From the Desk of Deacon Brian


Palm Sunday has always been special. I remember vividly as a small boy the palms given out, their various green hues, their placement behind our home crucifixes to dry out during the year, and the beautiful palm sacred art created by those talented few. It marks the start of Holy Week. A time to hunker down and focus. A time to really fight off the outside world and be immersed in the life of Christ.

Because I cherish Palm Sunday, I have come to feel a bit cheated. This is going to sound silly. We have two Gospel readings on this Sunday. The one about Jesus’ palm- (and cloak-) lined entry into Jerusalem, then we fast-forward in about 10 minutes to His Passion. I wish we could just bask in Jesus’ triumphal entry for a while longer. Watch him and linger on the cheers longer. Really notice that he is riding a colt, a symbol of peace to all, not the war horse of oppressors. Enjoy the sunshine and not have the storm clouds of torture and killing gather so fast. The church does this Gospel “two-fer” so that all will hear the Passion account before Easter.

It’s important during Holy Week not to rush to the next event too fast to fully absorb each of the component parts. Absorb Palm Sunday with its common-man-king majesty without rushing to Holy Thursday. Witness Holy Thursday, the incredible sight of our God, the servant, as He washes dirty feet and then delivers to us His very Body as food, without rushing to Good Friday. Probe the depth of the brutal suffering and death of our God on Good Friday without rushing to the Resurrection. Experience the doubt, loneliness, and fear of Holy Satur- day like the disciples and Mary in the Upper Room without rushing to the Resurrection. Then, rejoice in the glory that HE IS ALIVE on Easter Sunday without rushing anywhere!

Maybe Palm Sunday is a two-fer because triumph and suffering are bound so closely together in our Catholic faith. The fact that joy and suffering can occupy the same place in our hearts is earth-shattering. Thank you Jesus!


We were immediately captivated by the warm welcome and strong spirit of St. Francis when we first arrived! One of the things that bothered me, though, was that it was difficult to pray and prepare for Mass beforehand with so much going on. At times, I felt there was not the reverence I would expect when preparing for the Holy Sacrifice. Musicians were tuning up, choir was practicing, people greeting each other.

Then I realized I had to adjust. We only have one building with limited space and many things to do. We do not have a choir room, a large narthex, or a cavernous sanctuary with remote corners to retreat to in silent prayer. If you have this same difficulty at times, try this: Replace “meek” with “not rigid” in this Scripture: Blessed are the not rigid, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5. Flexibility is a form of meekness. I can get wrapped up in me very easily…my prayer time…my expectations on what is right behavior of others. After some time, I realized the spirit of St. Francis within our restricted space meant more happy noise than I was used to. It’s like getting used to not going to a black tie dinner, but instead, going to Thanksgiving dinner at your Mom’s cramped house in the old neighborhood…less hushed tones, self-consciousness, and controlled movements than a formal dinner and more happy chaos with casseroles coming in, kids running around, and squeezing by and hugging loved ones with joyful laughter and songs!

So I have learned to happily adjust. I make a point of spending time in sacred silence in our chapel during the week so I am not in such dire need of my alone time with Jesus by Sunday. On Sunday, I silently prepare for Mass at our home or close my eyes when parked in our lot and think how wonderful it is to be a part of the faith community I will soon experience. When I am seated before Mass, I now watch without resentment as people greet each other and chat and realize that’s just what Jesus wants, for us to love each other in community and not isolate. I listen to the practicing choir members beautifully “praying twice”. I watch and listen to the sounds of the families with young children and babies and am so grateful they are here to carry on our faith!

If you are trying to find the quietest pre-Mass times at St. Francis, maybe this will help:

Saturday Vigil 4:00pm – Most social and talkative, people just loving each other and getting ready to enjoy Saturday night.

Hispanic Mass 7:00pm – Special time for Hispanic community to come together and share time with la famillia.

Sunday 8:00 am – Quietest and most reverent pre-Mass time with recitation of the rosary and silent prayer most of the time.

Sunday Family Mass 9:30am – Lively time with the dismissal of the 8am and the coming in of 9:00 am with children’s or regular choir practicing.

God bless our noisy, lively, cramped, love-filled multifunctional building!


I used to watch late night television years ago. I would restlessly channel surf, rarely settling on any one program for a long time. I thought I was doing something energizing, multitasking, watching several shows at once. I was really searching, yearning for something. At that time of night, the evangelists would be scheduled and more than any, I would toggle between Billy Graham and Mother Angelica. Very different, but the very same. Graham would speak to throngs on his crusades. Mother would reach millions sitting in her kitschy studio parlor. Billy would quote scripture and explain it with his smooth southern lilt. Mother would capture me with her nasally northeastern punch. Both disarmed me. Both loved the Lord. Both brought many to Christ.

Most fundamental and mainstream Christians adhere to the principle of solo scriptura, or “Bible alone” which holds that the Bible, and only the bible, is the deposit, the source, of Christian faith doctrine. There is one wrinkle in this: Bible alone is not biblical. No where in the Bible can you find this exclusive doctrine articulated. I understand that the intent of Bible alone is to keep the faith pure and uncorrupted, but there is no evidence that this is the way God wished it to be done.

As Catholics, we believe in the three legged stool of faith that stands firmest: 1) Sacred Scripture (Amen!); 2) Sacred Tradition (with a capital “T”); and 3) Church Teaching (a/k/a the Magisterium). The Bible verses we as Catholics take our instruction from are the Timothy’s.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture is inspired by God and is useful in teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for teaching in righteousness. Sacred Scripture holds a very high place in instruction, but it does not say it is the only one in that place.

