”  

In forgiving Alessandro from her deathbed, Maria followed in the footsteps of Christ on the cross and helped Alessandro find his way to God. By showing him mercy, she was being like Christ, the good shepherd, who goes after the sheep that has been lost. This is the kind of love we must have for all people despite the wrong they may do. We must be constantly looking for ways to show them Christ’s mercy to inspire a change of heart and call them home to God.

The Courage of the Early Christians

June 25

            We conclude this month with the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29th - and the Feast of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome on June 30th, two remembrances that take us back to the days of the early Church, when our faith was in its infancy and those preaching and converting to Christianity faced extreme persecution.  

            Saints Peter and Paul were among the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome, and their leadership galvanized the early Christians to remain true to their faith even in the face of death. It was a terrifying time for the followers of Christ as Nero was trying to obfuscate his own inept governance by unjustly blaming a devastating fire in the city on the Christian community. 

            A few decades after their deaths, Clement of Rome sent a letter about Saints Peter and Paul to the Church in Corinth, writing: “Peter, who because of unrighteous jealousy endured not one or two, but numerous trials, and so bore a martyr’s witness and went to the glorious place that he deserved…. Paul pointed the way to the reward of endurance; seven times he was imprisoned, he was exiled, he was stoned, he was a preacher in both east and west, and won renown for his faith, teaching uprightness to the whole world….” 

            It is fitting that the Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul and of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome coincide with each other because the heroism of Peter and Paul exemplifies the courage of so many Christians whose names are lost to history but who gave up their lives for their love of Christ.  

The stories of Peter and Paul are also representative of the early Christian community in ways that remain relevant today and teach lasting lessons about how to follow Christ in our own lives.  

When Simon Peter first met Jesus and saw his nets miraculously filled with more fish than his boat could hold, he fell to his knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Yet Christ called Peter and later declared him “the rock” upon which He would build His Church. What an amazing title to place upon an ordinary “sinful man,” and we know that, despite Christ’s declaration about Peter being “the rock,” he failed in such a dramatic way through his three famous denials during the Passion. But that was not the end for Peter, and that kind of failure is never the end for those with the courage to admit their faults and allow themselves to be redeemed by the love of God.  

            Paul was so corrupt that he persecuted Christians and even put them to death. Yet Christ called Paul to repent of his evil ways, and he went on to become one of the great evangelists of the early Church. The amazing redemptions experienced by both Peter and Paul exemplify the astounding grace at work in the lives of all those early Christians who faced martyrdom with the fervent faith that death was not the end. 

            Let’s pray for the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul and those First Martyrs of the Church of Rome so that we may always know that failure, sin, and even death do not define us when we accept God’s mercy and set our eyes upon the redemption won by Christ’s sacrifice for us all.   

Feast Days Highlight Mysteries of Faith 

June 4

            The first two Sundays of this month of June provide opportunities for the contemplation of two profound mysteries of our faith. First is Trinity Sunday, when we reflect upon the triune nature of God. That is followed by the Feast of Corpus Christi, honoring the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Following on the heels of Pentecost, which marks the conclusion of the Easter season, these theologically important feast days highlight the full magnitude of the faith Christ gave His disciples to establish the Church.  

            Early in the Gospel of Matthew, we begin to glimpse the theology of the Trinity when Christ submits to baptism, declaring, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then we read: “And when Jesus had been baptized, just as He came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”  

            In this beautiful scene at the Jordan River, the Trinity is revealed as a loving relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a scene that sheds light on the meaning of baptism, when the Holy Spirit is poured out upon us, echoing this moment in Christ’s life and the moment at Pentecost when the Spirit was sent to guide the Church. 

Describing the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John, Christ says, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  

This description of the unseen hand of God at work in the world is the great gift of the third person of the Trinity that enters our lives at baptism and has been guiding the Church ever since that first Pentecost.  

The Eucharist works in a similarly mysterious way and is a miraculous gift the early disciples shared with the world. It’s a gift that has been carried forth in a procession of faith ever since – at once tangible but also demanding of belief in the real presence in order to engage with the fullness of its meaning. 

In John’s Gospel, after Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, a crowd sought Him out; and He said to them, “You are looking for Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life….” 

This is one of the many Bible passages that prefigure Christ’s institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, and it illustrates the nature of this healing sacrament, which draws us into a loving relationship with the three persons of the Trinity so that the Holy Spirit can inspire us to speak God’s word and do His will.  

This astounding invitation to draw so close to God that He dwells within us remains ever new, enlivening the hearts of all who enter into the deepest mysteries upon which our faith is founded. Let’s resolve to highlight this life-giving invitation in our efforts to share the faith with the world today, so that all who are willing can have the opportunity to respond to the workings of the Holy Spirit and allow Christ to enter their hearts.  


The Courage of the Early Christians 

May 28, 2023

            We conclude this month with the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29th—and the Feast of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome on June 30th, two remembrances that take us back to the days of the early Church, when our faith was in its infancy and those preaching and converting to Christianity faced extreme persecution.  

            Saints Peter and Paul were among the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome, and their leadership galvanized the early Christians to remain true to their faith even in the face of death. It was a terrifying time for the followers of Christ as Nero was trying to obfuscate his own inept governance by unjustly blaming a devastating fire in the city on the Christian community. 

            A few decades after their deaths, Clement of Rome sent a letter about Saints Peter and Paul to the Church in Corinth, writing: “Peter, who because of unrighteous jealousy endured not one or two, but numerous trials, and so bore a martyr’s witness and went to the glorious place that he deserved…. Paul pointed the way to the reward of endurance; seven times he was imprisoned, he was exiled, he was stoned, he was a preacher in both east and west, and won renown for his faith, teaching uprightness to the whole world….” 

            It is fitting that the Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul and of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome coincide with each other because the heroism of Peter and Paul exemplifies the courage of so many Christians whose names are lost to history but who gave up their lives for their love of Christ.  

The stories of Peter and Paul are also representative of the early Christian community in ways that remain relevant today and teach lasting lessons about how to follow Christ in our own lives.  

When Simon Peter first met Jesus and saw his nets miraculously filled with more fish than his boat could hold, he fell to his knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Yet Christ called Peter and later declared him “the rock” upon which He would build His Church. What an amazing title to place upon an ordinary “sinful man,” and we know that, despite Christ’s declaration about Peter being “the rock,” he failed in such a dramatic way through his three famous denials during the Passion. But that was not the end for Peter, and that kind of failure is never the end for those with the courage to admit their faults and allow themselves to be redeemed by the love of God.  

            Paul was so corrupt that he persecuted Christians and even put them to death. Yet Christ called Paul to repent of his evil ways, and he went on to become one of the great evangelists of the early Church. The amazing redemptions experienced by both Peter and Paul exemplify the astounding grace at work in the lives of all those early Christians who faced martyrdom with the fervent faith that death was not the end. 

            Let’s pray for the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul and those First Martyrs of the Church of Rome so that we may always know that failure, sin, and even death do not define us when we accept God’s mercy and set our eyes upon the redemption won by Christ’s sacrifice for us all.   

In the Footsteps of Mary 

May 14, 2023

            This year, Mother’s Day falls on Sunday, May 14, just one day after the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Together, these two days make up a special weekend in this month already dedicated to our Blessed Mother. It is fitting that our celebrations of motherhood and Mary coincide because she is the guardian of mothers in this world. Mary is the model for motherhood in both joy and sorrow, and she shows the way of mercy at all times. 

            The story of Mary standing at the foot of the cross resonates with mothers in their deepest moments of suffering. When Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, behold, your son!” He was entrusting her to the care of John. He followed that by saying to John, “Behold, your mother!” So, He was entrusting John to her care as well, and by extension, He was entrusting us all to Mary’s care. 

            The numerous and well-documented Marian apparitions that have occurred over the years confirm Mary’s role as mother to us all and her profound connection to God. Credible Marian apparitions have occurred in many cultures at important moments in history, and the apparitions at Fatima remain among the most astounding.  

Mary’s final apparition at Fatima made international news, and it was reported that somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 people made pilgrimages to the Cova da Iria, a field where Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto pastured their families’ sheep. There, the pilgrims witnessed Mary’s promised sign as the sun broke through dark rain clouds and defied the laws of physics, dancing in the sky and, at one point, appearing to fall to earth before finally returning to its normal position, leaving the ground the people were standing on and their previously wet clothes completely dry.  

           In her appearances to Lucia, Francesco, and Jacinta, Mary asked for prayers, reparations, and devotion to her Immaculate Heart, and she made statements about war and peace that proved prophetic throughout the 20th century. At every turn, her intervention at Fatima was marked by a profound care for humanity and the hope that we would follow Christ and discover the Mercy of God. 

           Mary’s role as the mother of Jesus is the lens through which to understand why she is such a powerful intercessor for us. Consider the story of the Wedding at Cana, when Jesus turned water into wine at His mother’s request. Midway through the gathering, she said to Him, “They have no wine,” and Jesus answered, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” At this point, Mary turned to the servants and said, “Do whatever He tells you.” 

           What amazing confidence Mary had that Jesus would do as she asked even after He expressed displeasure at the request. This is the type of confidence we should have in asking for Mary’s intercession because she will always bring our needs to the foot of the cross where all good things have been made possible in Christ. 

           In His actions at the Wedding at Cana, Jesus demonstrates the tremendous loyalty and respect we all owe to our mothers, who walk in the footsteps of Mary in the countless selfless acts they perform on our behalf. We should turn to the intercession of Mary to ask Christ to bless us with the same devotion to our mothers that He showed to His, so we can honor them this Mother’s Day and throughout our lives.    

To Kindle the Fire of Faith 

May 7, 2023

            We continue to celebrate Eastertide throughout most of this month of May. This period of time that began with the Resurrection and lasts until Pentecost can be transformative when we allow ourselves to enter deeply into its meaning for us on a personal level—and for our Church as a whole. We know that Jesus walked among the Apostles after the Resurrection, and it seems He made a point of interacting with them in ways that met their own specific needs of faith, such as answering Thomas’ doubts when He appeared to him and said, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless, but believing.”  

            Just after this account in John’s gospel, we read, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book,” so we know that other special moments occurred during that first Eastertide. We are also given a picture of a larger purpose at work in these beautiful interactions, a purpose revealed in what has come to be known as the Great Commission, when Christ said to the disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” 

            In these varied encounters that Christ had with the disciples after His Resurrection, we see a reflection of how He speaks to each one of us today. His interaction with Thomas demonstrates that Christ will always justify our faith. All we need to do is have the courage to continue our walk towards Him, and we will constantly be invited into a deeper understanding of God’s miraculous hand at work in the world.  

            And the Great Commission shows us that there is always a larger purpose beyond ourselves. Those who have faith within their hearts have been blessed abundantly by Christ, and part of that blessing we receive is the commission to reach out to others to kindle the fire of faith in the world.  

            Christ’s Ascension into heaven marks a high point of joy because it revealed to the Apostles the fullness of God’s plan for humanity. Up until that point, they had been experiencing fear over how the authorities would react to news of Christ’s Resurrection. The Ascension showed them that Christ had not only conquered death but had created a path for us all to enter heaven. It was a moment when the theology of the afterlife was manifested as an undeniable reality, and fear could no longer overcome their joy.  

            In the book of Luke, we read that, after the Ascension, the Apostles “worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” Several days later, the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost just as Christ had promised. It was at this point their lives turned completely outward to evangelize the world.  

            The historical reality of the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the miraculous occurrences at Pentecost are certainly confirmed by the fearlessness with which the Apostles proclaimed these things after being empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so. And this is the fearlessness we are all called to in our daily lives. We are called to let go of ourselves and take the blessings God has bestowed on us to serve others. When we do this, we walk in the footsteps of Christ and the Apostles, and we can overcome all fears with the joy that is in our hearts.    

St. Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue with God 

            On April 29th, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church who led a profoundly influential life in 14th century Italy. Catherine felt called to religious life at an early age, but rather than entering a convent, she joined the Third Order of Saint Dominic, a lay religious association, and lived at home serving her parents and many brothers and sisters.  

            Catherine had mystical experiences that inspired her devotion to God and her care for the poor and sick. Her service to those in need drew others who felt a similar calling to join in her efforts, enabling those efforts to flourish and for her to become a well-respected figure in society. Catherine leveraged her growing renown to influence the contentious politics of her day, at one point facilitating a return of the last Avignon Pope to Rome and lobbying the Italian City-States to remain loyal to the Pope during the time of the Great Schism of the West.  

            The “Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena” remains one of the towering achievements of Italian Literature. She dictated this conversation with God while in a state of ecstasy, and it provides insights that have inspired people of faith ever since. One of the recurring messages in her Dialogue is God’s call for us to love our neighbor. “There cannot be love for Me without love for neighbor,” Catherine is told by God in her Dialogue. “It cannot be otherwise, because love of Me and of her neighbor are one and the same thing…This is the means which I have given you, that you may exercise and prove your virtue therewith…This proves that you possess Me by grace in your soul, producing much fruit for your neighbor and making prayers to Me, seeking with sweet and amorous desire My honor and the salvation of souls.” 

We see in this Dialogue the echoes of God’s age-old call dating back to the Ten Commandments to love our neighbors as ourselves. This call was renewed by Christ when He was asked about the greatest commandment and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  

At the outset of her Dialogue, Catherine declares, “The soul is in God and God in the soul, just as the fish is in the sea and the sea in the fish.” What an amazing line that sheds light on the meaning of Christ’s statement about the closeness of love of neighbor and love of God. Put plainly, the more compassion we show to our neighbor, the more we honor God.  

This is the simple yet profound wisdom infused in Catherine’s entire Dialogue. It’s a wisdom that touched her heart from an early age and led her to reverence God through service to those in need. And from those humble beginnings, she rose to be respected by the rulers of her time and influenced the Church at a pivotal point in history.  

Let’s pray today for the intercession of Saint Catherine of Siena so that a new generation can set about the humble task of service to others and inspire those in the Church to a greater spirit of unity so we can all in turn influence the world for the greater good.    

The Message of the Resurrection 

Sunday April 9, 2023

            Have you ever wondered what it was like for the Apostles and followers of Christ during the period of time we now call Eastertide, which begins with the Resurrection and concludes with Pentecost? First, they were struck by the most astounding event in human history in discovering that Christ had risen from the dead. It must have been such an extremely jubilant time, yet they were also left with the traumatizing memory of the Crucifixion and the fear of what might be done to them as news of the Resurrection spread and panic set in among those who wanted that news silenced. 

            Amid this mix of jubilation and fear was a lingering question about what they should do, and that question would not be fully answered until Pentecost, when they were commissioned by God to evangelize the world. The roller coaster of emotions the Apostles and followers of Christ must have experienced during that time is probably something most of us can relate to as we attempt to walk in their footsteps today. 

            One of the most beautiful moments that occurred after the Resurrection was when Jesus appeared to the Apostles on a beach at the Sea of Galilee. The scene points to answers for questions we all have amid our own mix of emotions over the triumphs, failures, and fears that life throws our way. The Apostles had been fishing all night and caught nothing until daybreak, when a man called to them from the beach telling them to cast their net to the other side of the boat, at which point they caught so many fish they couldn’t haul it all in. Upon realizing the man on the beach was Jesus, Peter jumped out of the boat to hurry towards Him. 

            Imagine the emotions Peter must have had rushing out of the water towards Christ on that beach. It must have been a bittersweet moment of joy mixed with the sorrow he probably still carried over his three denials before the Crucifixion. Later, walking along the beach together, Christ asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time, Peter answers that he does, until finally saying the third time, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” 

            We’re told that Peter felt hurt to be asked a third time, and maybe that was partly because it reminded him of his previous denials. But it seems Jesus was also providing him with an opportunity to understand the Redemption. Perhaps this was even Jesus’ way of emphasizing for Peter that He knows he loves Him despite those previous denials because He gives him the chance to answer “yes” three times, almost as though to wash away the mistakes of the past. That conversation must have lingered with Peter as a stark reminder of the love of God and the confidence we must have that opportunities will always be provided for redemption. 

            This then is the ultimate message of the Resurrection, that we are redeemed every time we run to Christ with a spirit of reconciliation and hope in sharing His joy. This also answers the commission the Apostles were awaiting and received at Pentecost and that we have inherited as followers of Christ. We must constantly be at work healing the wounds of others through a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, providing opportunities wherever we can to open hearts to the transformative power of God’s love and having confidence those opportunities will always find us.

March 26, 2023

Finding God’s Grace in the Sacraments 

            Thirteenth century Italian mystic Saint Angela of Foligno wrote, “Christ appeared not as a philosopher of many words or as one who disputed noisily…but in the utmost simplicity did He talk with men, showing them the way of truth in His life, His virtues, and His miracles.” These words point to a profound reality about the way in which Christ invites us into a relationship that is simple and seamless in how it blends into the rhythm of our lives, yet is also miraculous and transformative.  

            If we want to know what it must have been like to encounter Christ and to experience that gentle, merciful aspect of His character, if we want to respond to Christ’s invitation to understand God’s wisdom through the simplicity of a loving relationship with Him, we can partake in the sacraments of our faith. The best way to invite Christ into the rhythm of our lives is to immerse ourselves in the sacraments because that is where God’s grace is most readily available in this world. 

            In a piece she wrote for Loyola Press, entitled A Little Reminder on Why the Sacraments Are a Really Big Deal, award-winning writer Elizabeth Kelly says, “They have the power to bring heaven to earth, rip the veil between all things seen and unseen, and allow humanity and eternity to commingle in mysterious, yet palpable ways. Through the sacraments, heaven comes, not just to visit, but to live with us and in us. In the sacraments, we are graced.”   

Sharing this reflection ahead of the ordination of her brother to the priesthood, Kelly was prompted by the realization that an indelible spiritual mark was about to be imprinted upon his soul. This sense of awe should surround our participation in all the sacraments, as each one truly does place its own unique and indelible mark upon our souls. 

Detailing the unifying yet varying purposes of the sacraments, Bishop Robert Barron writes: “All the sacraments have a deifying purpose: Baptism introduces the Divine Life into us. Confession restores it when it’s lost through sin. Confirmation strengthens it. Matrimony and Holy Orders give it vocational direction. Anointing of the Sick prepares us for the transition to our heavenly homeland. And the Eucharist is meant to Christify us.” 

            Looking at the nature of the sacraments in this way, we can see how they are the gift Christ has given to the Church to accompany us on our journey through life. For those of us who partake regularly in the sacraments, let’s set about to renew our zeal and sense of awe over this grace-filled aspect of our lives. And let’s also be sure to give witness through the love we have in our hearts so that others can discover or rediscover this tremendous wellspring of God’s grace. We should focus specifically on giving witness to the transcendent nature of the sacraments for the young people in our lives. As Elizabeth Kelly writes: “It is particularly important for us to teach children that sacraments are so much more than a ceremony to prepare for; they are God’s way of reaching down to us and offering us a lifelong gift – a gift of grace that gives us a glimpse of heaven and a taste of eternity.” 

            So, let’s recognize Christ alive today within the sacraments, and let’s meet Him there as often as possible and cultivate that profound relationship that blends into the rhythm of our lives and opens our hearts to the path of holiness.

March 5, 2023

The Gentleness of Pope Benedict

            In the aftermath of Pope Benedict XVI’s passing, many beautiful remembrances were written about his life and the impact he had on the world and on those who had the privilege to know him. One of the quieter and more personal remembrances was published on the Vatican News website, and it’s worth focusing on for the glimpse it provides of the late pontiff’s character. The piece was written by Alberto Gasbarri, who spent many years as the organizer of papal journeys. It was a role that required regular contact with Benedict, and the insights he gained from those interactions are illuminating and heartwarming. 

            “To those who had an austere and professorial impression of him,” Gasbarri writes, “he may have seemed to them detached or indifferent, but on the contrary, in his soul, Pope Benedict was full of gentleness and a disarming kindness frequently accompanied with a subtle and witty good humor.” 

            In trying to capture the nature of Benedict’s character, Gasbarri references Mother Teresa, who once gave him a tour of the home where she cared for sick and abandoned people. Gasbarri asked Mother Teresa what chances those in her care had for recovery. The nun responded, “Our fundamental mission is not to heal those who cannot be cured, for this there are hospitals. It is to gently accompany them to their encounter with Jesus.” 

            Relating this bit of wisdom to his initial interactions with Benedict, Gasbarri writes, “Soon after visiting him more closely, I immediately thought back to the gentleness described with Mother Teresa…One could sense [Benedict’s gentleness] in private meetings with him, what Mother Teresa called The Gospel of Kindness. ‘Be Kind,’ was indeed Mother Teresa’s admonition, ‘because holiness is not a luxury for the few. It is a simple duty for all. Kindness is the basis of the greatest holiness. If you know the art of kindness, you will become more and more like Christ.’” 

            Through a series of brief vignettes that shed light on the impressions Gasbarri formed of Benedict over the years, he paints a portrait of a man who cared deeply about others and showed profound respect to everyone he encountered. In one of the more dramatic stories, Gasbarri tells of a time when Pope Benedict was at World Youth Day and a powerful storm wiped out the power and damaged the papal stage. There was great concern for Benedict’s safety and, Gasbarri writes, “We suggested Pope Benedict leave the stage area and suspend the event, but the Pope’s polite but firm reply came as he remained seated in his chair, saying: ‘If the young people stay here, the Pope cannot abandon them.’” 

            This is such a beautiful picture of a servant of the people. Benedict understood the excitement of everyone who had journeyed from far and wide to attend that World Youth Day, and he wanted to remain there in solidarity with them. What a blessing he was to the Church, and his example of love, fidelity, and gentleness will most certainly be the legacy he leaves to the world. 

            Let us continue to pray for the repose of the soul of Pope Benedict XVI so that he might be in heaven and intercede for us all. Gasbarri certainly inspires confidence regarding Benedict’s path to heaven with the final line of his remembrance: “I am sure that Pope Benedict presented himself with all his gentleness in meeting with beloved Jesus, as I am equally sure many will miss his refined thinking and his exquisite gentleness of heart.” 

The Symbolism of Ashes

Feb 19

            February 22nd is Ash Wednesday, and for those who can, finding an Ash Wednesday service is a great way to mark the start of Lent. The ritual of receiving ashes on the forehead dates to the Middle Ages but contains symbolism rooted in the Old Testament, when ashes signified mourning, mortality, and penance. 

            In one of the many examples of ashes being referenced in the Old Testament, the King of Nineveh responded to Jonah’s call for conversion and repentance by covering himself in sackcloth and sitting in a pile of ashes. That took place in the 5th Century B.C., prefiguring Christ’s words to the people of those towns who had heard His message of salvation and witnessed His miracles yet still refused to repent. Christ chastised those towns when He said, “If the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” (Luke 10:13) 

            The early Church perpetuated the symbolism of ashes in connection with penance, and by the 8th Century, a custom had developed in which people facing death would lie upon sackcloth and have ashes sprinkled upon them. A priest would then bless them with holy water and say, “Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.” Afterwards, the priest would ask, “Art thou content with sackcloth and ashes in testimony of thy penance before the Lord in the day of judgement?” The answer for believers would invariably be “yes” because they understood the need to turn to God with humble and contrite hearts.   

            Also in the 8th Century, the Gregorian Sacramentary references a Day of Ashes marking the beginning of Lent, and a quote from the Anglo-Saxon priest Aelfric dating to around 1,000 A.D. reads, “Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.”   

            So, we see that the practice of using ashes to signify the start of Lent evolved from a long tradition. Today, we get our ashes from the burned palm branches of the previous year’s Palm Sunday, which symbolizes repentance because the Palms were used to welcome Christ. By marking ourselves with ashes of burned palms, we acknowledge that we have fallen short of fully welcoming Christ into our lives. 

            The history of Ash Wednesday helps to shed light on why Lent is a time for reflection upon our standing before God. Christ called for repentance, fulfilling the call of the Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist. He did this because He understood that people had to renounce the world to fully welcome Him into their lives. But Christ also understood that we needed help in the effort to prepare ourselves for the perfect love God wants to shower upon us. So, we repent not because we expect to earn our way into a state of grace, but simply to do our part to be prepared to receive Christ’s selfless gift. 

            Therefore, we humble ourselves with ashes to begin our preparations for the celebration of the coming of Christ into our lives at Eastertime. The ashes remind us of our humanity as imperfect people in need of salvation. And as with so many things in our faith, humility opens a window onto the wisdom of God so that we can be transformed by His tremendous love for us.     

St. Bernadette’s ‘Yes’ to God 

Feb 5 , 2023

            February 11th marks the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, when we celebrate the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 at a grotto in Lourdes, France. In a series of 18 apparitions occurring over approximately five months, Mary spoke to Bernadette, but for a long time she did not even know it was the Blessed Mother. Bernadette later recounted all she had seen and heard, at one point saying, “She told me also that she did not promise to make me happy in this world, but in the next.” 

            What a weighty thing that must have been for a 14-year-old girl to hear. But it seems that God had prepared Bernadette to handle it. Her parents worked in a mill run by her father, but economic hardship brought on by an injury to her father caused him to lose the mill, plunging the family into poverty and forcing Bernadette to work rather than attend school to help the family survive. 

            When townspeople learned of the reported apparitions, crowds began to form around Bernadette whenever she visited the grotto, but the townspeople could not see or hear the apparitions. And when the Blessed Mother instructed Bernadette to drink from the spring, they only saw her drinking muddy water and began to ridicule her. Two days later, the spring, which had always been muddy, was producing crystal clear water, and soon the first of many healings took place at those waters.     

            When the Blessed Mother finally did reveal her identity to Bernadette, she said, “I am the Immaculate Conception,” but even then, Bernadette did not know what she meant and had to have it explained to her by others. The dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception had only been declared by the Church a few years earlier, and Bernadette was not well educated. 

            Bernadette eventually joined a religious order and died after several years of illness at the age of 35. On her deathbed, suffering from severe pain, she proclaimed, “All this is good for Heaven!” So, it seems Bernadette came to understand the role that suffering can play in our lives when we offer it up to God. She certainly did not want to suffer. Nobody does or should, yet sometimes we walk straight into situations that we know will cause us suffering, because we are trying to accomplish a greater good. This is certainly what happened to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed for the cup to pass before finally facing His excruciating trial. 

            We all have moments when the question isn’t how we can avoid suffering but how we are to face it. Bernadette accepted the possibility that her reward would not be in this life but in the next. She did not run from what God was trying to accomplish through her presence at the grotto. It seems instead she focused on the promise of happiness in heaven. 

            Bernadette’s “yes” to God echoes Mary’s “yes” and Christ’s “yes” and the “yes” of all the saints who have come before or after her. It was a “yes” that placed God’s will above all else and what happened as a result was the transformation of that humble grotto carved from nature into one of the greatest sites for healing in history. May the world continue to flock to Lourdes for healing, and may we all pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes for the courage to place God’s will above our own.  

St. Paul’s Monumental Conversion 

January 22

            January 25th is the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. It’s a day that marks a monumental moment in human history, when a man caught up in hatred and violence was stopped in his tracks and set on a path to make God’s way of peace and love known to people throughout the world. 

            Paul’s conversion occurred when he was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to hunt down Christians, arrest them, and return them to Jerusalem for questioning and possible execution. And it was on that journey that Christ intervened in his life.  

In Acts 9 we read, “Now he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’” 

If we ever despair of a person’s ability to change course from an errant way of life, remember this amazing moment in the life of Saint Paul. After taking part in such evil deeds as the stoning of Saint Stephen and other vicious persecutions of Christians, Paul’s heart was opened to a radical change. It’s the kind of change that happens for people in many different ways. Often, it is a slower process that works through the circumstances of one’s life, because God understands the inner workings of our hearts and what is needed to win us over to His love.  

But we should never doubt God’s power to intervene in our lives, to turn us from one path to another so that He can lead us to sainthood. And that is what we are called to. It’s what Paul was called to on this new road Christ set him upon, and how he answered that call has resounded throughout the centuries as a clear witness of what it means to devote oneself completely to Christ. 

Paul’s line in Romans 5, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” reflects his trajectory. Once he began his new life in Christ, he took up his mission with even more zeal than he had before. Where sin once abounded in his life, grace took its place and increased all the more.  

In 2 Corinthians, God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” This was a defining lesson for Paul from the moment he met Christ on the road to Damascus until his martyrdom many years later. It was the lesson he needed to learn in order to live in the light of Christ. He needed to gain respect for weakness as the place where God meets us. Once he understood that, he was compelled to champion the humble of heart for the rest of his life. 

This is the path to sainthood that God calls each of us to follow. Christ is present in our midst among the weakest members of our families and communities. He is present in their suffering, waiting for us to meet Him through the love we show to those in need. When we do that, we are following in the footsteps of Saint Paul, who welled up with the compassion of God, changing the course of his own life and the course of history. 

Christmas Isn’t Over 

January 1, 2023

January opens with the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, which serves as a joyous reminder that the Christmas season is still upon us. Celebrating Mary’s role in saying “yes” to God and the Incarnation of Christ is a wonderful way to keep the spirit of the season alive within our hearts. And what a relief it is to realize that we can and should still celebrate the Christmas season because the time we spend in preparation for that special day and the activities surrounding it can be so hectic.  

Of course, our preparation and celebration of Christmas is intended to leave us with something that lasts throughout the year. It is a time to awaken our appreciation for God’s gift of His Son for the salvation of all humanity, and it is fitting that we pull out the stops on Christmas Day to allow the reality of that miracle to open our hearts to be transformed by God’s love for us.  

But our Christmas celebration should continue beyond even January 1st for a much simpler reason. Our celebration should extend throughout the entirety of the Christmas season, a period that lasts until Epiphany Sunday, held this year on January 8th.  

