Have you ever wondered why things happen to slow you down or keep you from leaving the house at the time you’d intended?

Running late

One morning many years ago when I had three kids to drop off— one at daycare, two in public school— I just couldn’t get the older ones going.  They procrastinated as usual in getting up and then dressed in molasses mode as I frantically worried about being late for work, which was of no concern to them, of course.

Every day we took the same route, crossing a very busy and oftentimes dangerous intersection where impatient drivers passed yellow and red lights without regard for others.

That one morning my thoughts were on signing in at the office before 7:45 A.M.  We drove about halfway to that intersection to find stopped traffic and lots of police cars.  Someone had caused a major accident, and ambulances were at the scene.

Later I learned that passengers had been seriously injured, and three or four had died.

I gave thanks and praise for running late that day, and I’ve been grateful ever since for what I’ve come to call the percolating moments that keep me in place, all part of my Train A-Train B theory.

Take the last couple of weeks, for instance.

Delays and outcomes

Usually, I type my notes from Father’s Sunday homily before the weekend comes up again.  I like to post the updated “messages from the pulpit” by Thursday, but sometimes unexpected happenings get in the way.

Last week, I kept wondering how I’d posted four blog entries so easily when, this time, I couldn’t sit still long enough to type the first of two sets of Sunday homilies.  Like, what’s going on with my pea brain?  There has to be an underlying reason that hasn’t yet revealed itself.

Then, first thing Saturday morning, I came here to my thoughtful spot and, lo and behold, I began typing my notes just like that.  No interference, no nada, just clackety-clack.  

Around eleven-thirty, Steven suddenly realized we’d lost track of time.  We had to get ready for my cousin’s daughter’s college graduation at one-thirty.

“Okay,” I said.  “I just finished typing the notes from July twenty-sixth, so that’s good.  I’ll save and stop here.  I can’t believe how easy it was to finish the first set so quickly.”

As Steven was just about ready, his cell phone rang.  A boat in one of the slips at MSI was sinking.  He was upset at the thought of having to miss Sabrina’s graduation, but I told him that God had other plans for us.  “Besides, he probably doesn’t want us on the road with all those loons on the highway,” I said, recalling the car accident at Paredes Line Road and FM 802.

When I called Rosie to explain our dilemma, she invited us to join the family for pizza at five.  We’d still have a chance to meet up with her siblings and other family members that evening, so I emailed Steven to let him know.

When Steven returned, I asked for help in deciphering my chicken-scratch notes from August second and talked to him about Father’s quotes as I looked them up in our Bible.  Then— boing-g-g!!!


At 2:36 p.m., I found two quotes— “God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24) and “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work'” (4:34)— and realized that not only did the story of the Samaritan woman relate to my “concrete abstraction” blog entry from the previous Saturday, but Elsa’s comments and subsequent emails also related to the post.

“Oh, my gosh!  You see, darling?  It all makes perfect sense.

“I posted to my blog on August first before Father’s homily reference from the Samaritan woman passage happened on August second.  I couldn’t type the notes during the week because I wasn’t meant to discover the messages until today.  And look how easy it was to type both weeks’ notes today.  Had we gone to the graduation ceremony, I would’ve missed the messages.

“You were called to take care of the emergency so I could continue working and experience my epiphany.  And, sure, the scientist within me says I would’ve found the passage with the messages later on anyway, but I was meant to find God’s response within a week’s time— ahead of tomorrow’s new set of notes because God knew how I felt about getting behind with my work.”

Of course, my pea brain always gets blown away.  I become Chicken Little when the rose leaf falls on him.  Puawk-PUAWK, puawk-PUAWK, puawk-PUAWK!!!

HI81109aSteven, on the other hand, doesn’t get excited at all when I share stuff like this.  But I do.  Every single time.

Epiphanies are heavenly surprises that happen at the oddest moments.  They’re so emotionally exhilarating that I look up at the Holy Infant’s photo above my thoughtful spot, laugh, and praise God over and over as joyful tears stream down my face.

Revelations are so totally awesome!

Suffice it to say that I finished typing my second set of notes with time to spare and posted the updated messages before leaving for Sabrina’s celebration at four-thirty, and we had such a terrific time with Rosie’s family that it was a very special day all the way around.  Plus I had a clean slate for the following morning’s note taking during Father’s Sunday homily.

Prayer for motorists

Grant me, O Lord, a steady hand and watchful eye that no one shall be hurt as I pass by.  You give life [so] I pray [that] no act of mine may take away or mar that gift of yours.  Shelter those, dear Lord, who bear me company, from the evils of fire and all calamity.  Teach me to use my car for others’ need [and not] miss through love of undue speed the beauty of the world that I may, with joy and courtesy, go on my way.  St. Christopher, holy patron of travelers, protect me and lead me safely to my destiny.