1 Timothy 3:16 – Know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and the foundation of the truth. It is the church that is the basis and upholder of the Truth that reverences and looks to both Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Traditions of the early church established before and while scripture was recorded.

2 Timothy 3:23-24 – Avoid foolish and ignorant quarrels, be gentle with everyone, be able to teach, tolerant, correcting opponents with kindness. We should always be ready to give a defense for our faith, to say only what is necessary, kind, and true.

One of the more impressive developments in the past 20 years is the spread of Catholic bible studies and Catholics joining in ecumenical bible studies. Thank you Billy for delivering the Word! Thank you Mother for the Splendor of Truth and Beauty in the fullness of our faith!


We visited a larger church in the diocese one recent Saturday after- noon. We arrived 20 minutes early and sat about 12 pews back. The congregation seemed very kind and were also reverent in their quiet preparation for the Mass. A friendly parishioner came through the side door at the left of the altar happily walking in front of the front pew and then…THUD! She disappeared from view and hit the ground.

No one seemed to move to help her for what seemed liked forever. I (the so-called “deacon”) flinched as if to go assist, but didn’t help either. Why??

The Bystander Effect: A sociological phenomenon in which the greater the number of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in distress. When an emergency situation occurs, observers are more likely to take action if there are few or no other witnesses. Being part of a large crowd makes it so no single person has to take responsibility for an action (or inaction). Wow, it’s kind of disturbing, isn’t it?

It doesn’t always take an emergency for The Bystander Effect to kick in, just a lot of people gather together with something to do. It impacts us at Mass sometimes. “It’s a pretty big crowd, they won’t miss my voice” or outside of Mass. “It’s a nice church, friendly, they seem to have it under control, they don’t seem to need any help.”

Two factors lessen the Bystander Effect: 1) Smaller group, and 2) Knowing each other. These two factors are among the many that make St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Mission the perfect place to experience the Truth and Beau- ty of our faith in worship / fellowship, and through which to live out our lives as Christian witnesses in the world. We need to be vigilant to keep the Holy Spirit’s love alive in our blessed community.

By the way, the woman described above tripped on the rug runner coming into church and seemed to just laugh it off. Not assisting still made me uncomfortable.

Lenten Food for Thought: How can I become less of a bystander and more of a member in the Body of Christ right now?


With the first full week of Lent under your belt, maybe it’s not going as planned. Maybe you’ve been unable to sustain giving up the thing you wanted to. No doubt fasting is a discipline that can elevate your spiritual condition. But remember, Lent is about change, hopefully sustained change. Change that aims at one thing: Drawing you into a more intimate relationship with God. Fasting is a means to this change. But it is not the only means.

Here are some non-fasting ideas that may re-invigorate your Lenten journey towards Him:

• Take a Break from Social Media – Use that time for prayer or family.

• Quit Watching the News – Focus on things going on in your home or community.

• Stop Texting Friends – Call them.

• Pray the Rosary on the Way to Work

• Cut Off Toxic “Friendships”

• Compliment Someone Who is Unkind to You

• Pray for Someone You Don’t Like

• Start Your Day on Your Knees with a Quick Morning Prayer

• Take 15 Minutes a Day to Sit in Silence – Just be.

• Forgive Someone Whom You Resent – Now.

• Examine Your Current Struggle – What is God showing you?

• Don’t Complain – Catch yourself and quickly replace it with a positive.

• Do an Examination of Conscience Each Evening – Follow it with an Act of Contrition

• Live Like the Next Moment Could Be Your Last
Lent is a focused time to become the person God desires us to be. Sometimes this requires us to “get out of our own way” by removing the spiritual clutter that creeps into our lives. That’s when His glory becomes radiantly clear…

It wasn’t supposed to happen. I was getting myself into the best shape in years. I no longer had job stress. Mary Pat is a fantastic healthy cook, but it still happened. I had a heart attack.

I was not going to write about such a personal event, but it is too filled with the hand of God not to. The prophet Ezekiel describes what God does for us: “I will give to you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove from your stony heart and give you a natural heart”. He did this for me years ago when he placed people in my life who not only taught me about his Son but guided me how to walk with Him.

Mary Pat said it was a miracle that I recognized what was happening and got to the ER on time. I thought “miracle” was too strong a word. My son Brian set me straight: “Dad, maybe you don’t want to use that word, but God put together this sequence of events that saved you”… Amen to that. He also told me that he got up in the middle of the night to say a rosary to pray for my surgery success. My almost 3-year old granddaughter Evey voice texted me: “Feel better PeePaw!”

Coincidence? I don’t think so. Not when a Catholic priest stands in your hospital room doorway right at the last minute before being wheeled down to surgery. I received the beautiful sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. After reciting the ancient words and tracing my forehead and palms with crosses of sacred oil, Father turned to the nurses, aide, and transporter in the room and announced with paternal love: “This is our Deacon”. As they wheeled my stretcher through the halls, I looked up at the ceiling tiles.Tears rolled down my cheeks. I now have received all seven sacraments. The expected one hour surgery to assess my heart blockage turned into more than three hours. Why? Stony heart. My lovingly imposed healthy regimen had done its job, buto my health heritage loaded calcium in my artery. Doctor said it was like cement that had to be drilled through. This column is not long enough to tell you about the miracle of healing that happens to all of us if we are open to it.

It is 2:30am as I write this in my hospital room. I was just texted the above picture from a friend. He’s kneeling at his weekly Adoration time at his parish, lifting me up in recovery and texting under the live picture of Jesus: “Holy hour for Brian and MP”. My heart overflows.


