Happy Thanksgiving!


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As the day begins to break on this frosty morning of the eve of Thanksgiving Day, I am already anticipating a joyful and restful four days spent with family and friends. My “Thanksgiving” actually began last night with the arrival of one daughter, her husband, and my grandson. It will continue today when another daughter arrives home from college. The only way it could be better would be if all my children and their families could make it home for the holiday.

Having a day of thanksgiving is not a uniquely American event. Like the origin of our holiday, many cultures celebrate successful harvests and give thanks in advance for the sustenance they bring. I do believe, however, that a roasted turkey as the temporary centerpiece of a dining room table probably is uniquely American.

It seems our culture has developed other traditions that are now commonly associated with this holiday: frenzied Christmas shopping, watching hours of football on television, Thanksgiving day parades, and “Turkey Trot” charity foot races. And, I’m happy to see that the spirit of giving is a growing tradition for many families by serving the less fortunate in our communities.

But, there is one thanksgiving tradition that many Americans, and millions of others around the world, have been observing for about two millennia. The difference between it and the others is that it is a tradition observed every day of the week, including Thanksgiving Day. It is the receiving of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. In fact, the very name “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word for “Thanksgiving”.

The perfect way to begin your Thanksgiving Day celebration is by first attending Mass and celebrating the feast that Jesus Christ Himself prepares for us. In it you will enjoy food, wine, celebration in the form of singing, offering thanks through prayers, and communion not only with your immediate family but with your extended family in Christ, the Church.

So, tomorrow, before you give thanks for your bountiful Thanksgiving Day dinner and before you ask for blessings on those who prepared it; before praying that your football team beats the pants off the other team; and before going head-to-head with over-aggressive shoppers, won’t you take an hour and give thanks to Him by making your spiritual sustenance the Bread of Life, the Holy Eucharist? Won’t you join me?

I am looking forward to being in communion with each of you tomorrow morning. I know it will be the perfect start to a perfect day of gratitude and praise.

God bless you.

(Happy Thanksgiving! was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

What Do You See?


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AdorationIt’s four o’clock on Friday afternoon as I take my place on the prie-dieu, kneeling in front of the Tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel for my hour of Adoration. Today the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and Jesus is at home in the monstrance. It’s just me and Jesus here together. It doesn’t get much better than this.

I say my prayers, giving thanks for His Grace and Mercy. I ask Him to forgive me for my sins and I ask for His blessings on my family. I give Him thanks for this opportunity to be here with Him.

I pray that during the next hour, in the quiet solitude of this beautiful church, He makes Himself present to me. I look up at Him and I know He’s looking down at me, and my deepest desire is to feel His presence.

As always, I tell myself to clear my mind so I can hear Him if He speaks to me. I try this almost every week and I know how difficult it is to lasso the stray thoughts and images and corral them into an out of the way corner. I am seldom successful.

I tell myself, “Relax, take a deep breath, and picture Jesus looking back at you.” It strikes me that I’m thinking/talking to myself in the second person. I realize this conversation is anything but clearing my mind.

I try again. After a few moments of nothingness….“Ugh, I forgot to get back with the Boss about those plans for next week. He’s not gonna be happy!” I catch myself before I go too far down this rabbit trail and I try to get back on track.

Again, I utter, “Breathe, clear your mind. Look up at Jesus and feel Him looking down at you.” After another few moments of nothingness….

“Jesus, what do you see? What do you see when you look down at me? Besides a middle-aged, over-weight man with a growing bald spot on the top of his head, what do You see, Lord? What do You see in my heart?

“Am I the disciple You would have me be? Do I do all that I can to bring others to You? Am I quick to be charitable? I try, Lord, but am I doing enough? Do my actions speak for themselves? Is my faith strong enough for me to be believable to others? Lord, I know I have made little effort lately to grow my faith, please help me.

“What do You see, Lord? Am I the husband I should be to my wife? You know how much I love her, but do I make her feel as loved as she deserves to feel? Do I sacrifice and die to myself daily like I should for her? I know the answer. Please help me be a better husband.

“What do You see in me as a parent? When You look into my daughters’ hearts do You see love that is borne from my love for them? Does my love reach across the miles to them? Have I been, and do I continue to be, a good role model for them? Perhaps so – they have chosen fine men to be their husbands – but, please, show me how to continue. And, please let them know I will always love them.