The most enduring way to keep Christmas alive within our hearts throughout the season is to attend Mass as often as possible. The Solemnity of Mary concludes the period of eight feast days known as an Octave that began with the Nativity of Our Lord, and this first week of January continues with great Christmas season feast days, with one of the highlights being the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus on January 3rd. 

The Christmas season culminates with Epiphany Sunday on January 8th, when we honor the recognition of Christ’s Divinity by the Wise Men who travelled from afar to reverence the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem. It is the perfect capstone to this festive time when we gather with family and community to heighten our own and everyone else’s awareness of the importance of Christ’s birth and His presence in our midst today. 

So, if the whirlwind of preparing for Christmas Day has left you feeling like the whole thing has come and gone without giving you the chance to appreciate it, take heart in the fact that our celebration is ongoing. When considering the extended nature of this celebration, you might realize there’s a time and place for virtually everything. We have the hustle and bustle surrounding Christmas Day, the food and fun and time we share together, and the gift giving to show our appreciation for one another. 

But as we approach Epiphany Sunday, when the realization of the meaning of Christ’s birth becomes clear, perhaps we might take some time to appreciate the season in a different way. Perhaps we might slow things down, do a bit more prayer and contemplation, take time with friends and family in quieter ways, ways that enable us to truly understand each other’s hopes and dreams and even fears and struggles as we embark upon this New Year together. 

When we do these things, we will find ourselves growing in appreciation for the way Christ is present in each and every one of us, and we will allow that presence to flourish within our midst. In this way, we open our hearts to all the Christmas season has to offer so that we can be transformed throughout the year by the coming of Christ into our lives.

Rising Out of Poverty and Homelessness

December 18, 2022

            Some of you may have heard the inspiring story of Griffin Furlong. He received some press in 2014 for the amazing accomplishment of becoming a high school valedictorian while struggling with homelessness. People Magazine and Today Media both ran stories on him shortly before his graduation, and several months later, Sports Illustrated did a piece entitled “Young, Gifted & Homeless,” in which Griffin was featured among a group of other student-athletes who have struggled with homelessness.  

            Now in his mid-twenties, Griffin works as a civil engineer, and he is writing a book about his journey to this point in life. It is a journey filled with tragedy, joy, and life lessons that propelled him to become a person who would never give up. The lessons Griffin learned reveal universal truths that should inspire us all to make the most of what we’re given in life.  

            When he was only six years old, Griffin faced the tragedy of watching his mother die of cancer. “I still remember seeing her ill at home,” Griffin said in his interview with Today Media. “I’d cry every night. My brother and I made a pact saying we would do everything for her and do everything to make our family’s life better.”  

            After his mother’s passing, Griffin’s family descended into a cycle of poverty and homelessness as his father first struggled to find work and then got injured on a job. With the family in and out of homeless shelters and going hungry at times, Griffin and his older brother, Sean, formed a strong bond based on their mutual desire for survival and the shared secret of their situation, a secret based on their inability to tell peers of their plight.  

            When news stories finally revealed their situation, people were shocked to realize that such a great student had faced so many challenges. And when Griffin stood up to give his valedictory speech at graduation, it was an astounding moment that demonstrated the power of the human spirit to overcome the most difficult circumstances. “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, because I’ve been told that all my life,” Griffin said. “People would tell me I wasn’t smart enough, and now I’m here at the top of my class.” 

            In the most difficult times, it was their love for the game of baseball that brought Griffin and Sean together. At one point in his youth, Griffin wrote on the bill of his baseball cap, “Just never give up,” words that would come to define his life. He went on to receive a full academic scholarship to Florida State University, and he eventually achieved his goal of becoming a civil engineer. Now, as he writes his memoir, he dreams of lifting his entire family out of poverty once and for all and relieving his father from the burden of working difficult, low-paying jobs.  

            In his valedictory address at high school graduation, Griffin said, “I make the grades I do because once I was lost and had nothing.”  

We are all called to the kind of ingenious fortitude displayed by Griffin Furlong, as we see in the Parable of the Talents where we’re told to risk what little we have to reap a greater reward. In his earnest efforts, Griffin risked the fragility of his spirit as a child to meet the world each day with hope. The reward he has reaped is the greatest of all – resilience and strength of character.

A Healing Leads to Beatification

December 11, 2022 

Several causes for sainthood were recently advanced by the Vatican, including the elevation from venerable to blessed for Maria Berenice Duque Hencker, a Columbian nun who founded multiple religious congregations, including the Little Sisters of the Annunciation. The miracle Pope Francis approved for her cause to advance was the 2004 healing of a 13-year-old boy named Sebastian Vasquez, who had a rare degenerative disease that had caused multiple comas and near-death experiences, leaving him consigned to a wheelchair and fed through tubes from the age of seven. In a Columbian newscast reporting on his healing, Sebastian said, “A little sister found out about the case and went to take a prayer to the clinic and a photo of Mother Maria Berenice and told me to make friends with her.” 

Mother Maria Berenice was born in 1898 and died in 1993, only a couple of years after Sebastian was born. His healing took place a decade after her passing. Earlier this year, Sebastian passed away, after enjoying many years free from the illness that plagued his childhood. A statement issued by the General Directorate of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Annunciation read, “There are God’s designs that we do not understand, but we are certain that [Sebastian] is enjoying the presence of God and Mother Berenice.”  

A little over a month after Sebastian’s passing, thousands gathered at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Medellin, Columbia, for the Beatification of Mother Maria Berenice. In the homily, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Cause of Saints, praised the way she emulated our Blessed Mother through her love for the poor, saying that the poor “were at the center of her existence” and noting that “she had, in particular, a love for the poorest children, whom she considered the favorites of the Lord.”  

Blessed Maria Berenice started the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Annunciation in 1943 to serve children and families. In 1957, she founded the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Jesus and Mary for Afro-Columbian women called to religious life, an initiative begun in opposition to racial discrimination of the time. In 1964, she founded the Missionary Brothers of the Annunciation as the men’s branch of her congregation to work with the poor, the imprisoned, and the marginalized. 

In an interview with ACI Prensa given shortly before his death last year, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, former archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela, said of Mother Maria Berenice, “She was a woman of living and firm Christian faith, of intense Marian piety and great mettle, an enthusiastic entrepreneur, with many initiatives to announce the name and love of God to those most in need.” Talking about a long illness she suffered later in life, he said, “The Lord gave her a special strength to join the passion of Christ in the pain of illness and the weakness that it brings.” 

In looking at the life of Blessed Mother Maria Berenice, we see an amazing example of what it looks like to follow in the footsteps of Christ and our Blessed Mother. In her strength, she lifted up the most destitute people in society and was a tireless advocate for those on the margins and those facing racial and economic discrimination. And in her weakness, she turned everything over to God, uniting herself to Christ on the Cross. May she continue to watch over the marginalized and lead all who call upon her intercession to healing in Christ. 

The Traditions of Advent

November 27

            November 27 marks the beginning of Advent, a time of anticipation for the coming of Christ. Many wonderful traditions practiced throughout the world offer a glimpse of the varied ways we can awaken this spirit of anticipation within ourselves, our families, and our communities.  

            Saint Francis of Assisi initiated what has become one of Advent’s most well-known traditions: the Nativity scene. After a visit to the Holy Land, Francis returned to Italy determined to recreate the humble scene of Christ’s birth, so he requested and received permission from Pope Honorious III to stage a live Nativity in a cave near the village of Greccio. Nativity scenes soon became a hallmark of Italian homes during Advent and today are one of the most universal ways people around the world prepare for Christmas.  

            In Poland, an old tradition is kept alive throughout Advent with the daily Roraty Mass, which begins in darkness, before sunrise, with worshippers carrying torches and lanterns. It ends after sunrise, with the light of day symbolizing Christ’s birth. Fasting, a common practice worldwide, is the predominant Advent commitment in India; and in Mexico, children take part in a procession called posada, in which they carry candles through the streets, with celebrations, songs, and bible stories, reenacting Joseph and Mary’s search for a place to stay in preparation for Christ’s birth. 

It's helpful to recognize that many of the traditions we practice today have roots dating back centuries, and that much of our preparation for Christmas is about how we engage in these traditions. We’re all familiar with criticisms of Christmas becoming overly commercialized, but gift-giving can be a great way to celebrate Christ’s birth provided we don’t allow ourselves to be distracted by materialism. Gift-giving has a long tradition at Christmas, and the time we spend during Advent making or trying to find that perfect gift for someone we love can be a perfect way to honor Christ. What’s important is to engage in the right spirit by focusing on the giving side of things, without expectation of anything in return. 

The great short story writer O. Henry captured the beauty of gift-giving at Christmastime in The Gift of the Magi, a story in which a young couple, who have recently been married and are poor except for the love they have for each other, secretly sell their most treasured possessions to buy gifts for each other. The ironic twist at the end of the story, when their gifts are rendered useless in the absence of the treasures they’ve sold, merely highlights the true gift at the heart of their relationship – the selfless love they have for one another. 

This story demonstrates the deeper meaning at the heart of the gift-giving that so often preoccupies our minds during Advent. It’s the kind of meaning we can have in all our preparations for Christmas. So, let’s embrace the wonderful traditions of Advent, such as decorating our homes, even decorating in simple ways, such as a wreath on the front door. It’s a time to set out our nativity scene and enjoy the daily anticipation of an Advent calendar. In all of this, let’s remember to sanctify the way in which we partake of these traditions, by connecting them in our minds and hearts to their original purpose to awaken a sense of wonder in this time of year. In this way, we will truly prepare ourselves in this Advent season to be transformed by our anticipation for the coming of Christ.  

‘A Tireless Seeker of the Face of God’ 

November 13, 2022

            Next year will mark the seventh centenary of the canonization of Saint Thomas Aquinas. It was less than 50 years after his death, on July 18, 1323, that Aquinas was canonized, and a little over two centuries later, in 1567, he was declared a Doctor of the Church. He is the patron saint of Catholic schools, colleges, and universities, and today a new generation of students is taking an interest in the ideas put forth by the man called the “Angelic Doctor” for his inspired teachings, which consistently raise the mind to God.  

            At the 11th International Thomistic Congress, recently held in Rome, Pope Francis said of Aquinas, “He was a man passionate about the Truth, a tireless seeker of the face of God.” The pope went on to quote Aquinas, who wrote, “Driven by an ardent will to believe, man loves the truth that he believes, considers it in his intelligence and embraces it with the reasons he can find for this purpose.” 

            These words of Aquinas point to a profound reality at work in the hearts of all people. We were made to seek the truth about God and the right way to live, and we are constantly forming our purpose around our best estimation of the truth. This is why a new generation is finding their way to the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, as a way to remain grounded amid a sea of modern ideologies that can easily lead us astray.  

            The recent Thomistic Congress was hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Saint Thomas Aquinas and by the Angelicum Thomistic Institute with the aim of exploring the enduring relevance of Thomistic Philosophy in today’s society. Father Thomas Joseph White, a Dominican theologian and rector of Rome’s Angelicum, granted an interview to Catholic News Agency during the weeklong congress in which he said, “We’re seeing a modest renaissance of Thomism in the Church, particularly in the English-speaking world.” Contrasting this renaissance to the scholarly attention Aquinas typically receives, he added, “It’s really more about people on the grassroots level, trying to think through the doctrine of the faith and bring theology to their local communities and to the broader Church through rigorous investigation and responsible reflection.” 

            In his remarks at the congress, Pope Francis said of Aquinas that his “search for the truth about God is moved and permeated by love.” This is perhaps the most important starting point for understanding Aquinas’s thinking and realizing that the intellectual journey he embarked upon is not consigned to scholars but accessible to all people and intrinsic to our very human nature. 

            It is heartening to learn that an interest in Aquinas is taking place on a grassroots level within communities seeking a grounding in the beliefs underpinning our faith. If this renaissance continues to flourish, it is sure to bear tremendous fruits by fulfilling the need so many people have to know God’s will.  

            The fruits of knowing God’s will manifest themselves in a myriad of ways that transform families and communities and lead to a more just and loving society. This is a great time to study thinkers like Aquinas, who so perfectly joins faith and reason through a search for the truth that is grounded in love of God and neighbor. And it’s a great time to understand the reasoning underpinning our faith, so we can give witness to young people, those who are searching, and all those looking to be formed in the ways of Christ.  

A Feast of Forgiveness 

October 23, 2022

            Pope Francis made history this summer when he became the first pope in 728 years to open the Holy Door of L’Aquila at the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio in central Italy. In his August 28th homily delivered at the Mass that he offered before opening the Holy Door, Francis said, “For centuries L’Aquila has kept alive the gift that Pope Celestine V left it. It is the privilege of reminding everyone that with mercy, and only with it, the life of every man and woman can be lived with joy.” 

            In his trip to L’Aquila, Pope Francis was following in the footsteps of Pope Celestine V, who, in 1294, began the tradition that has come to be known as Celestinian Forgiveness, when he issued a bull of forgiveness offering a plenary indulgence for all who visit the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio between Vespers on August 28 and sunset on August 29.  

            Celestine served as pope for only five months before his resignation on December 13, 1294, but the tradition he began in L’Aquila has carried on ever since. After his death in 1296, his remains were buried in the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio. The indulgence he established was rare in a time when obtaining indulgences often required monetary gifts. The Celestinian Forgiveness was open to all people because it did not cost anything except penance, a visit to the basilica, and reception of the Eucharist.  

            It’s no wonder this tradition has been so widely embraced through the centuries, and it seems fitting that Pope Francis should highlight this wonderful celebration of mercy because it perfectly demonstrates the nature of God’s forgiveness, which is offered to all people regardless of rank or status. The only thing required of us is to open ourselves to that forgiveness with humble hearts and the rest simply follows. Once we accept God’s mercy as the guiding force in our lives, we are led to the joy of Christ in all we do. In his homily, Pope Francis said, “To be forgiven is to experience here and now what comes closest to the resurrection. Forgiveness is passing from death to life, from the experience of anguish and guilt to that of freedom and joy.” 

            Touring L’Aquila, where over 300 people lost their lives in a 2019 earthquake, Francis applauded the resilience of those affected by the tragedy and called upon the city to be a “capital of forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation.” 

            L’Aquila is an ancient city surrounded by medieval walls built upon a hill in the Abruzzo region of Italy. It is a beautiful place that is home to a university and many cultural institutions, and its annual celebration surrounding the Celestinian Forgiveness makes it a perfect focal point to remind the world of the abundance of God’s mercy.  

The story of L’Aquila is an amazing intersection of geography, community, forgiveness, and faith. It’s a story that shows how the places we inhabit can become sanctified and marked by celebrations and gatherings that heal the mind, heart, and soul. Anyone privileged to be in proximity to visit L’Aquila towards the end of August in any given year should consider taking part in their wonderful celebration of forgiveness. But let’s also remember that our Catholic tradition teaches us to cultivate such pious devotions wherever we are in the world so that the mercy of God can be known and touch the lives of all people, most especially the lost and the broken-hearted. 

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors

‘Jesus Spoke Through My Daughter’ 

October 9, 2022

            Last December, Deacon Joe Mantineo fell to the floor and hit his head after having a stroke at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Maywood, New Jersey. Seconds later, his pastor was at his side, and Joe asked for a blessing before losing consciousness and being rushed to the hospital. A few weeks later, tests showed that his body had suffered no effects from the stroke, but the incident and subsequent examinations revealed that he had stage 4 kidney failure. 

            “The truly miraculous thing is that I did not have any effects of the stroke,” says Deacon Joe. “I didn’t have any paralysis [or] speech difficulties. My memory wasn’t affected. It was as if I had never hit the ground. But I came to realize that the Lord does work in strange and mysterious ways, and it was His way of letting me know that my kidneys were failing.”   

            With an O-positive blood type, which is the most in demand blood type for organ transplants, Joe was faced with a potentially long wait for a new kidney. However, his daughter Lisa offered to donate one of her kidneys to him. At first, Joe didn’t feel comfortable accepting this offer, but with a loving wife, four children, and eight grandchildren, he felt called to be present for milestones still to come. Lisa’s kidney gave him the best chance of survival, so he accepted her generous offer.  

            On April 21st of this year, Joe and Lisa arrived at the hospital, kissed each other goodbye, and went into separate operating rooms. Lisa’s gift provided Joe with a life-saving kidney transplant. Recovering in the hospital afterwards, Joe recalls the tremendous gratitude he felt towards his daughter and how he realized that she had come to embody for him the answer to Christ’s call for us to be generous to those in need. “I’m alive,” he says, “because Jesus spoke through my daughter.”  

            The story of Deacon Joe’s survival, the fortuitous way in which his dire condition was discovered, and the subsequent generosity of his daughter demonstrates how God works through our circumstances and relationships to bring about the most extraordinary outcomes. Today, Joe is looking forward to having more time with his family and continuing his journey as a deacon, a journey in which he leads a Padre Pio prayer group at his parish and has brought pilgrims on life-changing journeys to Italy, Ireland, and the Holy Land. 

            Regarding his privilege to serve at Mass as a deacon, Joe says, “It’s a thrill to be at the altar.” He recalls special Masses he has assisted at in his travels as being deeply spiritual and profound events, Masses at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Saint Peter’s Basilica, San Giovani Rotundo, and Knock, Ireland. 

            Joe’s journey shows how faith can prepare us for difficult trials. His life as a servant of God instilled within him a calm and loving heart, enabling him to help raise a loving family and ultimately opening him up to the gifts God showered upon him through the generosity of his daughter Lisa who, we are proud to say, worked for The Christophers many years ago. Her gift to her father exemplifies lighting a candle in the darkness. 

            Looking to the future, Joe says, “God has really been good, and I’m on this fantastic journey, but it’s not finished yet. I think that this transplant is another aspect of the miraculous power of God and His love for each of us.”   

Serving God is Top Priority

September 18

            The work from home trend that exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many companies now approach their workday, as well as the degree to which employees are expected to be in the office. This trend has also affected the way people view work in general, with many turning to entrepreneurial enterprises or simply viewing their homes as their primary offices. These trends can be beneficial, but change always presents new challenges—and a major challenge in this new environment is the responsibility to set one’s own priorities and create a routine that facilitates reaching the goals we are called to.  

            A famous story of unknown origin tells of a philosopher who stood before his students holding a jar, which he first filled with rocks. When the rocks reached the top of the jar, he asked his students if it was full. They said it was full, but then the philosopher started dropping small pebbles in amongst the rocks, shaking the jar so the pebbles would find their way into all the crevices, until the jar looked full again. Next, the philosopher took sand and poured it into the jar, and it found its way into even smaller crevices until everyone agreed that the jar was full.  

            Then, the philosopher said to his students, “This jar represents your life. The rocks are the most important things: family, friends, loved ones, and the values we hold dear. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles represent secondary things that matter to our wellbeing, like our work and the essentials that sustain us. And the sand is everything else. The small stuff.” 

            The philosopher concluded, “If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.” 

            This bit of wisdom has helped many people realize how to prioritize what matters most in their lives, and it is reminiscent of Christ’s words, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

            These words of Christ found their way into the beliefs of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who taught that serving God should be our first priority. The things of this world should only be utilized to achieve that end, and we should rid ourselves of the things of this world to the degree they detract from that goal. 

            These lessons create great starting points for establishing priorities and creating our own routines in life. Start with the things that matter most, and you will be driven to achieve all you need to accomplish in your day. Prioritize prayer, and you will find inspiration to tackle the most challenging tasks. Make time for family, and you will find the fulfillment to sustain you throughout the rigors of the workday. Put first things first, and all things will follow. As Christ said, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”


Bless Those Who Labor 

Labor Day 2022

            Last month, Pope Francis made a prayer intention “for small businesses,” and he asked for this intention to be observed throughout all of August to highlight the importance of these ventures in the face of growing economic difficulties. He prayed for “stores, workshops, cleaning businesses, transportation businesses, and so many others. The ones that don’t appear on the world’s richest and most powerful lists, and despite the difficulties, they create jobs, fulfilling their social responsibility.” 

            Pope Francis highlighted the creative force at work in so many small businesses and their ability “to contribute solutions from the bottom up.” He noted that small businesses have made it possible for society to function throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and asked for prayers “for small and medium-sized businesses, hard hit by the economic and social crisis, so they may find ways to continue operating, and serving their communities.” 

            These are such important words delivered by our Holy Father after a period when one in four companies lost half of their sales during the global pandemic. Small businesses so often form the backbone of our communities and are run by people who dedicate themselves to providing a service that enriches our lives. These endeavors often give our communities their unique character, and we should continue to pray for the success of creative people in our midst who take the risk to bring their talents to the marketplace on their own terms. 

            We can also invoke some interesting saints in praying for the success of small to midsized entrepreneurs, saints who demonstrate how personal character can manifest itself in the lives of small business owners in ways that transform people’s lives. Consider the story of Saint Peter Wu Guosheng, an 18th century hotel owner in the Guangxi region of China. He was known for having a loud and assertive personality, and when he heard the story of Christ, he began to utilize that assertiveness to share the Gospel with as many people as possible, turning his hotel into the center of a thriving Christian community, until finally being martyred for his faith. 

            Another martyr was Blessed Salvador Huerta Gutierrez, who was called the “magician of cars” and went from a state of poverty to owning his own business. He became known as the best mechanic in Guadalajara, Mexico. Writing about entrepreneur saints for Aleteia, Meg Hunter-Kilmer says of Blessed Salvador, “He saw it as his job to form his employees as men and Christians as well as to direct the business, and modeled Christian life by visiting the Blessed Sacrament every morning on his way to work.” A father of 12, Blessed Salvador was martyred in the Cristero Wars in 1927, along with his brother, Blessed Ezequiel Huerta Gutierrez, who was the father of 10 and a successful entrepreneur in his own right in his pursuits as a musician. 

            The small business world abounds with entrepreneurs who carry their faith in Christ with them in all they do. So, let’s continue to pray for great leaders to emerge within our communities to share their talents and to demonstrate the full expression of what it means to be human. As Pope Francis says, “with courage, with effort, with sacrifice, they invest in life, creating well-being, opportunities, and work.” And let’s support the creative instincts of those in our midst who dare to venture forth in these challenging economic times, bringing goods and services into our communities in a spirit of generosity and hope in the future.

Hope Allows Us to Cope with Troubles 

August 28

            Vaclav Havel, a playwright who became the President of the Czech Republic after the fall of the Berlin Wall, once said, “Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” 

            Havel’s insight came from his experiences as a member of a people moving from oppression under the communist dictatorship of the Soviet Union to freedom and self-governance. It’s the type of insight that comes from keeping hope alive, even when circumstance and the cold calculations of logic would give cause for despair.  

            Our Christopher News Note Hold on to Hope shares the triumphs of people throughout history who have exercised hope in the face of overwhelming odds, such as Abraham Lincoln, who was defeated nine times in political elections before persevering to become president and helping bring an end to slavery.  

            The Christophers’ founder, Father James Keller, M.M., wrote a meditation on hope, which opens with the line, “Hope looks for the good in people, instead of harping on the worst.” It’s a simple sentiment that points to a way of seeing the world with the eyes of Christ. We are all God’s children, and we are made with goodness in our hearts. Sometimes people lose track of the good that is within them, but hope inspires us to appeal to everyone’s better nature and to constantly call them back to the goodness that God has placed within their hearts.  

            Father Keller’s meditation ends with the line, “Hope is a good loser because it has the divine assurance of final victory.” This is not to diminish the pain of human loss, but it reminds us that hope enables people to cope with loss and to keep going, even amid the worst tragedies.  

            Our Christopher writer Garan Santicola recently opened a column for Catholic New York newspaper with a description of a painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, writing, “Upon entering The Met’s Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents exhibit, one glimpses, on a far wall in a gallery towards the back of the exhibit, Homer’s 1899 painting The Gulf Stream, which depicts an African American man sprawled across the deck of a tiny sloop, adrift amid a choppy sea. His rudder and mast are broken, and the sail hangs off the edge of his boat, dragging in the water. Sharks circle while a storm brews on the horizon, and a large clipper, seen faintly in the distance, seems to pass him by.” 

Mr. Santicola concludes by writing, “Leaning up on one elbow and gazing into the distance, away from the storm and the sharks and the distant clipper on the horizon, he is undefeated at least in spirit. The clipper may pass him by, and the sharks and the storm may finish him off, yet somewhere from within his being is conveyed the most resilient form of hope.” 

            The hope Santicola describes is not dependent on outcomes. The man in the painting seems to face imminent death, yet he chooses not to focus on the abyss before him. Instead, he looks up and out with an undefeated spirit, clinging to the spark of life within him that can never be taken away. When we are beset by the worst types of troubles in this world, hope is the one thing that can awaken this spark of life that comes from God and can never be defeated.  

August 14, 2022     

Invoking Mary’s Intercession       

We honor Mary throughout this month of August. For starters, we celebrate two important feast days that are linked together by an octave. The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is held on Aug. 15, which marks the first day of the octave, and the Feast of the Queenship of Mary is held on August 22, which concludes the octave. In addition to these beautiful celebrations, we have a tradition dating back to World War II in which the entire month of August is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is not decreed in an official way by the Church, but it remains a beautiful tradition, and it’s worthy to recall the reason for its observance. 

In May of 1944, as the war raged on in Europe, Pope Pius XII named August 22 the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, invoking Mary’s intercession in a prayer for “peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity, and the practice of virtue.” 

The establishment of this feast day inspired many Catholics to dedicate the entire month of August to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Decades later, Pope Paul VI saw good reason to move the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the Saturday following the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It created an entire week in June linked together by the theme of the Miraculous Hearts of Mother and Son. August 22 subsequently became the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, and this also makes sense because we now follow our celebration of Mary’s Assumption by honoring her Queenship over heaven and earth. 

But tradition holds that we can still declare August dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary due to the extenuating circumstances under which this dedication came about. It is hard to even imagine the terror that gripped the entire world at that time. Pope Pius XII had been inspired by the message of Fatima to turn to Mary’s intercession on behalf of humanity, and as Mary promised, that intercession came and relative peace was restored to the world. It was an imperfect peace, but it was a dramatic shift from the brink of destruction to which the world had been brought. 

The war in Europe came to an end on May 7, 1945, almost exactly one year after Pius XII established the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary; and World War II ended on August 14, one day before the octave that began with Mary’s Assumption and ended with the newly declared Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

That octave now concludes with the celebration of Mary’s Queenship, and we should indeed celebrate the status she holds and the intercession she has extended to all of us. It is a time to recognize the miraculous hand of God at work in Mary’s life, beginning with her Assumption, when the hand of death was stayed, and she was assumed body and soul into heaven; it’s a time to honor her Queenship over heaven and earth; and it’s a time to grow in admiration for her purity of heart.   

So, let’s join our current prayers for peace with all those who prayed for soldiers on the front lines of the war during that tumultuous year between 1944 and 1945, imploring the pure heart of Mary to intercede on our behalf so that


Christ will bring peace to the world.

Becoming a Wounded Healer 

July 24, 2022

The late Catholic priest Father Henri Nouwen wrote, “Nobody escapes b­eing wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’” This statement gets to the heart of a profound truth about Christ, who shows us how to turn woundedness into a healing power. Nouwen writes, “Jesus is God’s wounded healer: through His wounds we are healed. Jesus’ suffering and death brought joy and life. His humiliation brought glory; His rejection brought a community of love.” 

            The world teaches us to hide our woundedness out of fear of being ridiculed or taken advantage of by others, but Christ shows us a different path. He shows us how woundedness can be utilized to bring about change and to help others who are suffering. Consider the difference we make in the lives of others when, rather than hiding our suffering, we share stories that reveal our own fragility. It makes people feel understood in their own suffering and able to open up about their problems. This is a dynamic that produces healing for everyone involved. 

            Our newest Christopher News Note “Becoming a Wounded Healer” details the story of psychologist Dr. Richard B. Patterson, who changed his life after reading Father Nouwen’s book “The Wounded Healer.”  Dr. Patterson realized that he was an addict and needed to get clean, so he began to walk the hard road to sobriety, experiencing along the way the many layers of truth found within the wisdom expressed by Father Nouwen. In a piece for Franciscan Media, Dr. Patterson wrote, “What I’ve come to see is that wounded healers offer many things: knowledge, resources, and creative problem solving. But what they offer more than anything else is that most elusive, yet most important, spiritual and psychological experience: hope.” 

            Wounded healers offer hope by showing people how to persevere. They are living witnesses to the resilience of the human spirit, and they are living witnesses to our ability to walk in the footsteps of Christ by turning the tables on suffering. The way we join Christ in this miraculous process of turning the tables on suffering is to use it for the benefit of others by allowing our wounds to be seen and allowing others to take inspiration from our will to embrace the gift of life even amid tragedy.  

            The concept of the wounded healer dates back to an ancient Greek legend of a god who received a wound that would not heal yet also would not kill him due to his immortality, and so, overflowing with compassion, he roamed the earth healing others. And Plato also referenced wounded healers, declaring that those who have suffered make the best physicians.  

As is so often the case with the wisdom of the ancients, we see humanity’s longing for the answers only Christ could provide, because it is in Christ that we see the most thorough transformation of defeat into victory, and we join in this same transformation when we lay our suffering bare for the healing of others.     

            We don’t need to be perfect to reach out to people in their hour of need. We simply need the humility to recognize our own imperfections and to have those imperfections laid bare as we extend a helping hand. In this way, we show how compassion transforms us even amid our suffering.


Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors 

A Foretaste of Heaven 

July 3, 2022

            The Church dedicates the entire month of July to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. And during this past month of June, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, the U.S. Bishops kicked off a two year long Eucharistic Revival. So perhaps this is a good time to reflect upon the miraculous power of the Eucharist in our lives and to consider how we might better share the good news of this tremendous gift of the Church.   

            When he was just 11 years old, Blessed Carlo Acutis wrote, “The more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of Heaven.” 