April 13, 2015

As we grow in trust, reverence, and humility, an attitude of openheartedness grows within us and we are able to enter more fully into the unfolding mystery of God.

Gift me, O God, with an attitude of openheartedness that I may be able to more easily let go of the running train of thoughts and related distortions and illusions that fill my mind, along with any preconceived ideas I have about the scriptures that I spend time with today.  Help me to hear the essence of the message you are communicating through Your Word (Sister Maria Tasto, OSB, 1938-2014).


Goose Island State Park – Lamar, TX

Links of interest…  Catholic meditation: daily / tradition & practice…  Falling sky…  Goose Island State Park: about / big tree (more) / birding / things to do…  Power of the name of Jesus…  Sisters of St. Benedict (IN): Monday messages / prayer requests / virtual tour / ways of praying / website

WP posts…  Backtracking…  Concrete abstraction…  Heart’s desire…  Sweet Jesus…  Teresa of Avila…  Timely message

Call of service

In one of his homilies last month, Father Xaviour said that the life of a missionary, like that of a priest, is difficult because his life is determined by those to whom he’s sent.


This reminded me of a jellyfish, floating from place to place in the ocean’s waters, its survival contingent on its ability to withstand the tides and the waves that can wash the jellyfish onto the seashore where it’ll wither and die. Like the jellyfish, the missionary has no control over his environment.

Similarly, a priest goes obediently wherever his superior sends him, wherever the spiritual call beckons.  Then, depending on the spirit of the people to whom he’s sent, he either grows faithful followers who gladly share his vision or evokes apathy and resentment.  Therefore, the priest, like the missionary, either thrives in his call of service or depletes his usefulness within the community to which he’s been assigned.


Some consider religious leaders to be parasites.  A child stays in the womb for nine months, but the mother never considers her child a parasite.  [On the other hand,] a missionary’s life is worthless and meaningless.  To be dependent is very difficult.  To be a missionary is to be dependent on others.  This is why Pope Benedict named this the year of the priest, to strengthen the bond [among us] so [that] young kids can know the joy of the priest, to consider the walk of our footsteps.  Continue to pray for priests to inspire us, to strengthen our faith, to empower us so that faith may be meaningful in our lives (Father Xaviour, 2009).




On this feast day of the priests’ patron saint, we’re reminded of the countless hardships and obstacles that St. John Vianney overcame to answer the call of service.  His is a story of perseverance, faithfulness, courage, and love.

Today, like all the days since meeting Father Xaviour for the very first time at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Flour Bluff (2007), Steven and I are grateful for his being part of our lives; for his presence at St. Joseph’s; and, most especially, for his graciously accepting our support of him through our church blog.

You’re a blessing to us all, Father Xaviour!


Absolution…  May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints— whatever good you do and suffering you endure— heal your sins, help you to grow in holiness, and reward you with eternal life.  Go in peace.

For missionaries…  Heavenly Father, you so loved the world that you sent  your only son, Jesus, to bring us eternal life.  We join him in his prayer for laborers in your harvest.  May your Holy Spirit inspire and strengthen generous men and women to continue his mission in the world.  May this same Spirit make known to me your will in my life.  Where you lead I will follow.  Let it be done to me according to your word.  I make this prayer through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

For missions…  Remember our missionaries who give up all they have to testify to your gospel and love.  Strengthen them in moments of difficulty.  Crown their labors with the victories of the Holy Spirit.  Through their endeavors may your blessed Name be made known throughout the world.  Surrounded by an ever growing number of your children, may they [offer] to you the hymn of thankfulness, redemption, and glory.  Amen.

For priests (John Cardinal O’Connor)…  Lord Jesus, we, your people, pray to you for our priests.  You have given them to us for our needs.  We pray for them in their needs.

We know that you have made them priests in the likeness of your own priesthood.  You have consecrated them, set them aside, anointed them, filled them with the Holy Spirit, appointed them to teach, to preach, to minister, to console, to forgive, and to feed us with your Body and Blood.

Yet, we know, too, that they are one with us and share our human weaknesses.  We know, too, that they are tempted to sin and discouragement as are we, needing to be ministered to as do we, to be consoled and forgiven as do we.  Indeed, we thank you for choosing them from among us so that they understand us as we understand them, suffer with us and rejoice with us, worry with us and trust with us, share our beings, our lives, our faith.

We ask that you give them, this day, the gift you gave your chosen ones on the way to Emmaus: your presence in their hearts, your holiness in their souls, your joy in their spirits.  And let them see you face to face in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread.