“As I grow older, and as my parents grow older, do You see me being the son I should be? Do I reach out to them often and comfort them? Have I shown gratitude for all they have done for me? Help me be a better son, Lord.

“As a sibling, what do You see? The years and the miles have made it easy to gradually slip away from my brother, sisters, and in-laws. Do they know how much I still love and care about them? Have I made the effort to let them know? Please help me find a way to do better at staying in touch.

“Lord, You have blessed me with some truly wonderful friends who care not just about me as a person but as a spiritual being. Have I let them know how much their love for You means to me? Do they know their love and guidance has brought me closer to You? What do You see, Lord? Am I there for them when they need help? Do I reciprocate and help them get closer to You?”

I come back to the moment and it dawns on me that I haven’t yet cleared my mind. I’m not listening. I’m in a monologue with Jesus and I’m not giving Him a chance to respond. Again, in the second person, I rebuke myself, “How can you expect Jesus to reveal Himself to you when you’re doing all the talking?”

Then, I think, “Wait, maybe He just did.”

I love my hour of Adoration with Him!

Lord Jesus, every week when I pray to You before Mass, I ask for insight and Your assistance in helping me become a better disciple, husband, father, son, brother and friend. I pray I never stop asking. Amen.

(What Do You See? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Ephphetha – Be Open!


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Ephphatha32And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.  33He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; 34then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphetha!” – that is, “Be opened!”.  35And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.  36He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.”Mark 7:32-36 (NAB)

When I heard this Gospel reading yesterday morning at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Muncie, Indiana I couldn’t help but think back to April 2013. I will never forget the day when I first heard this scripture passage – the morning of Easter Saturday. Later that night, after my baptism, first communion and confirmation, I became Catholic.

I wrote about the experience a few days later in my first ever blog post, My First Easter Vigil Mass. Thinking back to that post, my focus was on verses 35 and 36 – why did Jesus not want those whom he healed to tell anyone? But, this Sunday, my mind settled on the last two words of verse 34, “Be opened!”

Just minutes before my attention was captured by those two words, I heard the first reading from Isaiah in the Old Testament:

4Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.  5Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; 6then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.”Isaiah 35:4-6 (NAB)

So, when the Deacon read, “Be opened!”, I had a slight epiphany. I knew that Jesus meant more than to cease being deaf and dumb when he cured the man. He meant exactly what the celebrant says at a child’s baptism, “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.”

Ever since that April two years ago, I have tried earnestly to be open to God’s Word and to proclaim my faith. I have made that effort not because I remembered and tried to live up to that which the celebrant prayed over me at my baptism, but because I wanted to, and because it was what I know is right.

Now, looking back, I began to wonder if I have given it my all. Have I been as open to His Word as I could be? Have I studied and tried to understand as much as I ought? Have I shied away from professing my faith to others because of the fear of not knowing enough to defend myself? Have I helped others to better understand and strengthen their faith or have I been laissez-faire in evangelizing?

The answer, of course, is, regardless of how well I’ve done, I can still do better.

When was the last time you asked yourself those questions?

“Lord God, thank You for all I’ve learned in the last two years. But, I need Your help to continue to do better. Please, help me to always be open to and understand Your Word. And, give me courage to proclaim my faith and help others live theirs. Amen.”

(Ephphatha – Be Open! was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

I Thirst For You


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Mother-Teresa-5-241x300Every now and then something comes along that is so special you can’t get it out of your mind. You keep revisiting it and replaying it. And, each time you do, you find one more nugget of inspiration that convinces you to repeat the process again.

Such has been my case ever since a friend shared a special meditation with our men’s faith sharing group a couple years ago. The meditation is titled, I Thirst For You, and its authorship is attributed to Blessed Mother Teresa. My friend read it to our group, in his baritone voice, slowly and with immense feeling. I closed my eyes and visualized as if Jesus was the One actually speaking to me. I was blown away. I could feel His love flowing over me.

Since that evening I have heard my friend read it a couple more times and I still get goose bumps. I have read it many times since, both to myself and to others, and each time I seem to focus on and ruminate over a new word or phrase that jumps out at me. I always find something new that brings me joy.