            Many now know the story of Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 at age 15 from leukemia, and many have seen or at least heard of the traveling exhibition dedicated to his study of Eucharistic miracles throughout history. Carlo documented over 136 Eucharistic miracles approved by the Church, and he built a website to share his findings with the world. 

            What an amazing project for a young man to undertake, and we know from the stories of his life that it was his faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist that strengthened Carlo to face the crucible of illness that beset him at such a young age. It is the power of this kind of life story that has inspired the U.S. Bishops to initiate their Eucharistic Revival within our nation because so many people today are in need of a way to grow closer to the peace of Christ. 

            One of the most famous Eucharistic miracles in history occurred in Lanciano, Italy, in the eighth century, when a Basilian monk with doubts about the Eucharist was pronouncing the consecration. That’s when the host was tangibly transformed into flesh in the form of a heart and the wine into blood. The relics have been preserved ever since, and in 1970, extensive scientific tests revealed that the flesh is indeed human heart tissue, while the blood is human blood. And both are from the same blood type: AB. 

            It’s important to highlight that Eucharistic miracles have continued to take place in modern times, such as the one that occurred on Christmas Day, 2013, at the Church of Saint Hyacinth in Legnica, Poland. A consecrated host fell on the floor and was put in water to dissolve, but then it turned red. The local bishop ordered an investigation and samples were sent to the Department of Forensic Medicine in Szczencin, which found heart muscle subjected to extreme trauma. 

            These miracles are a gift from God to remind us of the truth of Christ’s words when He instituted the Eucharist and promised to be with us always. It’s interesting that a young Catholic like Carlo Acutis would have been drawn to study Eucharistic miracles and to dedicate himself to sharing these amazing occurrences with others. It seems that Blessed Carlo understood the world needed to be reminded of the miraculous in our midst so that more people could find their way to communion with Christ through regular reception of the Eucharist.  

            The U.S. Bishops are right to dedicate the coming two years to a Eucharistic Revival, which will culminate in a National Eucharistic Congress in 2024. We should support and participate in this revival so that people throughout our nation can come to know the healing power of Christ in the miracle at the heart of the Catholic Mass.  


Former Olympian Says, ‘You Are Enough’ 

June 26 

Writing for Catholic News Agency, Kate Olivera recently chronicled the conversion story of three-time Olympian and Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes, who was part of the 1996 squad that won the first U.S. women’s team gold in gymnastics. Dawes recalled a moment of doubt at the start of the games, when she became overwhelmed by the pressure just before appearing before billions of people watching around the world. It was at that moment that her team captain, Amanda Borden, knelt beside her and together they prayed, asking God to watch over them.  

Recalling that moment, Dawes said, “It was good to have that reminder that I’m not alone... because He is the one that is going to strengthen me, and He is the one that’s going to strengthen us…I remember when I stood up after that prayer with Amanda, I felt free. I felt light…And we went out, marched out together and we all made history.” 

Dawes credits her mother’s Baptist faith for instilling a strong bond with God early on. She said, “The seed that my mom planted in me really took. She sowed a seed that has been one that has kept me grounded, (and) has given me this level of discernment, as I think the Spirit has protected me quite a bit in my life and has steered me away from some people and situations that maybe weren’t the healthiest for me.” 

Dawes eventually felt called to the Catholic faith and to a special connection to the Virgin Mary, saying, “I always felt as a young person, while my mom did the best that she could, and my coach who many times was labeled as a mother figure, neither of them were truly happy people…. I felt as if I wanted to find... a mother who maybe was happy. Those loving arms that you can run into and just feel that sense of comfort and love, which I never felt as a child.” 

Dawes’ grandmother was full Piscataway Conoy Native American and was also Catholic and named after Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. Dawes says, “I knew very little about this until I became an adult. And I was like, ‘Oh, and that’s my grandmother I felt calling me into this Church.”  

Today Dawes is married to a Catholic school teacher and they have four children together. She also runs a gymnastics academy where she fosters a positive culture. Dawes says, “The people that I have on board, they really are so positive. I love it…It amazes me, because of the environment that I came from that was so critical. Like, nothing you could do in the sport of gymnastics was right. Nothing was ever good enough…I told my husband, when I opened these doors, I said, ‘I really want this big sign that says ‘You are Enough.’” 

Dominique Dawes’ story is inspiring on many levels. Her combination of fortitude and faith led her to become an Olympic champion. But her faith also led her to realize that, as much as she had accomplished in her own life, she wanted to share her passion for gymnastics in a very different way than is common in competitive sports. And this is how God leads great people to create a better world for those who follow in their footsteps. Discovering a relationship with Christ can empower us to think outside the box and challenge the status quo so we leave a better, more loving culture, where all people can find their talents and thrive.  


Awe Before God’s Mercy and Love 

June 5

            In the days leading up to Pentecost, I’ve been reflecting upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit that Christ won for us through His death and Resurrection. Sometimes these gifts seem to have been foreshadowed by the most unlikely people, such as the Good Thief, who asked of the criminal hurling insults at Christ, “Do you not fear God?”, a question that both reflects Judaic teaching and anticipates one of the most misunderstood gifts of the Holy Spirit that would be poured out at Pentecost 52 days later. 

            Fear of the Lord, which is the awe we are to have before God’s mercy and love, is not the only misunderstood gift of the Holy Spirit. The reality is that each of the gifts poured out to the Apostles and followers of Christ at Pentecost is a treasure that can only be unlocked by those who are humble of heart.  

            Take, for instance, the gift of wisdom. A worldly interpretation of wisdom would have us believe it is all about our experiences and how much knowledge we’ve acquired. But Christ commands us to be like children when He says, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4-5). 

            Socrates linked a similar concept into his interpretation of wisdom 400 years before the time of Christ, when he said: “Wisest is he who knows that he does not know.” In other words, it is only through humility that we can truly be wise. By recognizing our smallness in relation to God and the wonders of His creation, we can begin to act with wisdom. As the words of Christ might be interpreted, it is only when we meet the world with the awe and wonder of a child that we are truly wise. 

            It is no wonder that both Socrates and Christ were put on trial by those governing the societies of their respective time periods. Socrates challenged worldly values, and Christ represented an entirely new way of seeing things, one in which, as He said, “The last will be first, and the first last.” It is through this lens that places God’s timeless values above worldly values that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can truly be understood, and we are able to see that the awe inspired by a fear of the Lord unlocks the wonder needed to appreciate the treasures of heaven.  

            Through this lens, understanding arises from seeing beyond superficial interpretations. Good counsel is less about achieving success for ourselves and more about serving others. Fortitude is devoid of hubris and instead a prayer of long-suffering united to Christ on the cross. Knowledge is about discovering the truth of God written into His creation. And piety is the human inclination to reverence directed towards God lest it be turned to the things of this world.  

            Unlocking an understanding of the Holy Spirit’s gifts is the first step to integrating these gifts into our lives. It takes thoughtfulness and intentionality to act upon the treasures God has bestowed upon us, but it is well worth the effort. As we see with the Apostles and followers of Christ in the aftermath of that first Pentecost, nothing would ever be the same. In seeking renewal, we should strive for this same fervor, turning from worldly concerns so the fire of the Holy Spirit can be kindled within our hearts.

Waiting for the Holy Spirit 

May 29

The period of time between Christ’s Resurrection and the first Pentecost must have been filled with anxious anticipation for the Apostles and followers of Christ. As we progress through our current Eastertide, it’s worthwhile to reflect upon the mindset of those first followers of Christ because it is a mindset we are called to renew within ourselves each year. If we place ourselves in the shoes of those first followers, we can imagine the awe we’d be feeling within the aftermath of the Resurrection. Their belief in Christ’s teachings and the transformative power of His presence has been fully vindicated, and yet they are waiting because they are not certain what this means for their lives.   

            This mindset is similar to that of the modern believer. We can and should sit in awe over the miraculous fact of Christ’s Resurrection, and we can love and believe in His teachings. But we are still left with day-to-day questions about how this should prompt us to act.  

            Jesus appeared to His followers ten times after the Resurrection, and we might even relate to these visitations through our understanding of the transformative power of Christ’s presence in our prayer life or through the subtle and not so subtle mystical experiences some people have. Our awe over Christ’s Resurrection and the miraculous power of His presence in our lives prompts us to ask the question: What should we do? The answer to this question comes at Pentecost, when Christ’s promise to send the Holy Spirit to enter into a fuller relationship with humanity than ever before is finally fulfilled. This relationship awakens us to the reality of Christ within ourselves and empowers each one of us to discover our uniqueness and our purpose in life.  

            Confirmation is the sacrament that coincides in a deeply spiritual way with Pentecost because it is a fulfillment of Baptism, when the indelible character of the Holy Spirit is imprinted upon our souls. Confirmation is our response to the gifts of the Holy Spirit in that we affirm our commitment to utilize these gifts for the greater good. So, if we want to understand how the first followers of Christ felt at Pentecost, we can look to the Sacrament of Confirmation and the purpose it brings to our lives. Likewise, if we want to understand how the Sacrament of Confirmation should affect us, we can imagine the miraculous nature of that first Pentecost. 

            Awaiting a realization of our purpose in life can be a challenging experience, but it’s important we develop the patience to wait upon the workings of the Holy Spirit with hope because we will repeatedly face situations in life where we need to exercise patience to discover the path God is calling us to follow. So, we should always take advantage of this time of year to get in touch with the patience of the Apostles and followers of Christ who waited upon that first intimate visitation of the Holy Spirit in their lives. 

            Waiting upon the Holy Spirit with hope is all about balancing patience with the anxious anticipation that naturally defines our excitement to discover our true path in life. Once their purpose was awakened within them, the Apostles did not hesitate to venture out to win souls for Christ and transform the world. May all of us, and especially those celebrating Confirmation this year, be awakened to a patient anticipation of God’s plan for our lives, and may we never hesitate to answer the call.  

Fr. Ed Dougherty

May 15

Ten Commandments Lead to Happiness 

            Christ said, “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). This idea that God’s law pertains to how we treat others was later reiterated by St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians, when he wrote: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14). 

            We know these statements aren’t telling us to ignore all other laws because Christ also said, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Therefore, we must see Christ’s words as a lens through which to interpret the law. When we do this, it opens our eyes to God’s beautiful plan of love for humanity. 

            The Ten Commandments provide an excellent opportunity to apply Christ’s wisdom to our interpretation of God’s law. Many in today’s society look upon the Commandments as a set of strict rules utilized to condemn people for wrongdoing. But when seen through the lens presented to us by Christ, they become a trustworthy and benevolent guide through life’s trials.  

            For instance, we are commanded not to do certain things, like steal, kill, covet, commit adultery, or bear false witness. These commandments are all about loving our neighbor and treating them as we would want to be treated. So, we can see why love of neighbor sums up the law, and we can see the wisdom in the law being all about our relationship to others. It is also evident that the law guides us towards a fruitful life because no one who wrongs others could possibly be happy. 

            The other set of rules in the Ten Commandments relates to respect for God. We are told not to take His name in vain, to keep holy the Lord’s Day, and not to worship false gods. We are also told to honor our parents. This relates to our respect for God because respect for one’s parents is the first way we learn to respect the order God intends for the world. We are given these commandments because God wants us to avoid the misery that results from bad decision-making. He wants to be our guide and commands us to keep Him as our beacon and lodestar, lest we be led astray.  

            It’s also important to consider what Christ means in saying He came to fulfill the law, because sometimes we need a path back to communion with God and neighbor. Christ fulfills the law by showing us the way of mercy. In the Beatitudes, Christ says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Here is another aspect of God’s law relating to the command to treat others as we would want to be treated. For who among us would not want to be forgiven when we seek mercy for our faults?  

            Christ’s command to show mercy reveals the heart of God because we’re made in His image and are constantly being called to renew God’s likeness within ourselves. Therefore, when we are told to be merciful, we can take consolation in knowing that God is merciful. So, Christ has provided us with a lens through which to see the law as being like a treasure map, drawn for us by a loving God, who desires nothing other than to lead us to true and lasting happiness. 

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors

Emulating Christ’s Forgiveness

April 24

Luke’s account of Christ’s Passion culminates in what might be the most astounding and transformative statement ever made. After enduring rejection by His own people, suffering ridicule and abuse by Roman soldiers, and being nailed to the cross to face a slow and agonizing death, Christ cried out to God, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  

It was a most unexpected statement of divine mercy, delivered at the most unexpected time. It changed the world forever and continues to do so. There are two main takeaways from this moment that must invariably move us to action, the first being a realization of the nature of God’s mercy and what this means for our own salvation.  

Consider who Christ was asking God to forgive. He was asking forgiveness for those who rejected Him. He was asking forgiveness for those who had beaten Him, for those who had driven nails into His hands and feet to murder Him. He was asking forgiveness for those involved in the power structure that put Him to death: the Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate, and the rulers of the Roman Empire. If God can forgive all those people for all those things, we must know in our hearts that we can be redeemed, regardless of the mistakes we’ve made.  

And why, we might ask, would God send this message? Is it because He’s not offended by sin and wants us to know it doesn’t matter? We know that’s not the case from countless other statements by Christ, the Apostles, and all the prophets. No, He sends this message because He knows that forgiveness is the only thing that frees us to change. 

Transformation is what Christ wants for us. It’s what He won for us. He freed us to be able to change by saying He would not let our guilt and the negative mindset of self-hatred produced by guilt hold us back, and He did this because He wants us to walk in His footsteps in a bond of friendship that is more satisfying than anything the world could ever offer.  

To act on this forgiveness, we must continually accept it. When we do that, we are walking in friendship with Christ and giving thanks in a profound way for His sacrifice on the cross. But Christ’s forgiveness prompts a second takeaway: in walking with Christ, we are called to emulate Him and extend this same transformative forgiveness to others. Christ said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” These words reveal the challenge that lies at the heart of God’s forgiveness, because the ultimate gratitude we can show to God is to extend forgiveness to others. If we are to truly walk in Christ’s footsteps, we will raise our enemies up to God in prayer in the same way Christ raised His enemies up in prayer from the cross.  

Consider the most challenging people you face in your day-to-day life and consider the people we hear about doing bad deeds in the world. We must always ask ourselves: are we raising these people up to God in prayer? Are we praying for our enemies? Christ said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and He not only said it but showed us what it looks like under the most challenging circumstances. It was a moment that changed the world, and we share that transformative experience with others each time we summon the courage to forgive. 


The Good Thief’s Lesson 

April 10, 2022

            One of the great miracles of the Gospels is that the deepest wisdom is contained within the most straightforward kind of storytelling. The reason for this is revealed in Matthew, when, after lamenting the stubbornness of people in certain cities, Christ says, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will.” 

            We see in these words Christ’s desire to share His wisdom not with those of worldly status but with the humble of heart. And in His very next statement, Christ reveals the ease with which those who are humble will enter the Kingdom of Heaven when He says, “Come to Me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) 

            So, we see how humility leads to both wisdom and salvation, and the Gospels show that those who discover this way of humility can come from surprising places. In Luke’s account of Christ’s Passion, we discover the man who has come to be known as the Good Thief. Whatever brought him to that moment of being crucified alongside Christ, this man had the wisdom to understand his faults and to understand the difference between himself and God.  

After another man being crucified beside them hurled insults at Christ, the Good Thief rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” To this, Christ responded, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” 

            In this simple yet profound narrative, Christ reinforces the ease with which the humble of heart will enter His Kingdom. We also see how humility led the Good Thief into the wisdom of Christ because his question to the other criminal being crucified, “Do you not fear God?” foreshadows one of the most complex and misunderstood fruits of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. 

            In the days that followed Christ’s crucifixion, the fruits of His sacrifice manifested themselves in His Resurrection and His subsequent revelations to the Apostles, culminating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon them at Pentecost. Yet, before all of that happened, the Good Thief preached what is perhaps the most misunderstood of those gifts of the Holy Spirit: the fear of the Lord. It’s a teaching with deep roots in the Hebrew tradition, but the Good Thief had the wisdom to apply this to Christ on the cross because it marked a moment when such teachings gained their fullest meaning.  

            Fear of the Lord is not about being afraid of God; it is about the awe we are to have before God. For those who understand, there has never been a more awe-inspiring life than that of Christ’s. May we all have the humility of the Good Thief to sit in awe of what Christ endured for us and have the wisdom to understand we are loved by God and welcomed into His Kingdom.  

The Most Powerful Human Being 

March 27, 2022

In his essay “Power of the Powerless: a Brother’s Lesson,” published in the Wall Street Journal in 1985, Christopher de Vinck writes, “For me, to have been brought up in a house where a tragedy was turned into joy explains to a great degree why I am the type of husband and father and writer and teacher that I have become.” 

            In his essay, which was later adapted into a book of the same name, with an Afterword by Fred Rogers, de Vinck recounts how, when his mother was pregnant with his brother Oliver, she was exposed to a gas leak in their home. Although they did not realize it at the time, this had a terrible effect on Oliver in the womb, and he was eventually born with severe impairments. 

            The doctors said Oliver wouldn’t live past seven or eight years, but he lived for 32 years. In that time, Christopher witnessed his parents care for Oliver, and he himself cared for Oliver, often taking on the task of feeding his brother. This very act of caring for a person with severe disabilities made Christopher a better person. Oliver’s presence in his life even helped Christopher choose the right woman to marry. He tells of bringing a young woman to their home and inviting her to meet Oliver, having told her all about him. Her reply was, “No,” she did not want to meet him. Soon after that incident, he met another young woman named Rosemary, or Roe, and eventually brought her home to meet his family.  

While Roe was visiting, Christopher prepared to feed Oliver. He writes, “I sheepishly asked Roe if she’d like to come upstairs and see Oliver. ‘Sure’, she said and up the stairs we went. I sat at Oliver’s bedside as Roe stood and watched over my shoulder. I gave him the first spoonful, the second… ‘Can I do that?’ she asked, with ease and freedom and compassion. So I gave her the bowl and she fed Oliver, one spoonful at a time. The power of the powerless. Which girl would you marry? I married Roe, and I never regretted. Today Roe and I have three children.” 

            The Christophers share this story on occasion because it remains one of the most poignant witnesses to the value of human life at all stages and in all forms. Christopher’s witness is so powerful that I’d like to end this column with the words he chose to end his 1985 tribute to his brother, which seems to me to be one of the most truthful and yet mysterious statements I have ever encountered. May it change our hearts.  

“When I was a child I was afraid of the dark and shared a room with my younger brother. Our room was separated from Oliver’s by a single wall. Five inches of wood and plaster divided us from each other during the night. We inhaled the same night air, listened to the same wind. Slowly, without our knowledge, Oliver created a certain power around us which changed all of our lives. I cannot explain Oliver’s influence fully, except to say that the powerless in the world do hold great power, and sometimes the weak do confound the mighty. Even now, five years after his death from pneumonia on March 12, 1980, Oliver still remains the most helpless human being I ever met. The weakest human being I ever met, and yet, he was the most powerful human being I ever met.” 

Finding Christ in Community 

March 13, 2022

This year marks the 77th anniversary of the founding of The Christophers. It was back in 1945 that Father James Keller, M.M., set about to bring a message of hope to a nation recovering from the ordeal of World War II. Hope had led that great generation to risk their lives in defense of freedom and human dignity. They had hope that good could prevail and that sacrifice for the greater good was a worthwhile and honorable endeavor. And it was hope that led that generation on the road to recovery from war as they resumed the work of building up their families and communities. 

The first generation that responded to The Christophers’ message of hope knew there was much work to be done to improve our society and to improve the world, but they also knew that challenges were no reason for despair, so they armed themselves with hope and set about to do the hard work to bring about positive change. That is what we are called to today, to pick up the mantle of hope and continue the good work of those who have gone before us. 

The Christopher News Note Finding Christ in Community shows that the path to hope for many lies in the relationships they cultivate with others. Relationships are often where the seeds of hope are planted within our hearts because it is only in relationship to others that we realize a higher purpose beyond our own personal wants and needs.  

Our News Note on finding Christ in community details the story of a young woman who realized her own calling to generosity of spirit after people reached out to her when she was in need. And in another story, a 95-year-old blind, widowed, and lonely Londoner offered affordable housing to a low-income student and, in doing so, discovered an opportunity to cultivate a relationship that revived her spirit. “You cannot believe the difference that it makes just hearing somebody in the house,” she said. “And, to me, now to hear the key in the lock ‘round about 6 o’clock at night is wonderful.” 

In his effort to inspire people with Christ’s message of hope, Father Keller joined with some of the most talented Hollywood stars of his time to produce movies that gave expression to the inherent dignity of each individual in society. His film A Link in the Chain starred James Cagney as an aging college professor wondering whether his efforts had made a difference in his students’ lives. His reminiscences about those students provide him with the resounding answer that all good finds its source in God and is then passed on through humanity by those willing to act with love towards one another. 

“I, too, was but a link in the chain,” Cagney’s professor says, “a chain that was first forged with the Word, the Word of God. From Him came all the great words, words that were given to us to be repeated endlessly until their inner meaning is understood and accepted.”  

We are all called to take up the mantle of hope and become a link in the chain of God’s love for humanity. Each of us does this in our own unique way, utilizing the gifts we’ve been given to bring the light of Christ to those in need. When we do this, we are being Christophers, Christ-bearers, and we’re carrying on a tradition that traces itself back to Christ.   

All Shall Be Well 

Feb 27, 2022

Psalm 121 opens with the question: “I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come?” That question is answered in the following line: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  

This rhythm of questioning and then answering in a constant search for relief from suffering is found throughout the Psalms. Reflecting upon this in a column for Aleteia, Kathleen N. Hattrup writes, “In the Psalms…suffering is transformed into a question. From suffering to questioning.… And among the many questions, there is one that remains suspended, like an incessant cry that runs throughout the entire book from beginning to end. A question that we repeat many times: ‘Until when, Lord? Until when?’” 

Humanity’s enduring question to God over our sufferings finds its ultimate expression in Christ’s cry from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” It is in this cry of abandonment that Christ meets us all in our most profound moments of anguish, and it is in the aftermath of this moment that God gives His answer for all eternity about the sufferings of this world. It is not an answer that comes immediately, as we know that God allowed Christ to experience the most extreme anguish and ultimately death. But it is an answer that comes in God’s time, and that answer is one of mercy, redemption, and ultimate resurrection.  

In her book Revelations of Divine Love, 14th century English mystic Julian of Norwich describes a time when she was 30 years old and fell so ill that she was given last rites. She had become paralyzed, and it seemed certain she was going to die. In this near-death state, she received a series of visions of God, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary, and she heard these comforting words spoken to her, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  

This message resounds as the answer God gives to us all in times of turmoil. It is a message of spiritual peace that can calm our hearts even amid life’s most turbulent storms. God wants us to be at peace and to trust that we can make it through even the most difficult trials, and He wants us to arrive at this for the reason given by the Psalmist, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” 

In his letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul writes, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

We must bring all our cares to God and lay them at the foot of the cross, joining our suffering to Christ’s offering to redeem all of humanity. And we must come to see our prayers in light of Christ’s cry from the cross and the rhythm found in the Psalms in which suffering is transformed into questions. Only then will our burdens be lifted as we come to see our own trials as part of a grander whole in which God does provide answers—and those answers open a window onto the mystery of His unbounded love for each one of us, a love that leads us to know, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  

A Mother’s Enduring Faith

Feb 13, 2022

In Chapter VIII of his Confessions, Saint Augustine writes, “For Thou, O our God, shalt lighten our darkness: from Thee riseth our garment of light; and then shall our darkness be as the noon day.” This sentiment reveals Augustine’s journey from spiritual desolation to his discovery that fulfillment is only found in pursuit of a relationship with God. 

In his Confessions, Saint Augustine describes losing his way many times and for long periods throughout his life, but his story also demonstrates how God pursued a relationship with him and continually invited him to walk in the light of Christ. One of the greatest gifts God placed in Augustine’s life was Saint Monica, his mother, a devout Christian who became a saint through the practice of an abiding faith.  

While Augustine strayed from the faith often in his youth and well into adulthood, Monica remained steadfast in her loyalty to God and continually invited her son and her husband, who was a pagan, to discover the joy of sacrificial love. Saint Monica epitomized The Christophers’ motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness,” because she never gave up hope and always chose to believe her loved ones could find their way. 

Monica’s influence on Augustine, who became one of the greatest saints in Church history, and on her husband, who converted to Christianity on his deathbed, demonstrates the power of faith to transform the lives of those around us. The Christophers’ recent prayer card captures this profound sentiment that faith can guide us to God and help us lead others along their own path to Christ. Our Faith Prayer Card articulates the language of the heart reaching out to God, and this was the type of faith Monica practiced as she continually spoke to God, in fervent prayer for the spiritual well-being of those she loved.  

In the opening of his Confessions, Augustine writes, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” These are the words of a man who had searched the world for happiness and found that only God could lead us to true and lasting joy. Imagine what a sense of reward his mother must have felt to know her son had come home to the faith. She lived to see him baptized by none other than Saint Ambrose, who had adopted Augustine as a spiritual son after the death of his father.  

Monica died in the same year Augustine was baptized, living to see the conversion of the two men she loved most in the world. What a triumph this was for her life of prayer and her patience in waiting on God to mold the hearts of those for whom she prayed.  

The story of Monica and Augustine demonstrates that faith and patience go hand in hand, because it is only in patience that we demonstrate our faith. We must have the courage to believe in God even when things don’t work out exactly as we want. Faith is about knowing that God is at work in the world and is constantly guiding events to bring about the greater good. Only when we have that kind of faith can we focus on all we are called to do to play our part in God’s plan of love for humanity. And when we exercise that kind of faith, we exercise the virtues that animated Saint Monica and her beloved son Saint Augustine.    

Football Coach Teaches Cardinal Virtues 

January 23, 2022

Sports are such an integral part of American life, and team sports, where many people learn how to operate under pressure and direct their energies towards the greater good. But we are only assured of imparting the deepest lessons to be learned in sports when we teach those lessons in an intentional way. Catholic University of America Head Football Coach Mike Gutelius has been teaching life lessons in an intentional way ever since taking charge of the CUA program in 2016. Gutelius graduated from CUA in 1992 and went on to enjoy a long career in coaching before returning to his Alma Mater.  Reporting for CNA, Joe Bukuras writes, “Now in his 30th year of coaching, Gutelius has instituted a program in which he teaches the Catholic University Cardinals the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.”  

“There’s a glory to be had if you’re willing to sacrifice,” Gutelius told Bukuras, adding, “Football players in general, they have that Don Quixote internal sense of wanting to go fight against something. They’re ready to battle. No one today is pointing young men towards where the battlefield is. The battlefield is inside of each of us.” 

These are truly visionary words that should be heeded and emulated by every coach who cares about utilizing their program to build character. So much of sports culture today seems to view character building as a given and also as secondary to the goal of winning. But building character in the right way is not a given of participation in sports. Building character is not just about teaching people how to achieve, it’s about teaching them what exactly we should be striving for outside of the game itself.  

With the right approach, all the smaller lessons pertaining to the game can translate into larger lessons about life. The effort young people put into training and competing can translate into the self-discipline inherent to cultivating virtue. A stark dichotomy exists between those whose sports experience simply teaches them how to conquer in a worldly sense and those whose experience teaches them how to conquer themselves and gain the self-mastery inherent to the cardinal virtues that Coach Gutelius teaches his Cardinals. Cast in this light, we can see a struggle at play over the direction our country’s sports culture will lead us, and Catholics can play a big part in directing that culture towards cultivation of the kind of true character that builds joyful young people, capable of pursuing honor in service to those they love and to the common good. 

So if you know any great high school football players, tell them about Coach Mike Gutelius. I’m sure he would value their contributions on the CUA football team. What’s more, they might be provided the chance of a lifetime to grow into the men God wants them to be. 

CUA Athletic Director Dr. Sean Sullivan certainly appreciates Coach Gutelius’ efforts to form young men into, not just great football players, but great men. Summing up the importance of the wisdom Coach Gutelius imparts to his players, Sullivan said, “It can be difficult for any developing student-athlete to recognize the critical nature of making the right decisions off the field when so much of their focus relates to how to excel on it. However, Coach Gutelius consistently reinforces to his players how they must think beyond the immediate, the here-and-now, to position themselves through sound decision-making which will enable them to lead a life of virtue and of consequence.” 

Learning to Trust in God 

January 2, 2022

The 1943 film The Song of Bernadette opens with the quote, “For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible.” This line is derived from the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and it expresses such an important theme within the story that it is reiterated near the end of the film when the character of Abbe Dominique Peyramale, played by Charles Bickford, speaks these words to skeptics who cannot get beyond their doubts, despite the miraculous occurrences that have taken place in their humble town of Lourdes, France. 

This struggle to believe in God and in his miraculous hand at work in the world around us is an enduring challenge that has been faced by people from all walks of life, and it is a challenge that even the saints have faced. In the Gospels, we see the Apostles themselves struggling with doubt, with perhaps the most famous story of doubt taking place when Thomas declares that he will not believe in the Resurrection until he sees Christ with his eyes and feels Him with his hands.  

Christ’s response to grant Thomas the proof he seeks demonstrates the reality of God’s miraculous interventions in the world. This type of intervention is similar to what took place at Lourdes, where Saint Bernadette experienced visions of our Blessed Mother and then healing waters poured forth from a spring in the ground, where thousands of miracles have since taken place.  

But we should also remember that, after dispelling Thomas’ doubts, Christ said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” This is the challenge that most of us are faced with for the majority of our lifetimes. Even those who encounter the miraculous at some point in their lives must return to everyday reality where they might struggle to maintain faith in God. But we might also see this challenge as a gift because Christ is giving us the opportunity to exercise faith in the same way we might exercise our brains or the muscles in our bodies. And when we exercise faith, we cultivate endurance that will prepare us to be tested. 