We pray to you, O Lord, through Mary, the mother of all priests, for your priests and for ours.  Amen.

For vocations…  Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd.  You know each of us and you call us by name to serve in faith.  Help us respond generously to your voice.  Give courage and guidance to those you call to the priesthood and the diaconate, to religious life and to lay ministry so that they may respond wholeheartedly and serve devotedly.  We ask this through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Queen of Missions…  Holy Mary, our mother, today, each day, and in our last hour, we entrust ourselves entirely to you loving and singular care.  We place in your hands our entire hope and happiness, our every anxiety and difficulty, our whole lives.  May our every endeavor be directed and guided according to the will of your Son, which is your will by the aid of your prayer and special favor with God.  Amen.

August 4, 2013

When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross, and when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord.  We are worldly; we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes but not disciples of the Lord (Pope Francis, 2013).

January 24, 2014

“There is nothing small in the service of God” (St. Francis de Sales).

April 17, 2013

“Nothing afflicts the heart of Jesus so much as to see all his sufferings of no avail to so many” (St. John Vianney).

May 6, 2014

“Every vocation to the priesthood comes from the heart of God, but it passes through the heart of a mother” (Pope St. Pius X).

May 8, 2014

One should preach not from one’s rational mind but, rather from the heart.  Only that which is from the heart can touch another heart (Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica).

August 4, 2014

“You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God” (St. John Vianney).

November 13, 2014

“I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know him or have forgotten him” (St. Frances Xavier Cabrini).

November 14, 2014

My God, I do not know what must come to me today.  But I am certain that nothing can happen to me that you have not foreseen, decreed, and ordained from all eternity.  That is sufficient for me (St. Joseph Pignatelli).

January 17, 2015

A religious should imitate the bees gathering honey among the blossoms of the meadows.  From each of his companions, he should gather some good lessons— from one, modesty; from another, silence; from a third, patience; from a fourth, resignation and indifference (St. Anthony the Great).

January 23, 2015

The rediscovery of the value of one’s baptism is the basis of the missionary commitment of every Christian because we see in the gospel that he who lets himself be fascinated by Christ cannot do without witnessing the joy of following in his footsteps….  We understand even more that, in virtue of baptism, we have an inherent missionary vocation (Pope Benedict XVI).

January 25, 2015

As we follow Christ in this mission to be fishers of men, we must bring men and women out of the sea that is salted with so many forms of alienation and onto the land of life, into the light of God (Pope Benedict XVI).

March 31, 2015

We’re up against a great mystery here.  We are called to announce the good news to everyone, but not everyone will listen.  Once we’ve done our work, we should move on and not obsess about those who won’t listen.  Why do some respond and some don’t?  Finally, that’s up to God (Fr. Robert Barron).

May 21, 2015

You cannot please both God and the world at the same time.  They are utterly opposed to each other in their thoughts, their desires, and their actions (St. John Vianney).

July 1, 2015

All my life I have wanted to be a missioner.  I have wanted to carry the gospel teachings to those who have never heard of God and the kingdom he has prepared for them (Blessed Junipero Serra).

August 4, 2015

Everything is a reminder of the Cross.  We ourselves are made in the shape of a cross (St. Jean Marie Baptist Vianney).

“Our faults are like a grain of sand beside the great mountain of the mercies of God”
(St. John Vianney).

August 10, 2015

“You pray, you love— that is the happiness of man upon the earth” (St. John Vianney).

August 27, 2015

Let us take care only to have a good intention; then let us go wherever duty calls us, and let us be sure that God is kind enough and indulgent enough to pardon us all the faults to which his faithful service and the desire of pleasing him may expose us (Fr. Jean Nicolas Grou in The Spiritual Life).

October 16, 2015

To love God much, always to be united with God; to do all things for the sake of God; to love everything for God’s sake; to suffer much for God.  My only business is to do the will of God (St. Gerard Majella).

December 2, 2015

“All perfection consists in the love of God; and the perfection of divine love consists in the union of our will with that of God” (St. Alphonsus).

February 4, 2016

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two.  According to Mark, this is what Jesus did in response to being rejected in Nazareth: He increased his efforts.  He continued his ministry in other villages; but instead of taking his disciples with him, he sent them out on their own.  They are told to take nothing for the journey but to depend on the hospitality of those who receive them.  If a particular village doesn’t welcome them, they should simply move on.  Like the disciples, we, too, have been called and sent out to continue the work of Jesus in the world today.  We are to be missionaries, disciples, builders of the kingdom of God in this time and place.  Here I am, Lord; send me (Jeanne Lischer).