I read it again tonight and I thought back to that first time I heard it. I remembered how none of the six or seven of us men had ever heard the meditation before then, and I wondered how many other faithful Catholics have never heard it, either. It ought to be on the reading list of every Catholic. No, actually, it ought to be on the reading list of every Christian, not just Catholics. So, I decided to post it here on this blog and share it with all readers. I hope you get goose bumps, too.

Hint: Read this slowly and with feeling. When a word or phrase grabs your attention, take a moment to reflect on what it is Christ is trying to tell you at that moment. Then, I encourage you to share this with others and ask someone else to read it to you while you listen with your eyes closed and soak up its message. You won’t regret it. Let me know what you think.

God Bless.


“Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” (Rev.3:20)

It is true. I stand at the door of your heart, day and night. Even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be Me, I am there. I await even the smallest sign of your response, even the least whispered invitation that will allow Me to enter.

And I want you to know that whenever you invite Me, I do come – always, without fail. Silent and unseen I come, but with infinite power and love, and bringing the many gifts of My spirit. I come with My mercy, with My desire to forgive and heal you and with a love for you beyond your comprehension – a love every bit as great as the love I have received from the Father (“As much as the Father has loved me, I have loved you…”[John.15:9]). I come – longing to console you and give you strength, to lift you up and bind all your wounds. I bring you My light, to dispel your darkness and all your doubts. I come with My power, that I might carry you and all of your burdens; with My grace, to touch your heart and transform your life; and My peace I give to still your soul.

I know you through and through. I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know everyone of your problems. I know your needs and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity My Father gave you by creating you in His own image. It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed My Blood to win you back. If you only ask Me with faith, My grace will touch all that needs changing in your life, and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.

I know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations. I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share My strength and victory. I know especially your need for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished. But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with the even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for love? “Come to Me all of you who thirst…”(John 7:37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine – to the point of dying on a cross for you.

I thirst for you. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you: I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation and give you peace, even in all your trials. I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For Me, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give Me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to My Heart.

Don’t you realize that My Father already has a perfect plan to transform your life, beginning from this moment? Trust in Me. Ask Me every day to enter and take charge of your life – and I will. I promise you before My father in heaven that I will work miracles in your life. Why would I do this? Because I THIRST FOR YOU. All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely. I will do all the rest.

Even now I behold the place My Father has prepared for you in My kingdom. Remember that you are a pilgrim in this life, on a journey home. Sin can never satisfy you or bring the peace you seek. All that you have sought outside of Me has only left you more empty, so do not cling to the things of this life. Above all, do not run from Me when you fall. Come to Me without delay. When you give Me your sins, you give Me the joy of being your Savior. There is nothing I cannot forgive and heal, so come now and unburden your soul.

No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life, there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change: I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: ”I THIRST….”(John 19:28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm – verse I was praying says of Me: “I looked for love, and I found none…”(Ps 69:20). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.

Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit: “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake. Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of you heart and knock…Open to ME, for I THIRST FOR YOU…”

“Jesus is God, therefore His love, His thirst is infinite. He, the creator of the universe, asked for the love of His creatures. He thirsts for our love….These words: ‘I thirst’ – do they echo in our souls?” – Mother Teresa

(This introduction to I Thirst For You was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Is it God Testing Your Faith or Satan Tempting You?


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Test of faithLately I’ve racked up a lot of windshield time and, although I’ve missed being at home with my wife, one of the benefits of long drives is the time I have to pray and think deeply.

Over the last week I have had trips of several hours. I have filled some of that drive time with reciting a Rosary as part of a 54 day Novena I started two weeks ago. This is my first time to pray a Novena and I’m happy with myself for not yet missing a day, and pleased that I am feeling much closer to the Lord than I have in recent weeks.

However, I have had several frustrating and critical issues arise recently in my business causing me grief. Experience tells me that these new challenges are not mere coincidence. I believe as we work harder to get closer to God, Satan works harder to derail us.

On one rather long drive this week, I plugged in a CD from a lecture by Fr. Rob Jack, a priest who regularly visits our parish and who is an instructor at the Athenaeum of Ohio in Cincinnati. In his lecture on Living Faith, he mentions how God likes to test our faith from time to time. The vision that came to my mind is of God throwing us curveballs, forcing us to take a strike or two, and be humbled in the process.