The Christophers recently produced a prayer card on faith that is a beautiful meditation on the mindset that leads us to trust more fully in the providence of God. This prayer helps us to realize that, in order to cultivate our faith, we must first open ourselves to God and to realizing how He guides us through life experiences. And by exercising faith, especially in the most difficult times, we inspire others to face their own challenges and to cultivate faith within themselves. 

As we start into this new year of 2022, one great resolution is to recommit ourselves to cultivating the faith within ourselves, our families, and our communities. When we do this, we will find a greater ability to see God at work in our lives and in the world around us, and we will need less explanation for those things that are inexplicable. This leads to wisdom and an understanding of how to cooperate with grace, even when we can’t predict the outcome. It is this way of being that will inspire others in our families and communities to let go of doubt and move closer to the joy of knowing and believing in God.    

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors              

Kicking the Stigma 

Dec 26, 2021

            As another year draws to a close, one of the things that should be left behind is the stigma around mental illness. That’s why it’s so great to hear about the initiative undertaken by the Indianapolis Colts football team, called “Kicking the Stigma.” It’s an effort to destigmatize mental illness so that people can understand how common it is to struggle with these issues and to highlight the inherent human dignity of all who suffer.  

            In an interview with Rich Eisen, Colts owner Jim Irsay said, “The stigma that’s attached with mental illness literally kills people and destroys families.” Irsay goes on to ask everyone to consider how destructive it would be for a stigma to be attached to seeking treatment for any other disease, and then he explains that this is exactly the dilemma faced by those who suffer from mental health issues. Irsay says, “They don’t want to come out and…be called crazy. They don’t want to be called unemployable.” 

            The reality is that 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness each year, 1 in 6 youth ages 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 34. So when Irsay says that society’s stigmatization of mental illness kills, he’s backed up by the numbers. But this does not have to be the case. We can cultivate an atmosphere where people feel comfortable talking about their problems and seeking help.  

            Colts’ linebacker Darius Leonard has become a leading voice in destigmatizing mental illness, grounded in his own experiences. In a story put out by the NFL, Leonard said, “It’s OK to not be OK. I knew I needed help, and for a long time, I didn’t reach out. Once I did reach out, I knew that’s what made it better for me. A lot of people have a stigma, especially as men, that you can’t show weakness. I’m letting the world know, as a professional football player, a linebacker, one of the most aggressive positions on the field, there’s still no weakness because you’re having mental health issues.” 

            This is a powerful message that can help break down the barriers to seeking help that exist in many people’s minds, and it’s a message that coincides with the Christian message. Within our faith, we’re encouraged to recognize our broken nature and to constantly submit to the process of seeking healing. When we walk that path, we become better people, who are better able to give of ourselves to others.  

            Irsay has had his own struggles that have contributed to his vision for “Kicking the Stigma.” He has battled addiction and sought help, saying, “I’m diligent about my recovery. It’s like amazing grace; it comes from a higher power, and it just starts with the willingness for people to say, ‘Help me, I surrender, I can’t do it. God, You can, I’m turning my life and my will over to the care of God.’” 

            Irsay now finds meaning in a life of service, which demonstrates the path we are all called to walk. We must seek healing in order to build ourselves up, and only then can we utilize our gifts to make the world a better place. Engaging in this process is the path of true courage. So let’s join in “kicking the stigma” and build a society where the acts of both seeking and offering healing are celebrated for the compassion and courage they entail.   

Practice Kindness to Change Lives 

November 28

A bit of wisdom from the Old Testament Book of Sirach teaches us, “Kindness is like a garden of blessings.” These words point to the rich rewards that await those who walk in the gentle footsteps of Christ. Our Christopher News Note Practice Kindness to Change Lives details stories of people who reap the rewards of following Christ by practicing kindness. 

Shannon K. Evans, author of the book Embracing Weakness, exemplifies how kindness can open doors to understanding and healing. Shannon and her husband Eric adopted a son who acted out due to an early childhood trauma. It was difficult to find a place where they fit in as a family until they started volunteering at a Catholic Worker facility called Day House, which is run by people who serve the poor and homeless in their Iowa community.  

In a Christopher Closeup interview, Shannon shared how they found acceptance at Day House because some of the clientele suffered from mental health issues, and so their son’s behavior was simply taken in stride. Shannon said, “Every model of that kind of volunteer work that I had been a part of was all about me giving to others’ needs…[But] here, we all cooked the meal together. We all sat down and ate together, and that was very representative of the spirit of the place, of believing that every human being is created in the image of God. And no matter what their circumstances, they do have something to offer other human beings.” 

The kindness Shannon and Eric exhibited in adopting a troubled child created their need to seek out a community of kindness. But finding that community didn’t happen until they made another act of kindness by volunteering to help the poor. And there, among those who suffer and those who serve, they found a community built on kindness, and this helped them to grow and flourish as a family. 

Then there’s the story of Eleanor Baker, an elderly woman who was sitting alone eating dinner at Brad’s Bar-B-Que in Oxford, Alabama, when a young man named Jamario Howard approached her. Jamario was waiting on an order with his friends, JaMychol Baker and Tae Knight, when he noticed Eleanor and wondered if she might be lonely. He struck up a conversation with her and learned she was a widow and that the following day would have been her 60th wedding anniversary. At that point, Jamario knew he couldn’t leave Eleanor alone, so he invited her to join him and his friends for dinner, and they had a wonderful evening together. When Jamario posted a photo of them all, it went viral, and CBS News did a story on their moment. Eleanor called it “a God thing,” adding, “I think God sent me there.”  

Jamario said, “I used to say when I was younger, and I still say today, I want to change the world somehow, and I don’t know how. I’m not rich. I’m not famous…But we can show the world it’s alright to be kind. And then, before long, maybe the world will be a much better place.” 

Jamario, JayMychol, and Tae inspired others through the kindness they showed to Eleanor. What an amazing thing to do – to inspire others with a simple act of kindness. We should all set out to inspire the world in the same way. We’re sure to reap rewards in our own lives and to see a ripple effect that creates a kinder, gentler, and more compassionate society.

Being a Christopher 

November 14, 2021

Father James Keller, M.M., wrote, “The Gospels reveal how our Lord was ever on the move, not merely to enjoy Himself but always with the hope and prayer that as He moved among the people, He would reach some who could be reached in no other way.” What a poignant characterization of Christ’s ministry, which began at around 30 years of age, when His life became devoted to seeking interaction with those in need of His presence and message.  

When we take the whole of Christ’s life, from infancy to adulthood, we see a balance between formation and outreach. It is a balance we all need in our lives, but we must always remember that the value of our formation is measured by how it prepares us to go out into the world and give of ourselves to others.   

Of Christ’s ministry, Father Keller writes, “His was the loving purpose of bringing God to men and men to God. He went to dinners, to weddings, to all sorts of gatherings. He engaged in conversation with all types of persons in all sorts of places. And the people flocked to Him because He first went to them.” 

This spirit of generosity is at the heart of what it means to be a Christopher, and it is the approach to life that inspired Father Keller to start The Christophers back in 1945. In the latest installment of a video series I’ve been working on, I discuss what it means to be a Christopher, a word derived from the Greek Christoforos, which translates to Christ-bearer. Being a Christopher is about following Christ. It’s about reaching out to others with a spirit of generosity. And it is about recognizing the gifts bestowed upon us and utilizing those gifts to make the world a better place.  

Our pamphlet on Being a Christopher tells the story of a moment in Father Keller’s life that inspired him to start The Christophers organization. It occurred at the Metropolitan Opera House when he found himself standing in a completely darkened auditorium and suddenly someone lit a match. Recalling that moment, Father Keller wrote: “The sight of that tiny flame made an indelible impression on me. Insignificant as it was, it was greater than the darkness. All that was needed to banish the darkness completely was to multiply that flicker of light.”  

This moment might be seen as a microcosm of what it means to follow Christ. We must first have the insight to recognize the light of God’s truth and its ability to bring change to even the darkest corners of our world. Then, we must take up the challenge to do our part to bring about that change. Each of us is gifted in unique ways, and we are called to cultivate those gifts and put them in service to God and others. When we do that, we are joining Christ in bringing His light into the world. As Father Keller once wrote, “The presence of even one Christopher in any environment is a blessing, a channel of grace, a step in the right direction—like a tiny pinpoint of light that is greater than the encircling darkness.” 

So, let’s cast our nets wide and encourage all the faithful to recommit to being Christophers, to recommit to following Christ in every aspect of our lives, and let’s look for opportunities to invite those who do not yet know Christ to discover His gentle and healing ways.     

Finding Joy Despite Suffering

October 31, 2021

I recently read about a man named John Scott who had just passed away. His story had been written-up by his uncle, who cared for him for many years due to the tragic circumstances of his life. When John was just a baby, he lost his father in a horrible accident during a hurricane. And when he was six years old, John suffered a terrible accident himself. He was walking on a sidewalk when a speeding drunk driver swerved off the road and struck him, leaving him with broken bones and a severe brain injury.  

In the aftermath of the accident, a cast was left on John’s leg for too long, leaving him with an open wound in his left foot that would never fully heal. John came to rely on his mother in his efforts at rehabilitation, and she taught him how to speak all over again. But then, when he was just 11 years old, his mother died of a heart attack. Thereafter, John and his sister were raised by their grandmother in Niagara Falls, NY. After graduating from high school, John got a job with Good Will Industries and later with Tops International. His work ethic was so good that he once walked seven miles in a snowstorm to get to work when the roads were so bad that public transportation had shut down. 

But eventually, another tragedy struck. John was walking to the library with his aunt, and they were hit by a speeding car that ran a red light. Recalling the aftermath of that incident, John’s uncle writes, “He was 21 days in a coma. The doctors said he would never walk again. I then brought John and my sister here to live with us so my wife and I could care for them. That was 25 years ago. John arrived in a wheelchair, but with his strong will power and determination and after many falls, he was able to walk again—first with a walker and then with a cane.”  

Through all of John’s suffering, his joyful nature became legendary. Everyone knew him wherever he went, giving him hugs and stopping to chat. Yet another trial came when the wound in John’s foot since childhood became cancerous and his leg needed to be amputated. John’s uncle writes, “The doctors were amazed at how well he took this tragedy, not complaining or crying about it, but being so upbeat, that they asked him if he would volunteer to be on call to speak to any patient they had who was extremely distressed at the prospect of having an amputation. John readily agreed.” 

This calling to visit the sick came to define John Scott. He became a third order Carmelite, and, in addition to his work with prospective amputees, he undertook an informal ministry to nursing home patients, where he had a real knack with the elderly. John’s uncle writes, “If there were some who refused to eat, John could convince them easily. If there was one depressed, he could have them talking and laughing. And he always said, ‘I pray for you,’ to each one, and he would not forget to do so.” 

John’s final days were marked by tremendous suffering, and he spent hours offering prayers for the intentions of friends, many of whom claimed those prayers were answered. May John Scott, who suffered so much, be a saint in heaven now, so that he might continue to intercede for friends, loved ones, and all those in need. 


Mary’s Intercession in All Things 

October 3, 2021

            October is the month of the Most Holy Rosary, when we honor the power of the intercession of the Blessed Mother in our lives. We focus on the Rosary during this month due to the fact that the Feast of the Holy Rosary falls on October 7th, and so we dedicate this entire month to the Rosary and pray for Mary’s intercession in all things. We also are currently celebrating the centenary of the founding of the Legion of Mary, an organization that promotes lay involvement in the life of the Church. Catholic News Agency recently ran a story on the Legion of Mary and its founder, Frank Duff, who has been designated a Servant of God, which is the first step in the cause for Beatification.  

            Reporting on a Mass held in early September commemorating the centenary of the founding of the Legion of Mary, CNA shared quotes from the homily delivered by Dublin Archbishop Dermot Farrell, who said of the legion’s founder, “Frank Duff, a man ahead of his time, could be described as prophetic in the true Christian sense of that word: someone sensitive to the call of God and utterly dedicated to God’s will. He translated his prophetic perspective of the universal call to holiness into a vibrant lay movement.” 

            Duff founded the Legion of Mary on September 7, 1921, and the legion’s centenary will be recognized throughout the coming year, with a closing Mass of Thanksgiving scheduled for November 19, 2022. Duff founded the legion in Dublin, but it eventually grew into an international organization that today is the largest lay apostolic Catholic organization, boasting over 10 million members worldwide. 

            The strength of the movement founded by Duff is rooted in a search for the meaning of Mary’s motherhood of Jesus and of His mystical body, the Church, and that search finds its fullest expression in a devotion to the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary. The popularity of a movement rooted in devotion to the Rosary comes as no surprise to those who understand its ability to mold our hearts in the image of Christ.  

            In a meditation on the growing popularity of the Rosary in modern times, Pope Benedict XVI once said, “The Rosary is experiencing a new Springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother, Mary. In the current world, so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ at the center, as the Virgin did, who meditated within all that was said about her Son, and also what He did and said…. The Rosary, when it is prayed in an authentic way, not mechanical and superficial but profoundly, it brings, in fact, peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the center of each Hail Mary.” 

            Now is a great time to join with all those devoted to exploring the mysteries of the faith within the recitation of the Rosary in order to honor this month of the Most Holy Rosary and to begin a coming year of commemoration of all those who have turned to Mary over the past century through their involvement in the Legion of Mary. Our world is in desperate need of the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and when we turn to her, we find ourselves led into the loving arms of her son, Jesus Christ. 

The Gift of Reconciliation 


One challenging aspect of the pandemic that has afflicted the world in the past year and a half has been the curtailment of our Catholic sacraments. It has awakened many people to the value of practicing their faith and the reality of how much of our spiritual nourishment comes from the sacraments. So, as we try, in fits and starts, to get back to a semblance of normalcy and a regular practice of our faith, many Catholics are looking to immerse themselves more fully in the rich traditions we have available to us.  

            One of the most vital and life-affirming aspects of our tradition as Catholics is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The commission to forgive sins traces itself directly back to the person of Christ and the moment He visited the disciples after the Resurrection. He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:22-23) 

            In a recent video series for The Christophers, I was asked to address some of the complexities of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the hopes of helping people overcome common barriers that stand in the way of regular reception of this healing ritual. And I think some people might avoid Confession because they see it as an activity that promotes an attitude of guilt or self-loathing. On the flip side, others might find no point in going to Confession unless they have some long list of major sins. The key to understanding why both of these mindsets are flawed can be found when we ask: what is it we should be seeking to get out of the sacrament? What we are seeking, or what we should be seeking, is innocence. 

            In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.” In other words, the innocence of the angels is rooted in the fact that they have humility and are not weighed down by sin. This is the kind of lightness of spirit we should be seeking. It is the spirit of innocence that existed for humanity before the Fall, and it is the spirit Christ has made available for us again through His sacrifice on the cross. We are not expected to be racked by guilt over every minor fault we have, but we are expected to accept Christ’s redemptive sacrifice with humility, to acknowledge we are not perfect, and that we need His saving grace to return to the lightness of spirit God intends for us all. 

            We might also ask: who are we trying to be, or what kinds of things are we called by God to do in this world? And the answers to such questions are so often found in how we treat others. Well, to be attentive to the needs of others, we need to be unburdened in our spiritual lives, and this is the great gift that Christ has given to the Church. He’s given us a way back to the innocence that existed for humanity before the Fall. He’s given us a way to unburden ourselves from the weight of sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And we should avail ourselves of this healing ritual on a regular basis so that we might become light in spirit, capable of looking outward from ourselves upon the world and applying all of our talents in service to God and others.   

While We Have Time, Let Us Do Good 


This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/ll. So much time has passed since the attack on our nation in 2001, and we should pray that healing has entered the lives of all survivors. We must also never forget those we lost that day, the heroism of first responders, and the heroism of all those who have put their lives on the line ever since to protect our nation from future attacks. 

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk has been at the forefront of keeping these heroes alive in our hearts. This event has been held annually on the last Sunday in September ever since 2002, when 1,500 people gathered to retrace the steps of FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller, and it has grown since then into one of the top 5K runs in America. 

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation—which hosts the 5K Run & Walk, along with 70 other events in their “Run, Walk, Climb” series—has grown and thrived because of the tremendous spirit of the family of Stephen Siller, a father of five whose story is one of exceptional bravery.  

On September 11, 2001, Stephen had just gotten off duty at Brooklyn’s Squad 1 when he heard over his scanner that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He called his wife and told her he was returning to the firehouse to get his gear so that he could head to Manhattan to do whatever he could to help out. Arriving at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel only to find a traffic jam, Stephen got out of his car, strapped 60 pounds of gear on his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel and to the towers, where he made the ultimate sacrifice while saving others.  

The following year, Stephen’s family organized The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk, a charity event that raises money for first responders and catastrophically injured veterans. Since that time, their foundation has raised $250 million for American heroes and their families, and they’ve educated over half a million people with their 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit. This year, to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Frank Siller, Stephen’s older brother, set off in early August on a nearly 600-mile walk from the Pentagon to Ground-Zero in Manhattan to honor all those who lost their lives on that tragic day.  

In 2019, The Christophers were honored to present our Leadership Award to Frank for the work he and his family have done through their charity to help first responders and Gold Star families, as well as their efforts to build smart homes for injured veterans. In his remarks upon receiving our award, Frank said, “My parents had seven kids. We were very poor, but we were never too poor to do something good for our neighbors.” He also mentioned how his parents regularly quoted St. Francis of Assisi, saying, “While we have time, let us do good,” a quote Siller and his siblings have adopted as the mantra for their foundation. 

The Siller family’s response to their unspeakable loss in the tragedy of 9/11 exemplifies how we are all called to respond to suffering in this world—and especially to the loss of loved ones. While we mourn their loss, we must also take inspiration from the good they have done. And we must remember, “While we have time, let us do good.” 

A Historic and Divine Rescue Operation 

August 29

The U.S. Maritime Administration has called it the “greatest rescue operation by a single ship in history.” Chronicling the story for Aleteia, Larry Peterson recounts that it began on December 23, 1950, when Captain Leonard LaRue, skipper of the SS Meredith Victory, a US Merchant Marine cargo freighter, spotted thousands of Korean refugees on the docks of the besieged Port of Hungnam, North Korea, 135 miles into enemy territory. With the Chinese and North Korean communist forces closing in, Captain LaRue ordered his ship cleared of everything that could be moved, including all cargo and weapons. Then he loaded 14,000 refugees onto a ship that typically carried only 47 men.  

They sailed south with no doctor, no heat, no sanitation facilities, no interpreter, no lighting in the holds, no mine detection equipment, and no weapons, save for the pistol carried by Captain LaRue. They arrived at the city of Busan, South Korea, on Christmas Eve only to be told there was no room for the refugees and they would have to continue on. LaRue managed to unload the wounded and a few women with infant children, and he collected water and blankets before heading on to Geoje Island, where they arrived to safety on Christmas Day. 

Recalling the harrowing voyage, Captain LaRue later said, “I think of how such a small vessel was able to hold so many persons and surmount endless perils without harm to a soul. The clear, unmistakable message comes to me that on that Christmastide, in the bleak and bitter waters off the shores of Korea, God’s own hand was at the helm of my ship.” 

The dramatic rescue operation had a profound influence on Captain LaRue, awakening him to the powerful hand of God at work in the world. In 1954, he decided to become a Benedictine monk, joining St. Paul’s Abbey in Newton, New Jersey, where he took the name Brother Marinus, after the Latin word for “of the sea.” He lived a life of work and prayer until his death in 2001. In 2019, Brother Marinus’ cause for canonization was opened, and in June of this year, the U.S. bishops voted to advance his cause. Now we can call him Servant of God Marinus LaRue, and we can pray for his intercession in the hopes of achieving miracles so this holy servant might one day be recognized as a saint of the Church. 

The story of Brother Marinus exemplifies how true greatness can only be achieved when we surrender to the will of God. Finding himself in command of one of the last ships in a port being abandoned by U.S. forces, he saw people in need and was called by God to act.  

God calls us to act on behalf of those in need all the time. For Captain LaRue, that call came in the most dramatic of circumstances. But no matter the circumstances, our answer to God’s call is always dramatic not just because it leads to great acts of mercy, but because it changes us from within, opening our hearts to the miraculous possibilities of following in the footsteps of Christ.  

Leonard LaRue dumped cargo and weapons from his ship during wartime to make room for thousands of human lives. His answer to the situation before him was to value human life above all else. God responded to his courageous act by leading him and those in his care to safety, and by guiding him on a lifelong path to holiness.   


Feel Your Faith Recharged on Father Kapaun Pilgrimage 

August 15

            For the past 13 years, the people of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, have gathered annually for the Father Emil Kapaun pilgrimage, four days of walking, companionship, and prayer, culminating in the Father Kapaun Day Mass held at St. John Nepomucene Church. As Joe Bukuras recently reported for Catholic News Agency, “The 2021 walk was unique because the Wichita diocese is preparing to welcome the bodily remains of Fr. Kapaun.” 

Servant of God Father Emil Kapaun was a United States Army chaplain who served in World War II and the Korean War. He displayed tremendous heroism while on the front lines of the Korean War’s Battle of Unsan, when he braved enemy fire to rescue nearly 40 men. He was captured with other survivors and marched 87 miles to a prisoner of war camp. As a POW, he inspired his men through courage and sacrifice, stealing food for those who were starving, smuggling medicine for those who were sick, standing up to communist indoctrination, and regularly leading his men in prayer. On March 25, 1951, Father Kapaun led an Easter sunrise service in a near death state, and he died from malnutrition and pneumonia on May 23, 1951.   

            In 1953, Operation Glory returned the remains of 1,868 soldiers to the U.S. as part of the Korean Armistice Agreement. Father Kapaun’s remains were known to be among this number, but they were unable to be identified and were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP) in Honolulu, Hawaii. It wasn’t until 2018 that the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s Korean War Disinterment Project began a plan at the NMCP to disinter all remaining Korean War Unknowns. And on March 4, 2021, it was confirmed by U.S. Senator Jerry Moran and the Catholic Diocese of Wichita that Father Kapaun’s remains had finally been identified. 

            Father Kapaun was ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Wichita, and he celebrated his first Mass at St. John Nepomucene Church in Pilsen, where his memory is kept alive through the Chaplain Kapaun Museum. Also based in the Diocese of Wichita is the Father Kapaun Guild, which promotes his cause for canonization. The Father Emil Kapaun Pilgrimage is a 60-mile walk in the heat and over mostly gravelly roads. It is challenging, and pilgrims sometimes need to take breaks by riding in support vehicles that follow the group. “This is a humbling experience,” said veteran pilgrim Sharon Norden, “but even Jesus needed help on His way to the cross.”  

Norden describes the pilgrimage as a bonding experience where people share stories of faith, suggest books and podcasts to each other, and avail themselves of the sacraments provided by priests who say Mass and hear confession daily. “No one scoffs at saying a rosary on the road or the divine mercy chaplet between conversations,” says Norden. “It is where you feel your faith recharged, just like Father Kapaun recharged the men and they all continued to go on in their imprisonment.” 

            What profound insight this pilgrim shares about the call Christ extends to each of us to strengthen each other in trying times. Often, we cannot relieve each other’s burdens, but we can help each other cope with difficult situations, and we can keep hope alive for each other. So let’s all take up this pilgrimage, at least in spirit, to walk in the footsteps of Father Kapaun and answer the call of Christ to recharge the faith of those entrusted to our care. 



Live the Golden Rule 

July 18, 2021

            “Be kind, be kind, be kind, and you will soon be saints,” said the medieval mystic Jan van Ruysbroeck. This bit of wisdom was most certainly inspired by the Golden Rule, which states, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As Van Ruysbroeck’s quote exemplifies, following the Golden Rule is a perfect way to draw closer to God. Yet the world throws so many complexities in our way to obscure our vision of this clear path to holiness.  

            Many cultures and religions have teachings similar to the Golden Rule. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it was an idea expressed in Leviticus 19:18, when God instructed Moses, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

            Christ later reiterated this idea in His Sermon on the Mount, saying, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)  

            The Christophers’ recent News Note Live the Golden Rule details practical ways to stay on the path to holiness by following Christ’s command to treat others in the way we would like to be treated. In this News Note, a quote from Father John Catoir, former Director of The Christophers, puts things in perspective. He states, “Maybe you can’t be a delegate at international peace talks. But you can be a peacemaker in your own family – and pray and work for peaceful communication between people of different racial, ethnic, or religious backgrounds.”  

            One particular story tells of a woman named Elizabeth Cody Newenhuyse, who wrote a piece for Today’s Christian Woman about her struggle to overcome a judgmental attitude towards others. “The other day,” Newenhuyse writes, “a rather shabbily dressed young woman walked by our house while I was working in the yard. I literally thought to myself, ‘Be kind.’ I smiled and said hello, and she gave me a beautiful smile in return. It just lit up her face. It was a small but significant encounter, because it represented a victory over my old negative pattern of judging people by external appearances.”  

           Processing what she learned from that encounter, Newenhuyse concluded, “When you’re tempted to think or act critically, stop and consciously substitute a positive response. Pay a compliment. It may seem artificial at first, but after a while, it will become a habit, and a God-honoring habit at that.” 

          What a beautiful way to honor God, by showing kindness to someone who might otherwise be treated as an outcast. This is the courage we are called to, and though it’s a courage that can manifest itself in small gestures and interactions, it’s no small matter at all. It takes courage to befriend those on the margins of society in a culture that can be as judgmental as ours. We risk being branded by the problems of those we associate with, which is why we’re so reticent to cross that imaginary line that’s been drawn between us and them.  

            But we are called to cross that line to the degree we are able. When we do, we are practicing the Golden Rule in the most challenging way possible. For which of us cannot say, “There but for the grace of God go I,” in regard to another person’s struggles? And if we can picture ourselves in their shoes, we can know how we would want to be treated – with kindness, kindness, and more kindness.  


For free copies of the Christopher News Note LIVE THE GOLDEN RULE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or

A Veteran’s Call to the Priesthood 

July 4

In the lead up to this year’s Memorial Day weekend, EWTN News In Depth featured the story of retired U.S. Army Colonel Cameron Song Sellers, a veteran who is now on the path to becoming a priest. The piece was presented by EWTN Vatican correspondent Colm Flynn, who opened by saying, “Cameron Song Sellers is a veteran whose experience with military chaplains has helped him to overcome a very difficult start in life.” 

Sellers was born in South Korea in 1968 during a time when extreme poverty was so rampant that many mothers would abandon their babies at birth. “I don’t know how I was found but I ended up in a hospital,” says Sellers, who was put up for adoption in the hopes he would gain access to European socialized medicine. But it was an American family who stepped forward to express interest in adopting him. “I don’t think they can really explain it in words,” Sellers says, “other than just by emotion and heart that I was the one and I was going to be part of the Sellers family.” 

He was raised a Baptist in Phoenix, Arizona, and describes himself as someone who had faith but didn’t like going to church. As a teenager, he was introduced to the Catholic faith by a friend and was intrigued by the Mass, yet struggled to believe in the teachings of the Church. 

“Probably the first doctrine I ever accepted and the doctrine that made sense to me was the communion of saints,” says Colonel Song Sellers. “The fact that I was connected to people not just in that church but all over the world and that I was connected to the saints in heaven and earth.” He went on to say that God wanted him there “because He wanted me to know that I was in a family and that I didn’t need to worry about my background and who I was, that my family was the Catholic Church, the Universal Church and that my family went back generations and centuries.” 

After graduating from college, he joined the U.S. Army, serving in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and rising to the rank of Colonel. Towards the end of his career, he was called to return to South Korea, where he served in the Army Reserve Engagement Team helping soldiers get acclimated to the country. Recently, he has embarked on a completely new path as a seminarian studying for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and it is his time in the military and his experience with military chaplains that inspired him to undertake this path.  

“Chaplains are a lot like medics,” he said. “They’re mysterious. But when you really need one, you’re just so glad they’re there.” 

Feeling called to the priesthood, Colonel Song Sellers asked himself two questions. First, could he die for his parish? And the answer was “yes.” The second question was, did he believe in the sacraments? And he knew that he did believe, saying, “I saw in my own life how the sacraments really healed me.” 

The story of Colonel Song Sellers exemplifies how military chaplains and other front line ministers can send a powerful message about the faith by meeting people in their hour of need. 

“That’s what I see in chaplains,” Colonel Song Sellers says. “I see what the sacraments are about. I see why the Catholic Church is so vitally important because they give us the tools to strengthen ourselves with God.” 

Former Olympian Says, ‘You Are Enough’ 

June 27, 2021

Writing for Catholic News Agency, Kate Olivera recently chronicled the conversion story of three-time Olympian and Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes, who was part of the 1996 squad that won the first U.S. women’s team gold in gymnastics. Dawes recalled a moment of doubt at the start of the games, when she became overwhelmed by the pressure just before appearing before billions of people watching around the world. It was at that moment that her team captain, Amanda Borden, knelt beside her and together they prayed, asking God to watch over them.  

Recalling that moment, Dawes said, “It was good to have that reminder that I’m not alone... because He is the one that is going to strengthen me, and He is the one that’s going to strengthen us…I remember when I stood up after that prayer with Amanda, I felt free. I felt light…And we went out, marched out together and we all made history.” 

Dawes credits her mother’s Baptist faith for instilling a strong bond with God early on. She said, “The seed that my mom planted in me really took. She sowed a seed that has been one that has kept me grounded, (and) has given me this level of discernment, as I think the Spirit has protected me quite a bit in my life and has steered me away from some people and situations that maybe weren’t the healthiest for me.” 

Dawes eventually felt called to the Catholic faith and to a special connection to the Virgin Mary, saying, “I always felt as a young person, while my mom did the best that she could, and my coach who many times was labeled as a mother figure, neither of them were truly happy people…. I felt as if I wanted to find... a mother who maybe was happy. Those loving arms that you can run into and just feel that sense of comfort and love, which I never felt as a child.” 

