Showing posts with label Saints. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saints. Show all posts

Thursday, February 15, 2018


St. John Vianney (1786-1859, Ars, France) was a man sought far and wide for his wisdom and spiritual counsel. He spent countless hours in the confessional, hearing thousands of confessions every year. His homilies and guidance were always in his own down-to-earth style. One day, a woman of obvious means came to him and asked a simple question, "What must I do to reduce [lose weight]?" He looked her up and down, noting her fine jewelry and clothing, and her girth, and replied, "About three Lents." It was not well received, to say the least. She was perhaps looking for an easy answer, his response gave none. He read her soul and found that her size was due to a spiritual malady - perhaps greed, gluttony, or sloth - that could only be cured by entering into a penitential season such as Lent.

The danger is that we too often approach Lent with the opposite attitude. We might be tempted to see it as a period of self-improvement. Looking at the number on the scale or noticing the tightness of our clothing, we might decide that this Lent is a great time to diet. We might be tempted, as we look around, to see the people who might benefit from our charity, and so we create a program for giving. We might be aware of a little addiction (chocolate or candy, pop, TV, etc), and decide Lent is a good time to face that. As good-hearted as these kinds of things are, however, they are not Lent. These things can turn Lent into a self-improvement project.

Lent, which we are entering this week, is about seeking God and His will. We ought to always seek to eliminate from our lives the things that distract us from God and those things to which we are 'inordinately attached' - those things that take too much of our time and attention compared to their eternal value. Lent is about allowing God's grace to transform us, not about our improving ourselves. While it might be true that we see the same effects, we enter Lent to fast, not to diet. We seek to give alms, not to seek reward for charitable giving. We seek the Lord in prayer, not just of self-reflection. We might not need to enter Lent for the same reason as the woman that St. John Vianney encountered, but we need Lent. Let's enter it well, seeking the Lord and His grace, so that as we gather to celebrate Christ's resurrection, we may do so with hearts set free.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A secret

I want to share a secret: the Church is filled with sinners. I admit that it is not a very good secret. At times, though, we can pretend that it is a secret or that we are not really sinners. We act like this statement in itself is scandalous, ignoring that is the sinful behavior that is cause of scandal, not that the members struggle with sin. From the first apostles until now, this has been the case. Call to mind the original 12 apostles. They were not perfect. Time and again, they bumbled their way through life. Consider St. Peter, patron of our fair city. He sometimes got things so right - making the bold profession that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and having courage to take the first step onto the water, only to display complete ignorance to God’s will or take his eyes off our Lord. Or think of Judas, the man who could follow Jesus for three years, but sold him out for thirty pieces of silver, then to commit suicide in despair. The other apostles who ran, hid, or were skeptical. No, the Church, as beautiful as she is as a whole, is filled with sinners in her members. But that is good - the Church is a hospital for the sick, not a shrine for the perfect. We as members are not perfect, but the Body of Christ, united to Christ as head, is. While the vile acts of some priests have certainly challenged us, the message of the Church remains - that Christ is our savior. But we still act in such a way that suggests we can keep this secret. First, we members and leadership attempt to be “Nice”, and to avoid anything that would not be seen as ‘nice’. We become too accommodating, allowing bad behavior because we are in the Church (a problem that also plagued the early Church as some rejoiced in the freedom to sin) . We do not want to offend anyone, so we allow sin to go unchallenged. We too often allow unprofessional behavior in the workplace lest we come off as mean. We are members of the Church, after all, and we are supposed to love and accept everyone, right? The opposite of this being nice is also prevalent - we can be done right mean. We disparage those who do not meet our ideas of perfection, and we become too demanding. Specifically, we might look at incidents of members condemning a unmarried woman who is pregnant, or groups protesting funerals as God’s punishment. Neither of these extremes (nice or mean) reveal Jesus. Jesus is merciful, certainly, but He is also just. He spent time with prostitutes and tax collectors, but did not confirm them in their sins but called them to conversion. We need to be kind and loving, but the most loving thing we can sometimes do is challenge someone to be better, to respond to grace. Too often the charge of hypocrisy is thrown around when we do so, however. It is not hypocrisy to be a sinner seeking conversion, but it is hypocrisy to pretend like we do not sin, or to hold others to standards we do not apply to ourselves, however imperfectly. Only when we get beyond the fear of being called hypocrites, only when we stop fearing that we are sinners to be discovered, will we find the grace to move forward in the Lord. The truth is that there are sinners in the Church, but we are sinners who know our savior is Jesus who loves us and calls us to repentance.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Some Thoughts on Vocations