But, my next thought presented me with a conundrum: how do we tell whether a challenge is God testing our faith or Satan trying to sabotage us as we try to get closer to God? Over the next several miles, a couple examples came to mind. Since I’ve already used a baseball example above, I’ll stick with sports analogies.

In one case, let’s suppose your hometown basketball team is in the deciding game of the NBA finals. There are 52 seconds to play and your opponent just went up by six points after scoring one three-pointer and then, after a mistake that resulted in a turnover, scored a second three-pointer.

In a second instance, say your favorite hockey team is in the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The score is tied with three minutes left in the game, and your best player gets sent to the penalty box for two minutes after committing a flagrant intentional foul against an opposing player. Because of his action, his team is forced to play one person short which gives the opponent a power play advantage.

Both instances are tense and critical with their entire seasons resting in the balance.

Let’s consider the basketball scenario. The players’ confidence has been shaken and they have been humbled in front of the hometown fans. Calling a time-out, the coach will present to his players a plan to close the gap which, he hopes, will eventually win the game. He will also try to calm his team down and, most importantly, try to keep them focused on the fundamentals and on executing with the skill they have shown all season, that is, to fall back on and trust in each other and in what they know.

This feels like God testing our faith. The response is exactly what He wants us to do! He wants us to stop, collect ourselves, and recognize and do what is right and just. Although the strategy to win the game will likely include intentionally fouling an opposing player, the aim is not to hurt the player nor is it borne out of anger or personal pride.

Now, let’s consider the hockey analogy. The player, in his desperation to win, decided to be “uncharitable”, if you will, towards another player either through anger or to gain an unfair advantage. As a result, he caused his team to be penalized and put the likelihood of a win in jeopardy. As he sits in the penalty box waiting for his chance to get back in the game and play the final minute, he plots his revenge and envisions the crowd cheering him as he scores the go-ahead goal with only seconds remaining.

This situation feels like an example of Satan’s handiwork. The reaction is exactly what Satan is hoping for! He doesn’t give a hoot about who wins the game. He doesn’t care who gets hurt. All he cares about is the player’s pride becoming inflated, that he sees himself as superior to everyone else, and that his selfishness blinds him to the greater good. He wants him to cross that line because then it will be easier for him to do it again and again. He has followed Satan’s game plan to a tee.

On the other hand, the hockey player doesn’t have to choose that path. He has another option. As he sits in the penalty box he could replay in his mind the wrong that landed him there in the first place, and vow not to make that mistake again. He could block out all negative thoughts and focus on playing the best game he’s ever played. He could trust in his years of training to come through for him in a moment of glory. He could opt for doing the best he can do and let the outcome be what it may.

This is exactly what Satan doesn’t want us to do! Do you know why? Because it’s what God expects of us! If we do this, God has won and Satan has lost his grip.

Having thought through this, I have to admit I still don’t know how to tell if a challenge is simply God testing us or if Satan is tempting us. But, I don’t think it really matters whether we know up front or not. What matters is our response to the stimulus. When we are faced with challenges that move us to cheat, lie, shirk responsibility, and blame or plot the demise of others, we let Satan become our coach. When we lose sight of what is right and just, we lose sight of God, and high-five with the devil. But, when we choose the right path we are one step closer to holiness. And, maybe, only during the post-game review can we tell the difference.

I would love to hear if you can tell the difference between God testing your faith and Satan leading you astray.

God Bless You.

(Is It God Testing Your Faith or Satan Tempting You? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

A Better Way to Live


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SFDS Volunteers

SFDS Volunteers

Sometimes my work prevents me from writing as timely as I would like and still be able to keep the topic relevant. Such has been the case the last three weeks but, I feel, this post is relevant regardless of the delay. 

Three weeks ago I accompanied nine others from our parish on a three-day mission trip to Appalachia Kentucky where we worked with Hand in Hand Ministries – Auxier Center to improve the living conditions of three homes in Floyd and Johnson Counties. We joined nine men and women from Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, and the Hand in Hand staff, and together we made a difference. In the words of one of the homeowners, our work was “The Miracle” for which she had prayed. And, to quote one of our volunteers, “they were three of the most rewarding days I’ve ever experienced!”

Hand in Hand Ministries identified and staged the projects on which we would work. Shortly after we arrived in Auxier the staff described the work to be done and we signed up for the project of our choice.