March 14, 2016

What should give us strength and consolation is the thought that we may have recourse to our dear Father in heaven who will never allow us to be tempted beyond our strength and who will always help those to victory who come to him with confidence and prayer.  Watch and pray, there, and you will conquer (St. John Marie Vianney).

March 24, 2016

Service is the rent we pay to be living.  It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time (Marian Wright Edelman).

May 11, 2016

“Labor without stopping; do all the good works you can while you still have the time”
(St. John of God).

June 1, 2016

“Without lay people nothing would happen” (Archbishop Peter Leo Gerety).

June 16, 2016

“Each of us has a personal calling from God, which is our unique part to play in the building of an earthly liturgical city that is a foretaste of the heavenly liturgical city”
(David Clayton and Leila Lawler in The Little Oratory).

June 27, 2016

“If the poison of pride is swelling up in you, turn to the Eucharist; and that bread, which is your God humbling and disguising himself, will teach you humility” (St. Cyril of Alexandria).

June 29, 2016

I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.  For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control.  So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God (St. Paul; 2 Timothy 1:6–8).

July 11, 2016

“He should know that whomever undertakes the government of souls must prepare himself to account for them” (St. Benedict).

January 29, 2017

“We will either accuse ourselves or excuse ourselves” (St. John Vianney).

February 3, 2017

“If I were worthy of such a favor from my God, I would ask that he grant me this one miracle: that by his grace he would make of me a good man” (St. Ansgar).

May 5, 2017

O God, who gives your missionaries the zeal to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the nations, give us the desire to advance your kingdom wherever we may be.  May we share a deep desire to show you more clearly to others, to love you more dearly in others, and to follow you more closely in all that we do each day of our lives.  Amen (Stephen J. Binz in Saint Junipero Serra’s Camino: A Pilgrimage Guide to the California Missions).

July 18, 2017

“The priesthood requires a great soul, for the priest has many harassing troubles of his own and has need of innumerable eyes on all sides” (St. John Chrysostom).

December 22, 2017

“Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one’s own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but do not know how” (Henri J.M. Nouwen).


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Pdf file…  Father Xaviour’s homilies: July 12, 2009 / December: 2009-2008

Links of interest…  5 things this priest learned from his dog…  Altar server surrogate…  “Amazing:” What happened when one parish invited anyone to stop by & meet a priest…  Are married Catholic priests the thin edge of the wedge…  At St. Pius X Catholic Church, top official is a woman…  Awesome: Carpool karaoke with Trenton’s Bishop O’Connell…  Beautiful churches & beautiful priests…  Before he was a priest, he had a great love…  Bless me, Father, because I am so annoyed with you…  Catholic community doesn’t look the same for everyone…  Christ sometimes calls men to the priesthood in dramatic ways…  Daniel S. Berrigan, SJ: Underground in America…  Day in the life of a nun…  Discovering the true self in God with Merton’s guidance…  Dom Hubert Van Zeller, OSB (1905-1984): about / books (more – titles) / correspondence with MertonGospel priesthood / How to find God / spiritual master / writer’s cramp…  Dorothy Day & the Eucharistic coffee mug…  Everything can turn into prayer…  Five martyred sisters…  Forgotten benefits of Christ within…  Fr. William Saunders…  How a newly ordained priest really feels…  How much power should your parish priest have & survey results…  If heroism is driving your mission trip, stay home…  In harm’s way: The forgotten service of military chaplains…  Infallibility – Hans Küng appeals to Pope Francis…  It is a sin to be scandalized by sin…  Lenten reflections…  Life after the ministry: Finding God’s blessings in life’s changes…  Meet the man who holds the keys to the Vatican…  Missionary work begins with everyone…  Msgr. Rory Deane (d. 3.6.16)…  Open yourself to goodness…  Pope Francis’ Fatal 15…  Prayers: cardholy hour / missionaries / novena / one hundred /  priests & religious…  Priests: clericalist attitude /  dignity & vocation / life / quadriplegic / soldier & simple poet…  Service to God & country…  Spiritual resolution: Casting aside every weight to serve God more fully…  St. John Vianney: about / catechism on the priesthood / feast / ten maxims – quotes…  Three hints on getting more from the homily…  Unlikely calling…  Veteran’s Day & the Body of Christ…  What you need to know about nine of the most important orders…  What’s your mission…  When a deacon leads the rosary during a homily…  When God says no to your yes…  Where is God calling us to serve…  Would you leave your parish because of the priest…  Wounded healer…  You can bring Christ to the world…  Youth Spectacular celebratory videos (diocesan priests)…

WP posts…  Beloved joyful priest…  Blue heaven…  Church time blues…  Father’s guided tour…  Father now retired…  God’s master plan…  Home again…  Memory lane…  Mercy and justice…  Prayer power…  Prayerful ways…  Promise of hope…  Quiet prayer time…  Solano, Solanus, Solani…  St. Michael chaplet…  Sweet Jesus…  Today’s Beatitudes

Dying to live

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been spending quality time with our three crepe myrtles in the back yard.  I think of them as the three little sugars, the youngest of our four grandkids.  And I rejoice at the sight of each new leaf and dainty bloom!

