Calendar & Seasons

A Practical Plan for Advent 2020

The Annunciation (detail) by Caravaggio

If we lose our focus on the Lord, neither his coming in past history, nor his coming at the end of time will have much meaning for us. We will be like the people who Isaiah describes, “There is no one that calls upon thy name, that bestirs himself to take hold of thee” (Isaiah 64:7). “Take heed, watch and pray…” […]

All Souls Day and Prayers for the Dead

"The Madonna of Carmel and the Souls of the Purgatory" (detail) by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

I’ll never forget that bleak January day when my father died.  It was very hard to believe in the resurrection as I watched the undertakers carry away his lifeless corpse in a body bag. But imagine this scene.  You are an unborn child who has lived in cozy but cramped quarters with your twin for nine months.  But now you […]

Celebrating the Assumption of Mary

"The Assumption of the Virgin" (detail) by Guido Reni

On August 15th of each Liturgical Year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the United States, the Assumption is a Holy Day of Obligation unless it  falls on a Saturday or Monday, in which case the precept to attend Mass is abrogated: “Whenever January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or August 15, […]

Crossing the Threshold of Holy Week

"The First Eucharist" by Juan de Juanes

It caught me by surprise that the Carmelite Sisters keep a complete and prayerful silence during the Holy Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, not speaking until the conclusion of the evening Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday. I remember when I was the “new kid on the block,” a recently-arrived postulant who was learning more and […]

How to Respond When You Meet Suffering

"Charity of St. Elizabeth of Hungary" (detail) by Edmund Blair Leighton

In 2005 while undergoing chemotherapy, I was sitting in an uncomfortable recliner on the sixth floor of the medical facility. An IV dripped poison into my veins that would simultaneously cure me of the cancer in my body, and wreak havoc on it, sending waves of nausea, chills, malaise. The concoction did not discriminate between healthy and cancer cells. It […]

Christ in the Desert

"Crossing of the Red Sea" (detail) by Hans III Jordaens / Public domain

“…if anyone wishes to seriously exercise the spiritual life, he had better know that the company of people that hold our own faith and worship in our own churches is a most difficult company to keep. And we ought not to pretend we can follow God very far unless we know that it is a desert like asceticism.” I write […]

Living the Faith in Ordinary Moments

Candlemas and the Presentation of the Lord have already arrived! Christmas Day was forty days ago. We’ve been in the season of Ordinary Time on the liturgical calendar for three weeks. Before we know it, Lent will be upon us. That’s what happens in this earthly life—we move through time. We mark moments in time that represent important events. Time […]

Eliminating Obstacles Between Christ and Us in 2020

"Christ the Consolator" (detail) by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As I considered what to write for this post in the first week of 2020, I reflected on years of well-intended resolutions to lose weight, go to daily Mass, pick up a new hobby, play more tennis, etc. which ended in failure as my desires clashed with the reality of my busy schedule and stubborn resistance to change. I like […]

God’s Greatest Gift

"Adoration of the Shepherds" (detail) by Gerard van Honthorst [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Merry Christmas! I love holidays. I love family. The two just seem to go together, don’t they?. Some holidays are joyful gatherings, some not so much. We are all too human, as the saying goes. But I say, give me holidays and family any day; warts and […]

Learning from the Shepherds at Midnight Mass

"Adoration of the Shepherds" (detail) by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This message, indeed, “cannot leave us indifferent.” Because it is true, “it changes everything.” There is something beautifully symbolic about the tradition of Midnight Mass. It shows that Christians are so eager for Christmas to begin that they want to start celebrating on the first moment of Christmas day. People who ordinarily never go out late at night and are […]