Ms. Doris' work team

Ms. Doris’ work team

I joined with Bill from our group and, along with Vicki, Ben, Maureen, Joe and Sam from the Louisville contingent, we worked at Ms. Doris’ house. The old metal roof on her house leaked and caused the ceiling in a bedroom to deteriorate and sag; and the floors in that bedroom and in the bathroom had decayed and needed replacement.

I am always amazed at how the Lord puts the right people in the right place. Without any evaluation of skills, the seven of us fell into the part of the project that suited us best: three of us worked in the bedroom, a couple in the bathroom, and two more on the roof. It was a real-life application of Paul’s letter in 1 Corinthians 12:1-30, “18 But, as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as He intended”. Directed as necessary by our crew leader, Joe, we worked “hand-in-hand” completing the work as three teams within a team. We helped each other, looked out for each other’s safety, and learned from and laughed with each other as we worked.

The work wasn’t easy. There was a lot of kneeling and a lot of overhead work. It was hot. The roof was steep. It was close quarters. But, it was fun and rewarding.

Perhaps the most rewarding part was building a relationship with Ms. Doris and her son, Matt, and hearing their story and their love for the Lord. I doubt they knew that their heart-warming smiles and humble gratitude inspired us to do our best.

When we finished on Saturday, my sore knees and tired shoulders didn’t feel so bad when Ms. Doris wrapped her arms around me and gave me a hug in appreciation for the work we had done.

Ms. Bertha's work team

Ms. Bertha’s work team

My wife, Melinda, joined friends Clay, Monica and Wyiona, as well as Lee and Dorothy from Louisville, and crew leaders, Alan and Jim, at Ms. Bertha’s house to remove and replace her roof, ceilings and insulation, and make other interior repairs.

I didn’t visit Ms. Bertha’s house but when we gathered at the end of the day back at the Center it was fun to listen to the memories created that day at her house. On Friday evening, Ms. Bertha joined us for dinner and left no doubt that she was the character I had envisioned her to be. She is one of the most humble, pleasant, and grateful people I have ever met. With respect to material things, and in comparison to us volunteers, she didn’t have much. But, she had a love for the Lord, she had food, would soon have a roof over her head that didn’t leak, and she had some new friends. In her mind she was rich. She stole our hearts and her attitude and gratefulness taught us all a thing or two.

Roofiing at Ms. Elveeta's

Roofiing at Ms. Elveeta’s

My friends Carl, Tom, Gary and Brian teamed up with Kevin and Tristan from Louisville, and crew leader, Jackie, and replaced the leaking roof on Ms. Elveeta’s house. Completing their work on Friday, they moved to Ms. Bertha’s house on Saturday to help continue the roof replacement there. I didn’t visit their project, either, but I knew from their conversation and their smiles at the end of each day that their efforts were also rewarding.


We built relationships with those we served, and also with our fellow volunteers. Whether it was on the job, or back at the Center during downtime, or dancing at the U.S. 23 Music Highway Museum on Thursday night, we took the time to listen, encourage, have fun, and get to know each other.

By Saturday afternoon we had completed the work to be done on two homes and the next crew to come would complete Ms. Bertha’s house. We had made new friends, some with whom we will keep in touch. We had taught others a few things and we learned a few things from them. We all left with more than that with which we arrived.

And, by Saturday afternoon, the ten of us from St. Francis de Sales were looking towards next year’s trip and thinking of other men and women we could invite to volunteer and experience with us the joy of serving and bringing Christ to others.

Two weeks ago as I was driving someplace on business, I began assembling this post in my head. I was listening to music and a familiar song came on the stereo, Better Way to Live1, by Christian artist, Jason Gray. It’s a good song and for the first time the lyrics really resounded with me and I realized they applied perfectly to our experience:

“… When I saw the world out my window
With a broken heart I came alive
I was made for something more

“When we step aside from the center of our lives
When we learn to love mercy more than being right
Pursuing peace and honesty
Starting down the road of selflessness
And seeing where it leads

“All I know is there’s a better way to live
We were made for so much more than this
It’s not the love you have but the love you have to give
All I know is there’s a better way, a better way to live”

Helping others is, indeed, a better way to live!

Postscript: Thanks to our benevolent friends, family and fellow parishioners who donated generously to help offset the cost of the trip.