Holy Scripture urges us to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” and we know that much can be heard in Sacred Silence. But what about in be- tween? The priest or deacon whispers certain “inaudible words” during the Mass; simple, beautiful, profound, humble prayers mostly said on behalf of all of us gathered. Let’s listen.


When we stand, and the joyful Alleluia is sung, the Deacon comes out in front of the Priest, bows and requests: “Your blessing, Father”. The Priest instructs the Deacon: “May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips, that you may proclaim the Gospel worthily and well, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. After signing himself, the Deacon says: “Amen”. This is a very special time. Thoughts of Jesus sending the disciples forth come to my mind. Having the awesome honor to proclaim Jesus’ words is just that, awesome and humbling. I always listen carefully to Father’s words and take the words in. It’s not about me, it’s about Him. When there is no Deacon, the Priest bows at the altar and says: “Cleanse my heart and my lips almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your holy Gospel”. After we proclaim the Gospel, the Priest or Deacon kisses the Book of Gospels and says quietly: “Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away”. Talk about a powerful prayer offered for us all!

DURING AND AFTER THE EUCHARIST – When the Deacon or Priest puts a drop of water in the chalice of wine, it represents human nature joining with divine nature, he then says one of the most beautiful words in the Mass: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity”. Just…meditate…on…this! After the Priest presents the gifts and we say, “Blessed be God forever”, the Priest places the chalice on the altar and says quietly: “With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God”. This reminds me of the Jewish priests under the Old Covenant going into the holy of holies to offer sacrifice for the people. Under the fulfilled New Covenant, it is the timeless sacrifice of Jesus, stretching backwards and forward forever, for us. When the Priest washes his hands, he says to himself: “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin”. Said for him for us. When the Priest breaks the host over the paten for all to see this is called the Fraction Rite. It says to us that Jesus was broken for us to be shared as our eternal food. Then the Priest breaks off and places a small piece of Jesus’ body in the chalice with his blood and says quietly: “May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it”. This is Jesus coming back, in the Resurrection, glory to us all! An end to death! Before the Priest consumes Jesus, he says to himself: “May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life,” “May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life”. This is when I cheer for Father to myself (inaudibly) asking the Lord to grant this! While purifying the vessels the Deacon or Priest prays to himself: “What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity”. Again, such profound beautiful requests offered for us all bridging man-time with God-time. I really need the healing part.

On the Monday following the Feast of the Epiphany, we packed up the Christmas decorations. I then started grabbing the figurines out of the Nativity scene and shoving them into the little crinkly bags…wait a minute! Are you serious? This is not some job to bang out of the way! This is the Incarnation of Jesus. Salvation history! Eternal love! So, I paused and took my time.

I thought random thoughts as I picked up each player in this divine scene and the scene itself. We brought this Nativity scene back from our pilgrimage to the Holy Land a few years ago. It’s made of olivewood from Bethlehem similar to our Stations of the Cross at St. Francis. The wood is smooth and feels good, kind of therapeutic in my fingers. I see the flat palm tree on the front of the stable. It reminds me that Jesus was Middle Eastern, that Christmas did not occur in a cold place. I thought how Christians are in minority in the Holy Land and how we would hear the Muslim calls to prayer with extremely loud horns in the middle of the night. I thought about persecuted Christians and the many more martyrs we have today for our precious faith.

Then I started to pick up each figure, look at it closely, then close my eyes and think about his/her/it’s role in the scene. The three wise men just arrived yesterday. Gold (valuable/earthly king), frankincense (sweet perfume/deity), and myrrh (anointing oil/death). Was this the first ecumenical meeting?

The kings were not Christians. They were astrologers who looked to the stars for truth. They were pagans, but they knew something very special was happening.

I looked at the shepherd boy. He has a little staff you insert in his hand each year. I have to be careful to pack it well and not crack it each year. He is so young. What a job. Sleeping in the fields and across the gate of the sheepfold to protect these undisciplined creatures that will follow direction if you give it to them. The sheep know his voice. Then there are a couple of sheep and an ox or a ram? Is that the ram that got caught in the thicket that God told Abraham to offer in the holocaust so Isaac would be spared? Maybe.

Then I took Joseph in my hand and thought how he has no lines in Scripture. Silent, behind the scenes, sense of duty. Great model for dads. I don’t like the old Joseph in sacred art. If Mary was 14 or 15, I think of Joseph as 21 or 22, at least this figure looks that age. Then I picked up Mary and gratefully think how my love and devotion to her has deepened in recent years. All the Marian devotions escaped me growing up. I just couldn’t get it. I now have something special and it is growing and I cherish it. I held Mary and said a Hail Mary, in French, “Je vous salue Marie, pleine de grace, le Seigneur est avec vous.”

Before holding Jesus, I held his manger, thinking how Our King came to the world in a homeless place and was placed in a trough used for the slop that animals ate. Then I held Him and was thankful for this bit of Ordinary Time before I follow Him to Jerusalem to witness His brutal treatment and Ultimate Sacrifice. True love.

Yes, Mass attendance numbers continue to decline and more people mark “none” than ever before as their religious affiliation, but there is a distinct attraction bring- ing young adults to the Catholic faith.In France there has been a renaissance of church attendance, a sort of pushback on secularity. These young adults do not want a watered down version, they are yearning for full tilt faith. One that evokes other worldliness, one that can deeply change a person, one that is both refuge from a crazy world and a springboard into it with purpose. Lori Fusak from Arizona is one of these young adults in the US. She’s pictured here having her last In-N-Out burger (they are only out west and they are awesome!) before she enters the convent of the Missionaries of Charity. This is one young adult’s top 10 reasons to be Catholic:

• We teach about what is really good, true, and beautiful. All three matter. Most modern education questions if there really is goodness, truth, and beauty. We say: “Yes! And it’s all in one place”.

