A wonderful article appeared in the Federalist this past December by D.C. McAllister titled “How To Stop Sexualizing Everything.” It tapped into the schizophrenic character of our modern age, particularly in American culture, that surrounds our expressions of intimacy. Essentially, she posited, we either fearfully avoid touch and intimacy as it might be misread as a sin or a sexual advance, or we completely give in, and all that we touch is tinged with sexual undertones and innuendos. McAllister notes “The effect of these two warring attitudes – Puritanism and sexualization – has had a distorting effect on friendship. On the one hand, people don’t feel free to show emotions. On the other, when they do, those feelings are sexualized.”

A recent BBC documentary called “The Secret Letters of Pope John Paul II” perfectly illustrates this distorted dichotomy. For decades, St. John Paul II held a well known relationship with Dr. Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, a Polish philosopher who was an expert in the work of German philosopher Edmund Husserl. The pope’s shared interest in Husserl’s phenomenology allowed the two to form a friendship over the years (albeit, not without its difficult moments – see George Weigel’s excellent article on that backstory here: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/431359/pope-john-paul-ii-letters-women-celibacy). She was a married woman with three children, living in America. He, at the time they met, was a Cardinal in the Church. Their correspondence lasted well into old age.

Journalist Ed Stourton, who crafted the documentary, proposes that the decades long relationship was somehow, for at least one of the parties involved, romantic. His claims are “substantiated” by Emeritus Professor Eamon Duffy of the University of Cambridge, who states in the interview, “Clearly there’s an element of playing with fire when you’ve got a strongly heterosexual man and an attractive woman in a very intense relationship that is cultivated and which engages mind at a high level of intensity. There’s danger everywhere.”

This thought that a male and female friendship simply by its very nature is “dangerous” is given further credence in the remarks of someone Stourton refers to as a “trainee priest” (My research revealed that a “trainee priest” is also known as a seminarian). John Cornwell apparently attended seminary from 1953 to 1958. He states that back then “The perception was that even if you had a close association of friendship with the woman, this could be what was known as an occasion of sin and an occasion of sin was as bad as if you’d actually done it.” This sad (and completely incorrect) articulation of what sin consists of is followed by another interviewee who states that their “training meant most priests would have been wary of such a close relationship. The most natural reaction would have been for him to terminate contact.”

Ironically, the language in this interview reveals to viewers and readers of this breaking story the deepest scandal of all, which has nothing to do with St. John Paul II. It is the scandal that all too many men and women today are incapable of imagining an intimate relationship that does not somehow involve some sort of sexually romantic overtone.

In truth, the Church has a long history of examples of men and women who have formed intimate and affectionate relationships that did not involve sexual relations. They were known as friendships (this is a wonderful word we should restore to the modern lexicon). In fact, St. John Paul II had numerous friendships with women that lasted decades and included letters, phone calls, shared meals, and walks together. The BBC footage seems to imply that this particular relationship with Dr. Tymieniecka was isolated and the meetings exclusive. But the fact is, they were not. St. John Paul II was a magnanimous figure who loved people deeply, and was rather transparent about his friendships. He was also prudent, meeting men and women together for those private meals and taking vacations with friends or families together. In the image of St. John Paul II and Dr. Tymieniecka standing beside a car, one should realize a third person took the photo. I imagine it was her husband.


Now regarding the correspondence, here is an excerpt from a letter:

“I know you have complete confidence in my affection; I have no doubt about this and delight in the thought. I want you to know and to believe that I have an intense and very special desire to serve you with all of my strength. It would be impossible for me to explain either the quality or the greatness of this desire that I have to be at your service, but I can tell you that I believe it is from God, and for that reason, I cherish it and every day see it growing and increasing remarkably… God has given me to you; so consider me as yours in Him, call me whenever you like…”

I’m sorry, I tricked you just there. This was actually an exchange between St. Francis de Sales to St. Jane de Chantal, dated June 24, 1604. After the death of her husband, St. Francis served as her spiritual director for years, giving her counsel in forming a new religious community. (I don’t have access to an extended quote from St. John Paul II’s letters to Dr. Tymieniecka, and would prefer not to cherry pick one out at this point as the BBC interview did.)

Regardless, here is an intimate note, man to woman, celibate man to widowed mother. How did you feel in reading that exchange? Did it make you uncomfortable? Were you shocked? Did you feel it was inappropriate? I know it really struck me personally when I first read it. I found it to be astoundingly beautiful, and I felt duped and double-crossed by this hyper-sexualized culture we live in because I too felt a little manipulated as it were to see romance when I read those words holding such fervent love. But who has the larger issue here? Who needs a little restoration of that original vision we’ve been called to?

The examples of chaste and simultaneously fervent love go on, nonetheless, and in each we are challenged to see others first as “occasions of grace” rather than “occasions of sin.” By this grace, in the words of St. John Paul II “we come to an ever greater awareness of the gratuitous beauty of the human body, of masculinity and femininity. This gratuitous beauty becomes a light for our actions….”