1 Better Way To Live, words and music by Jason Gray & Chad Cates, ©2009 Centricity Music Publishing/ Newspring Publishing/Upper Cates Music (ASCAP)

(A Better Way to Live was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

A Monk’s Chronicle: 10 August MMXV — Peserverance Until Death




What an increadible undertaking this project has been–it is something right out of the monastic tradition that brought us The Book of Kells. Thank you, your monsastic brothers, Donald Jackson and his team, SJU and all who contributed for this piece of history that brings us the Word.

Originally posted on A Monk's Chronicle:

imagePerseverance Until Death

On November 27, 1995, I sat down to lunch with Donald Jackson, whose day job at the time was scribe to the Queen of England.  He and I had just spoken at The Newberry Library in Chicago, and we were dining at a restaurant called The Italian Village — which still exists, I believe.

Normally lunch should not count as a big deal, and there’s no reason anyone should remember a particular lunch nearly twenty years later.  To my credit, I can’t recall what I ate that day, save that it was probably Italian.  But I do recall the substance of our conversation.  That day Donald Jackson proposed what eventually would become The Saint John’s Bible.

That lunch no longer matters that much, save for the fact that last week I put a little bit of closure on a venture that began at that meal.  That…

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The Greatness and Mercy of God



In a recent post, “Come to Me….and I Will Give You Rest”, I admitted I was embarrassed about not being very spiritual, or taking the time to pray, study and live Jesus before others while on vacation; and how I realized, by reading Matthew’s Gospel, that the Lord is more concerned about my return to him than He is about my spiritual absence for a brief period.

When I broke it down I understood why I felt the way I did – our two weeks were chocker-block full of activity. We drove almost 4,300 miles. When we weren’t driving we were spending time with family. When I was doing neither of those I was intent on catching as many trout as possible. In essence, I got away from my daily routine of taking time to pray and read scripture.

I had nearly written off posting anything else about my trip until a fortunate occurrence last Friday morning. I was on our mission trip to Appalachian Kentucky and I arose early to meet my friend Clay in the dining hall for morning prayers at 5:40 a.m. After we prayed a rosary together, Clay handed me a book, pointed to a page, and said, “Here, read this”.

The book was The Seven Storey Mountain, the autobiography of the Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton. The page contained a passage that particularly caught Clay’s attention:

“There is not a flower that opens, not a seed that falls into the ground, and not an ear of wheat that nods on the end of its stalk in the wind that does not preach and proclaim the greatness and mercy of God to the whole world.”

When I read that paragraph I couldn’t help but look upwards and say, “Thank you, Lord”. In that moment I understood. Even though I felt I had, for the most part, neglected God those two weeks while on vacation, he had still been present to me. But, I was too busy then to see it.

Above treeline on Beartooth Pass, Montana

Above treeline on Beartooth Pass, Montana

God was present in the spectacular geology of the Beartooth Range of the Rocky Mountains between Red Lodge and Yellowstone National Park.




East Rosebud Creek, Absarokee Wilderness, Montana

East Rosebud Creek, Absarokee Wilderness, Montana

He was present in the clear mountain streams which provide an abundance of rainbow and brown trout; and in the fish themselves, unique creatures that cause us anglers to dream of that heavenly moment when, through practiced skill, we entice one to rise and dine on a #14 Pale Morning Dun.



Rock Creek near Red Lodge

Rock Creek near Red Lodge


14" Brown Trout

14″ Brown Trout


Unknown species, Custer State Park, South Dakota

Unknown species, Custer State Park, South Dakota

God was there in the spectacular and varied flora to be seen in every view: columbines, indian paint brushes, and small alpine wild flowers growing out of the cracks in the igneous rock of the mountains. He was there in the fauna we saw during hikes and drives through the mountains: bison, elk, deer, black bear, eagles, and marmots.






Elsa, 9 months

Elsa, 9 months

And, of course, He was there in our children and beautiful grandchildren with whom we spent a few precious days.

Jack, 6 months

Jack, 6 months










Lord, please help us to not get caught up in the busy-ness of life but to always remember Your presence: in our loving families, in the caring people we meet, in the beautiful landscapes artistically brushed with color, and in the unique creatures with whom we share this earth. Please help us to always recognize Your greatness and the work of Your hands, and to always be grateful for Your abundant Grace and Mercy.  Amen.

(The Greatness and Mercy of God was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.