Dawes’ grandmother was full Piscataway Conoy Native American and was also Catholic and named after Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. Dawes says, “I knew very little about this until I became an adult. And I was like, ‘Oh, and that’s my grandmother I felt calling me into this Church.”  

Today Dawes is married to a Catholic school teacher and they have four children together. She also runs a gymnastics academy where she fosters a positive culture. Dawes says, “The people that I have on board, they really are so positive. I love it…It amazes me, because of the environment that I came from that was so critical. Like, nothing you could do in the sport of gymnastics was right. Nothing was ever good enough…I told my husband, when I opened these doors, I said, ‘I really want this big sign that says ‘You are Enough.’” 

Dominique Dawes’ story is inspiring on many levels. Her combination of fortitude and faith led her to become an Olympic champion. But her faith also led her to realize that, as much as she had accomplished in her own life, she wanted to share her passion for gymnastics in a very different way than is common in competitive sports. And this is how God leads great people to create a better world for those who follow in their footsteps. Discovering a relationship with Christ can empower us to think outside the box and challenge the status quo so we leave a better, more loving culture, where all people can find their talents and thrive.  

The Model of Fatherhood 

June 20, 2021
Father’s Day takes on added significance this year due to the fact that Pope Francis has declared this to be the Year of St. Joseph, who is the model of fatherhood for all men. Earlier this year, Catholic News Agency featured a beautiful story about the fatherhood of a 68-year-old Argentinian widower named Luis Avagliano. After being widowed, and with the blessing of his two grown children, Avagliano decided to become a priest, and he was ordained on March 19, 2021, the Solemnity of St. Joseph. On the occasion of Avagliano’s ordination, Bishop Carlos Jose Tissera of Quilmes, Argentina, declared that it was no coincidence that this milestone should occur on the day that it did.  

Bishop Tissera went on to compare Avagliano’s experiences as a father to those of St. Joseph, saying, “Like him, you have experienced the beauty of love as a couple, the experience of marriage, the joy of being a dad; the responsibility of forming a home, the joy of expecting your children and their birth; the incomparable joy of the first babblings of a baby looking into your eyes and saying the most wonderful word: Daddy.” 

Avagliano recalled being raised in a loving Catholic family in Buenos Aires. When he was 15 years old, he experienced one of the most challenging periods of his life, when, in just a three-month span, both his father and his older sister passed away. “God never abandoned me,” Avagliano recalled, “He gave me strength to help and support my mother…With her faith we carried on. We never stopped trusting in God. His strength cannot be explained, you feel it and experience it.” 

Avagliano married at 23, and he and his wife Flora raised their children in the Catholic faith, having them baptized in the same church where his mother had taken him as a child. In 2014, after 38 years of marriage, Flora passed away. Expressing the closeness he still feels to her, Avagliano said, “She is up above with God, but she is present in my life always. Just as she accompanied me throughout my earthly life, she continues to accompany me throughout her life in Heaven.” 

After Flora’s passing and a period of discernment, Avagliano eventually felt called to go beyond the permanent diaconate in which he had served during his marriage and to become ordained a priest. His two children participated in the ordination ceremony, one of them taking off his diaconal stole and putting on his priestly stole and both putting the chasuble on him. Avagliano said he considers it a blessing to have been called by God to live out both vocations to fatherhood, the one in marriage and earthly fatherhood and his new calling as a spiritual father in the Church. 

Avagliano’s father clearly made a lasting impression on him in the time they had together because he grew into a model of fatherhood, fulfilling his calling as a man to first look after his mother and then to raise his own family. This is the foundation that good fatherhood creates so that it prepares others to go off into the world and make their mark.  

Reflecting on his own amazing call to fatherhood, Avagliano said, “How beautiful it is to fulfill what the Lord asks of you and to be open to that disposition, to be able to open your heart so that He can enter in, can transform you, can guide you, can enlighten you, can accompany you.”   

Be Not Afraid

May 30

     At the inauguration Mass of his pontificate, Pope St. John Paul II said, “Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To His saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization, and development.” 

     This message of John Paul II echoes the many biblical passages declaring that we must overcome our fears and have faith in the power of God to transform the world. But how often do we shrink from the confidence God calls us to? It is an age-old problem that can be seen throughout the Bible, such as in the story of Daniel, who trembled in fear before a heavenly vision sent by God, until hearing the words, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words” (Daniel 10:13). 

     We also see Christ on multiple occasions calling His disciples to move beyond their fears in order to follow Him, such as the scene on the Sea of Galilee, when their boat was being tossed about by a storm and Christ came to them, walking on the water. Rather than being relieved to see Him, the disciples’ first reaction was terror, thinking it was a ghost, until Christ said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid” (Matthew 22:27). 

     How many times is our first reaction to God’s call similar to Daniel’s or the disciples’? We need to be reminded to cast our fears aside in order to do God’s will, and one of the best ways to do that is to realize the greater purpose in the good we are called to each day.  

     In his prayer The Mission of My Life, Saint John Henry Newman reminds us of the unique purpose to which God calls each person. Newman’s prayer acknowledges that this mission can be difficult to understand, especially in times of trial. He eventually concludes, “He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.” 

     It is this confidence in God’s purpose that will help us to overcome our fears even through the most difficult trials so that we might act upon all we know to be good and true. At the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado, John Paul II said, “This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel.  It is the time to preach it….  Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern metropolis.” 

     This call to cast off our fears and any sense of shame in the teachings of Christ remains relevant today. The most profound aspects of Christ’s teachings remain countercultural, yet we are called to bring those teachings into the public square and every aspect of life in order to extend the hope of the Gospel to all who are in need. In the most challenging situations, fear will be a natural emotion. But we must trust in Christ and step out of our comfort zones. When we do that, He will lead us out of fear to the realization of a purpose and to lasting glory.  

May 16, 2021

Ways to Say, “I Love You” 

            In a classic “Christopher Closeup” interview, theologian Dr. Doris Donnelly said that forgiveness is “the linchpin that holds a family together.” Father John Catoir later wrote a News Note entitled “Ways to Say I Love You: Charity in the Home,” in which he relates this bit of wisdom to a real-life story exemplifying how forgiveness not only brings healing but creates a chain reaction of love. 

            Father Catoir recounts the story of Jon West of Georgia, who learned about forgiveness from his father. When he was 10 years old, Jon was playing with a tree branch near where his father was working on a ladder. The youngster accidentally caused his father to fall and break his arm. Jon’s father’s response was to say, “Let’s forget it. I’m going to be fine, and we’ll cut more limbs together, okay?” 

            This response made such a profound impression upon Jon that it caused him to treat his mother with the same forgiving attitude some time later when she spilled milk on him at dinner. Jon quickly responded “That’s okay, Mama,” and he later wrote an essay in which he called forgiveness “a sign of kindness and love.” 

Father Catoir explains that forgiveness is one of the best ways to say, “I love you,” and he adds that listening and courtesy are great ways to express our love for others. He tells of one family in which generations were changed by having their hopes and dreams heard in one grandmother’s kitchen in Ohio. Father Catoir writes, “Courtesy. Consideration. Kindness. These help create feelings of warmth, caring and acceptance in the home. All are facets of love.” He quotes Letitia Baldridge, who was social secretary to two U.S. Ambassadors and said that good manners are good sense “with a little extra dose of love and consideration.” 

            The love we show one another has a ripple effect that can profoundly impact many lives. Father Catoir tells of one couple who said that they “put one another first,” explaining, “Because of this we have developed a unity of spirit apparent not only to us, but to our children.”  

            Father Catoir notes that showing patience with children is one of the best ways to teach them lasting lessons, quoting Fred Rogers, who once said, “The only real discipline comes from love, not fear.” To exemplify this axiom, Father Catoir recounts the story of a woman who was marveling at a friend’s seemingly infinite patience with her three-year-old child, who kept interrupting her housework to call her outside to see a butterfly, a flower, or an ant. The woman asked the mother, “Don’t you ever want to scream?” The mother responded, “Well, I brought her into the world. The least I can do is let her show it to me.”  

           What a different way to look at the interruptions a child brings into the home, to see them as a gift that might enable us to view the world in a new light. And this is how we must see each individual we cross paths with and each situation that seems to interrupt our lives: as an opportunity to discover new ways to love through patience, listening, courtesy, and forgiveness.  

           We all have people in our lives to whom we want to say, “I love you,” and the best way to make that statement is through our actions. And when we act on love within our homes, we plant seeds of hope that can transform the world. 

St. Joseph Opens Our Eyes 

April 25

On December 8, 2020, Pope Francis declared the entire upcoming year to be the Year of St. Joseph. He did this to honor the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, which occurred on December 8, 1870. Pope Francis said that he was also drawn to honor St. Joseph because the coronavirus pandemic has prompted him to consider the virtues of this quiet hero from the Gospels. 

            In his Apostolic Letter With a Father’s Heart, Francis related the character of St. Joseph to the heroic nature of those on the front lines of the pandemic. Specifically, he referenced a line from his own 2020 Meditation in the Time of Pandemic, in explaining his desire to honor St. Joseph, saying: 

            “My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how ‘our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others.’” 

            What a beautiful analogy Pope Francis draws between St. Joseph and those who toil in our own time to serve those who God has entrusted to their care. Consider the courage of caregivers who have continued to show up for work over the past year, in situations that were invariably much riskier than most other jobs; or the cleaning personnel in hospitals and other public buildings, who have made the world a safer place for the rest of us. These are unsung heroes who have answered the call to protect, defend, and watch over others in the same way Joseph was called to protect, defend, and watch over Mary and Jesus. 

            Doing our duty is usually not a glamorous endeavor, yet it is often the endeavor that draws us closest to God, and this is because doing our duty requires love and fidelity to the mission God has given us. God wants us to be capable of standing up for what’s right, and we exercise that ability every time we humbly take up our cross and perform the tasks that have been put before us. 

            We currently find ourselves in between the two feast days of St. Joseph. The first was on March 19, when we celebrated Joseph as father figure and patron of the Universal Church and the dying. The second is on May 1st, celebrating St. Joseph the Worker. So, as we find ourselves in this Year of St. Joseph, this is a good time to reflect upon the way in which this great saint is a model for us all. 

            St. Josemaria Escriva once said, “Joseph’s faith does not falter, he obeys quickly and to the letter.” What a profound statement about the loyalty Joseph showed to God throughout his life. Joseph’s faith in God strengthened him to protect the Holy Family and to help Mary raise Jesus in the right way so that he could fulfill his mission. We are all called to this kind of service, to trust in God and remain loyal to all that is good and true, so that we can do our part to foster a world where Christ can flourish. 


For free copies of the Christopher News Note LET YOUR INNER BEAUTY SHINE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; 

Feeling Through

April 18, 2021 

            In the 2019 short film Feeling Through, a homeless teen named Tereek approaches a man named Artie who is holding a cane and standing at the edge of a sidewalk with a sign that reads, “I am deaf and blind. Tap me if you can help me to cross the street.” After a moment of uncertainty, Tereek taps Artie on the arm, and this sets in motion a chain of events that leads to a profound human connection. 

            As he helps Artie navigate his way, first to a bus stop and then onto a city bus that will take him home, Tereek realizes that he himself is being helped by this experience. Artie writes messages on a notepad for Tereek, who answers by tracing one letter at a time on Artie’s hand. In this way, they discover simple things about each other, like the fact that Artie is thirsty, prompting a trip to a nearby bodega and causing them to miss the bus, which in turn forces them to wait together for the next one. This provides opportunity for them to discover more about each other, and it becomes evident that, despite his own troubles, Tereek has taken it upon himself to see Artie safely onto his bus. 

            After getting Artie onto his bus and making sure the driver will get him home, Tereek prepares to leave Artie and asks if he’s okay. Artie assures him that he is fine. Then Artie takes Tereek’s hand, and drawing one letter at a time on his palm, says, “You’ll be okay,” and gives him a big hug, revealing that he understands Tereek is facing troubles. This is a beautiful moment, where we come to understand the generous spirit with which Artie was allowing Tereek to help him, because he knew Tereek needed to realize the power of good that resided within himself. 

            The connection made by these two characters exemplifies the way people can fulfill each other’s needs when they open their hearts and are willing to give of themselves. It is a theme that is reminiscent of The Christophers’ classic film A Link in the Chain, starring James Cagney as an elderly professor wondering if he’s made a difference in the world until powerful remembrances assure him of the impact he has had on others’ lives. Cagney’s character realizes that he has been a link in the chain of the wisdom of God, passed from one person to another through acts of generosity. In this same way, Tereek and Artie are a link in the chain for each other, providing a connection to God by sharing what they can to lighten each other’s burdens. 

            After seeing Artie safely on his way, Tereek sets off on his own for what we know will be a difficult night on the streets. Yet, as he passes a man who seems worse off than himself, Tereek makes a stunning act of kindness, demonstrating the profound impact the encounter with Artie has had on him. In the end, we learn that it is only through generosity that we can fully understand who we are in relation to God. In helping others, we come to see how cared for we are and are strengthened to brave the most difficult circumstances in life. And we find this strength because we have discovered a mission we’re all called to embrace, which is to meet people where they are and help them to know they are loved and cared for by God. 

Sleeping in Front of a Closed Door 

March 28, 2021

            In late January of this year, Papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski offered a funeral Mass for Roberto Mantovani, a 64-year-old man who died of pneumonia in a homeless shelter near Rome’s Termini railway station. Years ago, an injury had ended Mantovani’s career as a professional soccer player for Hellas Verona F.C., and in recent years, he had been living on the streets near the Vatican, where he was befriended by numerous people who tried to help him. Some of those people held distinguished positions, such as Cardinal Krajewski, who said of Mantovani, “He was a cheerful, sunny person, at the lunches we had he made everyone laugh.”  

            Cardinal Krajewski concelebrated the funeral Mass with Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, along with a dozen other priests. The Mass was attended by volunteers from the homeless shelter where Mantovani was staying, police officers from the station near where he often slept, and workers from the Community of Sant’ Egidio, who distribute food to Rome’s homeless and run the Vatican’s newest homeless shelter.  

            Sant’ Egidio reports that since November their organization has been aware of and helped to organize at least 10 funerals for Rome’s homeless, but they speculate the number of dead to be even higher. Citing RomaToday, Catholic News Agency states that in Rome “there are an estimated 8,000 homeless people. Many sleep in tents along the edge of Bernini’s colonnade, the semi-circular columns enclosing St. Peter’s Square.” 

            The day before Mantovani’s funeral, Pope Francis mourned the death of a 46-year-old Nigerian homeless man named Edwin, who was found dead from living outside in the cold. The Pope said, “His story was added to that of many other homeless people who recently died in Rome in the same dramatic circumstances,” adding, “Let us think of how this man, 46 years old, felt in the cold, ignored by all, abandoned, even by us. Let us pray for him.” 

            It is fitting for Pope Francis to challenge the world to see the humanity in the poorest of the poor. It is that self-critical outlook that inspires volunteers and programs within the Church to meet those on the margins of society and extend a helping hand. In Roberto Mantovani’s case, those who knew and cared for him had recently convinced him to move to the homeless shelter after numerous bouts with pneumonia, but sadly it was too late to save his life. According to Catholic News Agency, Cardinal Krajewski “chose the reading from the Gospel of Luke in which Christ recounts the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, for the funeral Mass because ‘Robert always slept in front of a closed door.’” 

What a beautiful gesture this choice of reading was by Cardinal Krajewski because it points to the welcome we can all hope Roberto receives in the afterlife. In life, Roberto was known to sleep in front of a closed door. May he stand before an open door now and may he follow Christ through that door to eternal glory. This is the transformation that awaits every soul that returns to God with a humble heart, to find an open door and healing for the wounds that could not heal in this world. May we all find the humility to pass through that door with the humility of a beggar, and may we prepare ourselves for that moment by answering God’s call in this life to serve those most in need.  


‘Cheerfulness Strengthens the Heart’ 

March 14, 2021

            St. Philip Neri once said, “Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life; wherefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.” Yet, happiness can be an elusive disposition, and many today are struggling to find joy in their daily lives. It is important that we attend to the need we all have for happiness so we can be productive and inspire others to experience the joy of Christ. 

            Advice columnist Helen Dennis recently fielded a question that speaks to the challenges many are having in achieving happiness these days. The questioner expresses a lack of “contentment or happiness” and even guilt for this concern, given the amount of suffering others have endured over the past year, asking, “Is there anything I can do to find some level of happiness during these difficult times?” 

            Concern over one’s own mental and spiritual well-being, even while others around us are suffering, should not be discounted. We have an obligation to attend to our own well-being in order to be at our best at whatever point we are needed to help others through their struggles. And that very dynamic of building ourselves up for the purpose of helping others is at the heart of the ultimate answer to finding happiness. It is also a dynamic hinted at within the practical advice offered by Helen Dennis in her answer to the question. 

            Dennis sites Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos, who created a class on the science of happiness after living with students and observing their high levels of stress, anxiety, loneliness, and worry about grades. In her course, Santos offers some key ways in which we can improve our happiness. Aside from basic issues of self-care, such as getting enough sleep and exercise, she encourages people to be more social, express gratitude, be in the moment, and practice kindness. 

            Dennis highlights studies showing how these simple actions lead to a greater sense of well-being among those who practice them, writing, “Health care workers who express gratitude by writing in a gratitude journal are less stressed and depressed.” 

            Dennis also writes, “People who are the happiest report focusing on the needs of others. They donate money, volunteer or just do random acts of kindness. Of equal importance is being kind to ourselves. We need to remember that most often we do the best we can. Harsh self-criticism and unrealistic expectations do not lead to happiness.” 

We can see this practical advice pointing back to the deeper spiritual reality of why we must attend to our own well-being. Every one of us has a purpose in life that goes beyond temporal happiness, but we need to keep our spirits up if we are to attain all that God wants of us in this world.   

            In short, we owe it to ourselves to be joyful in order to better serve God and others. Living in the moment is one of the greatest ways we can express gratitude because it demonstrates our trust that God is looking out for the bigger picture. And being more social not only lifts our own spirits, but enables us to do the same for others and to discover their needs in order to practice kindness towards them. The pandemic has strained our ability to do this, but we must always find creative ways to follow God’s will, and we should all be looking forward to recovering those opportunities to fully live out the call to happiness.  


For free copies of the Christopher News Note PRACTICE KINDNESS TO CHANGE LIVES, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:    

Doing the Impossible 

Feb 28, 2021

            St. Francis of Assisi has been quoted as saying, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” It’s a roadmap to achieving amazing things but it begins in absolute simplicity. It makes sense that a saint who once renewed the Church by embracing poverty should come up with such an axiom because his life story demonstrates how all things are possible through simple acts of humility. 

            In one famous story, Francis was exploring the countryside around Assisi when he came upon the crumbling church of San Damiano, where he entered and knelt down in prayer, asking God for guidance. It was then Francis heard the voice of God respond, saying, “Francis, go and rebuild my church.” Francis proceeded to repair San Damiano, along with a few other churches near Assisi. It wasn’t until later that he realized a deeper meaning to the words God had spoken to him. He realized God was calling him to renew people’s faith in Christ and to actually restore Catholicism.   

            What an amazing arch this turned out to be in the life of St. Francis, to go from feeling called to the humble work of a laborer to leading a spiritual renewal in the Church. It’s an arch that demonstrates his axiom that, when we start with what is necessary and then do all that is possible, we will eventually find ourselves accomplishing the impossible. There are two key elements at play in this axiom. The first is found in the power of fortitude and hard work, and the second is the realization that God has a grander plan for us than we could possibly know.  

            It is freeing to abandon our cares to God and focus on the necessary tasks that have been put before us. And when we take up our daily cross and do all that is asked of us, we find ourselves growing in talent and expanding our ability to persevere through a myriad of trials. The reality is, God wants us to be prepared for larger trials so that we are capable of taking on greater tasks. But that does not mean we have to plan what those greater things will be. It is enough for us to do the hard work given to us and simply grow in our gifts and abilities. 

            God also challenges us to know that, even in doing the work of today, our spiritual lives are more important than any material reward. In his Sermon on the Mount, Christ reminds us of the lilies of the field and how well they are clothed without any effort of their own. We are to set about our daily work with the same abandon to the providence of God. This is the example St. Francis set for us when he abandoned the material wealth he was born into as the son of a successful merchant.  

            In one of the most dramatic scenes from his life, St. Francis stripped off the fine clothes his father had given him and walked off with utter abandon to follow God’s will. His renunciation of the material in favor of the spiritual was so inspiring it brought many followers to work alongside him in following Christ and caring for the poor. And this simplicity led them to renew the Church. We are called to effect the same renewal by applying ourselves to the tasks set before us and the good we are called to accomplish each day.



Look to the Little Way This Lent 

Feb 21, 2021

   As Lent begins, I can’t help but think of St. Therese of Lisieux’a autobiography, The Story of a Soul, where she wrote, “I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifices to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.” This statement reveals the humility of one of the great saints of the 19th century and provides a window into her simple yet profound spirituality.  

   Born in 1873, Therese lost her mother at an early age, which brought about years of emotional distress that didn’t subside until she was 13, when she had what she later described as a “complete conversion” to Christ. She later wrote of that time, “I felt, in a word, charity enter my heart, the need to forget myself to make others happy – Since this blessed night I was not defeated in any battle, but instead I went from victory to victory and began, so to speak, ‘to run a giant’s course.’” 

   This line about running a giant’s course is a reference to Psalm 19:5, in which the sun’s arch throughout the day is compared to a challenging course traversed by a great athlete. It’s interesting that Therese should describe her journey in such glorious terms because we know from her writings that she practiced the most humble form of spirituality. But it was not worldly glory that Therese was speaking of. She had discovered the glory of God in her own life, and she began to see how this glory manifested itself in the most simple and beautiful ways.  

   In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared St. Therese a doctor of the Church, saying, “Her ardent spiritual journey shows such maturity, and the insights of faith expressed in her writings are so vast and profound that they deserve a place among the great spiritual masters.” Therese’s spirituality came to be defined by her “little way,” a phrase she coined to explain her path to God.  

   It consisted of an approach to life in which she would remain small and rely entirely upon Christ. She wrote, “Thine Arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto Heaven. To get there I need not grow. On the contrary, I must remain little, I must become still less.” So we see how Therese found her greatest strength in humility. By letting go of herself, she experienced glory in bringing joy to others.  

   The fact that she could find greater joy in picking up “a pin for love” than in the greatest of spiritual ecstasies says everything we need to know about Therese’s “little way.” She offers up these efforts as a way to convert souls to God.  

Therese’s “little way” stands as a beacon for us all in these trying and often confusing times. It teaches that we are called to perform the basic duties God has put before us—and to bear in mind that our actions are not for ourselves but for the good of others. And we must offer up our labors for the conversion of souls so that all people we encounter might be inspired to love God and utilize their talents for the greater good.  

   The spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux provides a profound way to allow Christ into our lives. It is a path in which we place ourselves in service to others and allow Christ to do the job of lifting us all towards God and the promise of heavenly glory.   

A Model of Charity and Justice

January 24, 2021

     We recently marked the 40th anniversary of the death of Servant of God Dorothy Day. In an article forCatholic New York, Editor John Woods chronicled the remembrance of Day in the City of New York, where she spent most of her life working with the poor. America Media and the Sheen Center sponsored a webinar entitled “Celebrate the Living Legacy of Dorothy Day,” which featured New York Times columnist David Brooks. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a large portrait of Day was placed in the sanctuary, and Monsignor Robert Ritchie, the cathedral’s rector, offered opening remarks at Cardinal Dolan’s 10:15 a.m. Mass, saying, “Today, we have a special remembrance of Dorothy Day, whose beatification and canonization is being considered…Please remember her in your prayers and for the fact that she might be raised to the altars.” 

     Day’s cause for canonization was opened in 2000 by Cardinal O’Connor and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops formally endorsed her cause in 2012. In 2017, Woods notes, “The diocesan inquiry into her life, heroic virtues, and reputation of holiness and intercessory power was opened.” 

     George Horton, director of social and community development for archdiocesan Catholic Charities and vice-postulator for Day’s cause has been gathering documentation from her extensive writings to share with Rome. Woods writes, “Although he never met Dorothy Day, Horton said he remains influenced by her as well as those with whom she worked in the Catholic Worker movement.”  

     Horton points to Day as an important example for all of us today, given the intense divisions, isolation, and suffering facing our nation. Day was a person who made a point of challenging herself to see the humanity in all people. “She was always having conversations with people,” he told Woods. “She wanted to know them…. Her legacy for our time was that she wanted people to be talking to each other, in dialogue and conversation.” 

     Discussing the lasting impact Day has had on our society, Woods writes, “Her work reaching out to those at the margins of society and acting on behalf of charity and justice continues at Catholic Worker communities across the United States and in other countries.” Referencing Horton’s study of her life, Woods adds, “Dorothy Day’s service was fueled by her Catholic faith. She was much an orthodox Christian, prayed for saintly intercession and believed in the authority of the Church….” 

     It is right to see Dorothy Day as a model for our time. She would have been a kindred spirit of all those who have been on the front lines battling the pandemic over the past year. And she would have led the way in reaching out to those whose spirits have been broken due to sickness, loss of loved ones, poverty, unemployment, and hunger. In her On Pilgrimage column, Day once wrote, “Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” And in her book Loaves and Fishes, she wrote, “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”  

     As our nation looks towards a year of recovery in 2021, let us remember the model of Dorothy Day and seek to effect that revolution of the heart in ourselves and others. Let’s give support to those frontline workers who will be helping people to recover, and let’s all roll up our sleeves to help lift each other up in body, mind, and soul. 

A Saint’s Two Crowns

January 3, 2021

            In his writings, St. Maximilian Kolbe recounts an incident from his childhood. He was 12 years old and had recently been scolded by his mother for some bit of mischief he had gotten into. Later, he was prompted to reflect upon his actions and turned to the Blessed Mother in prayer. He writes: “That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.” 

            This vision not only foreshadowed St. Maximilian’s martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis, but it also revealed his character. It was in this moment of humbling himself before God that Maximilian realized the courage to rise to the occasion of whatever life would bring—and learned that the virtue of humility leads to authentic courage. Humility led Maximilian to answer the call to the priesthood and a life devoted to heroic service to God and others, and humility led to courageous acts throughout his life. 

            While studying in Rome to become a priest, Maximilian witnessed angry and hateful demonstrations by the Freemasons against the Pope, which prompted him to start the Knights of the Immaculata, an organization dedicated to the conversion of sinners through prayer for Mary’s intercession. What a productive response that was! Rather than cowering before the Church’s enemies or being consumed by hatred for them, Maximilian responded by martialing Catholics to storm heaven and the Blessed Mother with prayers for their conversion.  

            As a young priest, Maximilian served for several years in Asia, founding two monasteries, one of which remains an important church in Japan to this day. He was called back to Poland a few years before the outbreak of World War II and found himself in the crosshairs of the Nazis when he refused to declare his allegiance to Germany. After being arrested and then released, Maximilian continued to help run the Franciscan monastery of Niepokalanów, Poland, where he opened a temporary hospital and published religious works, including anti-Nazi literature. He also helped 2,000 Jews hide at the monastery from the Nazis.  

            In 1941, the Niepokalanów monastery was shut down and Kolbe was arrested and imprisoned, eventually being transferred to Auschwitz. There, he offered his life in place of another man who had been sentenced to death. In his final days, Kolbe ceaselessly led the other prisoners in prayer. Credited with miracles and intercessions after his death, Maximilian was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Today, he is venerated as the patron saint of prisoners, families, journalists, the pro-life movement, and those suffering from drug addiction. 

            Many people falsely believe that human strength is at the heart of heroism, but Maximilian Kolbe’s life demonstrates that the path to true heroism begins with humility. Only God can inspire us to do what is right in the most difficult circumstances, and it is only through humility that we are able to find the strength of God within ourselves. Let us pray that we continue to learn from St. Maximilian Kolbe’s story and live out the call to humility before God so that we can find the strength to make the sacrifices we are called to make in order to give witness to our faith. 


For free copies of the Christopher News Note DISCERNING GOD’S STILL SMALL VOICE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:        

Intercessors to Combat Addiction 

December 27, 2020

            In addition to the more than 200,000 lives lost to COVID-19, another tragic consequence of the pandemic has been the rise in addictions due to the depression and anxiety many are experiencing as a result of social isolation and financial hardship. From drug and alcohol abuse to gambling problems, addictive behavior has been increasing in recent months. We must remain committed in our families and communities to reaching out to help each other from slipping into the downward spiral caused by these destructive habits. 

            An amazing resource for those struggling with alcoholism is the Matt Talbot Retreat Movement, which promotes retreat groups to help people overcome alcohol dependency. An inspiration to many in their battle with alcoholism, Venerable Matt Talbot was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1856. He developed a drinking problem early in life, and by the time he was a teenager, he had become an alcoholic. To combat the scourge of alcoholism of the time, the Catholic Church was promoting The Pledge, a 90-day pledge of abstinence from alcohol. When he was 28 years old, Talbot took The Pledge and never had a drink again. Living to age 69, it is said he died while on his way to attending Mass. Today, he is on the path to sainthood and can be invoked by those seeking intercession for strength in overcoming alcoholism. 

            Matt Talbot’s life demonstrates how vital faith is in combatting addictive behaviors. It took tremendous willpower to complete The Pledge and then maintain his abstinence from alcohol for the rest of his life. His story reminds us how important it is to lean upon the sacraments of our faith, and most especially the Mass, in strengthening ourselves to combat addictive behaviors. 