Over a two year period that lead up to her own early death, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and a seminarian named Maurice would exchange 21 letters in total. He wrote 11 and the Little Flower wrote 10. For both of these holy souls, the letters reveal a love that was fully human and completely chaste. St. Thérèse wrote in one note: “In your letter of the 14th you made my heart tremble with joy. I understand better than ever how much your soul is the sister of my own, since it is called to lift itself up to God by the ELEVATOR of love and not to climb the hard stairway of fear….” Later, as he was about to be sent on mission, she wrote “When my dear little brother leaves for Africa, I shall follow him not only in thought and in prayer; my soul will be with him forever. …”

Let’s look at another intimate exchange, now between men, from over 1600 years ago: “…To talk and jest together, to do kind offices by turns; to read together honied books; to play the fool or be earnest together… (to) long for the absent with impatience; and welcome the coming with joy. These and the like expressions, proceeding out of the hearts of those that loved and were loved again, by the countenance, the tongue, the eyes, and a thousand pleasing gestures, were so much fuel to melt our souls together, and out of many make but one. This is it that is loved in friends…”

That was St. Augustine, taken from his own intimate and perennially modern autobiography “Confessions” (Chapter 8, section 13), written between 397 and 400 AD. For modern ears, this level of intimacy between men can only be seen as some kind of closet homosexuality. The same minds, tinged again by a culture inundated by sexual allusion and innuendo in all things, even place a gay frame around the relationship between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18:1,3. “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”

We have become, in the words of St. John Paul II himself, “masters of suspicion,” incapable of seeing how human interactions could ever rise above mere sexual gratification and appropriation.

This is nothing new. During the beatification process for Padre Pio, in 1990, the case was blocked after a stash of letters were revealed that the holy Franciscan had written to his spiritual daughter, as he called her, Cleonice Morcaldi. He had met her around 1930. when she was a child, orphaned from both parents. St. Padre Pio had promised her dying mother he would take care of her like a daughter. Some investigators however felt the letters to be too affectionate.

Man and woman. This is holy ground. This is sacred ground, and in this place we are called to a deep self-mastery, and a healthy recognition of our own hearts and where we stand in the ability to truly see one another. I have placed several links to resources below and encourage readers to go further, to pray more deeply about this lost art of friendship, of holy friendship. It must be rekindled. It will take work and prayer and much patience, especially in this present darkness. But with grace we can reclaim a beautiful gift, and our vision of one another can indeed be restored. It is a hope within reach. It is our inheritance and a promise too. “Jesus came to restore creation to the purity of its origins.” (CCC, 2336) I’ll close with a wonderful and deeply personal word from St. John Paul II, originally signed on February 8, 1994 but was not printed until 2006:

“God has given me many people, both young and old, boys and girls, fathers and mothers, widows, the healthy and the sick. Always, when he gave them to me, he also tasked me with them, and now I see that I could easily write a separate book about each of them—and each biography would ultimately be on the disinterested gift man always is for the other. Among them were the uneducated, for instance factory workers; there were also students, university professors, doctors and lawyers, and finally priests and the consecrated religious. Of course, they included both men and women. A long road led me to discover the genius of woman, and Providence itself saw to it that the time eventually came when I really recognized it and was even, as it were, dazzled by it.”

Saint John Paul the Great, Poet of the Divine Mysteries and Apostle of the Beauty of the Human Person, pray for us!



A Meditation on Givenness by St. John Paul II 


But I Have Called You Friends; Reflections on the Art of Christian Friendship by Mother Mary Francis


Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction (Classics of Western Spirituality (Paperback))


Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla


How to Stop Sexualizing Everything by D.C. McAllister


Article originally posted at: http://tobinstitute.org/john-paul-ii/holy-friendship/

Peace Be With You


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At the sign of peace during Mass on a Sunday morning a few months ago I smiled and uttered, “Peace be with you!” to those around me. As they did the same to me I thought to myself, “Thank you, but, actually, I’m not at peace.  It’s more like turmoil.  My life is incongruent with the life I would like to be leading.”  I knew I was living what Henry David Thoreau called, “a life of quiet desperation.”

I was quick to blame the stress of my job, the expanding corporate bureaucracy, and a huge increase in travel away from home, for my discontent. In my 31 years of management with my employer I had never felt such disharmony.


Just a few of the hotel room key cards I’ve collected over the last two years.

I knew the real rub, however, was that my job demanded so much of my time that there were huge voids in my personal life. Voids I could no longer ignore:  my health was suffering; my relationships weren’t thriving; I was doing very little to stimulate myself mentally; and, because of extensive work related travel, I struggled to find time to pray as I ought, and I desperately missed the fellowship and sharing of my faith with other men in my community.

Since becoming Christian, I have believed that God has placed me here for a purpose. Thus, I found myself praying often for guidance from the Holy Spirit to learn what God’s will is for me.  A semblance of an answer came to me during an Adoration hour, not while I was striving to understand the future, but as I reflected on the past.  I sensed His will for me up to this point in my life had been to provide for my wife and family.  I thought I had done well but I counted the cost and estimated roughly 20 percent of my working life had been spent away from home and family.  In that moment I knew one of the things He wanted me to do with the rest of my life was to be the disciple, husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, and friend He designed me to be.  Clearly, my new purpose would be to pour my love into those relationships and grow them to a deeper level of intimacy.