As I depart, I want to share some things I have learned about vocations these last years. While mostly random thoughts, I hope that these can help us continue to build a culture of vocations.
1. The New Evangelization is absolutely necessary. This New Evangelization is not a program, rather a focus on the proclamation of Jesus Christ, to re-propose to people who may have some familiarity to Him, but do not let that knowledge deepen within them. It is not about a re-invigoration of parishes or promotion of more programs. We live in a culture that is further disconnected from God and the faith. The New Evangelization sees this as a new opportunity to proclaim Christ. It is proclaiming Christ to a world that has a ‘certain forgetfulness of God’, as Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us several times. When we can share the love of Christ, tell of His mercy and forgiveness, and help others begin to live a moral life, discernment inevitably follows. True, though, that the New Evangelization will lead to vibrant parishes, but only because the faith has taken flame in the hearts of parishioners!
2. Vocations are everyone’s business. It is not just the Director of Vocations, or the Bishop, or the priest personnel board, or even only the parish pastors who are responsible for promoting vocations. It belongs to everyone, ordained, vowed, and lay men and women of all ages. The flame of faith in the hearts of the faithful lead to a desire that others be on fire with the love of God. They encourage others to respond to the promptings of the Spirit to answer a vocation, and all can personally invite a young man or woman to consider a vocation.
3. Personal Invitation is vital. We can help others hear the voice of Christ by inviting them to consider a vocation. To highlight the point of personal invitation, over 75% of seminarians state that they were encouraged and invited to discern a vocation by a priest, but only about 33% of priests are inviting young men – imagine if we could get at least another third of priests to invite! Further, imagine a parish or diocese in which a majority of the members are listening to the promptings of the Spirit and invite others to follow the Lord.
4. Fear is an obstacle to the spiritual life and to the growth of vocations. Some are afraid to invite others to consider a vocation because of a fear of rejection. Some are afraid to give their lives to God, fearing it will lead to unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Jesus assures us time and again, though, “Be not afraid!” We must also remember that perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:18). We need to grow in more perfect love – something we do when we pray.
5. Prayer, even the most humble, is more powerful than any vocations program. If we are not praying, how can we expect other to pray. Recognition of a vocation is born from the silence of prayer. As one grows in relation with the Holy Trinity, one also is more able to respond to the promptings of the Spirit.
6. When we pray, we must be specific. While it sounds rather bold, it is necessary and theologically sound. Like personal goals, or even a programed GPS, when we are specific in our prayers, we might also see what we need to do to help God grant those prayers or at least be moving in the right direction. Generic prayer and sacrifice for vocations are good, but to offer specific prayers (a rosary a day or an weekly hour of adoration, for example) or specific sacrifices (like fasting from meat on Fridays) are powerful. Pray for a specific number of seminarians or religious, parishioners, pray for those discerning to come from “our parish”. Families, pray for that a son or daughter may be open to discerning! Be specific.
7. We must present vocations out of a great opportunity versus crisis. In our great Diocese of New Ulm, like many throughout the world, it is easy to focus on the need we have for priests. Some, when they do speak on vocations and the need for priests, do so from a very pessimistic perspective. Giving the impression all is lost, and that the Church as we now have it is a sinking ship, leads to despair and many who may be called to walk away in despair. While we cannot be Pollyannish – ignoring the difficulty of our current situation – we must realize that God is still God, and He continues to call men to the priesthood, and men and women to the religious life. We need to encourage them instead of discouraging. Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, so it is safe to remain in the “barque of Peter”, in fact – it is the safest place to be.
8. There is a vocations crisis, but one that is bigger than just priests. We see the deterioration of family life in divorce, the attempts to redefine family in which the nuptial meaning of procreation is questioned due to the rampant culture of death. In such a climate, making a lifelong, permanent choice is difficult, if not impossible for many. To confront this, a concerted focus needs to be made in highlight the sacrament of matrimony and those who have embraced this vocation. We can highlight those couples lovingly commit themselves to each other freely, and lovingly embrace children as an extension of their love. The majority of priesthood and religious vocations will continue to come from those (in fact, in the Diocese of New Ulm, all of our current seminarians hail from intact families, and a the large majority of priests have intact, biological families). If our youth cannot identify even one strong witness of a married couple in their lives, how can our young discern a loving vocation, and commit themselves to live such a vocation freely and permanently? This is not to say that those from other types of homes cannot hear a vocation, or do not have a vocation, but it certainly makes responding to one more difficult as I can personally testify.
9. Sadly, certain scandals have damaged the personal witness of the vast majority of good and holy priests, adding to the fuel of those who claim vocations are in crisis. As the Church roots out the perpetrators, brings healing to the victims, and reestablishes trust with parishioners and others, we need to be even more diligent in seeking holiness ourselves.
10. Personal witness is the best vocations promotion. St. John Paul II drew hundreds of thousands to World Youth Days. When he died, many expressed concern that World Youth Days would cease to draw youth. While his personality was more reserved and introspective, Pope Emeritus Benedict drew massive crowds as well. The youth expressed that he was authentic. Pope Francis draws crowds with his warmth and wit. But all three drew people for the same reason – they love Jesus Christ with their whole being, and were leading people to Him, not to themselves (as a pop star might). If we want to draw people to Christ, we must be authentic, not pretending to be something we are not. We must avail ourselves of the grace of the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist. We must be in love with Christ, and let that love permeate all that we do and say. In the end, we must all become saints!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

St. Faustina's Prayer to be Merciful to Others

O Most Holy Trinity! As many times as I breathe, as many times as my heart beats, as many times as my blood pulsates through my body, so many thousand times do I want to glorify your mercy.
I want to be completely transformed into your mercy and to be Your living reflection O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of your unfathomable mercy pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.
Help me O Lord that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors souls and come to their rescue.
Help me O Lord that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.
Help me O Lord that my tongue may be merciful so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.
Help me O Lord that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon my self the more difficult and toilsome tasks.
Help me O Lord that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.
Help me O Lord that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May your mercy O Lord rest upon me.