• Not afraid of culture, but not just a part of it either. Yes, we have to live in the world. But, we are called to change it, not let it change us. Hard to do, but awesome when we do it.

• We take the Devil seriously. Otherwise exorcism, confession, and crucifixes wouldn’t make cool movies. The devil is real and is our real enemy. He bites and we help him bite the dust.

• Natural Family Planning (NFP). We talk about sex as a natural and organic part of life and we work with our bodies to space births in marriage. The prevailing mentality is one that is pro-contraception.

But, organic sex in marriage is the truth, beauty, and goodness mentioned above!

• Civil disobedience. In refusing to obey laws that are unjust, we show the world that there are more important things in life than just getting along. When necessary we march, picket, and if it comes to it, we will even be thrown in jail or killed for our beliefs.

• Counter-cultural rebels. Who else can be found advocating outside an abortion clinic, praying in an adoration chapel, listening to a theology presentation in a bar, hanging a pic or a Saint’s card in a cubicle at work, confessing sins to a priest, and hanging out with nuns? Nobody. Catholics who are disciples of Jesus are the most counter-cultural rebels in today’s society.

• Monks brew beer. It might sound silly, but the point is that we don’t believe every good thing in the world which can be abused is bad. Monks brewing beer shows us just how good beer can be!

• We have a sense of humor. We can even laugh at ourselves. A sense of humor is a specific quality assessed for consideration to sainthood!

• We fight for the little guy, both literally and figuratively. We do more for the poor than any other non-governmental organization. Feed the poor, clothe the naked, etc. We also hold the right to life as a sacred duty. Babies ‘R Us. Poor ‘R Us.

• Leaders that lead by example. Think: Heart (JPII), Mind (Benedict), and Soul (Francis).

PONDERING PURGATORY… Whenever we think of our own Judgment before God, most of us agree on one thing: We want to avoid ending up in Hell. We want to end up in Heaven and realize that any sacrifice necessary to get there is worth it. However, there is another possibility: Purgatory. Who goes to Purgatory? People who haven’t reached the fullness of love necessary to reach Heaven. They love God, but not enough. They love other things too much to let go, so they go to Purgatory until they can let go of the things that are keeping them from fully embracing God.

What is Purgatory like? Pope Benedict XVI described it as a state of someone who, although they can clearly see the joy of having Christ’s friendship for all eternity (a/k/a the Beatific Vision), cannot yet fully experience that friendship. It’s like a starving man, who can see, smell and maybe even taste his favorite meal, but cannot eat it…as if it were behind a pane of glass. Imagine the agony of someone who is starving, but cannot eat food that is right in front of him. It might also be compared to seeing the person you love most in the world in front of you.You want to talk to him, but he can’t see or hear you.

The emptiness of this unfulfilled desire for God is so powerful, that it is described as burning like fire. Purgatory is not so much a punishment imposed by God as the condition of someone who cannot reach what they most desire. That person must let go of everything that holds them back from being with God.

Since it is necessary to be free of sin and even attachments to sin to enter Heaven, many Catholics believe they will go to Purgatory; as if that “consolation prize” is good enough. Instead of aiming to go to Heaven, they aim to go to Purgatory. Unfortunately, for those suffering the agony of unfulfilled desire for God in Purgatory, it will not feel like it is “good enough”. St. Therese of Lisieux teaches us to aim for Heaven. She says that if we do three things, God will help us avoid Purgatory:

Keep trying (“Try to please God in everything”).

Keep trusting God (“Have an unshakeable trust”).

Be humble (“Recognize your weaknesses”).

This last one is especially difficult. However, if we ask God frequently and humbly for help, he will help us. His loving attention is attracted to humble souls. Be convinced that Heaven isn’t something we earn, but something that we reach in spite of our uselessness. In the end, it is something we can only reach with God’s help. As we begin this New Year, we may wish to look for new ways to practice humility in the hope of avoiding Purgatory altogether. This reflection is an adaptation of an article by Fr. James Swanson, L.C.


This picture is the “thought” imprinted on an herbal tea bag.

I read it and re-read it several times. I was trying to give the author and tea seller the benefit of the doubt. I guess I failed. I could not see much, if any, wisdom in: “In the beginning is you, in the middle is you, and in the end is you.” I suppose it’s some kind of self-empowerment mantra or affirmation. It just seems like total self-absorption to me. The thing is, this is the sentiment of society. I decide what the truth is. The beauty and genius of the Catholic Church is that wisdom is based on universal truths, faith, and reason…not shifts in trend, or me. So maybe instead of making resolutions this year…my resolutions…I will pray deeply and ask Jesus what he wishes me to change or do…for Him. I will run my revelations by my trusted friends, ones who I called spiritual advisors, just so I know The Evil One is not creeping in to delude me as he can do… This may not be a one shot process, a “one and done visit” with Jesus.

It may take some uncovering and opening up…time. I don’t want to get swept up in the commercialism, the consumerism of resolution-making. I would like to get into the sacredness of repentance. The putting on of a new mind. The mind of Christ.

If this leads me to exercising more, eating better, and being purer to follow Him that’s what I’ll do. If I am at the center of it, it won’t last; if He’s at the center of it, it stands an excellent chance.

Here’s a good way to start the New Year resolution-making process, with the Suscipe prayer:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my understanding, and my entire will, and all that I have and possess. You have given it all to me. To you, I return it. Dispose of it entirely according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace, that’s enough for me.