I don’t think it was coincidence that shortly after this revelation I was reading a book by Matthew Kelly in which he wrote about becoming fully the person God created us to be and living the authentic life He created us to lead. Kelly talked about how living an authentic life helps us reach the essential purpose of our Christianity – Holiness.  And, with respect to the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual “legitimate” needs God created in us he wrote, “When we hear these deepest desires calling us forth, we hear the voice of God.”  I realized God was calling me to fill that void by fulfilling those needs.

But, I saw a catch. I knew I couldn’t give my all to His plan and perform my job as I should.  That only left one alternative – retirement.  And that was a scary thought.  I’m not quite 60 years old.  Retirement would mean not earning a paycheck every two weeks.  It would mean purposefully living within my means and my means were nothing more than what I had saved.

I also feared falling into the trap of mistakenly fantasizing that my life would magically be better once I retire. Many retirees believe that spending a life of leisure on their boat, on the golf course, or taking exotic vacations, will bring them happiness.  For some it might but, for most, pleasure seeking doesn’t bring lasting happiness.  I didn’t want that to be me.  I was happy to accept that my purpose would not be pleasure focused or to accumulate more stuff, but to seek God and find happiness by satisfying the essential needs He intended for me.

After more prayer and discussion with my wife, I concluded I needed to retire. I couldn’t ignore the Holy Spirit’s call to refocus my life. As for my financial wherewithal, I accepted that I would have to have faith that my needs would be met.  But, just in case, and afraid of what I might discover, I finally decided to consult with a retirement planner.  When his report came back I was pleasantly surprised to find that we should be able to live comfortably for the rest of our lives.

Having made up my mind, I only needed to tell my boss of my intention to retire. Because the driver for my decision to retire was stress induced unhappiness, I wasn’t sure what I would tell him, without sounding bitter and negative, if he asked why I decided to retire.  As I thought about this during the drive to where we were meeting everything became perfectly clear.  All the things that had kept me from being satisfied were simply steps in the process of God calling me to move on and to fulfill those God-given needs.  In that instant I recalled 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NAB), “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” The bitterness I felt evaporated.  I forgave everyone whom I had previously blamed for creating the stress in my life, as well as myself for my own personal contribution.  And, instead of being negative, I praised God for the suffering that pushed me to hear His call.

Last Tuesday when I told my boss of my intention I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I know the remaining days between now and the day I retire will be enjoyable and productive because I have a new purpose: to live a healthier, less stressful life; to grow emotionally by bringing more intimacy to my relationships; to help and serve others; to grow intellectually; and to grow spiritually by getting closer to Jesus, and having the time to apply the Gospels to my life every day.

I’m not sure what direction my life will go or exactly what I will do in retirement. But I’m sure it will be an adventure as God unveils new sources of happiness.

This morning at Mass during the sign of peace, when my brothers and sisters shook my hand and said, “Peace be with you!” I thought, “Thank you, by the Grace of God, it is.”

Peace be with you all.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to help me see and hear Your call. I sometimes wish, though, that You would make it just a little easier for me to do so.  Amen.”

(Peace Be With You was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2016 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.

Pops, MoM and Mercy


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In yesterday’s post, A Joyful Hour, I said my wife and I are on another road trip from our home in Ohio to Kansas City and then on to Rapid City, South Dakota.  We made it to our daughter’s house safely Saturday evening, enjoyed a nice home cooked dinner and some special time with our two grandsons before they had to go to bed.  Our grandson Jack is 20 months old, and Eddie is two months old.  I slept well that night and I looked forward to the next morning and a full day of fun with the little guys.

When my first grandchild was on her way almost two years ago, my daughters asked what I wanted to be called as a grandfather. I had thought long about this and one thing kept coming to mind.  A friend from Lake Charles, Louisiana, who is a big duck hunter and retriever trainer, told me you should always name a dog with a one syllable name.  That way they can remember it easier.  Well, in my way of thinking this seemed like a good idea when it came to young children, too.  If I went by a one syllable name it would be easier for the little ones to remember it and say it.  So, I chose Pops.

When I awoke in the morning I said a quick prayer knowing that it was going to be a good day. I made it to the breakfast table, poured myself some coffee and waited for Jack to announce he was ready to get out of his crib.  Before long, my son-in-law, Joe, brought him down the stairs, stood him on the floor and the best thing ever happened.  Jack turned around, saw me, hollered, “Pops!”, and came running to me and gave me a hug.  What a fabulous way to start my day!

We ate breakfast and then dressed to go to Mass. While at our daughter’s we usually go to the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Olathe.  But, Prince of Peace has been busting at the seams because of the growth in the south Kansas City area and the diocese has decided to build a mission church which will actually be closer to her house than Prince of Peace.  The name of the new parish has not been decided yet but we were thinking on the way there that it ought to be called Mother of Mercy parish.  Mother of Mercy, aka “MoM”, as opposed to “PoP” for Prince of Peace – get it?