You yourself command me to exercise the three degrees of mercy. The first; the act of mercy of whatever kind. The second; the word of mercy – if I cannot carry out a work of mercy, I will assist by my words. The third; prayer – if I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically. O my Jesus, transform me into yourself, for you can do all things.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Unaware that his 'good things' were from the Lord, the greedy landowner in today's parable thinks he is the source of all that he has. He thinks he can store it all. In the end, greed is the opposite of thankfulness.
when we become aware of all that we have and in reality all that we are is from God, we avoid greed and live lives of gratitude, trying to return to the Lord with thanks for all the good that He has done.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Gives us an opportunity to reflect on who God is in Himself, not just what He does for us. When we say God, we are speaking of a mystery - three persons united in one existence. Our minds cannot grasp it, but the goal of our lives are to experience the vision of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - for the rest of eternity in heaven

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Ascension of the Lord

As we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, we remember that the Lord does not leave us to our own devices, but goes to a place of privilege to watch over and guide us. From there, he sends the Holy Spirit (of which we celebrate the descent next weekend) to be our advocate and guide. So we continue to follow the Lord here on earth, and follow Him in to eternity.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Christ makes all things new! He gives us a new commandment to love one another, but in reality, it is a fulfillment of all the commandments - when we love one another, we are loving God as our creator and Father. As Christ makes us new, pouring His grace in us, let us in turn renew our love for one another!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Third Sunday of Easter

Lord, you know that I love You! St. Peter answers the Lords question with some frustration, and regret, recognizing that Jesus is asking three times to undo the three-fold denial the night before the Crucifixion. Jesus is gentle, of course, leading St. Peter into a deeper conversion of love. The Lord stands before us, too, and asks if we love Him. How we answer must then be lived out!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We might have the temptation, when things do not go well, to sulk, close in on ourselves, and pull away from others. When St. Peter, after a hard night of fishing catches nothing, he is not given the chance, rather, he finds his boat has become the stage of Jesus as he preaches. Jesus rewards his patience by inviting him to go to the deep and cast his nights. There is little protest - Peter is already expressing faith - and they make a mighty catch. Peter, in humility, begs forgiveness.
When we are feeling empty, we need to find Jesus preaching to us, and listen to His invitation to head to the deep water, and to be prepared for a mighty catch!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

We do not know when, but we do know that this world will end. It will be a day beyond all comprehension, awesome and terrifying. But for the faithful, of those that do the will of God, it will be a day that does not bring horror, but of confidence. We need to live our lives in conformity to that day, that when it comes, we can stand before the Son of Man with hearts free from sin and attachment to sin.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

The widow, with so little means, gives freely of her want. She gives as an act of love of God, and does not do so for show our out of pride. Whatever we give, whether our time, talent, or treasure, we should give out of love of God ourselves. We should not look for accolades or any other reason.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Spiritual Discernment Retreat

Fr. Todd Petersen and Margaret McHugh are offering a retreat on Spiritual Discernment for lay people, looking at St. Ignatius of Loyola's great contribution to the Church - the Rules of Discernment. It will be half at the Retreat center of Schoenstatt on the Lake, Sleepy Eye, November 23 through November 25th, with daily Masses, meals, and overnight accommodations. To reserve your place, contact Margaret (507 359-2966 or or Fr. Todd ( by Tuesday, November 20.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Give us this bread always! The crowds cry to Jesus, but it seems that they are only interested in their own stomachs than in the food that Jesus is going to provide. He tells them that He is the "Bread of Life". He is the food that meets more than a biological need - it meets the need for a higher way of living. Jesus is the bread that gives it. In the next weeks, we will continue to hear this message - and Jesus gets stronger. For now, we must ask ourselves, "Are we willing to accept as a gift what the Lord has provided for us, or are we going to grumble, ignoring aha the Lord is truly doing in our lives to lead us to true and lasting freedom?"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Lord sends His apostles, two by two, into the countryside to prepare the people for His message. While they are told to travel light, they are not to travel alone. Following Christ, it would seem, is never an individual task but one that requires companions.
We, too, are called by Christ and sent by Him. We do not travel alone, either. Rather, we follow our vocations with others, even if our particular vocation is individual. We work best when we work together.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, we call to mind that the Lord has a plan for each of us. John knew that task and even in the womb, did it by leaping for joy when our Savior drew near. Most of us are not as wise to know the Lord's plans for us, but we should not lose heart. We remain faithful to the Lord, taking each step toward the Lord, and serve Him wherever we can.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Parent's Guide for Vocations eBook through Kindle Store

I was able to get my Parent's Guide for Vocations adapted to the Kindle. I also was able to add a "Look inside" feature, so you can see the Table of Contents, Index, and random pages.