#Flat Francis Takes a Road Trip


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It’s been a hair over two years since I made a four-day, solo, cross country road trip from my home in Ohio to Seattle, Washington for my oldest daughter’s wedding. It was a wonderful trip full of natural beauty, solitude, revelations and spiritual opportunities.

Perhaps the most exciting part of that trip for me as a new Catholic, or, to be more precise, a new Christian, was seeing the world from an entirely different point of view than I ever had previously. I had driven across the country many times prior to this but had never thought of its beauty as a creation and gift from God. Likewise, my faith not only opened my eyes to the scenery, but opened my mind and heart to the people and events that crossed my path.

My experiences on the trip urged me to blog about them. Each day I would stop at a McDonald’s and use their free Wi-Fi to publish my thoughts and events from the last twenty-four hours. During those four days I published: Miles, God Moments and Mosaics; Corn, Confession, Cathedrals and Car Trouble; Bolo Ties, Rosaries and Rainbows; and Miracles and Memories. It was fun and worth the extra hour or so each day.

Last week I got home from a similar two week road trip. For this year’s vacation I drove to Red Lodge, Montana to meet my daughter, son-in-law and nine month old granddaughter, for five days of relaxation, fly fishing and enjoying each other’s company. This trip, though, was a little different in that I had two passengers – my wife, Melinda, and Flat Francis.

#Flat Francis

#Flat Francis

Flat Francis is a caricature of Pope Francis and is a spinoff of the Flat Stanley project practiced at many grade schools around the country for a summer assignment. (School children take Flat Stanley on vacation with them and take photos with him at points of interest around the country.) The organization Catholic Extension came up with the idea for Flat Francis to help show Pope Francis the enthusiasm of American Catholics before his visit to Philadelphia in September.

On Saturday, 27 June we drove to our daughter’s house in Olathe, Kansas as our first way point. Then, Sunday morning we (my family and Flat Francis) attended 9:00 a.m. mass at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Olathe. The second reading this Sunday was from 2 Corinthians 8:9-15:

9“For you know the gracious acts of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.  13Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality 14your surplus at the present time should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs, that there may be equality.  15As it is written: ‘Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.’”

In contemplating St. Paul’s message, I couldn’t help but think about the mission trip several of us would take later in July with Hand in Hand Ministries to Appalachian Kentucky. In comparison to many, I know I have been graced with a surplus of talent and treasure. But, I know from my experience on last year’s mission trip that the surplus of gratitude I received from those whom we helped equaled or exceeded that which I brought to the table.

I said a short prayer asking the Lord to help bring more adults to our ministry and to let those who can’t find it within themselves to offer a donation. Then, as I read from the Gospel, Mark 5:36, when Jesus told Jairus with regard to his dying daughter, “Do not be afraid, just have faith”, I knew the Lord would provide all we would need for this mission trip. (At the time we had seven people signed up and very few donations. As of this writing, one day before our trip, we have 12 adult volunteers and donations to Hand in Hand Ministries equal to almost 150 percent of the cost of the trip! Thank you, everyone!)

 #Flat Francis at Prince of Peace, Olathe, KS

#Flat Francis at Prince of Peace, Olathe, KS

The priest at Prince of Peace, Fr. Wiesmann, was visiting from the Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica. He was on his own mission to raise money to help improve the living conditions of the Jamaican people in his Diocese. The living conditions he described in his homily were clearly visible in my mind’s eye and I couldn’t help but feel compassion for them. And, I couldn’t help but open my wallet and make a generous donation.

After a couple days at Lisa’s we drove on to Rapid City, South Dakota to spend a day with more family, and then on to Red Lodge, Montana (with a short stop for a photo-op with Flat Francis at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota) where we met up with my daughter, Sara, Andy, her husband and Elsa, our granddaughter.

#Flat Francis at Wall Drug

#Flat Francis at Wall Drug

We enjoyed a fun four days there (more on that in another post) and on Saturday evening we found ourselves at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Red Lodge.

St. Agnes is an old parish in a small but relatively new church building. There were about 40 of us in attendance. Most were regulars but it looked like there were a few visitors like us. We learned that the priest was visiting from nearby Bridger and, unfortunately, we learned it was because the pastor at St. Agnes had passed away the week before.