This was the second Sunday for the mission church to celebrate mass in their temporary location -the gymnasium of the Madison Place Elementary School. The altar was set up on the stage with row after row of folding chairs on the gym floor.  Melinda, my daughter, Lisa, Jack, and I got there just in time to get seats.  The engineer in me quickly counted the number of seats in each row, multiplied by the number of rows and estimated the number of people standing in the back and I came up with roughly 550 in attendance.  Not bad at all for the second week of a mission parish!


Until the parish officially gets its name it will be called the New Johnson County Catholic Church. But, I like MoM better so that’s what I’m going to call it for now.

The priest at MoM was a jovial and, I suspect, a very likeable young man. I thought he will probably be a good priest to draw the young families in the area into his flock.  I was particularly impressed with his homily about the Gospel reading for the day, Luke 15:1-32, which includes the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Although I’ve read this passage many times and heard several homilies about the Prodigal Son, today was the first time I ever fully understood why the brother was so upset about the attention the father was lavishing on the returned son.

I knew that the Prodigal Son, upon demanding his inheritance from his father, was basically wishing his father dead. The father, out of his love, gave his son what he desired.  But, it never occurred to me that the robe, ring, sandals and fatted calf which the father gave to the returning son came from what was left after he had been given his half, in other words, the half that was designated for the other son.  Seeing the situation from that perspective I thought how I might be a little upset, too, if I was the brother.  The priest explained that the father in the parable, when asking his son to celebrate and rejoice the return of his brother with him was actually asking him to forgive and be merciful.  I always thought the brother was just a selfish jerk.

Then, having broached the subject of mercy, the priest reminded us that it is the Jubilee Year of Mercy and what is expected of us during this time. But, what it did instead was play to my guilty conscience and reminded me that I wrote a blog post way back in March of this year about The Jubilee Year of Mercy and I promised that I would write more and elaborate on mercy, how we can be merciful and how God is merciful to us.  Here it is the middle of September and I still haven’t followed through on that promise.  I still have time I thought, and late is better than never.

The rest of the day was spent playing with Jack and holding and getting burped on by Eddie. We went to the Deanna Rose Farmstead in Overland Park where Jack got to see pigs, cows, horses, ducks and, his favorite, chickens.  Back at home, Lisa prepared a superb dinner; we Face-timed with our daughter Mary and her two month old son, Patrick, and our daughter, Sara, and her daughter, Elsa; and we wrapped up the day with a board game which I lost.  All in all, it turned out just as I thought it would when I rolled out of bed in the morning – perfect.

On Monday we plan to drive for about 12 hours to Rapid City, South Dakota to spend a week with more family. I’m looking forward to the drive, the time spent with Melinda, and the opportunity to contemplate how I can improve my relationship with Jesus. Pops is not looking forward to leaving Jack and Eddie behind but I know I will see them on the return trip in two weeks when we come back for Eddie’s baptism.  All in all, I know it will be another good day.

“Dear God, I give you thanks for all your many blessings: for family, and especially for children and grandchildren; and for the opportunity to see more of this magnificent country we call ours, a country in which we can still worship you freely like I did this morning.  Lord Jesus, I pray that tomorrow as I meet people on this road trip I will see You in them and that they may see You in me.  Holy Spirit, I pray that You will guide me and steer me away from any temptations that might come my way.  Amen.”

(Pops, MoM and Mercy was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2016 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 Joyful Hour


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The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

Yesterday morning as I was leaving home for a road trip from Ohio to Kansas City, and then on to Rapid City, South Dakota, I was, like always, looking forward to the drive, to spending some valuable one on one time with my wife, and to seeing family at each destination. But, there was a small part of me wishing I was somewhere else.

At the same time I finished putting the kitchen sink in the car and driving down our driveway, several friends were at our church greeting the ten men who, for the next 30 hours, would be opening themselves up to be transformed by the Holy Spirit at a Christ Renews His Parish retreat weekend. My friends would be leading and facilitating the weekend, a labor of love for which they had been preparing for the last six months, a divine and fraternal bonding I have experienced three times myself.

Even though I wasn’t part of the Giving Team this time around I still wanted to participate in some way. Since I was going to be out of town, I opted to take an hour over the weekend to pray for the men on both the Receiving and Giving teams.  My hour of the 30 hour prayer chain was at 3:00 p.m., an hour that found me between Vandalia, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri.

As I drove across Indiana I wondered how I could best pray for the men on the weekend and still drive. As I fingered the cross around my neck, the same cross I received four and a half years ago when I went on my first Christ Renews weekend, I decided the easiest thing to do would be to pray a rosary as part of my prayer hour.  My wife, Melinda, agreed to join me.

When three o’clock arrived we took out our rosaries and I inserted my special rosary CD as recited by Fr. Rob. It was Saturday so we would be praying the Joyful Mysteries.

With the first mystery, The Annunciation of the Angel to Mary, I gave thanks that Mary said “Yes” to God.  Then, I thought, “Lord, please let the men on this weekend say ‘Yes’ to the Holy Spirit, let them accept God’s plan.  Let them find their humility in the safety of this retreat such that they can hear His voice and be obedient to His will for them.  Amen.”