            Another powerful intercessor for battling addictions is St. Camillus de Lellis. Born in Italy in 1550, De Lellis followed in his father’s footsteps and became a soldier at just 16 years of age. In a video on the life of St. Camillus, Father Dan Cambra, MIC, explains that, in his late teens, Camillus asked his father for his inheritance and it was granted. Camillus didn’t know what to do with his newfound fortune and became distracted by immoral pursuits, including gambling. He eventually lost everything to his gambling habit and had to take on menial work at a Capuchin friary to survive. There, his soul was awakened to the faith and he eventually discovered a call to care for the sick, becoming a priest and founding the order that has come to be known as the Camillians.  

            Today, the intercession of St. Camillus is often invoked by those struggling to overcome addictions to gambling. In his life, he demonstrated the path we must all walk to remove disordered desires from our hearts and replace them with pursuits that feed the soul. Camillus found the worldly pursuits that occupied him as a young man to be empty. They left him unfulfilled and destitute, yet in that weakened state, God awakened his soul to those things in life that are fulfilling.  

            We should take heart from the stories of St. Camillus de Lellis and Venerable Matt Talbot because they remind us that God will meet us where we are and guide us through the most difficult trials of life. All we need to do is bring an open heart into the world each day and have the courage to seek the right path—and then to follow that path just one step at a time. 


Mother of Lepers

December 13

            Advent presents us with the perfect opportunity to look for models of holiness that we can admire and emulate. One such person is Wanda Blenska, whose cause for beatification was announced in Poland during a Sunday Mass at the Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul in Poznan, which dates back to the 10th century and is the oldest cathedral in Poland. According to Catholic News Agency, “The archdiocese reported that there was ‘thunderous applause’ when it was announced that Błenska could now be referred to by the title “Servant of God.” 

            How fitting it is that Blenska’s cause for beatification was inaugurated on October 18th, the feast of St. Luke, patron of doctors. Born in Poznan, Poland, on October 30, 1911, Blenska grew up with the gift of faith and felt called to pursue a career in medicine. After becoming a doctor, she worked in Poland, but her career was disrupted by World War II. She served in the Polish resistance movement during the war and afterward took the opportunity to pursue the goal of becoming a missionary doctor in Africa.  

            From 1951 to 1994, Blenska worked in a leprosy treatment center in Buluba, a village in east Uganda. In 1955, she became the first woman to climb to the Vittorio Emanuele summit of Mount Speke, the second largest mountain in Uganda’s Ruwenzori Mountains National Park. She served as physician-in-chief at the St. Francis Hospital in Buluba from 1951 to 1983, during which time she oversaw the expansion of the facility into a 100-bed hospital, with diagnostic facilities, residences for patients, a children’s branch, and a church.   

            Wanda Blenska came to be known as the Mother of Lepers and was named an honorary citizen of Uganda for her work. She gave up the leadership of the center in 1983, but continued to work there for another 11 years, at which point she retired to Poland, where she lived for another 20 years, passing away in 2014 at the age of 103. Upon announcing her cause for beatification to the people of Poland, Bishop Damian Bryl said, “Today we remember the beautiful life of Dr. Wanda. We give thanks for it and ask that the experience of meeting with her moves our hearts. May the beautiful desires with which she lived be awakened in us too.” 

            Bishop Bryl also reminded the people of how important Blenska believed love was in the doctor-patient relationship, quoting her as saying, “The doctor must be a friend of the patient. The most effective cure is love.” Blenska brought this philosophy into every aspect of her practice as a doctor, and her manner was known to transform the outlook on life of those who worked with her, were taught by her, and were blessed to be treated by her. 

            What an amazing impact Servant of God Wanda Blenska had on the world. She came into the lives of those who found themselves in the midst of a struggle with disease, and there, in that space where she met them as a doctor whose treatment they needed, she led with what was most essential to healing. In addition to her brilliance, her energy, and her tremendous fortitude, Servant of God Wanda Blenska brought love into the world, and for that love we now raise her up as a model. May her intercession bring healing to our world today and guide us to lead with love in all of our relationships.

Hour Children

Nov 29, 2020 

            As Advent begins, we turn our minds to selflessly giving to others—not just material items, but giving of ourselves. One person who does that throughout the year is Sister Teresa “Tesa” Fitzgerald. And there are many people who love Sister Tesa because she has had such a profound impact on their lives. 

            For the past few decades, Sister Tesa has been running an organization called Hour Children, which provides family services for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their children. It all started a few decades ago when she and four other members of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Brentwood, New York, founded a home for children whose mothers were in prison. In a story for Global Sisters Report, Chris Herlinger writes, “The sisters became, in effect, foster parents for the children, even accompanying the children on prison visits.” 

            Soon their mission expanded to provide support for incarcerated mothers when they were released from prison so they could successfully transition back into society. Summarizing Sister Tesa’s explanation of the organization’s name, Hour Children, Herlinger writes, “The significance of the program’s name stems from the various hours children experience: the hour a mother is arrested, the hour the children are allowed to visit their mothers in prison, and the hour a mother is released.” 

            Today, Hour Children provides transitional housing in six communal homes and three apartment houses. They run three thrift shops in Queens, New York, a food pantry, and an infant nursery. They provide employment training for women just released from prison and they also mentor prisoners’ children.   

            An article published in Marie Claire chronicles the challenges faced by Makeda Davis, a woman returning to society after eight years in prison. At one point, she provides a disappointing update on her situation, saying, “I’m still in a studio [sleeping] on the floor. I still don’t make any money. I still feel uncomfortable. I still feel ugly. I just want something good to come out of all of this.” But later, in a small but significant turnaround, she sent a text, reading, “So far so good,” after taking a place at Hour Children, where she was able to bring her adult child to live with her. 

            Another woman helped by Hour Children is Johanna Flores, who spent four years in prison in her early twenties. In his story for Global Sisters Report, Herlinger caught up with Flores many years later. She was 40 years old and attending an Hour Children social event for Mother’s Day 2020. “It's a day to demonstrate to people I care about, who have made a difference in my life, how special they are,” Flores said. Talking about Sister Tesa, she added, “She believed in me before I believed in myself.” 

            Flores spoke about the Hour Working Women program, which provides job training to prepare formerly incarcerated women for careers, and she mentions how surprised she was when Sister Tesa encouraged her to pursue a college degree. “Me? College?” Flores recalls herself questioning Sister Tesa’s suggestion but then adds, “She gave me an idea I'd never had before. Sister Tesa wants me and the other women to be successful.” 

            Sister Tesa’s story demonstrates what an amazing gift life can become when lived for the benefit of others. What joy she must have in the difference she makes. It is a joy we can all attain when we let go of our own cares and begin to serve. It is a joy that is unlike any other.     


A Witness of Charity to the Poor 

Nov 8, 2020

            Pope Francis recently celebrated the life of Father Roberto Malgesini, a priest of the diocese of Como, Italy, who had been murdered. Echoing the words of the Bishop of Como, the Pope said, “I give praise to God for the witness, that is, for the martyrdom of this witness of charity towards the poorest.” 

           Speaking about Father Malgesini’s calling, a fellow priest said, “Roberto was a simple person. He just wanted to be a priest and years ago he made this wish explicit to the former bishop of Como. For this he was sent to St. Rocco, where every morning he brought hot breakfasts to the least. Here everyone knew him, they all loved him.” 

Father Malgesini was pastor of the Church of St. Rocco, where he led an outreach group to care for those on the margins of society, and he was especially known for his care for the homeless and for migrants. He was only 51 years old when he died at the hands of a troubled man who he had served in his ministry. Catholic News Agency reported that Roberto Bernasconi, director of Como’s branch of Caritas, said of Father Malgesini, “He devoted his whole life to the least, he was aware of the risks he ran. The city and the world did not understand his mission.” 

           What a profound statement by Mr. Bernasconi, and it gets to the heart of how we are called as Catholics to view this situation. To say that Father Malgesini was “aware of the risks he ran” is a statement made by someone who understands the sacrificial nature of missionary work in almost militaristic terms. It’s an outlook that has often been associated with those who dare to live the gospel to its fullest extent. It is not about taking up arms, but about being willing to lay one’s life on the line in the way soldiers, police officers, and other heroes do on a daily basis. And it’s an outlook we would all do well to adopt in some measure as followers of Christ. 

           Painting a picture of Father Malgesini’s tireless efforts for the poor, Catholic News Agency reported, “The morning he was killed, he was expected at a breakfast for the homeless. In 2019, he was fined by local police for feeding people living under the portico of a former church.”  

           And what should we think of his attacker? Perhaps the statement by the Diocese of Como is our best guide to that. It reads, “In the face of this tragedy, the Church of Como is clinging to prayer for its priest Fr. Roberto and for the person who struck him to death.” 

           It seems obvious Father Malgesini would endorse prayers for his attacker. Just as his life teaches us to reach out to those most in need, it also teaches us to pray for those most in need. To offer one’s entire life for others, and then to pray for those who persecute you, this is the way of the cross.  

           What a powerful witness Father Malgesini’s life was to the sacrificial nature of the priesthood. Pope Francis was right to call him a martyr. He was a martyr through his fearless outreach to the poor, and he shows us the way to abandon the cares of this world in order to seek the rewards of eternal life. May he rest in peace, basking in the joy of the beatific vision, and may he intercede for us all.  

True Devotion to Mary 

Oct 25, 2020

     Saint Louis de Montfort wrote, “Because Mary remained hidden during her life she is called by the Holy Spirit and the Church ‘Alma Mater,’ Mother hidden and unknown. So great was her humility that she desired nothing more upon earth than to remain unknown to herself and to others, and to be known only to God.” Saint Louis made this observation in one of the opening lines of his book True Devotion to Mary, a spiritual classic in which he explains why cultivating a relationship with the Blessed Mother is so important in our lives. 

     Written in 1712, four years before Saint Louis’ death, the manuscript for True Devotion to Mary was not discovered until 1842, at which point it was published and welcomed as a worthy addition to his other works on devotion to Mary, including Secret of the Rosary and Secret of Mary. In True Devotion to Mary, Saint Louis explains that God gave Jesus to the world through Mary and therefore the best way for each one of us to find our way to Jesus in our everyday lives is through the intercession of Mary.  

     Saint Louis shows how often Mary played a mediating role in the ministry of Jesus, writing, “We see that He chose to begin His miracles through Mary. It was by her word that He sanctified Saint John the Baptist in the womb of his mother, Saint Elizabeth; no sooner had Mary spoken than John was sanctified. This was His first and greatest miracle of grace. At the wedding in Cana He changed water into wine at her humble prayer, and this was His first miracle in the order of nature. He began and continued His miracles through Mary and He will continue them through her until the end of time.” 

It’s interesting that Saint Louis’ book should have remained hidden from the world for such a long time after his death. But it serves to remind us that sometimes the greatest treasures in life remain hidden and are only discovered by those who choose to search for them. Catholics know that a relationship with Mary is proclaimed by the Church to be one of these great hidden treasures in life. But it bears studying the writings of saints like Louis de Montfort in order to understand and stay in touch with this reality.  

     It is in Mary’s humility that we find the path to holiness, and it is humility that makes the story of her life such a quiet and hidden treasure that must be sought after in order to fully understand its value and importance in salvation history. What a paradox that such a quiet life should be chosen by God to occupy such a high status.  

     In True Devotion to Mary, Saint Louis highlights what may be the greatest hidden treasure of Mary’s life when he writes, “Jesus gave more glory to God His Father by submitting to His Mother for thirty years than He would have given Him had he converted the whole world by working the greatest miracles. How highly then do we glorify God when to please Him we submit ourselves to Mary, taking Jesus as our sole model.” 

     This statement exemplifies the treasure that awaits each and every one of us when we seek a relationship with the Blessed Mother. It is not a worldly treasure, but for those who understand its value, it opens up a world of happiness that will last for all eternity.    


Award-winning Film Highlights Down Syndrome

October 4, 2020


The 2020 Christopher Awards were recently announced and many people have been excited to learn that The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of our winners in the Feature Films category. This heart-warming, poignant, and delightful comedy-drama exemplifies independent filmmaking at its best. It is a story that reminds us of the essence of what it means to be human and inspires us to open our hearts to better understand the unique life circumstances of other people.  

            The Peanut Butter Falcon follows the adventures of Zak, a young man with Down syndrome who escapes from a nursing home where he’s been consigned to live for two and a half years despite his yearning for a different environment. On his journey, Zak connects with Tyler, who is also on the run, being pursued by a rival fisherman along the Outer Banks of Virginia and North Carolina. Zak and Tyler are eventually joined by Eleanor, who has been dispatched by the nursing home to bring Zak back into custody. The three of them bond over shared humanity, the joy of freedom, sorrow over broken dreams, and longing for a better life.  

            At the heart of this story are the unique circumstances of the characters, whose personal flaws sometimes reveal good intentions underlying their mistakes, such as Tyler’s petty criminality, which is a manifestation of his frustration over the role he played in his brother’s death. The bond he forms with Zak helps to heal the wound of this painful memory as the two of them chart their course along the tranquil barrier islands, by motorboat, by foot, and by a makeshift raft with a sail. 

            While the adventure that unfolds within The Peanut Butter Falcon is a captivating one, the story behind the making of this film only adds to the amazing nature of this production. The project got its start when two friends who aspired to make a feature film met Zack Gottsagen, a person with Down syndrome, at a camp for actors with disabilities. It was after this encounter that they decided to make a film for Gottsagen to star in, and they wrote the screenplay specifically for him, translating aspects of his personality into character traits that suited the story. For instance, they took Gottsagen’s desire to become an actor and changed it into his character’s desire to become a professional wrestler, which in turn translated into dramatic sports-oriented tension and rollicking scenarios.  

            The decision to create a feature film for a young man with Down syndrome to star in might be one of the gutsiest and ingenious moves ever made in an industry so dominated by money and the bankability of actors. But, as is so often the case in life, a gutsy decision produced amazing results. The interactions between Gottsagen and his co-stars, who include Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, and Bruce Dern, were some of the most authentic and unreproducible ever to grace the screen. 

            The Peanut Butter Falcon hasn’t received the attention of major Hollywood films but it has been well received and loved by people around the country. This film sends profound messages on a number of levels, not least of which is the dignity with which it invites the world to look upon a young man with Down syndrome. In an age when we sadly face a growing movement to eradicate people with Down syndrome through abortion, this is a film we all need to watch and share and invite people to be changed by.     


For free copies of the Christopher News Note SEE YOURSELF THE WAY GOD SEES YOU, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:

Leadership in Adversity

Sept 20, 2020 

     “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” This quote by C.S. Lewis opens Nathan Lambert’s Psychology Today article “How Greater Challenges Help You Grow.” Lambert shows how the adaptations we’re forced to make due to adversity are often the very things that lead to greatness. 

     Lambert profiles a number of people with life-circumstances that prompted growth. For instance, one woman, who was particularly tall, realized that she could use her stature to become a stronger leader, rather than allowing herself to feel self-conscious about her height. She said, “I think the biggest thing is just to have good posture, be proud of it and be radiant! It does make you stand out; it makes people look to you. It can make you a natural leader because people will look to you first. So it can really be a benefit in terms of leadership and taking charge if you let it.” 

     Aside from learning how to use adversity to cultivate leadership skills, Lambert also shows how life’s challenges can make us stronger, help us learn to deal with our emotions, and inspire us to exert greater effort. He quotes one woman from Japan struggling to achieve academically in a learning environment that is not her first language. She says, “In school, it’s hard for me to get good grades because English is my second language. But because I know I’m different because I’m not American, I work harder to be one of you guys...because I’m different, I do put in extra effort.” 

     That extra effort she feels compelled to put in to overcome learning in a second language is exactly the thing that will set her apart and help her to succeed in a myriad of circumstances throughout the rest of her life. This is exactly how we should approach adversity, by adjusting to meet the challenges put before us and allowing those adjustments to form our character for the better. 

     Lambert writes, “Growing because of trials can be compared to the oyster that has a little piece of sand lodged inside. In response to this intruder, the oyster makes the most of its trial and makes a beautiful pearl! Without the challenge or setback of having this uncomfortable piece of sand, the oyster would never have made the pearl.”  

     One of the most profound observations Lambert makes is about the healing that can take place within ourselves when we learn to master our emotions even in times of adversity. It helps us to be less judgmental of others, more forgiving, and more capable of understanding where people with whom we disagree are coming from. And these are some of the most important attributes we can have during times of adversity.  

     The world is in need of leaders capable of building bridges between people, and in order to build bridges, we must first listen and understand where people of different backgrounds and perspectives are coming from. So we must remember that, before assuming a leadership role in life, we must first listen and understand, which requires the patience we learn through personal adversity.  

     It is important for us all to remember that, as we go through our own trials, we are building character traits that will not only help us to succeed, but that will prepare us to help others. In this way, we join our efforts to Christ, who showed us the true path to using all of our suffering and adversity to change the world for the better.    


Alleviate Your Anxiety 

Sept 6, 2020

The crisis of Covid-19 has led to an increase in depression and anxiety among people in all spheres of society and there are steps we can and should take to combat this growing problem. Catholic Charities recognized this crisis early on and shared some practical advice on their website that serves as a great starting point in learning how to cope with these issues.  

            On Catholic Charities’ website, clinical psychologist Michael Horne advises that we start with basic everyday health measures to combat stress. He notes that anxiety and depression often prompt us to forget these basic needs, but they are vital in preventing a downward spiral. “Eat well, stay physically active, get a good night’s sleep,” Horne writes. “While this seems simplistic, sticking to these core points will improve health, strengthen the immune system, and are good for preventing anxiety and depression.” 

            These basic health concerns lead us to attend to the larger issues that Horne addresses, such as maintaining a routine, staying connected, and keeping up an active prayer life. Through his advice, we can see how interconnected our physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing can be.  

Routine is at the heart of maintaining balance in all of these key aspects of our lives. Routine is what turns our need to eat into a scheduled mealtime that brings people together for much needed human interaction. And routine is what reminds us to come together in prayer. These routines can exist for us even in trying times, such as a pandemic. We just have to be conscious of adhering to the routine and the need we all have to connect with one another. Especially during times of social distancing within society, we must draw closer to family in order to make sure our needs, and the needs of our loved ones, are met.  

            Writing for the Catholic Apostolate Center, Colleen Campbell highlights another crucial idea. She says, “Focusing on our mental health allows us to be stewards of God’s creation, specifically good stewards of the body that God has created and given to us. Though we are living in a time of panic and uncertainty, we have agency and the ability to take care of ourselves in a way that allows us to continue the hard work of bringing forth the Kingdom of God.” 

            As we take the time to attend to our own needs and the needs of those closest to us, we can also prepare ourselves to point others in the right direction to receive help for whatever is troubling them. When we hear about people in need, we should have answers for where they can get help, and we should be prepared to reach out within our own communities to make sure that help is offered.  

            We must also remember that the anxiety people manifest is often the result of a complex set of circumstances and sometimes the best way to relieve their anxiety is to address underlying problems. If we come across people who are anxious about finances and day to day survival, the best way to help alleviate that anxiety is to point them in the direction of those who can provide solutions to those financial difficulties. 

            So let’s remember that by attending to our own needs and the needs of our loved ones, we prepare ourselves to be a resource for others, which is ultimately the best way to take our minds off our own suffering and return to a life of joy.

 Using Technology to Promote Holiness

August 23, 2020

            In early June it was announced that Carlo Acutis would be beatified on October 10th in Assisi, Italy. Reporting on the announcement, Catholic News Agency quoted Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi as saying, “The joy we have long awaited finally has a date.” 

            Carlo Acutis grew up in Italy with a strong faith in God. He looked to the saints as models for his life and had a devotion to St. Francis of Assisi. He was a tech whiz and studied advanced level computer programming at an early age. He put those skills to use by building a website highlighting stories of Eucharistic miracles from around the world.

            Carlo attended daily Mass and helped lead his parents to a stronger practice of the faith. In an EWTN report, Nicola Gori, postulator of Acutis’ cause, said, “He managed to drag his relatives, his parents to Mass every day. It was not the other way around; it was not his parents bringing the little boy to Mass, but it was he who managed to get himself to Mass and to convince others to receive Communion daily.”

Carlo contracted leukemia in his youth and offered his suffering up for Pope Benedict XVI and the Church. He died in 2006 at the age of 15. Though he was not from Assisi, it was one of his favorite pilgrimage sites, and he was buried there according to his wishes. 

            Carlo left a profound mark on the world around him, and after his death many people began to invoke his intercession. The miracle approved by Pope Francis enabling Carlo’s cause to proceed to beatification involved the healing of a Brazilian boy afflicted with a rare disease of the pancreas. Crux magazine reports that the child’s family began to pray for Carlo’s intercession. They started a novena with a priest devoted to Carlo’s cause, and on the third day the child showed signs of recovery, regaining his appetite after days of not being able to eat. It was later discovered by doctors that the boy was completely healed.

            Pope Francis has held up the life of Carlo Acutis as a model for young people, writing in his Christ is Alive exhortation, “It is true that the digital world can expose you to the risk of self-absorption, isolation and empty pleasure. But don’t forget that there are young people even there who show creativity and even genius. That was the case with the Venerable Carlo Acutis.” 

            Archbishop Sorrentino connected Carlo’s utilization of technology to encourage Eucharistic devotion to the current world crisis, saying, “The news [of his beatification] constitutes a ray of light in this period in which our country is struggling with a difficult health, social and work situation…In these recent months of solitude and distancing, we have been experiencing the most positive aspect of the internet – a communication technology for which Carlo had a special talent. The love of God can turn a great crisis into a great grace.”

            So let us pray for the intercession of Venerable, soon to be Blessed, Carlo Acutis, that this period of time, when people have had to turn to technology to remain connected, will be marked by positive interactions that help us to build lasting relationships based on a desire to work together for the good of all. And in all our technological activities and interactions, let us open ourselves to the workings of the Holy Spirit to be vehicles for the message of Christ to transform the world. 

Growing in Trust and Gratitude

Aug 9, 2020

            In his Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul wrote, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).

            Paul’s counsel is such a wonderful reminder of the two most important attributes to cultivate in our relationship with God – trust and gratitude. Trust in God entails letting go of excessive worries and concerns and simply asking in humility for our needs to be met. And we should have confidence that God will accompany us on our journey through life. This is not to say that anything we ask for will be granted, because sometimes God has a bigger plan for us that we can’t always understand in the moment. 

In his Letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). So we must continually pray for all good things and then trust that God will care for us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ instructed us to abandon worry and trust in God, saying, “And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28-29).

            The beautiful thing about trust in God is that it allows us to live in gratitude for all of the gifts bestowed upon us. When we understand the care that God has for us, we can focus on all of the blessings being showered upon us. To quote Romans once again, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33).

            When we turn to God with trust, He responds with love, but oftentimes the result of God’s love isn’t what we expected. Trust entails knowing that God’s responses to our prayers will always be infinitely greater than anything we expected, and gratitude enables us to recognize those blessings and receive them with joy. 

            The Christopher News Note Living in Thanksgiving tells the story of 90-year-old Judith Viorst, who wrote the popular children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Viorst told an interviewer that the most favorite time of her life is right now, saying, “It’s not that the days themselves now are so fabulous…. My hair is thinning…. I can’t find my glasses or keys. And I spend so much time seeing specialists that, if they gave doctorates for going to doctors, I’d easily have earned a Ph.D. But still, I don’t hesitate. The best is not ahead or behind. It’s now.”

            Viorst credits her appreciation for the moment with her ability to understand the blessings bestowed upon her, saying, “I’ve found that a little surplus of gratitude often has downstream effects, helping us become more tolerant, less judgmental, more forgiving.”

            In the end, trust in God and gratitude for our blessings are the things that make us happier above all else. And a joyful life is the most blessed life we can live. So pray from the heart for all that is good, show God your trust and your gratitude, and be prepared to see amazing blessings poured out upon you. 

Learning to Love as God Loves

July 26

     In the Beatitudes, Christ taught the disciples, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for He makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45). What a poignant way for Christ to explain God’s unconditional love for all people and to call His followers to emulate that love.

     An old Christopher prayer card reflects this wisdom in its plea for us to grow in the love of God. It reads, “Help us to grow in Your love – a love that doesn’t gloss over failings but one that stresses the good in everyone. Then, Lord, as we increase our ability to love as Jesus did, bring us closer to the kingdom prepared for us.”

     This prayer picks up on some key ways in which we can learn to love as God loves. It shows that God’s love does not ignore our failings, but can also see past those failings to the good in each of us. This can help us to understand why God showers the blessings of this world on good and bad people alike. He understands our failings and wants us to repent and become better people, but He also sees our good qualities and knows that the best way for us to change is to increase in those good qualities rather than by simply harping on our faults.

     This outlook can change the way we relate to other people. Only when we see the good in others can we respond to them in ways that invite them to increase those qualities. In a Psychology Today article titled “See the Good in Others,” neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson shows how noticing people’s positive traits can produce amazing results, but he notes that we must first understand that good intentions are often intertwined with qualities we perceive as negative. “For example,” Hanson writes, “a toddler throwing mashed potatoes wants fun, a teenager dripping attitude wants higher status, and a mate who avoids housework wants leisure.”

     Hanson also shares a personal story of how he was changed when someone chose to focus on his positive attributes. He recalls always being picked last for teams in gym class as he was growing up. But when he got to college, he joined an intramural touch football team led by a quarterback who understood how to draw the best out of people. Hanson writes, “After one practice, he told me in passing, ‘You’re good and I’m going to throw to you.’ I was floored. But this was the beginning of me realizing that I was actually quite a good athlete. His recognition also made me play better which helped our team. Thirty-five years later I can still remember his comment. He had no idea of its impact, yet it was a major boost to my sense of worth. In the same way, unseen ripples spread far and wide when we see abilities in others – especially if we acknowledge them openly.”

     The greater people’s faults, the more difficult it becomes to see the good in them, which is why we must practice this skill in little ways with all those we encounter. This way, we will prepare ourselves to act like Christ, even in the most challenging situations, because only when we see the good in the most hardened and challenging people will we truly love like God.  

Friendships Help Us Discover Christ

July 12

            In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis observes that, for those who seek out Christian friendships, there are no coincidences in regard to who we encounter in life, and with whom we find common ground and ultimately strike up lasting relationships. Lewis writes, “A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ Those friendships are the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

            God has reasons for placing us in each other’s lives. We strike up friendships for various reasons. Sometimes it is because we have a lot in common and our friendship becomes a celebration of those things we hold dear. But sometimes we come from very different backgrounds and our friendship forms over a need to discover some new insight that can only be encountered by venturing beyond our comfort zone. No matter the circumstances, friendship is not just an experience of enjoying the company of others. At its best, friendship is an opportunity to discover Christ.

            The Christopher News Note Making a Friend of Jesus points to the lives of the saints as a guide for cultivating a friendship with Jesus. Saint Catherine of Siena grew so close to Christ that she conversed with Him throughout her day. When she prayed the “Glory Be” prayer, she addressed Christ directly, saying, “Glory Be to the Father, and to You, and to the Holy Spirit.”

Saint Alphonsus Liguori encouraged this kind of conversational approach to prayer, writing, “Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends. Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fear – of everything that concerns you. Converse with Him confidently and frankly; for God is not wont to speak to a soul that does not speak to Him.”

            Saint Francis of Assisi’s desire for closeness with Christ led him to abandon the wealth of this world for a life of poverty. This was a tremendous leap to abandon his social status and the friendships that naturally came with that status. Yet, Francis was met with the most amazing blessings of friendship within this new life because so many people wanted to follow his example. The story of Francis reminds us that when we put Christ first, even if that entails distancing ourselves from certain social scenes accompanied by a life of status, we awaken ourselves to much deeper and more fulfilling friendships.

            God brings us together because He wants us to help each other get to heaven. Discovering, as C.S. Lewis says, “the beauties of others” enables us to recognize the presence of God in each human soul. That recognition can guide our interactions with all people we meet and make us aware that we are greeting Christ each time we encounter another person. It is this awareness that deepens our friendship with Christ because He wants to be found within the souls of all children of God and most especially in the weak, the vulnerable, and the outcast. So we should cultivate strong friendships, and in this way, we will learn how to discover Christ in others and allow others to discover Christ within ourselves.  

Rediscover the Miraculous

June 28, 2020

            It seems like just about every community in the world has undergone some form of quarantine over the past months. It’s an experience of physical and spiritual denial that makes you consider what matters most in life. Some Catholics have been reawakened to a hunger for the Mass, while there has also been concern that time away from church attendance will lead others to stray from the faith.

            I think we can all agree that, as we gather again in community in our Church, we should be aiming for things to be better than they were before. A sure way to achieve this is to highlight the importance of the Eucharist. If there’s one thing faithful Catholics missed most during quarantine, it’s the Eucharist. Yet sadly, a poll conducted last year showed that only one third of U.S. Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. If we want our Church to become stronger than it was before, we need to change that statistic.

            So how do we increase faith in the real presence? I believe it is to increase faith in the miraculous, because it takes belief in the miraculous to understand the Eucharist. Stories of the miraculous abound in the Church, and maybe we’re reticent to share those stories because we know that our faith must not depend on miracles. But Christ performed miracles in order to strengthen people’s faith, and stories of miracles can help us to see God’s hand at work in all things and especially in the sacraments.

            Eucharistic miracles are some of the most fascinating stories in history, yet they don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve. Though there are many credible reports of Eucharistic miracles, the Church has only officially recognized five instances due to the rigorous process any claim must undergo.

            The oldest officially recognized Eucharistic miracle took place in the 8th century in Lanciano, Italy. A Basilian Monk who was having doubts about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was performing the consecration during Mass, when the host turned to living flesh and the wine turned to living blood. The Church of San Francesco in Lanciano now holds the relics from this miracle, displayed in a silver and glass reliquary and proven authentic by scientific studies conducted in the 1970s. 