This wisdom will not appear on a tea bag because it calls for pulling one’s self out of the center of the universe and placing God squarely there. Sounds like a good place to start my resolutions…


From 1558 until1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. The Twelve Days of Christmas was written as a catechism for Catholic children. Learn, teach, sing…

1. A Partridge in a Pear Tree—Jesus Christ. A partridge is a bird that is willing to sacrifice its life to protect its young by feigning injury to draw away predators.

2. Two Turtle Doves—Old Testament and New Testament

3. Three French Hens—Theological virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love

4. Four Calling Birds—Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

5. Five Golden Rings—First books of the Old Testament (Pentateuch) Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy which describe man’s fall into sin and the great love of God in sending a Savior

6. Six Geese A Laying – Six days of creation: 1. Light/Dark, Heaven/ Earth; 2. Sky/Waters; 3. Dry Land/Plants; 4. Sun/Moon/Stars; 5. Birds/Fish; 6. Animals/People

7. Seven Swans a Swimming—Gifts of The Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord

8. Eight Maids A Milking—Beatitudes: 1. Poor in spirit (Heaven); 2. Those who mourn (Comfort); 3. Meek (Inherit the Land);4. Hunger/Thirst for righteousness (Satisfied); 5. Merciful (Mercy); 6. Clean of heart (see God); 7. Peacemakers (Called Children of God); 8. Persecuted (Kingdom of Heaven)

9. Nine Ladies Dancing- Fruits of the Holy Spirit: Charity (Generosity), Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness (Kindness), Gentleness, Fidelity, Modesty, Self-Control (Chastity)

10. Ten Lords Leaping—Ten Commandments: 1. One God/No idols; Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain; 3. Keep Sabbath Day holy; 4. Honor Father and Mother; 5. Don’t kill; 6. Don’t commit adultery; 7. Don’t steal; 8. Don’t lie, 9. Don’t covet (lust) another’s wife/ husband; 10. Don’t covet (Envy) another’s goods

11. Eleven Pipers Piping—Eleven Faithful Apostles: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James bar Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas bar James

12. Twelve Drummers Drumming—Twelve points of belief in The Apostles Creed

Test each other around the dinner table! Have a truly blessed Christmas.


The expression “in the pink” means to be in good physical condition. Where did this expression originally come from? We may think that it comes from the rosy cheeks of a thriving child or the color of our healthy internal organs. The expression actually dates back to 16th century England (like most of these sayings). When one was in top form of anything, health, prosperity, or athletics, they were said to be “in the pinnacle”. This was shortened to be “in the pink”.

Today is The Third Sunday of Advent or Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for “Rejoice” and it comes from the Entrance Antiphon of today’s Mass. Violet (so much more gravitas than purple!) is the liturgical color to remind us of the penitent nature of the season, like Lent. We (me included) really should be more introspective, watchful, and emptying during this season to prepare for the awesomeness of God about to join us on earth. It’s hard not to be distracted with the bombardment of media and social pressure and our consumer programmed minds. Now is the time to sweep out the stable, to clear the cave, and to Ad-vent our secular clutter in our brains.

That’s why we have Gaudete Sunday to let us know we are getting close to proclaiming what no other religion can: That our God became one of us! Just pause and really think about this…We are blessed in the church to use either violet or rose (so much more gravitas than pink!) as our liturgical color for this Sunday. It tells us we are getting close to him, the Pinnacle. If you have been too busy or time has just slipped by this Advent, push the reset button now. Suggestions for the week: Spend ten solid minutes each day with an online Advent meditation, attend daily Mass at least one extra day, and/or lead family prayer each evening before or after dinner.

There’s time to prepare and finish “in the pink”!


Lord Jesus, as I enter this workplace, I bring your presence with me. I ask your peace, your grace, and your perfect order to penetrate the atmosphere here.

I acknowledge Your Lordship over all that will be spoken, thought, decided, and accomplished within these walls.

Lord Jesus, I thank you for the gifts you have deposited in me. I do not take them lightly, but commit to using them responsibly and well. Give me a fresh supply of truth and beauty on which to draw as I do my job.

Anoint my creativity, my ideas, my energy, so that even the smallest task may bring you honor.

Lord, when I am confused, guide me. When I am weary, energize me. Lord, when I am burned out, infuse me with the light of the Holy Spirit. May the work that I do and the way I do it, bring hope, life, and courage to all I come in contact with today.

And, Oh Lord, even in this day’s most stressful moments, may I rest in you. In the mighty name that is above all names, in the matchless name of my Lord and Savior Jesus, I pray, Amen.


Mary Pat and I visited our son Brian and his family in New Orleans. We enjoyed the food, culture, music, and faith while were there. The Catholic faith is deeply engrained in the people. Their neighborhood streets spoke of the hub of the parish church and school. Church is at the center of life, literally. Brian embarked on a new teaching career this year and it is a challenge. He teaches ninth grade English at the all boys Archbishop Rummel High School. I have never seen him work so hard preparing his day, during school hours, and after.

The strong faith environment at Rummel is a real support for him. The saying goes that “Other New Orleans schools produces the lawyers, doctors, and politicians, but Rummel produces the priests!” They start every class with prayer.

It is a real “call and response” regimen that really lifts me up…it goes like this:

Teacher: Remember that…

Class: We are in the presence of God!

Teacher: St. John Baptist de la Salle…

Class: Pray for us!

Teacher: Live Jesus in our hearts…

Class: Forever!

Teacher: Thank God Almighty…

Class: I’m a Raider!

All: Our Father…

Unity. Focus. Awareness. Six times a day. Hearing those young men with their deepening voices in unison with singleness of purpose is a sight and sound to behold! The first lines, REMEMBER THAT WE ARE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD, is emblazoned in huge letters on the wall of the main student gathering area. It made me think how much I forget this during the day. Wish I had a community to chant this back and forth during the day. To remember the gifts, graces, duties, and love of Our Father in Heaven.