At the pause before the next mystery, I stopped long enough to realize that I had not just prayed the rosary in rote memorization; I had actually let the spirit of the mystery work itself into my prayer for the men. I thought, “Let’s see what happens with the next one.”

As I prayed the second mystery, The Visitation of Mary to Saint Elizabeth, I thought about how, out of love, Mary carried God to her cousin.  This was exactly what the men on the Giving Team were doing so I prayed, “Lord, please fill the men on the Giving Team with the Holy Spirit so that they, too, may carry Your Love to the men whom they are serving this weekend.  Lord, please let the Receivers accept their gift of charity with gratitude.  Amen.”

I liked the way this was going. I gave a brief prayer of thanksgiving for allowing me to think and express what was in my heart.

The third Joyful Mystery is The Nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem. As I recalled how Joseph, Mary and the shepherds adored Jesus, I prayed that the men on the weekend would see Christ in each other and, in so doing, increase their love for Him and one another.

With the fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, I thought about how it was revealed to Simeon through the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was the Messiah.  I prayed, “Lord, let the men on this weekend also have it revealed to them through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is truly the Messiah.  Amen.”

As I recited the fifth Joyful Mystery, The Finding of Jesus in the Temple”, I thought about the anxiety that Mary and Joseph must have felt losing their son and the joy they must have felt when they found Him again in the temple.  I prayed, “Lord, let the men on this weekend, who may have been away from Jesus, also experience the joy of finding Him again.  Let them find comfort and safety in His presence.  Amen.”

I finished out my hour of prayer by simply recalling my experience when I was in their shoes; how the witnesses given by the men of the Giving Team broke down the walls I had constructed to keep Jesus out of my life, and how, through the Holy Spirit, I was transformed. I prayed that through that same transformation process, the ten men there this weekend would be renewed in their faith.

“Mother Mary, please take these prayers and, through your intercession with Jesus, ask Him to open the minds of these men to His word, and to renew their hearts, through the Holy Spirit, by kindling in them the fire of His love. Amen.”

(A Joyful Hour was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2016 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.

The Calling


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Nathanael meeting Jesus

45Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”  46But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  Philip said to him, “Come and see.”  47Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite.  There is no duplicity in him.”  48Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”  49Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”  50Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?  You will see greater things than this.”  51And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” – Jn 1: 45-51 NAB

Wednesday’s Gospel from John made me recall exactly four years and four months earlier when I first met Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. My story of that first encounter, while separated and modernized by almost two thousand years, is similar to that of Nathanael (more commonly known as St. Bartholomew).

There was Nathanael minding his own business on the shore of the Sea of Galilee when his friend Philip walked up and said, “Hey, I want you to meet someone important from Nazareth.” Nathanael replied, “What?  From Nazareth?  I don’t think so!”  But, since Philip was such a good friend, Nathanael, although doubtful, decided to go along.

Jesus used Philip as his intermediary. Jesus knew He was going to call Nathanael but He also knew Nathanael would be more likely to follow Him if he received encouragement in the form of testimony from his friend.  It worked, and the rest is history.

I have no idea how many times Jesus might have called me and I wasn’t listening or I out and out rejected Him. But, I think He knew when the time was right and that I would need His disciples to lead me to Him.

Countless times I refused invitations from my friends Clay and Eric to attend men’s bible study sessions where holy men just like them shared their faith with each other. Over a period of months we, along with our wives, occasionally went out for dinner together and the conversations would inevitably turn to discussions of faith, and I would be uncomfortable.  They were sowing the seeds.  They were on a mission to make a friend, be a friend, and bring a friend to Christ.

Just like St. Philip, my two friends arranged the meeting. I accepted their invitation to attend a Christ Renews His Parish retreat weekend.  Then, after they brought Him and me together in the same place, they stepped out of the way.  That part of their job was over.  The rest was up to Him.  And He didn’t disappoint.

That weekend, I witnessed the Holy Spirit at work through the men facilitating the retreat. It didn’t take long before my notion about faith in Jesus changed from, “It can’t be”, to, “It might be.”  Little by little, I heard The Calling.  I gave an inch.  He took a mile.  I gave Him part of me but He wanted all of me.  I was happy to oblige.  Now, over four years later, I’m still giving and trying to find a way to give even more.  And, what I receive in return is beyond anything I could have ever imagined!  I certainly have seen “greater things”.

I owe this life to a couple close friends who weren’t afraid to live the Christ life by evangelizing and introducing me to their Lord Jesus.

It’s not easy being an apostle like St. Philip. It takes courage.  It takes patience.  It takes a lot of prayer.  Some of us are better suited for that type of evangelization than others.  But, we can all evangelize in one way or another.  For me, these blog posts are one of my ways of evangelizing. What is your way? If you don’t know where to begin, you can start by following the advice of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

“Lord Jesus, through the love of Your apostles I was led to You and You have shown me the way to eternal life. Help me, I pray, to bring Your love to others who, like I was, are seeking the fullness of life that only You have to offer.  Amen.”

(The Calling was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2016 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.