In my travels I visit a lot of churches and I usually remember something unique about each of them. The thing I will remember most about St. Agnes was the music and the cantor. The cantor was an elderly, grizzled gentleman who looked as though he had pushed a few dogies in his time. He played his guitar and he sang. Each hymn, the Gloria, and the responsorial Psalm were all played with the same four chords and the same 4/4 rhythm. He played in a Western style that was pure cowboy music. It made me think I was at a Riders in the Sky concert. He wasn’t the best singer but it was the most unique music I’ve ever heard at a Catholic mass.

#Flat Francis at St. Agnes, Red Lodge, MT

#Flat Francis at St. Agnes, Red Lodge, MT

The other thing I will remember about St. Agnes was my concern for the well-being of their parish. I noticed in their bulletin that the weekly collections were less than half their budget. This, combined with the loss of their priest, appeared to me to be casting a gloomy pall over their parish. I said a special prayer for them and hope you will, too.

After tent camping a couple nights in Custer State Park, S.D., and another visit at my daughter’s in Olathe, we returned home safely two weeks after we left. Tomorrow, it’s back on the road again to Auxier, Kentucky for our mission trip. And, yes, Flat Francis will be accompanying us.

God bless you all.

(#Flat Francis Takes a Road Trip was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.


“Come to Me….and I Will Give You Rest”



Photo credit: St. Jude Youth Ministry

Photo credit: St. Jude Youth Ministry

It is four days shy of a month since my last post and I’ve been itching to fill you in on what’s been going on. Much of what’s been going on is a lot of travelling the last five weeks – a mix between business and pleasure. 

On 27 June, my wife and I left on a two week vacation to Red Lodge, Montana with stops in Olathe, Kansas and Rapid City, South Dakota. By the time we returned home on 11 July, we had logged almost 4,300 miles. (In the next few days I hope to post about our trip.)

On Monday the 13th I packed up and hit the road again for business in southern Indiana. After staying three nights in different hotels, I returned home on Thursday evening, the 16th.

By the time I got home I was whipped, mentally exhausted. I would have liked to sit down and veg out but I had two things tugging at me. The first was a yard which hadn’t been mowed in a month, during which time we had had record amounts of rainfall. With nearly knee-high grass, it was starting to appear like no one lived at my home.

The second was a regularly scheduled monthly Ultreya meeting at church that evening with men and women who have lived a Cursillo retreat. At this meeting we share with each other how our prayer life has been, what we’ve been studying to increase or deepen our knowledge of our faith, and how we’ve lived our faith to set an example for others.

As much as I enjoy these meetings, I just couldn’t make myself go that night. I let the yard work win and I told my friend Clay that I wouldn’t make it to the meeting. Although I had a legitimate excuse, I started hearing that little voice in my conscience tell me otherwise and I knew I was hiding from the truth.

Yes, the truth was that I was exhausted. But, even more so, the truth was that I didn’t want to be embarrassed. The truth was that I had gone three weeks with the only spiritual-ness on my part being attending mass each of the Sundays I was away. The truth was that I hadn’t prayed, I hadn’t studied and I hadn’t been much of an example of Christian living in close to a month. At least it didn’t feel like it to me. And, I didn’t want to admit it to my friends.

I retired from the yard work around dusk, came in, cleaned up, and ate a bite. The guilt I’d been feeling for the hour or two before, after I realized the real reason I stayed home, was working on me. Knowing I needed desperately to get back in the groove, I decided to put off going to bed until after I had at least read that day’s scripture passages.

I read from Exodus 3 about Moses and the burning bush and God’s message to the Children of Israel. I read from Psalm 105 about the Lord’s Covenant. And then I read the Gospel passage for the day, Matthew 11:28-30 (NAB):

Jesus said: 28 Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.  30For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Jesus was talking to me and He knew what I needed to hear! He was telling me to not worry about the yard – it will get taken care of. He was telling me to not worry about having been spiritually absent the last three weeks. What mattered was that I was coming back to Him. He told me that I should learn humility from Him and to not worry about embarrassment from others. He let me know that I am not the first person to experience this and I won’t be the last. And, He told me to focus on Him so He can replace my tiredness with His peace.

A few minutes later, before I lay my head on my pillow, I said a special prayer of Thanksgiving for His love and for His protection for my family and me during those three weeks when I didn’t make time for Him.

That night I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in quite a while.


(“Come to Me….and I Will Give You Rest” was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.


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