If you don’t already, you may wish to place reminders of God’s Presence in your home…sacred art, a statue, a holy water dish on the wall to bless yourself as you enter and leave. You may wish also to develop your own family call and response tradition to focus your group prayer. Brian’s school is a holy place that could be tangibly felt. Our homes are “domestic churches” where some of the deepest faith learning can occur…places where it is good to be reminded that we are is God’s presence



Did you notice that Jesus uses exaggerated speech at times to get his message across because the people of the day were so misguided that they needed a jolt to get it right. This messaging technique is called hyperbole, and we see it elsewhere in the Gospel (e.g., “pluck out eye, cut off hand” Mt 5:29-30). In addition to using this strong messaging technique, using for example the title “father” for others is actually  supported elsewhere in the Bible. See below. We should be ready to calmly and lovingly correct others that misread or unfairly isolate Scripture text to question our Catholic faith. The practice of this defense is called apologetics. Remember: The best response when you cannot answer a Catholic faith question is: “I don’t know, but I will find out and get right back to you.” And do it!

  • Mt 19:19 – Jesus confirms commandment “Honor mother and father”
  • Mt 3:9 – Jesus calls Abraham “father”
  • Acts 7:2 – St. Stephen calls Jewish leaders “fathers”
  • Acts 21:40, 22:1 – St. Paul calls Jerusalem Jews “fathers”
  • Rom 4:16-17 – Abraham called “father of all”
  • 1 Cor 4:14-15 – “I became your father in Christ through the gospel”
  • 1 Tim 1:2 – “My true child in faith”
  • Heb 12:7-9 – “We have earthly fathers to discipline us”
  • Lk 14:26 – “If anyone comes to me without hating his father”
  • 1 Thess 2:11 – “We treated you as a father treats his children”


The scribes and the Pharisees are always looking to trip up the faithful by distorting and perverting the Truth. They are still around. The Truth of the Gospel is One. One God. One Father in Heaven. One Teacher above. Strong fathers make strong families. Holy priests that we lovingly call Father make strong communities. We are blessed with both.


Our gratitude may be expressed at our yearly gatherings, but in an increasingly secular society,

“It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with His guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their camps and our sailors on the rivers and seas with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while He has opened to us new sources of wealth and has crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry with abundant rewards. Moreover, He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.”

Done at the city of Washington, this 20th day of October, A.D. 1864, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.



Some asked me to review what holiness has to do with fashion. Here it is: How do we respond to God’s universal invitation to be holy? We change our clothes, of course! Let’s consider three styles for us to change into: “Protective Wear”, “Relaxed Fit”, and “Total Makeover”.

First, “Protective Wear” was originally designed by St. Paul who advises us to “put on the armor of Christ” and was popularized by St. Patrick by his famous Breastplate prayer, designed for those who are very aware that Evil will certainly seek to attack us each day.

Second, the “Relaxed Fit” was also designed by St. Paul and is best shown in his reading last week when he claims that he can live equally well in abundance or need only through God’s strength. Our beloved patron St. Francis of Assisi later embraced this style when he said: “Wear the world as a loose garment, which touches you in a few places and there, lightly.”

Third, the “Total Makeover” is the only style that well known speaker and author Matthew Kelly urges us to consider for our wardrobe change. He says it incorporates the benefits of Protective Wear and Relaxed Fit, and MUCH more…by living the Christian life through the beauty and genius of the Catholic Church. Here’s how:

  1. Bathe your soul in forgiveness and love through the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation found only here,
  2. Be fed by Jesus Himself in the Eucharist found only here,
  3. Bond with Jesus the real person by meditating on Bible passages compiled by this Church.
  4. Give and get active here, part of the largest charitable organization on the planet,
  5. Search and find the Truth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church where all faith questions are answered in easy to read English, and
  6. Be transformed by Sacred Liturgy that has guided us for over 2000 years. Result: Become the Best Version of Yourself.


A co-worker bursts in and asks “Did ya get my email?” that he just sent 20 seconds ago. Your three year old wants you to draw several pictures with them as you are working on a deadline for a huge project. You realize you must evacuate (indefinitely) as a hurricane approaches. You lose your job. You are unexpectedly diagnosed with a severe illness requiring prolonged treatments.

These are various life interruptions that many of you are familiar with. How we handle interruptions in life, small or large, is a measure of our spiritual condition. How close we are to Jesus. What was the first interruption recorded in Holy Scripture? God had Paradise created as man’s home. That was the First Plan. Man disobeyed God. That was the First Interruption. How did God handle interruption? He was incredibly magnanimous, loving, and giving: He sent His only Son to die for us, to die for the result of the First Interruption.

There will be interruptions in our lives, no doubt about it. We need to be prepared for them physically and pre-prayered for them spiritually. When life’s interruptions occur, we may ask “Why me?” or “Now? I can’t believe this!” or we may lash out at the interrupter when we are not pre-prayered. Think of the love of the Father, the love of the Son, and how that love is expressed by the Holy Spirit. Embrace and welcome interruptions? Not sure if I can go that far yet, but I now know where to look and how to act when they come.


A deacon brother of mine and I have passed this prayer back and forth to each other over the years. It seems to always apply…sometimes more than others…


Lord, help me to know what the next step is in my life. I cannot stay put where I am, but I am not sure what comes next. Show me the path for my life, or at least the next portion of it. Help me to focus more on finding a way to serve you than satisfy myself, for I know you will always give me the  strength and satisfaction I need to keep going. Guide me in the ways of truth.