They Don’t Know What They’re Missing


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“They tell me I’m crazy and ask why I subject myself to such suffering. They assume I dread the prospect of it. But, they’re wrong. They don’t understand.

“The 2,320 miles I expect to drive, as opposed to fly, over the next six days – crisscrossing the Midwest from Olathe, Kansas, to Nashville, Tennessee, to Lake Charles, Louisiana then back to Lebanon, Ohio – will be a welcome respite, one I have been looking forward to for over a week. It’s an opportunity to get away from the busy-ness of life and, although it will mean being away from my family for much of that time, it will allow me to get closer to You.

“Lord, You made me the introvert that I am. I thank You for the gift and the ability to look inward, to find peace in a way that strikes others as loneliness and boredom. But, I’m not alone and I’m not bored. I have You, Lord, with Whom I can converse through heart-felt prayer.

“The solitude of being alone behind the wheel, mile after mile, hour after hour, brings a calming peace, a shot-in-the-arm which I need from time to time.

“With the exception of the ‘thuckity-thuck’ of the tires hitting the cracks in the highway, the silence allows me to focus on You. The stereo is turned off, my phone is off. The only way to be distracted from You is if I allow it to happen. My hope is that I will hear Your voice.

“Over the last couple weeks, my time for prayer with You has been limited. I failed to take the opportunity to pray as I should. Over the next few days, I have no excuse. I find comfort and relief in that thought.

“Lord, thank you for this meal I just had somewhere in Missouri. Thank you for the four days I just spent with my daughter, son-in-law, and especially my grandsons. Thank you for my other new grandson I will see in a few days. Thank you for blessing my family with the birth of my youngest daughter 20 years ago today. Thank you for the poison ivy on my right arm – the itch reminds me that I earned it in service to others in Appalachian Kentucky last week. Thank you for letting me see Christ in them. I pray they saw a glimpse of Your Son in me.

“Lord, I pray that You send my guardian angel to watch over and protect me while I’m on the road, and that You do the same for my family while I’m not there with them.

“Lord, I pray that those who struggle to find time to be close to You will find inspiration in this reflection and make time for prayer with You a higher priority. They don’t know what they’re missing.”

(They Don’t Know What They’re Missing was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2016 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.

Indirect Grace


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It’s been a good day here in Eastern Kentucky. We worked hard repairing the bathroom floor, tub, and toilet for a gentleman. During the work and at breaks we learned his story. And we came together as a team, teaching and learning woodworking and plumbing skills and getting to know each other.

I have to admit that my mind often wandered as I worked today. I don’t think it kept me from working safely but, unfortunately, I did make a couple saw cuts in error. No, my mind wasn’t always on my work; rather, it drifted to those two new, less than a week old, grandsons whom I have yet to see. So, this post isn’t about our mission work – more will come on that later. This post is kind of a Paul Harvey “Rest of the Story” kind of story about a lesson I learned.

On Sunday I posted in Miracles that my daughter, Lisa, gave birth to her second son on Thursday of last week, two weeks early. On Wednesday morning she went in for an ultrasound and the doctor, after seeing something that didn’t look quite right, recommended inducing labor and delivering the baby as soon as possible. The situation was not life threatening to either mother or baby but it was best to introduce baby Edward to the harsh reality of life outside the womb. I claim I didn’t get the message that it wasn’t a serious issue. My wife says otherwise. But, let’s not go there.

Wednesday afternoon I left on an overnight trip to southern Indiana for business, about a four hour drive. I had a lot of time to worry about Lisa and the baby and all that could go wrong. Memories from a year and a half ago came streaming back to me of how her first son, Jack, had complications after birth and we thought we might lose him. I remembered how I prayed to Jesus with everything I had for Jack’s health. And, I remembered how, after a series of God-moments (see Put Your Faith Where Your Prayer Is) including praying the rosary and asking for the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession to Jesus, I was suddenly overcome with joy like I had never known, joy that instantaneously brought me a peace that broke me down to crying tears of Thanksgiving. I felt Jesus assure me that Jack would be just fine.

I wanted that same feeling last Wednesday. I wanted it so bad that I prayed continuously as I drove. I prayed two rosaries and I prayed, “Jesus, I trust in You” until my throat was dry. But, the more I prayed, the more I became discouraged. Nothing was happening. It wasn’t working.  I felt ashamed of my inadequate faith.

Desperately wondering what to do next I decided I needed prayer support, someone who would and could pray for us. I remembered that day 18 months ago as I was driving from Cincinnati to Kansas City to see Lisa and young Jack. I remembered receiving a phone call on that drive from a good friend, a mother with four children of her own, and one of the best prayer warriors I know. I remembered how her words brought me such comfort which, I believe, eventually brought me to placing my full trust in Jesus.

I called her and I reached her on the second try. I explained my predicament and my worries. I confessed that even though I was repeating, “Jesus, I trust in You” over and over, I really wasn’t feeling very trustful. Once again her words helped calm me as she reminded me to simply trust in His will; that my daughter and baby are in His loving hands; to accept His Grace; and that He will not give us anything we can’t handle. She said she would pray for me, Lisa and her baby.