            Evidence surrounding the Miracle of Lanciano and the four other officially recognized Eucharistic miracles shows a match to the type of blood found on the Shroud of Turin. I share all of this information not to encourage people’s faith to depend on miracles. Christ did not want that, as he said to Thomas after proving the Resurrection to him, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29). But this information is there for us in moments of doubt, and we should not hesitate to share stories of miracles with others when they doubt. 

            Christ wants us to believe so completely in His transcendent power that He invites us to a regular Eucharistic celebration without material proof of the real presence. We might look upon it as a profound spiritual exercise in which we stretch every aspect of our being, from our intellect to our ability to think creatively. Christ wants us to discover the faith of one who has not seen. When we discover that faith, we prepare ourselves to recognize God’s miraculous hand at work in the world and in all aspects of our lives.     

A Powerful Intercessor For Our Time

June 7, 2020

     During this pandemic, many people are looking to return to some semblance of normalcy even as we have yet to find a cure for Covid-19. We must pray for the success of these efforts at whatever point our leaders deem them appropriate. As I write this column from New York, the number of cases here seems to have reached a plateau, and by the time of publication, I pray that we are seeing continued success in stopping the spread of this disease. But no matter what happens, we as Catholics must remain committed to strengthening our relationship with God and calling upon our heavenly intercessors for protection and courage.

In one of my recent columns, I spoke about the importance of turning to Mary, and Pope Francis has been talking much about our Blessed Mother as well in the past few months. I encourage everyone to acquaint themselves with the four prayers that he recently wrote for recitation after praying the rosary. During the month of May, which was devoted to Mary, Catholics around the world implored our Blessed Mother’s intercession, and we must continue to turn to Mary so she may draw us close to the heart of Christ.

We must also remember the powerful saints who we can call upon during this time. Saint Francesca of Rome is one such intercessor. An April 22 article in Catholic New York entitled “Saint Francesca of Rome, Pray for Us” by Christopher contributorGaran Santicola details why this 14th century saint may be the perfect intercessor for our time.

     Francesca was born in Rome in 1384 into a noble family and eventually married into an even more wealthy and influential family. Despite her status, she wanted nothing more than to live a simple life in service to the poor and destitute people of the city, and she dedicated herself so thoroughly to this cause that, after her death, she came to be known as the “Advocate of Rome.” She was associated with miraculous occurrences both during and after her lifetime and credited with over 60 healings at her canonization proceedings in 1608.

     Francesca had survived a plague during her lifetime, although the deadly virus took two of her children. Nearly 50 years after her canonization, another plague swept through Italy, and the people of Rome began to pray for her intercession. Within months, the plague had subsided from the entire country and Rome had avoided the worst of it.

Afterwards, a cardinal, who would later become Pope Clement IX, commissioned Nicolas Poussin, one of the greatest artists in Europe, to commemorate Francesca’s defense of the city with a painting. But that painting vanished a century after its creation and didn’t resurface until 1998 under circumstances that have been called “miraculous.” It now hangs in the Louvre Museum as one of their prized possessions.

     I encourage everyone to visit Catholic New York’s website to read the full story and view the image of Poussin’s beautiful painting. And let us remember that our faith is filled with miraculous stories like these in which heroic saints intervene amid trying circumstances and prayers of the faithful are answered. Let us also never cease to call upon the saints to join with the Blessed Mother in interceding for us and to intercede most especially for all doctors, nurses, and service providers as they lay their lives on the line for the common good. 


A Spirit of Unity

May 17

            America is an amazing country. In any crisis throughout our nation’s history, people have pulled together in a spirit of community to see one another through difficult times. The situation we have found ourselves in over the past few months, battling a pandemic that has swept through the entire world, has revealed this spirit once again. When Liz Klinger of San Francisco, California, learned that the hospital where her mother works had a mask shortage, she decided to act, not just for her mom but for the entire country. In an interview with SFGate, Klinger said, “My mom is a nurse, and she told me they weren’t being provided masks on her floor, which was obviously kind of concerning…And I was hearing through the grapevine that my mom’s experience was far from the only experience like that – U.S. healthcare workers across the country need masks.”

            Klinger connected with Chloe Albert, who works in health care supplies. Albert informed Klinger of the long waiting period for new masks. They realized that the quickest way to get new masks was to appeal to people with their own private supplies. So Klinger and Albert joined together to form a website called Mask Match to connect people who had their own small supplies of masks with hospitals experiencing shortages. The donations began to pour in.

            Another vital supply in battling this pandemic, both in hospitals and in our own homes, is hand sanitizer. We have faced major shortages from the earliest days of the outbreak. So distilleries, which usually produce alcoholic beverages, began to utilize their facilities to produce hand sanitizer and the kind of alcohol used as a disinfectant. “I’m most proud of the people on our staff,” Travis Barnes told Fox News. Barnes is a disabled veteran who owns the Indiana-based Hotel Tango Distillery, which is the first combat-disabled, veteran-owned distillery in America. As soon as Barnes heard of the need, he switched his operation over completely to making sanitizer. He said, “There hasn’t been any hesitation from day one. We’ve seen people step up every day in extraordinary ways. I hope we can continue to help each other, support our neighbors and come out of this thing stronger than before.”

            From small companies to large, Americans are turning their ingenuity towards addressing the health crisis. ABusiness Insider headline read, “Tesla, Apple, and Ford are stepping up to address global shortages of ventilators, hand sanitizer, face masks, and gowns.” And in another amazing story we learned of how individuals are helping out from their own homes by running simulations on their computers to help scientists weed through data to find treatments for their patients. Reporting on the story, KFOX radio wrote on their website, “To find treatments, scientists need a ton of computing power to simulate how various proteins interact.  So the website has been asking people to download software that lets your computer run simulations when you’re not using it. Over 400,000 people have signed up. And the raw computing power combined is already close to three times faster than the world’s fastest supercomputer.”

            When you look at these kinds of stories, you have confidence in America’s ability to weather any crisis. We simply have to remember that we are so much stronger when we collaborate with each other, and that is exactly what so many people have been doing. So have faith that we will come through this and be stronger for the fight we have engaged in together.

We Entrust Ourselves to Mary

May 3

            Pope Francis has entrusted the entire world to the care and protection of our Blessed Mother to guard against the current pandemic and bring an end to this terrible scourge. In an address in early March, right when so many people in Italy were falling ill, Francis prayed before an image of Mary, saying, “We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick, who at the cross took part in Jesus’ pain, keeping your faith firm. You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need, and we are sure you will provide so that, as in Cana of Galilee, we may return to joy and to feasting after this time of trial.”

            Janice T. Connell opens her book Queen of Angels: Mary’s Answers to Universal Questions by reminding us that Christ’s gift to humanity in the last moments of His earthly life was to present Mary as a mother to us all. In John 19:26-27, we see this dramatic moment play out when Jesus looks down from the cross at His mother and the disciple John. Jesus then says, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He looks to John and says, “Behold your mother!”

            It’s interesting to note that the very next line of the Gospel states that “all things were now accomplished.” What tremendous importance this places on Christ’s symbolic act of giving His mother to all of humanity, and what a tremendous gift this truly was. Only Christ could have fully known the enormity of this precious gift He bestowed on us. We are left to grasp small realizations of the magnificence of the Blessed Mother.

            One way to try to wrap our minds around this gift is to recall the most special things we can about our own mothers. So many of us have tremendous emotion when it comes to those qualities, and these might be considered some of the most precious things Christ has chosen to share in giving Mary to us. This image might also help us to understand the enormous sacrifice Jesus made in giving His life up for us on the cross. In that moment, He gave up everything and even gave his own mother over to us. It was a sacrificial gift, and sacrificial gifts have tremendous spiritual power, which is why Mary remains - and always will be - such a powerful intercessor.

            The apparitions of the Blessed Mother around the world demonstrate Mary’s closeness to humanity and reinforce Christ’s intention for us to turn to her for care and protection in all our concerns. This is why Pope Francis’ call for the world to invoke Mary’s intercession during this trying time is the perfect remedy for our current situation.

            In  one of her 1531 apparitions to Juan Diego in Guadalupe, Mexico, Mary proclaimed, “I am truly your merciful Mother, yours and all the people who live united in this land and of all the other people of different ancestries, my lovers, who love me, those who seek me, those who trust in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their complaints and heal all their sorrows, hardships and sufferings.”

            In a time of trial, there is nothing more powerful than spiritual support from a caring mother. Let us implore Mary to guard us from this pandemic so that we can return to the activities that enliven our hearts and people around the world can come to know Christ through a relationship with His most Blessed Mother, finding peace, health, and hope in the future.


The Loyalty of St. Joseph

April 26

            On May 1st, we celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, whose devotion to Mary and Jesus is one of the most inspirational models of loyalty in all of human history. Joseph and Mary’s relationship began in turmoil before they were married, yet even when he thought she had betrayed him, Joseph sought a quiet parting that wouldn’t damage her reputation. Then God sent an angel to speak to Joseph in a dream, to convince him of Mary’s purity and present an even more merciful path for him to follow.

            Joseph’s response to this call was nothing short of heroic. He could not possibly have fully understood what God was about to accomplish in their lives, but he was open to a path of mercy in regard to Mary and this may have prepared him to embrace the life God was pointing him towards. This is an important lesson in our own lives. Those who adopt an attitude of mercy, even when they feel wronged, remain ready for the path of reconciliation God will present. 

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life.” We safely assume, then, that Joseph was a model for Jesus’ own human life. Joseph was protector and provider, so he taught Jesus the basic skills of survival. How important those skills must have been for a young man who lived a quiet life and did not begin His public ministry until the age of thirty.

            In the time they spent together, Joseph was able to give Jesus everything God wanted Him to receive from an earthly father figure. Aside from knowing how to fend for himself, we can look at so many attributes of Christ and know that God worked through Joseph to teach Jesus how to be a man.

            We can look at the sheer grit and determination displayed by Jesus during His passion and know that He must have learned something about mental and physical fortitude working alongside Joseph as a carpenter. We can look at Christ’s profound sensitivity towards the bonds of familial love in the story of the raising of Lazarus and know that He learned how to be attuned to the suffering of others from Joseph’s tenderness and care. And we can look at the mercy Jesus showed to the woman caught in adultery and know that He learned from Joseph not to judge others harshly and how to offer women the respect they deserve in a society in which they were too quickly demonized for situations beyond their control. 

            We can also look at Christ’s integrity in every situation He was ever in and know that He learned about integrity from Joseph through his loyal devotion to the Holy Family, which endured from the moment he accepted God’s call to care for Mary and Jesus until his dying day. Such integrity presents a model for us all in our relations with others. It’s an integrity based on loyalty to God first, and it gives rise to the truest kind of loyalty we can extend to another, a loyalty based on service and sacrificial love. God allowed Jesus to glimpse this in Joseph so that He could share it with the world. Every time we quietly model integrity for someone, especially for young people, we live in imitation of Joseph and prepare others to walk in Christ’s footsteps.          

Share the Love of Christ

April 5

            The Christophers recently sent a small delegation to take part in the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, an amazing multicultural event that is the nation’s largest annual gathering of Roman Catholics. The theme of this year’s congress was “Live Mercy – Be Holy,” and it brought people together in workshops and talks to explore enriching spiritual topics that allow attendees to improve themselves and return to their communities better able to serve others.

            The call to reach out to others is one of the noblest pursuits a person can undertake, and we should pray that this gathering continues to bear fruit for many years to come. The Christopher News Note Finding Christ in Community features stories demonstrating how lives are transformed when we reach out to one another to build community.

One story tells of an elderly couple and a young woman they met who was new to their city and feeling very alone due to circumstances in her life. This couple got her phone number, invited her to their home, introduced her to new people, and sent her beautiful cards during the holidays to cheer her spirits.

            Recalling that time, the young woman said, “In a time when I was so alone and lost in a new city, a simple conversation opened up a whole path to healing. I felt so loved by these people who truly took a stranger into their hearts and embraced her. It not only nourished my physical and emotional needs, but showed me what the face of Christ looks like, and inspired me to be that person to others.”

            In his spiritual classic No Man is an Island, Thomas Merton explains how cultivating a relationship with God will help us to build healthy relationships with others. This idea is exemplified in the story of the young woman. That elderly couple showed her the face of God through their compassion, and then she became ready to reach out to others in the same spirit.   

            In Matthew 16:25, Jesus says, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” This is the lesson that all those who decide to live in service to others have learned, and there’s really no way around the fact that this is the only way to true and lasting happiness.

            The path of service is the path of the saints, like Catherine of Siena, who once wrote, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.” She proved this statement to be true through the life she led in 14th century Italy. As a young woman, she was devoted to caring for the poor and the sick, and she attracted followers who joined her in this endeavor. God kept calling her to greater involvement in community building to the point where she wound up brokering peace deals between the waring Italian city-states of her time.

            Like Catherine of Siena, we are called to set the world on fire with a love for God, and the best way to do that is to allow God’s love to shine through us in our relationship to others. Heroic Catholics of our time are embracing this path of service, and we are so blessed to have them in our communities. So let us look to their leadership for inspiration and join with them in reaching out to others to share the love of Christ that is alive within our hearts.

Finding Healing After Tragedy or Loss

March 22

     In his book No Man is an Island, Thomas Merton writes, “It is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good, not because they have meaning, but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.”

     This statement points to the fact that our faith as Catholics provides everything we need to find healing in the face of tragedy and loss. Suffering can be so painful that it can cause us to recoil and close ourselves off emotionally in order to guard against being hurt. But our faith provides all the tools we need to face suffering and find healing so that we can ultimately help others to do the same.

     The Christopher News Note Finding Healing After Tragedy or Loss tackles this subject head on. It teaches us first that grieving is a part of the healing process and one that cannot be rushed. St. Gregory once said, “Let the widow mourn deeply. Let her perceive the loss that has been inflicted on her.” He understood the necessity to grieve and was known for demonstrating his own grief publicly, which in turn helped others to do the same.

     There is no predictable timing for healing from loss but there are things we can do to help ourselves get through that painful period. In his book Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems, Father Joseph Esper writes, “The saints learned a certain solace through service – in responding to the needs of others, they found it easier to bear their own sorrows.”

The story of Anthony Ray Hinton exemplifies this reality. He was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and for which he was eventually exonerated. In his Christopher Award-winning memoir “The Sun Does Shine,” he recalls being on Alabama’s death row when he received the news that his mother, who embodied love and kindness, had died of cancer. She always believed in his innocence and without her in the world, Hinton didn’t think he could go on. But then he had an otherworldly experience in which she spoke to him, saying, “This isn’t your time to die, son. You have to prove to them that my baby is no killer. Now you wipe them tears and you get up and you get in service to someone else.” From then on, Hinton became a beacon of light to his fellow inmates, and he continues to inspire others with his story to this day.

     Father Esper also counsels us to hand our troubles over to God to find healing. “God is the author of Life,” he writes, adding that God can “help us find purpose and value in life, even in the midst of intense grief.”

     We are able to face suffering head on because Christ has conquered all things through His death and resurrection. He has achieved victory over the suffering of this world and victory over death itself. He has robbed suffering and death of their ability to destroy us, and in so doing, He has shown us the way forward.

     What Christ’s victory leaves us with is hope, which is like a spark that kindles into the fire of the Holy Spirit. In grief, we struggle to kindle that spark, but Christ will not abandon us. Therefore we must remember to be there for one another. This is the lesson we learn in suffering – when we reach out to one another in our need, we find Christ.

The Power of Persistence

March 1
          In the Gospel of Luke, Christ tells the story of a man awakened in the middle of the night by his friend. This friend asks for three loaves of bread to feed visitors who have just arrived at his house. But the man tells the friend to go away because his family is sleeping and they have already locked their house for the night. It seems like a hopeless situation until Christ turns the story on its head and assures his listeners that the man will in fact give the friend what he wants. 

Christ says, “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs” (Luke 11:8).

          After sharing this story, Christ tells the disciples, “I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10).

          It’s important to remember these words when we consider our mission in life and how we are to go about using our talents. Our Christopher prayer card It’s Up to You utilizes the words of our founder, Father James Keller, M.M., to remind people how important it is to use the gifts God has bestowed upon us to make the world a better place. This may seem like a daunting responsibility until we realize how special we are in the eyes of God.

          Father Keller writes, “The more you realize how much you are needed, the more initiative, imagination and courage you will show in bringing out the great power God has hidden within you.”

          All we need to do is ask God for this strength, and we will be empowered to tap into our talents. The key is, we must realize how needed we are and how essential it is for us to take action. In the Gospels, Christ unceasingly reminds us of our infinite worth before God, saying, “Even the hairs of your head are all counted” (Matthew 10:30). Each one of us is unique and loved individually by God, who has bestowed talents upon us to accomplish some good in this world. 

          Discovering our talents and putting them to use requires persistence akin to that of the friend asking for bread in the middle of the night. Finding role models to inspire us on that journey can be an effective way to remind ourselves what persistence looks like. Role models are all around us, but we have to train ourselves to see in the right way. People don’t have to be perfect for us to take inspiration from them and model ourselves after certain actions that they take. 

          We’ve all had to fight through difficult times in life, and we know people who have done the same. Consider the persistence required to make it through those moments, and consider the persistence required of others in their struggle. Tough times create role models and we should look to each other for inspiration in the persistence we exhibit throughout our struggles. When we harness that persistence in our efforts to bring forth our talents for the greater good, then we are answering the call of God and rising to the challenge to do all we can to make this world a better place. 


A Positive Approach to Life

Feb 16, 2020

            In St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he says, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” What a profound witness this statement is to the power of hope and the importance of remaining positive even in the face of life’s negative circumstances.

            Consider how this simple bit of wisdom can change the way we see the world. We all know how personal misfortune and the bad news of our times can drag us into a spiral of negativity, but St. Paul provides such a perfect solution to this problem by pointing us towards a positive approach to life.  

            We are constantly presented with the choice of whether to be positive or negative, regardless of the circumstances of our lives. For those who make a habit of succumbing to negativity, that attitude seems to permeate their entire existence to the point where they can be gloomy even during joyous occasions. But the converse is true for those who maintain a positive disposition. They are the ones capable of answering St. Paul’s call to believe that God can bring about good from any situation.

            The world today gives us many reasons to be negative, whether its news of war and violence, stories of those afflicted with poverty and disease, natural disasters, or corruption even within our own Church. Each of these situations calls for a different response and the call to remain positive does not mean we turn our backs on these struggles. We must seek solutions to these problems, but remaining hopeful can help us to do so without allowing our spirits to be crushed. 

            The Christophers’ prayer card Uplift My Spirit offers some simple tips for remaining positive even in trying times. One such tip reminds us to be attentive to the media we consume – the music we listen to, the films or television programs we watch, and the books we read. Are these things mere distractions or do they contribute in some way to making us feel rejuvenated and ready to face the world with a positive attitude? Another thing we can do is to make a point of actually counting our blessings. We can call them to mind or even write them down because sometimes we need to remind ourselves of all the good God showers upon us on a daily basis. And taking care of our health by getting exercise, eating right, and taking time to enjoy the outdoors can be tremendously uplifting for our spirits.

            These may seem like small things to do in the face of life’s trials, but we must remember the line from the Bible that says, “He who despises small things will fail little by little” (Sirach 19:1). So we must be attentive to those smaller things in life that can help us to remain positive people. Of course, our News Note points to the most powerful tool of our faith as well, which is prayer, and as Catholics we are provided with the most intimate way to connect with God through the Mass and reception of the Eucharist.

Drawing close to the Eucharist and the sacraments is vital, especially in times of trial within the Church. So practice your faith in trying times and your spirit will remain alive with the power of the Holy Spirit. You may also help others discover that a positive approach to life is the best way to weather any storm.  


For free copies of the Christopher News Note STAYING POSITIVE AROUND NEGATIVE PEOPLE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:   

The Gift of St. Valentine’s Day

Feb 14, 2020

           Many people associate this month with great happiness and joy due to the Feast of St. Valentine on February 14. It’s appropriate to greet a day devoted to love with this kind of exuberance because it is such a profound gift of God to all of humanity. 

Our knowledge of the facts of St. Valentine’s life has largely been lost to history, but most people agree that this third century Roman saint was martyred and buried along the Flaminian Way just north of Rome. Today, he is the patron of love, young people, and happy marriages. 

           Some stories say he presided over marriages of many Christian couples in ceremonies done in secret due to religious persecution of the time. Another story about the final days of his life tells of how he was imprisoned and sentenced to death for refusing to renounce his faith. While in prison, he healed the jailer’s blind daughter, then left her a note on the day of his execution, signed, “Your Valentine.”

           Regardless of the accuracy of these stories, they help to reveal the spirit of a saint of the Church and bring into focus a profound message about love for our times. Valentine valued the sacrament of marriage so much that he was willing to risk his life to facilitate these important ceremonies for young couples. The love that comes into focus through these stories about his life is marked by fidelity, sacrifice, and faith, and these are the hallmarks of true love that bring about the happiness and joy associated with Valentine’s Day.

           Fidelity is at the heart of the pledge made by couples in marriage, and St. Valentine understood the value of their pledge to each other in this way. The Church continues to call men and women who fall in love to form such bonds of permanence in matrimony today. In addition, Valentine’s Day can also be about more than romantic love. One mother recalled giving chocolate hearts to her children on Valentine’s Day every year to show how much she loved them.

           The stories surrounding the life of St. Valentine teach us that sacrifice is the ultimate gift that love demands of us. Valentine payed the ultimate price for practicing his faith and helping others to do the same. He was a tireless evangelizer and one story even tells of how, after being arrested for practicing Christianity, he tried to convert the Emperor Claudius. It was this attempt to persuade the Emperor that led to his execution.

           This kind of sacrificial love is a model for those who pledge themselves in marriage—and for families in general. Spouses need to be prepared to sacrifice for each other and for their children. The love we celebrate on Valentine’s Day can lead people to be emotionally prepared to make profound sacrifices for each other, but it is faith that can sustain our commitment to do what is best for others even under the most trying circumstances.

           We see such faith exercised by St. Valentine in the story of the first Valentine note given to the jailer’s daughter after she regained her sight. Even facing death, St. Valentine showered blessings upon his persecutors. This kind of mercy is the fruit of forgiveness and it is the essence of the love of God. Let us share this love on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year so that lasting relationships based on fidelity, sacrifice, and faith blossom in our lives and in the lives of all we encounter.       


Meeting God on Holy Ground

January 26, 2020

This year, The Christophers celebrate the 75th anniversary of our founding. It was way back in 1945 that Father James Keller, M.M., set out to remind a world recovering from war about Christ’s profound message of hope for us all. The Christophers became Father Keller’s vehicle for sharing that message in his own unique way.

God calls each of us to find unique ways to bring hope into the world, and looking at how others have done this can provide the necessary inspiration for us to chart a course that best fits our talents. One figure who continues to get much deserved attention for the influence he has had on our society is Fred Rogers. Last year, The Christophers honored a documentary about him, Won’t You Be My Neighbor; and now another film, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, is shining a spotlight on his life and work.

In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Rogers, played by Tom Hanks, makes an appearance onThe Arsenio Hall Show in a recreation of an interview that actually took place. In that interview, Hall laments the problem of hopelessness among young people and then asks Rogers what we can do about it. Rogers says, “We need to let people know that each one of them is precious.”

Those familiar with The Christophers will recognize the similarity between that answer and the message of Father Keller, who never tired of preaching about the inherent value of each individual. It’s safe to say that Father Keller and Fred Rogers were kindred spirits in many respects. This is evident in the acceptance speech Rogers gave in 2001 when we honored his work with a Special Christopher Award.

He reflected on the “holy ground” that exists between the needs of others and our good faith efforts to meet those needs. Rogers said, “The Holy Spirit can use whatever we offer to speak to another person’s heart.” Then he added, “The Christophers have recognized this for many years. You have known that the most important part of any communication is what takes place in that holy ground…beyond human control. And that will always be.”

The revival of interest in the work of Fred Rogers indicates that our society yearns for the culture of respect and love of neighbor that he tried to foster. This is a yearning near and dear to The Christophers’ mission, and it’s one that all people today can be a part of. 

Consider the ways in which our society could grow in respect for human dignity–and then consider the gifts or talents bestowed on you, your family, or your community. Are there ways to direct those talents towards making the world a better place? There are situations most of us already find ourselves in where a renewed effort to bring joy and comradery would lift the spirits of those around us.

These are the kinds of things people like Father Keller and Fred Rogers would have done. Both had confidence in God’s ability to use their efforts to speak to another person’s heart. This confidence is essential if we are going to make the most of our own talents in working towards a better world. So know you are gifted by God with a purpose all your own, cultivate your talents, and do not hesitate to act for the greater good. God will meet you in that holy ground and add whatever else is needed to turn your efforts into a perfect offering.

“I Was in God’s Plan”

January 5, 2020

In 1977, writer, humorist, and public speaker Art Fettig paid a visit to Jackson Prison in Michigan. He was hoping to lift the spirits of those who were incarcerated but recalls feeling as though he couldn’t do enough. He says, “I felt so inadequate. Some were murderers we visited who were there for the rest of their lives.” Returning home with a sense of wanting to give more to these prisoners who struggled daily to see purpose in their lives, Fettig began to compose what came to be known as the Self Esteem Credo.

It begins with these lines: “God made me – I was no accident, no happenstance. I was in God’s plan and He doesn’t make junk, ever.” The Credo goes on to remind those reciting it that they are special and can accomplish amazing things if they work hard and stay committed to loving God. When he began to share this Credo with prisoners, he says, “It took on a life of its own and spread from Jackson prison to as far away as Australia, where a counselor used it with prisoners there for many years. I visited a women's prison in Coldwater, Michigan, speaking for the prisoners and was informed that our Credo had quite an impact on some of the women when they recited it daily.”

The Christophers printed Fettig’s Self Esteem Credo in our News Note I Am Somebody, which was written for teens and enjoyed great success. Fettig had participated in some of our leadership activities and once was given the Firestarter Award for his ability to ignite a spirit of positivity among those he encounters, a quality that gave him great success as a public speaker.

Today, Fettig is 90-years-old and still going strong. The Christophers were delighted to hear from him recently, and we’re heartened to learn that he still feels called to inspire others with his writing and speaking. Lately, he’s been speaking once a month at a senior center, and he’s also been sharing two of his favorite pieces with people who take a poets’ walk near where he lives. Those pieces are his Credo as well as a poem he wrote entitled Growth, which is a beautiful meditation on always seeking to become a better person. That poem was recited by both Paul Harvey and Art Linkletter in their nationwide broadcasts. Fettig has written over 30 books, but his Credo and his Growth poem seem most important to him because they capture the philosophy underpinning his exuberant approach to life.

In his recent communication with The Christophers, Fettig shared that he has actually composed many songs in collaboration with his friend Greg Brayton, a blind gospel singer who passed away in 2014. One of their songs puts the Prayer of Saint Francis to music, and their version is so beautiful and unique that it deserves attention. It has a wonderful country music sound that makes it feel like a real piece of Americana.

In many ways, Art Fettig’s approach to life represents the best of the American spirit. He constantly strives to achieve great things and never forgets to give glory to God for the gifts bestowed upon him. This is a good model for us all to follow. So remember, no matter where you find yourself in life, always aim for the stars and strive to contribute to the world around you. Then you will become a Firestarter and ignite those you encounter with a spirit of positivity.    


For free copies of the Christopher News Note ENTHUSIASM: THE MAGIC SPARK OF LIFE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:

Bring Christ Into Your Family

December 22, 2019

The birth of Christ happened during a hectic and dangerous time for the Holy Family. They were on the run from Herod’s executioners, huddled in a stable because it was the only shelter they could find, and fearful for their future and their place in the world. Many would look at their situation and see only destitute people, but we are called to see in the Holy Family the very model for our lives.

To understand the Holy Family more fully, we should begin with Saint Joseph, because his role is the easiest to imagine. He was the protector and provider for his family, which is the role every husband and father is called to fulfill. The bible doesn’t tell us all that much about Joseph, but that may just mean that he performed his duties quietly.

Pope Benedict XVI said of Saint Joseph, “Let us allow ourselves to be ‘infected’ by the silence of Saint Joseph! We have much need of it in a world which is often too noisy, which does not encourage reflection and listening to the voice of God.” 

We can imagine that Saint Joseph must have been a man of prayer in order to guide his family safely through the dangers they faced around the time of Christ’s birth. When we use our logic to fill in the gaps of the silent witness of Saint Joseph, we find a man of wisdom who used his talents to provide for his family, to keep them safe, and to seek out and create a peaceful environment in which Christ could grow into the man He needed to be.

Understanding Mary in relation to Saint Joseph brings the Holy Family further into focus. Let’s face it, Mary asked a lot of Joseph – to be father to a son they did not conceive together, to live with her in a state of perpetual virginity, and what they had to endure at the very outset of their marriage, being hunted and living in fear for their lives. Yet, everything Mary asked of Joseph came from God, and he knew that, so we see a relationship between the two of them as one based on trust and sacrifice for the greater good. 

That greater good came in the form of the person of Christ. With the birth of Christ, we see the blessings and trials of the Holy Family beginning to reflect the blessings and trials of our own families. To be a family is to have profound gifts showered upon us by God. It is a chance to live in a harmonious relationship with others, sharing gifts with one another, strengthening each other through the bonds we form, and being willing to sacrifice to protect each other.

But with these gifts come profound struggles, and we see that the Holy Family faced such struggles at the very outset. They also had the answer to those struggles in the birth of Jesus. And, by welcoming Him into our hearts, we make Him present in our own families.

What did Christ bring to the Holy Family that He brings to us as well? He brings a dynamic of love that is unlike anything the world ever knew before His coming. That is what sustained the Holy Family throughout their trials and what can sustain any family today that turns to Christ with openness to the sacrifice He is asking each of us to make for one another.  