A deacon brother of mine and I have passed this prayer back and forth to each other over the years. It seems to always apply…sometimes more than others…

Lord, help me to know what the next step is in my life. I cannot stay put where I am, but I am not sure what comes next. Show me the path for my life, or at least the next portion of it. Help me to focus more on finding a way to serve you than satisfy myself, for I know you will always give me the  strength and satisfaction I need to keep going. Guide me in the ways of truth.


This question is posed on a church marquee right here in town. It made me think how acceptable gossip has become through reality TV shows, social media, and daily life. I once worked for a private company whose corporate Mission Statement was “To Glorify God and Care for People” and it was a dismissible offense to gossip at work. Wow! It was amazing how this policy fostered an incredibly positive culture. Whenever a discussion was getting close to gossip, someone would usually simply say: “MT18”. This is not the human resource handbook section, it is Matthew’s Gospel chapter 18, verses 15-19. Apply this 4-step process and you will have a healthy family, ministry, business, or parish.

Go Direct

This is the key step. If someone has done or is doing something wrong, speak to them directly. Usually not easy, but sooooo important. Pray first for the Holy Spirit to give you the right words and heart. This is the mandatory step that short-circuits the poison and dysfunction of gossip.

Bring One or Two

If #1 above works, great! If not, go to another person or two in your family, ministry, business, or parish so that “every fact may be established” and present it to the wrong-doer. In families sometimes, we express our difficulties about a family member only to the others and it decays the love that God wishes us to have in this sacred community.

Go to the Group Leader

If #1 and #2 don’t work, then go to the group leader. In our church, sometimes we don’t follow this sequence. A person may feel something is not right so they “discuss” it with other parishioners and then may write a letter to the pastor or bishop, and leave the errant person out of the loop. When we resolve any concerns together, we all grow in the love of Christ.

Pray for Them

If #1, #2, and #3 don’t work, Jesus says “treat them as you would a Gentile or a tax collector”. At first this seems to say, outcast them. Not with Jesus, he mixed with them and had compassion for them. We should sincerely pray for them.

In a form of examination of conscience based on the 10 Commandments I sometimes use, it lists the sin of gossip under “Thou Shall Not Kill”. Seems harsh, but it is really what I recklessly do by not applying Steps 1-4 in order.


Hours before Hurricane Irma hit our area, I walked along the beach and prayed the rosary. It was the Nativity of Mary. I prayed for the intercession of Our Lady of Lepanto, one of Mary’s titles many are not familiar with.

In 1571, there was a huge sea battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy League. The Christians were severely outnumbered, so Pope Pius V opened all churches to pray the rosary day and night to request Mary’s intercession with Jesus. The result was a dramatic unanticipated shift in the Mediterranean winds that led to Christian victory. Irma shifted path too. The power of prayer.

While our power in Fernandina Beach was out during the storm, I thought of living life without electrical power, like the old days. While it has an attraction to a simpler life, I like cranking the AC too much to fully embrace life without 110 volts. I found myself for almost two days “assuming power” by constantly hitting light switches and pressing garage door openers that provided no juice.

I shed my Breviary app for my old worn Liturgy of the Hours volumes to pray morning and evening prayer, waiting for daylight and being sure of its completion before sunset to read those printed pages. There was a peace to it.

“Power is not given, it’s taken” say some in political and financial power. Jesus’ power on earth and heaven was given to Him, by the Father. He was clear about this, especially throughout John’s gospel. As the destruction of Irma came through, I thought of Jesus’ power of destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days. I thought of his crown of piercing thorns puncturing His temples instead of the bejeweled crown of earthly reigns. I thought of the ridicule He suffered instead of adulations the brutal beating instead of pampering. Even before The Passion: The modest upbringing instead of the opulent palace; the itinerant life on the road instead of the comforts of home; the embracing of sinners instead of the exclusion of the club.

Jesus shows us how to assume power in our lives in a way that is still radical today. We follow Him. We do it in silence in our private prayer and we do it together, in community, at St. Francis of Assisi. “Thine is the kingdom, the power, and glory forever and ever. Amen!”


Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From Noah’s Ark No one seems to know where this originally came from, but it’s useful in today’s world and it will make you smile, too. So when life seems too hard, too stressful, or too fast, just think of Noah’s Ark because everything you need to know about life is right there.

  1. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.
  2. Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone might ask you to do something Really big.
  3. Don’t listen to critics. Do what has to be done.
  4. Build your future on the high ground.
  5. For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
  6. Two heads are better than one.
  7. Speed isn’t always an advantage. The cheetahs were on board, but so were the snails.
  8. When you’re stressed, float for a while.
  9. Don’t forget that we’re all in the same boat.
  10. When the doo-doo gets really deep, don’t sit there and complain- shovel!
  11. Stay below deck during the storm.
  12. Remember that the ark was built by amateurs & the Titanic was built  by professionals.
  13. Remember that the woodpeckers INSIDE are often a bigger threat  than the storm outside.
  14. No matter how bleak it looks, there’s always a rainbow on the other  side.
  15. DON’T MISS THE BOAT !!!!


A couple of weeks ago, Father Rafal challenged us whether we may suffer from “spiritual Alzheimer’s” when it comes to knowing who Jesus is. He did not casually offer this reference for our consideration; he was very thoughtful about it. He told the story about how he saw his friend fade away over the years as the result of this devastating disease. I identified strongly with this reference since my dad suffered from this slow debilitating affliction. The once respected lawyer and judge, father of eight, and Catholic Layman of the Year was no longer with us. Father’s point was dramatic for a reason: We all tend to forget who Jesus really is…

Bishop Robert Barron helped me to appreciate where our power to remember (and not forget) comes from: Jesus asks his disciples that devastating question: “But who do you say that I am?” But the disciples don’t speak. Are they afraid? Perhaps. Finally Simon Peter speaks: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” You are the Meshiach, the anointed one, the long-awaited savior, but more to it, you are the Son of God, not just a human hero. This is the mystical faith that stands at the heart of Christianity.