A few miles further down the road I received a message from my friend that she, her husband (also a very close friend) and their four children had just prayed, as a family, a decade of a rosary for us. She told me that she found her prayer very peaceful, that she had a calming peace thinking of me driving and praying the rosary. She reminded me again to lean on and have faith in the Blessed Virgin’s intercessory prayers to Jesus, and that she knew Mother Mary was holding Lisa’s hand. When I arrived at my hotel, I messaged her back thanking her and her family for all their prayers. While I had not yet had that moment of divine revelation that everything was going to be okay, I at least felt better. I was mentally exhausted and, going to bed, I immediately fell asleep.

That was the best night’s sleep I’d had in quite some time. When I awoke on Thursday morning I did something I’d never done before. I don’t know where it came from but I uttered, “God is with me. How can it be anything but a beautiful day?” As I was clearing the fog from my mind I realized I knew Lisa and baby would be just fine.

A short while later I talked to my wife. It was at this time I heard her explain that the complications with Lisa’s pregnancy were nothing to get excited or worried about.

Then, I had another revelation. I realized that my fear had been keeping me from accepting God’s Grace. I thought, “He’s probably been intent on getting His Grace to me one way or the other. If I wasn’t going to accept it directly, He would have to get it to me indirectly. So, He brought my friend to mind knowing I would trust her, that through her she would help me hear Him.”

Now it all became clear: It wasn’t Lisa or her baby who needed help. It was me.

That’s God working through the power of Christian Community.

“Lord Jesus, thank You for Your love and for continuing to shower me with Your Grace. Thank you for blessing me with friends who love me and care for my spiritual welfare and pray for me to grow closer to You. Help me to get past my fear so that I may fully trust in You. Amen.”

(Indirect Grace was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2016 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.

Christ, Be Our Light!


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Christ be our light 2.jpg

As our deacon read the Gospel this morning at mass I couldn’t help but smile and look up to the crucifix hanging above the altar. I nodded to Jesus and uttered, “Thank you, Lord.” The Gospel reading for the day was Luke 10:25-37 which contained Jesus’ response to the scholar of the law about the Greatest Commandment:

27”You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

and the Parable of the Good Samaritan:

30Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. (A priest and a Levite passed him by and offered no help)…. 33But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. 34He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he…. took him to an inn and cared for him…..36[Jesus asked], Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robber’s victim?” 37He [the scholar] answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Our priest gave his homily and spoke of the recent violence in Dallas, Texas. He referred to this passage from Luke and reminded us that all lives matter, that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are all neighbors and, in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we all deserve mercy. Once again, I looked to the Lord, smiled and said, “Thank you!”

The hymn sung during the presentation of the gifts was one of my favorites, Christ, Be Our Light! As I sung the following words to verse two I closed my eyes and whispered, “Thank you, again, Lord! I’m getting the message!”:

“Longing for peace, our world is troubled. Longing for hope, many despair. Your word alone has power to save us, Make us your living voice. (Chorus) Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts, shine through the darkness. Christ, be our light! Shine in Your Church gathered today.”

These three, the gospel, homily and hymn were the perfect prelude for the next four days. Today through next Wednesday ten of us from our parish, five adults and five youths, will be serving our neighbors in need in one of the poorest areas of our country, Appalachian Eastern Kentucky.

This is my third year in a row to work with Hand in Hand Ministries at their Auxier Center in Floyd County, Kentucky, and the second time to chaperone a youth group. HHM is an excellent organization serving the needs of the community by coordinating and managing projects so that volunteers like us can work to improve the living conditions of those most in need.

But, the physical work we do is secondary to the real mission: to build up individuals and families whose spirit may have been broken as a result of their poverty; to build relationships with them which, by hearing their voice, will ease their loneliness; and by giving them hope by being Christ’s hands and feet to them. It’s a beautiful thing.

As our priest blessed the ten of us after mass, I thought of our five charges and prayed, “Lord Jesus, give us the Grace to lead these kids with understanding, let us demonstrate Your mercy by being merciful, and, as we are trying to be Your hands and feet to those whom we serve, give us the Grace to see You in them. Amen.”

(Christ, Be Our Light! was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2016 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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In yesterday’s post Without Cost You Have Received; Without Cost You Are To Give I mentioned it feels like I’ve been drinking from the fire hose of Grace this week. It has been a spectacular week for me and it seems I see God working in my life about every time I turn around.

The week started off especially nice as it was a four day weekend for me. I took Friday off and then Monday was Independence Day holiday. I had a stress-free four days away from work during which time I worked like a dog around the house and got several projects started or completed which I had put off for too long.

Monday began as any typical holiday but by mid-day it unfolded into a beautiful blessing for my family. It wasn’t the red white and blue patriotism, or mouth-watering barbeque or the thrill of the fireworks. Nope. It was the call at mid-day from our daughter, Mary, in Louisiana saying she was in labor with her first child and that he would probably be a Fourth of July Firecracker baby. This would be my third grandchild and my second grandson. Being a father of four daughters, I kind of like this grandson business!