For free copies of the Christopher News Note PEACE: THE ESSENCE OF THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:   

Practice Peace to Prepare for Christmas

Dec 1, 2019

                In his classic News Note “Peace: The Essence of the Christmas Message,” Father James Keller, founder of The Christophers, tells the story of a woman who was out shopping on a cold December day. She stopped upon seeing a man in threadbare clothes, huddled on a bench, with a paper bag wrapped around his neck, trying to keep warm. Just then, a girl of about 11 or 12 years old approached the man, removed a bright woolen scarf from her own neck, wrapped it around the neck of this poor man, and then silently slipped away. 

                What a beautiful expression of the true Christmas spirit! To witness a completely selfless act of giving is to witness the peace of Christ alive within someone’s heart. “Peace is the essence of the message of Christmas,” wrote Father Keller, and Christ’s peace is special because of the way He gives, totally and completely, in a sacrificial way, to reveal the Father’s love to us.

                John wrote, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him…should have eternal life.” This is why Christmas is so much about giving, because adopting a giving spirit is the best way to honor God’s gift of His son to us. Giving gifts to others is a wonderful symbol of the love we have for them, but it’s important to remember that our giving should always be rooted in the things of the spirit, just like the gift that girl gave of her own scarf.

Gifts of the spirit are often less tangible but they can have a profound effect on people’s lives by revealing the love of God to them. A gift of the spirit can be a gift of time – we can share a meal with someone, an old friend or someone we know who suffers from loneliness. We can also give the gift of hope by living in a way to raise the spirits of those in our lives. We can give the gift of peace by setting aside differences and showing an enemy what it means to forgive. And we can give of ourselves by performing random acts of kindness.   

                Another story Father Keller recounts in his classic Christmas News Note is that of a seven-year-old boy whose mother was busy with seasonal chores just three days before Christmas. The mother asked her son to shine her good shoes, so he went off and set about the task with love and devotion. Returning a short while later with a giant smile, he presented the shoes to his mother for inspection. She was so happy with the job he had done that she rewarded him with a quarter. But on Christmas day, when she went to put on her shoes, she felt a lump in the toe, so she pulled it out. Inside was the quarter she had given him, wrapped in a piece of paper. Upon the paper, the boy had written, “I done it for love.”

                This is the essence of Christmas – to act out of love for others without care for personal gain, and this is what helps to bring about the peace of Christ in the world. Only when each individual understands the selfless gift God has made in His only Son, will peace truly reign. So allow Christ to work through you during this Advent season, performing random acts of kindness, and you will see hearts opened and the peace of Christ transform people’s lives. 


For free copies of the Christopher News Note PEACE: THE ESSENCE OF THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:  

Welcoming the Stranger

November 17

     This summer, an image went viral in Italy. It was a photograph of three Italian grandmothers holding migrant children from Africa on their laps. Reporting for the online religion website Aleteia, Dolors Massot wrote, “They are three Italian grandmothers named Nicolina, Vincenza, and Maria, and they surely never imagined they’d become famous on the social networks in their country. Yet, today they have, thanks to a simple act of love.”

     These three grandmothers live in Campoli del Monte Taburno, a town in southern Italy where there is a welcoming center for migrants. Soon after the photo was posted to social media, responses began pouring in from all over Italy. One person referenced the dangers migrants from Africa face on one of the deadliest migratory routes in the world, writing, “I see that the world is still able to show humanity: grandmothers who act like grandmothers for children at a welcoming center. Above all today, when 150 people probably lost their life at sea, it heals my heart.”

     “This is the Italy I love,” someone else said. “This is my land!!! Solidarity, but above all, Love.” And a grandson of one of the grandmothers responded, saying, “To think that 37 years ago, I was on that same lap, wrapped in that same smile, and now miles away and a few years older, I’m very happy to be able to share the same emotions with a child I don’t know, but who deserves it all and more.”

     In a time when migration has become so politically polarizing, this is a beautiful story to remind us of the humanity at the heart of issues of immigration. It’s important to remember the way in which we are called to relate to people on an individual basis, and recognizing the dignity of each individual is a great starting point for addressing such issues. In a recent story for Aleteia, Alicia Ambrosia tells of how one woman is changing the lives of immigrants in Vancouver, Canada. Her name is Trixie Ling, and she is the founder of Flavours of Hope, an organization that enables immigrants to find work preparing food from their country of origin through pop up dinners and participation in a summer market.

     An immigrant to Canada who was born in Taiwan, Ling understands how isolated women can feel when they come to a new country. “Cooking overcomes that,” she said. “It’s doing something together, and cooking and eating are universal experiences.” Venezuelan refugee Maria Alejandra Reyes is a perfect example of the success of Ling’s mission. Reyes became a cook for Flavours of Hope and it broadened her community, providing opportunities for her to practice her English and improve her confidence so that she could apply for additional employment. 

     As a cook for Flavours of Hope, Reyes specializes in hallacas and tequenos, traditional Venezuelan dishes. She says of the experience that it “feels eating together.” Talking about the community she has found there, she says, “I count on people and they count on me. That is very important.”

     The stories of both Ling and the now famous grandmothers of Italy send a powerful message about God’s call to welcome the stranger in our midst. It’s important for us all to look beyond the politics of immigration and to recognize the humanity of those whom God has sent to us and to our communities. By doing this, we join with other courageous people in setting an example and building a society based on mercy and love.

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.

St. Michael: Warrior and Healer

November 3

                Last year, Pope Francis urged the faithful to recite the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel after praying the rosary in order to protect the Church from “spiritual turbulence.” Around the same time, parishes in the United States began saying the Prayer to St. Michael after Mass, a practice continued in many places to this day. 

In an article for Crux Magazine, published last year around the time when many parishes were bringing back the prayer to                  St. Michael, writer Carol Zimmermann highlighted that St. Joseph Parish in Roseburg, Oregon, had been saying the St. Michael prayer since 2015. It began in the aftermath of a tragedy; and soon afterwards, parish priest Father Jose Manuel Campos Garcia made it a regular part of Mass. Zimmermann writes, “After he began leading the parish in this prayer after daily Mass, he said he saw a change.” 

                In an interview with the Catholic Sentinel, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, Father Garcia said, “For us, it’s been a journey of healing relationships and healing the community”

                It’s interesting that Father Garcia associates the Prayer to St. Michael with healing, because St. Michael was associated with healing in the early Church, before the predominant imagery associated with him became that of a warrior. Of course, we know that it is not physical but spiritual combat in which God’s angel leads us, and such combat is carried out through prayer, sacrifice, fasting, and almsgiving. These practices help us to bring about real change and guard our souls as well as the Church against anything that would do us harm.

In actuality, both ideas of St. Michael as healer and as warrior are valid. He is a protector, and in that sense, the imagery of a warrior helps us to understand his role as one who will fight with every fiber of his being to defend those who call upon him. But the image of a healer is also valid, because Michael offers protection from that which would do us harm, and this protection allows us to heal from any troubles that would afflict us.

                Through the centuries, many have found St. Michael the Archangel to be a powerful intercessor and the prayer to him remains an efficacious way to ask for protection in times of trouble. It’s important to remember that, in calling upon St. Michael, we are asking for protection so that peace might return to our lives. Many people pray this prayer daily to bring about healing, whether they need help and protection in fighting addiction, in healing divisions within families and communities, or guidance amid the difficulties of life. St. Michael can keep the worst of our troubles at bay so that we can focus on finding the healing in life that God wants for us all. 

                So turn to St. Michael with confidence, and you will find healing in your soul and in your community, and you will bring healing to the Church. Pray to St. Michael for protection and the strength to stand with God in the most difficult times, and he will intercede for you in powerful ways to strengthen and protect you and your loved ones. And remember that the Prayer to St. Michael is a prayer of hope in the power of God to set things right in the world. It is a prayer of hope in finding lasting peace and building a world that lives in gratitude for the love of Christ.

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors

Christ in Our Hearts

October 27

          In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul wrote, “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-14).

          This passage provides a beautiful meditation on living in the moment and keeping Christ close to our hearts in all circumstances. St. Paul wrote these words to the Philippians from a prison cell in order to assure them that, no matter what persecutions he faced, he would turn to Christ to sustain him. He also expanded this wisdom to apply not just in moments of suffering, but to an all-encompassing approach to life.

          Carrying Christ in our hearts in good times and bad can be a challenge because there are always distractions and temptations to seek more immediate gratification for our emotions. So how are we to strike the balance St. Paul refers to and let Christ reign in our hearts in all circumstances? The key lies in patience. We only rush to anger in times of suffering or overindulgence in times of abundance if we lack the patience to await the deeper satisfaction offered by Christ. 

Patience enables us to have mercy in our hearts for those who persecute us, and this mercy allows us to resist the destructive impulses of hatred. Patience also enables us to navigate times of abundance and joy so that we practice moderation and don’t forget the things of the spirit. How much greater is the joy of one who knows how to celebrate in moderation? Their focus is less on themselves and more on bringing joy to others. In doing so they experience the joy of Christ. 

          Patience can transform every aspect of our lives, from how we handle joy and suffering to how we approach everyday tasks. In a beautiful article for Aleteia, Father Michael Rennier recalls seeing his grandfather disassemble, clean, and then put back together an old rusty hinge so it could continue to function properly. Father Rennier marvels at the patience of his grandfather and notes how difficult it would be for him to have the patience for such a task. 

Father Rennier says that impatience is one of the great vices of our time, and he points to St. Cyprian as someone to turn to for intercession on the matter. St. Cyprian was famously impatient in certain disagreements he had with other religious leaders of the early Church, but then he wrote a book called On the Advantage of Patience, drawing on his own experiences and the lessons he learned in striving for patience in his life.

          St. Cyprian encourages us to “Wait for each other,” reminding us that patience is one of the greatest gifts we can give to one another. Think about the amazing fruits that come about when we show each other patience. It creates a welcome environment for Christ to dwell in our hearts, and this in turn allows us to have the disposition of St. Paul. It enables us to navigate the ups-and-downs of life and allow Christ to reign in our hearts regardless of the situation. So, if you want to be prepared for anything in life, practice patience, and you will have the strength to keep Christ in your heart and allow His peace to sustain you.    

Evangelizers in Our Midst

Oct 13, 2019

            In one of His appearances to the disciples after the Resurrection, Christ said to them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

            This command can seem like an overwhelming task until we recognize the role that grace plays in opening hearts to Christ. He assured us that He will be with us always, so it is important to remember that it is Christ working through us to share God’s love with the world.

            I spent 12 years in Africa as a Maryknoll missionary and can attest to the fact that it is only through grace that we are able to share God’s love with the world. Much evangelization in missionary work takes place through the service we provide to those most in need. Christ said, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16), and missionaries are certainly judged on this basis. Today, Catholic missionaries continue to bring vital aid in many forms to the people most in need in Africa. Missionaries to Africa demonstrate the transformative power of God’s love to all who encounter them. This kind of service wins hearts for Christ and now the African people are poised to share their faith with the rest of the world.

            During Pope Francis’ recent visit to Africa, The New York Times published an article entitled “In Africa, Pope Francis Comes Face to Face With the Future of the Church.” Their story detailed the spread of Christianity in Africa, estimating that 40 years from now about 40 percent of the world’s Christian population will reside in Africa. Some of Africa’s growth in Christianity is certainly attributable to Protestant missionaries, but Catholics will continue to have the greatest impact due to our extensive network of missionary activities throughout the continent.

            I celebrated around 200 adult baptisms every year in the parish I served in Tanzania. Vocations were abounding then and continue to abound in Africa. Now we are seeing African priests sent to Europe and America to serve our communities, and I can say that they have much to share with the world. Asked by The New York Times about this trend, Rev. Estevao Antonio Pango said, “If Europe was proud of having evangelized Africa, now God permits Africans to evangelize Europe.” 

            In missionary work, we gain as much, if not more, than we give, and one of the great gifts I received in ministering to the people of Africa was to gain an understanding of the importance their culture places on relationships and on being welcoming to others. These values are essential to building strong communities, and African missionaries carry these ideals in their hearts and can teach us so much.

            Of course, evangelization isn’t just for missionaries who travel to far-off lands; it is for all of us in our everyday interactions. Working on relationships can be an essential form of evangelization. When others know that we believe in Christ, it is a powerful witness to show them love. And when we welcome new people into our lives, they will know that we have done this because we believe in Jesus Christ. So, wherever you find yourself in this world, adopt a missionary spirit, and you’ll inspire those around you and win disciples for Christ. 

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Director

A Divine Sense of Humor

            This summer, it was announced that Archbishop Fulton Sheen would be beatified, moving his cause one-step closer to canonization. This stems from Pope Francis approving a miracle attributed to him in which a stillborn child, who showed no signs of life at birth, suddenly revived after his parents prayed for Sheen’s intercession. A seven-member panel of medical experts gave unanimous approval of the miracle as being beyond scientific explanation.

            The advancement of Sheen’s cause is great news for American Catholics because he is a figure who has come to represent a golden age of Catholicism in our nation’s history. He gained prominence as a radio and television evangelist during the mid-20th century, when Catholics were exerting a widespread positive influence over the culture. Catholic schools were thriving and ethnic minorities, who tended to be Catholic, were enjoying acceptance in the mainstream of American life and finding new opportunities to contribute to our nation.

            Sheen was a brilliant theologian, and he did not hesitate to defend the tenets of the Catholic faith, but he always made a point of reminding Americans of their shared values, and he directed his strongest arguments against the secularizing forces in society. Those who seek to evangelize today would do well to emulate his winning style. Sheen would often punctuate his presentations with humor. For instance, he once told the story of a professor who traveled around in a car driven by a chauffeur to give the same lecture at different locations. Sheen said, “One day the chauffeur said to him, ‘I think I've heard that lecture of yours a thousand times, and I could give it just as well as you do.’

“‘All right,’ said the professor. ‘You stand up on the platform tonight and give the lecture, and I will sit out in the audience in your chauffeur’s uniform.’

            “The chauffeur gave a perfect lecture but at the end someone said, ‘There's a question I would like to ask you. When you mix that H2SO4 without any CO2 and compared with the photographic plates of the sun, how do you get the equation that equals M-over-C squared?’

            “He said, ‘That's the most stupid question I ever heard in all my life, and to show you how stupid it is, I'm going to ask my chauffeur to answer.’”

            Sheen once devoted an entire episode of his television program to what he called “the divine sense of humor.” He pointed out that the divine sense of humor doesn’t always elicit a laugh but is marked by an invitation to see beyond material realities to deeper spiritual realities, just as Christ invites us to do in the parables. Sheen concluded his episode by listing the many amazing characteristics demonstrated by Christ in the Gospels, and then he said, “But there was one thing that he does not show… one thing he saved for those who have a divine sense of humor. It was one thing he saved for heaven that will make heaven, heaven. And that was... his smile.”

            As we prepare to call him Blessed Fulton Sheen, we should feel confident in the hope that he now enjoys Christ’s heavenly smile. In his life, he helped to teach many of us how to cultivate a divine sense of humor. It’s a humor that can produce much enjoyment and laughter, but it is also a deep way of looking at the world, with an eye towards the greatest joy that is still to come.

The Wisdom and Simplicity of St. John Vianney

Sept 15, 2019

            St. John Marie Vianney once said, “There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us.” As the patron saint of parish priests, his orientation to the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith presents a model for all to follow.

            St. John Vianney understood that the Eucharist has the power to transform people from within, and so he made it a priority to guide his parish of Ars back to regular attendance at Mass in the aftermath of the French Revolution. It’s interesting that he was so attuned to the miraculous power of God, found in the simplicity of Christ’s gift to us in the Eucharist, because St. John was known in his lifetime as a man whose wisdom flowed from his simplicity.

            One particularly amusing story that captures how he blended wisdom and simplicity relates to the time he was struggling to become a priest. The turmoil of the French Revolution had caused an interruption to his studies, and this became a major obstacle for him in the seminary. One day the rector of the seminary summoned Vianney to inform him of negative reports from his professors, saying, “The professors do not find you fit for sacred ordination to priesthood. Some of them have called you an ass knowing nothing of theology. How can we promote you to the reception of the sacrament of priesthood?”

            Vianney replied, “Father Rector, in the book of Judges, Chapter 15, we have the narration of how God made use of Samson to kill a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass to save the people of Israel. If with the useless jawbone of an ass God could do that wonderful deed, how much more can He accomplish with the whole of an ass like me.” The humility and sense of humor demonstrated in this answer revealed to the rector the wisdom underpinning Vianney’s simplicity, and he was left with no reservations in promoting him for ordination to the priesthood.

            Vianney’s gift of wisdom and simplicity stemmed from many formative years in which he witnessed the heroism of priests who kept the faith alive in spite of persecution in the aftermath of the French Revolution. During the Mass in which he made his First Communion, the windows were blacked-out in order to hide the light of the candles from those who might obstruct their practice of the faith. 

            Vianney knew what a precious gift it was to be able to practice his faith, and he also understood the heroic virtue needed to persevere through the trials that test one’s faith. He called his parishioners to that heroic way of life, making a practice of challenging people to greater rigor in their spiritual lives. Far from alienating his parishioners, he inspired their devotion to the sacraments and eventually became a sought after confessor for the people of France looking to restore their relationship with God.

            Known for his poignant teachings, Vianney once said, “A person who is in a state of sin is always sad. Whatever he does, he is weary and disgusted with everything; while he who is at peace with God is always happy, always joyous… Oh, beautiful life! Oh, beautiful death!”

            Let us pray that St. John Vianney intercede for priests everywhere to lead people along the narrow road to salvation, steering their flocks away from sin and towards peace with God and eternal joy.  

Your Life’s Mission

August 25

                The Parable of the Talents presents a stark reminder of the expectations Christ places upon us to utilize our gifts for the greater good. In Matthew 25:14-30, we read of a master who gives a varying number of talents to his servants based upon what he perceives their abilities to be. The two servants to whom more talents are given each double their talents by the time of the master’s return, but the servant given only one talent buries it for fear of losing what little he has.

                The punishment subsequently dished out to the servant who buries his one talent may seem harsh, but Christ illustrates such difficult lessons because he wants to show a clear path to his followers so we don’t waiver in moments of doubt. It was doubt that caused the servant to bury his one talent – doubt he might invest it badly and wind up with nothing. Christ intends us to see this situation as analogous to our own spiritual lives and how we use the gifts God has bestowed upon us.

                The Christopher News Note Discover Your Mission in Life recounts the story of Doctor Tom Catena, who grew up in upstate New York and has spent the past decade in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains as the only permanent doctor serving a population of nearly half a million people amidst a violent civil war. 

“I’ve been given benefits from the day I was born,” Dr. Catena says, “a loving family, a great education. So I see it as an obligation, as a Christian and as a human being, to help…. The need in Nuba is great and Jesus gave us some very simple instructions: ‘take care of these least of My brothers and sisters’ and ‘sell all you have, give it to the poor and come follow Me.’ Perhaps I take things too literally, but these are words for me to live by.”

                Dr. Catena’s decision to serve people desperately in need of medical care exemplifies the mindset Christ wants us to have in regard to our talents. We must cast aside the doubts that might prevent us from making bold choices to do what is right. That’s exactly what Dr. Catena did. Rather than worrying about all he might be giving up, he ventured to a remote and destitute place to follow his calling.

                It’s a clear sign that a calling has emerged in our lives when we see a purpose to utilize our gift in service to those in need. Such callings can happen in large and small ways at various points in our lives. They can result in monumental career decisions, but also in smaller missions we choose to undertake to help family, friends, or those in need in our community. And the most important gifts we have aren’t always those most exalted by society. Sometimes just being an able-bodied person gives us the chance to pitch in and provide necessary assistance to ease the burdens of those who are suffering.

                When we do these things, when we devote all our abilities to making the world a better place, we find ourselves in the company of the favored servants of God. So set out each day to use your talents to accomplish some good, and God will shower blessings upon you, entrusting important causes to your care, and you will see the Holy Spirit work through you to bring about miracles of grace in the lives of all who inhabit the world around you. 


For free copies of the Christopher News Note DISCOVER YOUR MISSION IN LIFE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:   

The Heart of Mary

August 11

                We dedicate the month of August to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a reminder that we should venerate Mary’s heart for its purity and devotion to Christ. We know from the message of Fatima that God wants Mary’s Immaculate Heart venerated around the world and especially in places of turmoil because it can bring healing and guide souls to the love of Christ.

                Mother Teresa once prayed, “Mary, give me your Heart: so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate; your Heart so full of love and humility that I may be able to receive Jesus in the Bread of Life and love Him as you love Him and serve Him in the distressing guise of the poor.”

                In these words, we are reminded that Mary is the one who shows us how to love Christ. To experience Christ with the Heart of Mary is to experience the Beatific Vision. This is the goal of our spiritual lives, and Mary shows us the way.

                As Mother Teresa’s prayer so beautifully shows, veneration of Mary’s Immaculate Heart can lead to deeper communion with Christ in the Eucharist, and this in turn can awaken Christ in our own hearts and guide us towards service to those in need. Realizing the call to service can be a challenge in a world with so many distractions and temptations to selfishness. But this is only proof of the miraculous fruits of venerating Mary’s Heart because she can awaken us to the joys of following Christ and guide us to live in awareness of the eternal rewards that await those who persevere in service to God and neighbor.

                This month we also celebrate the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, which falls on August 15 and is a holy day of obligation. The dogma of the Assumption teaches that, at the end of Mary’s earthly life, God assumed her body and soul into heaven. It is a belief we trace back to the earliest years of the Church when Christians knew that the site commonly referred to as Mary’s tomb was actually empty.

                Have you ever imagined what Mary’s life must have been like between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and her own assumption into heaven. Filmmaker Andrew Hyatt brought this concept to life with his 2017 movie Full of Grace, which speculates on the last days of Mary’s earthly life. It is a beautiful film about Mary’s role in guiding the early Church with a profound message about how to follow Christ.

                At one point in the film, Mary counsels, “The question is not whether we will struggle. We will struggle greatly. The question is: to whom do we look to in the struggle?”

                Full of Grace is an excellent film to share with friends and loved ones during this month dedicated to her Immaculate Heart. And honoring Mary’s assumption into Heaven by attending Mass on this holy day of obligation can provide a great focal point for veneration of our spiritual mother. 

                It is most certainly the sacrifice of the Mass that Mary wishes to show us as the way to draw closer to her son. All we need do is open our hearts to her and she will lead us into this life-changing encounter. So remember to venerate her Immaculate Heart and have faith in the miraculous circumstances of her life and assumption into heaven, and you will prepare yourself to become a servant with a heart molded by the compassion of Christ.      


Accepting the Gift

July 28

                On April 27, 2019, Mater Ecclesiae Roman Catholic Church in Berlin, New Jersey, hosted a daylong conference for parents of children with special needs. The name of the conference was “Accepting the Gift.” It brought together several dozen parents for both social and spiritual activities, as well as talks to encourage participants in their journey to care for their children.

                The organizer of the event was Kelly Mantoan. She and her husband, Tony, have five children, two of whom have a rare degenerative genetic disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which causes them to rely on wheelchairs for mobility. The devotion it takes for the Mantoans to care for their children, combined with the spiritual rewards their family receives from that devotion, is what gave Kelly the idea for the conference.

                “As a Catholic, I've been able to see that there is nothing wrong with my child, and God can bring joy in this, and this is who he is,” Mantoan told Catholic News Agency. Her desire is to bring this message of hope to other parents of children with special needs. “From a theological standpoint, the Catholic faith is so instrumental in how I deal with my struggles as a special needs parent,” she said, adding, “We have such a rich theology of suffering.”

                Kelly Mantoan’s response to the challenges faced by her family embodies the fruits of the theology of suffering at the heart of the Catholic faith. We must look for the purpose in whatever suffering we find thrust upon us in this life. It is through suffering that we connect with Christ on the cross, and making that connection opens our eyes to the needs of others.

                By seeking out this connection to Christ, caregivers have the opportunity to see the world with the compassionate vision of God. In their daily actions, they tend the wounds of Christ on the cross and teach us all how to turn struggle into eternal reward. Mantoan’s desire to offer support to other families with similar obstacles is a natural response from her caregiver’s heart. And this so beautifully exemplifies how God can work through suffering to bring about a greater good. By embracing the call to care for her own children with special needs, she realized a broader mission to the world around her.

                Talks given at the conference were streamed online so that all those busy caregivers who couldn’t travel to attend could receive support and encouragement by tuning in to hear the message of hope being delivered. Talks ranged from bioethical concerns to the topic of adaptive first communion preparation kits, and those talks are still accessible at the Catholic Parents of Special Needs Children Conference website (, the organizationMantoan formed to keep the conference going in future years.

                Mantoan is intent on growing this vital outreach, which helps families navigate the many struggles they face in society, including challenges within their own faith communities. “If you're in the middle of nowhere and your parish is telling you, ‘We don't know how to give your kids sacraments;’ if you don’t have support, if you feel isolated, we want to alleviate some of that for you, to help you understand what your rights are as Catholic parents, to help you navigate that,” Mantoan told CNA. “The message is that there is joy here,” she said, “joy in accepting your kids and who they are, and joy even in the midst of suffering and hardship.”


For free copies of the Christopher News Note THE ENDURING VALUE OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:     

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.

Christ of Peace

July 7

Ciudad Victoria is the capital of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. It sits at the foot of the Sierra Madre Mountains in northeastern Mexico about 200 miles from the U.S. border. In recent years, the Tamaulipas region has suffered from drug and gang related violence. But Ciudad Victoria could become known for something completely different, thanks to the efforts of actor Eduardo Verastegui.

Verastegui grew up in the state of Tamaulipas. As a young man, he enjoyed success as an entertainer in Mexico and eventually decided to pursue a career in Hollywood. In order to improve his English, he took voice lessons, and his teacher happened to be a committed Catholic. In the course of their conversations, Verastegui rediscovered his faith, and it was then that he decided to devote himself to using his talents to serve God.

In 2003, Verastegui said, “I understood that I was not born to be an actor or something else, but to know, love and serve Jesus Christ.”

Since recommitting to his faith, Verastegui has taken part in films that touch the soul and speak to the heart of the human condition. The most notable of these uplifting projects has been Bella, a feature film that tells the story of a woman in a crisis pregnancy and a troubled man who finds purpose and healing by reaching out to her.

Verastegui maintains close ties to Mexico and is committed to positive portrayals of Hispanic people. His latest project is a plan to build the world’s largest statue of Christ in the city of Ciudad Victoria. At 252 feet tall, it will be much larger than Rio de Janeiro’s 125 foot Christ the Redeemer statue, and larger even than Poland’s 172 foot Christ the King statue, which is currently the largest in the world. Mexico News Daily reported that architect Fernando Romero designed the statue with the goal of making it look like Christ is embracing his people.

They will call it Christ of Peace; and built around it on the same site will be a church, an amphitheater, a crafts market, a convention center, restaurants, and lodgings for pilgrims. Promotors of the project want to send “a message of faith, love, hope, and peace.” Their intent is to create a pilgrimage site to stand as a beacon in stark contrast to the negative messages brought by persistent violence in the region.

Verastegui’s life and vision for this project respond to the words of Christ, when he said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Christ calls each of us to announce the good news to the world in our own unique way. We have to remember that the most beautiful graces can work through us in small and quiet ways. But we can also take a lesson from Eduardo Verasteguiin that we should never be afraid to think big. God calls us to move mountains. Let’s pray that peace takes hold in his home state of Tamaulipas and that his actions stand as a beacon to countless more people with big ideas for bringing people to Christ. 


A Graduate’s Encouraging Words and Life

June 23, 2019

                Last year, a young woman named Haley Moss graduated from the University of Miami School of Law. At her commencement ceremony, she gave a speech in which she offered encouraging words to her classmates, saying, “I will always be amazed by all of your talents. It’s a big world out there and I am excited to see what you will do next.”

                To know the story of Haley Moss is to understand how remarkable her giving a speech at her

own law school graduation truly was. When she was three years old, Haley was diagnosed with autism,

and she didn’t begin to speak until she was four. A CBS Newsreport on her life highlights that she was always determined to shatter expectations and prove her ability to succeed in spite of the obstacles she faced.

                Haley first shared her story at a conference when she was just 13. She has told her story several times over the years in public speaking engagements, and she says of her involvement in such events, “I’ve always enjoyed getting to connect and share…. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes an even bigger village to raise a child with a disability.... I realized by sharing my story, I could be a part of someone else’s village.”

                Haley’s story exemplifies how struggling through challenging circumstances not only helps us to build character for ourselves, but it provides us the opportunity to show others the way through the difficulties in life, and there is no greater reward than having a positive impact on another person.

                When she was 15, she wrote a book titled Middle School – The Stuff Nobody Tells You About: A Teenage Girl with ASD Shares Her Experiences. She has since contributed to a book of essays. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, she enrolled in law school to further her ability to do advocacy work. 

                Of her decision to go to law school, Haley says, “I wanted to go to law school because I wanted to make a difference for other people…. Lawyers help their community. What better way than to become a lawyer.”

                She had a job offer lined up before she even graduated. All she had to do was pass the bar, which she did, becoming a member of the Florida Bar earlier this year. Her goal is to inspire others with her success. She says, “Whether it’s somebody on the spectrum that says, ‘Thank you for sharing your story,’ or it’s a parent of a newly-diagnosed child that tells me, ‘Wow, you gave me so much hope for my kid. I can’t wait to see what my kid’s going to be able to do when they get older.’ Yes, it’s definitely an impact.”

                Motivation can come from many different places, and that has surely been the case for Haley. She began with the motivation to overcome her own obstacles. Then somewhere along the way, she realized the joy and satisfaction of reaching out to others in their struggle. And that driving force of wanting to make the world a better place has motivated her to reach a point in life that truly defies the odds.