To hold this Petrine faith is to be a Christian; to deny it is to deny Christianity. “But who do you say that I am?” But the disciples don’t speak. Are they afraid? And then those amazing words of Jesus: “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” This insight did not come from Simon’s own intelligent speculation. It came from above, through grace, from God. And this is why Peter is a rock.

The Church is built, not on a worldly foundation of any kind, but on a mystical foundation, born of Peter’s faith in the revealing God. The Church is neither democratic nor aristocratic—it is charismatic. And this is where its power comes from.


“The Church is a house of a hundred gates, and no two people enter at exactly the same angle” once stated the witty Catholic convert and apologist G.K. Chesterton. Cradle Catholic, Conversion Catholic, CEO Catholic (Christmas and Easter only), Fallen Away Catholic, and Reversion Catholic…So many labels! That’s because each of us are on our own unique faith journey.

Some of us were raised Catholic, went to Catholic schools, raised in the local parish with the sacraments not only providing God’s grace but being life milestones. For many, this is what provided the foundation for our faith fifty years later. For some of us, the same experience provided us the reason not to be an active Catholic. Many times it was not a doctrine that turned us off, but a person, place or thing that rubbed us the wrong way. A priest that was judgmental. A parish receptionist that wasn’t nice. A school that was stifling. Mass that is boring.

Some say converts make the best Catholics. This is because they have usually done their homework, searching, and commitment as adults. They intelligently research and discover the Scriptural basis for the Church; they see how Church Tradition complements Scripture and why the Church is hierarchical with the Pope as leader (Jesus set it up that way). Those who are spiritual and not religious discover a primal truth too.

Question – Why can’t I just be a good person and go to heaven?

Answer – Because Jesus says clearly (particularly in Johns Gospel) that “no one goes to the Father except through me.” We have to get to know Jesus intimately.

Question – But how do I get to know Jesus? Answer – Hang out with Him. So if you haven’t been around in a while and have this small flicker of faith that seems to be pulling you back, what angle back do you take?

Answer – Whatever angle you believe is best to start hanging out with Jesus. This can be through your kids’ school, it can be through bible study groups, it can be through young family, men’s, or women’s social group, it can be your raw need for healing and forgiveness.

The Holy Mass is the source and summit of our faith. It is prayer par excellence and beauty beyond words, but it is not an angle…it is a destination. Find your new angle, hang out with Jesus, enter your gate. Welcome home.


The songs of Frank Sinatra New York, New York (“if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere”) and My Way are quintessentially American, inspiring our personal drives to conquer the world alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love belting out Frank’s lines and feeling the empowerment, the rise and success of the little guy, winning against the odds. Americans love the underdog. We naturally root for them. It’s part of our national psyche. The thing is these anthems of individualism and self-determination leave zero room for God. We see this even more today as younger people (due to their higher education indoctrination) define the world with themselves at the center. Things are true or false as they relate to me. This is also known as relativism. It recognizes no objective truth, only subjective truth…truth if I think it’s true for me.

The Bible is filled with stories of underdog success: David slays Goliath, Job sustains hardship, Moses leads a nation with a speech impediment, and a construction worker’s son from a backwater town declares victory over death for all of us. All these feats were possible because of a character trait that repulses many today: Obedience. Obedience to the truth starts with the simple Truth: “I am your God, and you are my people”. Just focus on this one and the rest takes care of itself. It starts to deflate the #1 root sin: Pride. It leads us to something other than “my way”…His Way. The Way.

The picture inset is a message painted on a building in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where Gen X, Y, and Millennials thrive. It seems to be another anthem of individualism, one that might give credence to the latest “my way”: personal gender selection. It is a statement by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, the legendary fashion designer. Her mother died and her father left home. At an early age, Chanel was dropped off at Aubazure Abbey in France and raised by Catholic nuns. It is here that Chanel first saw a recurring “CC” adorning the beautiful stained glass windows of the Abbey church, inspiration for what would later become her iconic logo. It is here that Gabrielle learned to sew, to create.

She was captivated by the simple lifestyle of the sisters that would later become the foundation for her simple luxury philosophy.

It revolutionized fashion forever. Even the nuns habits with odd, elegant angles of black and white, free of corsets and frou-frou, would inspire her designs. Thank you Frank and Coco

This coming Monday, August 21st at 2:47 p.m., we can witness here in Yulee a 91.7% eclipse of the sun. The last time there was a total eclipse visible in the US was 38 years ago. So what? It’s out of the ordinary. It’s rare. It’s odd. We look up (with protective glasses from Walmart) and see something we don’t usually see.

St. Francis was known as Brother Sun and St. Clare was known as Sister Moon. Francis led the way in challenging the church structure in Assisi to follow Jesus’ way more closely by shunning the material trappings that had encrusted it over the generations. Clare followed Francis and, like the Moon, she reflected Francis’ bright sunlight of the Word found in the ordinary life and the beauty of nature.

The model these saints follow is Jesus the Sun (Light of Christ) and Mary the Moon (reflecting the Light of Christ). Christ is the source and Mary receives her radiance from Him and only Him.

We may witness the darkening of the day this coming Monday, but Mary could never eclipse Jesus and Clare would never eclipse Francis. They saw, felt, and were filled with the Light and desired only to reflect, magnify, and show it to others.

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