My projects took a back seat to the rest of the afternoon spent mostly in prayer including a rosary. I prayed for a safe delivery, that God would guide the hands of the physicians, and that baby and mother would both be healthy considering he would be entering this world two weeks early. God delivered and by early evening I was looking at texted pictures of our beautiful new grandson, Patrick, and huge smiles from Mary and my son-in-law, Michael. Patrick was perfect. Two thoughts crossed my mind: that he was made in the likeness of God Himself; and that the birth of a human child is surely one of God’s greatest achievements, his most beautiful miracle.

Tuesday was spent floating in air, my heart about to pop the buttons off my shirt! I don’t know how many times I stopped during the day to pray, to give thanks to God for so many prayers answered and to pray more for continued good health for mother and baby.

On Wednesday morning I found myself back walking on the ground but still so grateful for God’s blessing. I got a few things accomplished at my office before noon when I received another special phone call. My daughter, Lisa, who lives in Kansas, was heading to the hospital to deliver her second child and second son, also two weeks early.

It was like déjà vu. Stop what I’m doing and start praying. Instead of going to lunch I stopped by church and prayed a rosary in Adoration in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. I had to drive four hours on business that evening so I had plenty of time to pray in the car and I managed two more rosaries.

Lisa’s delivery didn’t go as quickly as Mary’s and it wasn’t until Thursday afternoon that our third grandson, Edward, was born into the world. He and his mother were both healthy and he, like his cousin, Patrick, and his Creator, was also perfect. Another beautiful miracle!

It doesn’t get much better than this.

Heavenly Father, I give You thanks with all my heart for Your many blessings, especially for the children You bestowed on my wife and I, and now for the blessing of them having and loving children of their own. Lord Jesus, I give You thanks for being with them through their pregnancies and for holding their hands during childbirth. Holy Spirit, thank You for helping me to see God’s glory in the miracles He creates. I praise You, Holy Trinity, for filling my heart with love for You and my family. I earnestly pray for all the unborn children whose lives were ended through abortion, may they be joyfully playing in heaven; and, I pray for the parents of those children who failed to accept the miracle of Your love, may they find a way to penitently turn to You. Amen.

(Miracles was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2016 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.

Without Cost You Have Received; Without Cost You Are To Give


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Jesus sends the Apostles c.1300 Duccio Di Buoninsegna

Jesus Sends the Apostles – Duccio di Buoninsegna, c.1300

1Jesus summoned His twelve disciples….and said: 7As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give….11Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. 12As you enter a house, wish it peace. 13If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you.” (Mt 10:1, 7-13, NAB)

It’s been two and a half months since I’ve posted. I’d like to say my busy-ness has been a factor but, honestly, I haven’t felt inspired. I had three posts in four days back in April and then….nothing, not an idea, not a sign, nada. Looking back, I’m sure God spread many gems of Grace in my path but in my blindness all I saw was a gravel pit.

Fast forward to this week and suddenly I feel as though I’m drinking from a fire hose. It’s like a divine thirst quenching and God will only close the valve when He knows I am sated. Everywhere I look I see with acute clarity God working in my life: events, conversations, images, ideas, scripture, people I’ve met. I sense God telling me, “Son, I’m giving you a plethora of inspiration, now do something with it!”

But, where do I begin? I was pondering this question yesterday afternoon when I finally had a chance to read the last two day’s scripture passages. As I read the Gospel, Mt 10:1-15, it became clear where to start: heed Christ’s command to “Go”. Go and spread the Word. Jesus summoned me three years ago in my Confirmation and asked me then to share my faith with others, a directive I gladly accepted. And I have let Him down over the last 10 weeks.

I know that without cost, without asking, I have received God’s freely given Grace. My so-called “inspiration” is actually His gift to me. His expectation is for me to pass the gift along to others without cost.

Within the boundaries of my world, the sphere of influence in which I live, my opportunities to evangelize are few. This blog has been my way of spreading the Word. I know though, for the most part, that my reflections are mere preaching to the choir, that the audience I reach is already strongly Catholic.

My hope has always been that, through His Grace, my repackaging of His gift to me may reach a few who need just that little extra something to help them turn back to Him, a cure for their sickness so to speak; and occasionally reach one or two who will have a conversion experience, a driving out of demons if you will, because of a God-moment I’ve shared.

I admit I have, at times, allowed myself to become discouraged when it comes to posting and occasionally I have not posted because of it. I get few comments or feedback on my posts to tell me whether I’m connecting with my readers. I suspect that’s an indication of the quality of my content or of my writing style. But, I do the best I know how and I remind myself that I’m not in it for my ego. Thus, as I contemplated the Gospel passages above, I realized that I’m called to offer this gift with a wish of peace regardless if many choose to accept it or pass it along further. One or two is enough. And, if it’s not accepted, I need to move to the next house, or post, and let my peace return to me.

In going back to the question of, “where do I begin?” I hope to share with you several new reflections over the next few days. I hope they will cause you to reflect a moment on your own. I hope you will share them with me and others. And, I hope they bring you His peace.

God bless you all.

(Without Cost You Have Received; Without Cost You Are To Give was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2016 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.