BW73109-1        BW73109-2        BW73109-3

Promising outcome

Spring of last year we picked our three crepes at Turner’s Gardenland.  We were so happy that Steven planted them right after we got home.  We envisioned tall, beautiful, healthy trees.

Sadly for the crepes, the heavy rains, followed by the cold, made them twiglike waifs.  Steven wondered if they’d make it, but I knew they would.  They had to.

Spring came along again, and Steven, while weeding the wedelia from the back garden, noticed the crepes weren’t thriving.

“They’re all but dead,” he said from the back door.  “Come take a look.”

I hurried out feeling guilty for not having checked on the crepes regularly.

“Oh, my, gosh!”  I wanted to make up for neglecting them.  “I should come out here and water them daily.”

Steven said the sprinkler system had been doing its job, so something else was affecting the crepes.

We talked about trimming back the spindly branches, but Steven doesn’t believe as I do that the dying parts need clipping to help the plant regenerate itself.

Surprisingly though, he did heed my suggestion to cut the dead gray parts off the bougainvillea adjacent to the crepes.  And later, as he busied himself away from where I stood, I trimmed more off the bougainvillea and grinned.  It’ll be my secret experiment.

Resolved dilemma

A few weeks passed.

Then one morning on getting the paper from the front yard, Steven noticed that a section of plants hadn’t been watered.  He checked the sprinkler system and discovered that some of the sprinkler heads were clogged.

The mystery of the ailing crepes was solved.  They hadn’t been watered at all.  It was a wonder they hadn’t died altogether.  Steven asked that I spray the crepes with Miracle-Gro early the following morning, so I got things ready.

As I watered the crepes the next day, the words dying to live went round and round in my head.  I recalled bits and pieces— “raising the dead,” “rising from the dead”— from homilies over the years.

Jesus told [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live; and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11: 25-26).

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life (John 12:24-25).

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:39).

I thought about the amputees whose lives have been saved because they lost part of themselves.  I also thought about my younger brother who, at the young age of six, learned to prune mom’s prized roses as part of his yard duties.

Standing in the middle of the flower bed out back, I looked at the bougainvillea and smiled.  Its new branches populated with hot-pink clusters are a gold-orange-red healthy, so full of life.  Then I looked at the smallest of the three crepes and decided to wait a week before cutting off its crackly-dry parts.

Continuous tending

Two weeks ago Monday I went in with trowel, shovel, and clippers.  If the crepe myrtles’ delicate branches flexed when gently bent, I left them as they were.  Otherwise, I simply snapped the brittle ones.  I cleared the entire area around the three crepes with my bare hands.  I yanked the wedelia, carefully dug around to aerate the soil, and pulled enemy roots.  I built up the soil around each crepe as I dug a moat system allowing water to circulate among them.  Then I watered the crepes, dialogued with them, prayed over them, sang to them, and poured my bottle of holy water on them.  I wasn’t taking any chances!

When Steven got home late in the afternoon, he sprinkled a dose of Osmocote on each of the three crepes before covering the ground all around with hay to keep the moisture in.  And, with just a little tender loving care, they’ve begun to live after having been so close to death.

Now I visit the crepes daily, preferably early in the morning after Steven leaves for work, before my day gets so busy that I lose myself.

Throughout the day I wonder how many leaves will have sprouted on the smallest of the three crepes by four-thirty or so when I step out to fill the bird feeders, and I smile at the countless lessons I have yet to learn from the three little sugars.

July 14, 2010 

The crepes are doing so much better now after having gone through another lean period.  With a dose of Miracle Gro in June, the rains from Alex, and Steven’s Osmocote treatment after weeding the garden, the three little sugars are doing stunningly well.  It really is amazing how nature-nurture and a little tender loving care go a long way toward a healthy life.  Only now I need to get out there to do some serious weeding again.



It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.  The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts; it is even beyond our vision.  We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.  Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.  No prayer fully expresses our faith.  No confession brings perfection.  No pastoral visit brings wholeness.  No program accomplishes the church’s mission.  No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.  We plant the seeds that one day will grow.  We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.  We lay foundations that will need further development.  We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.  We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something and to do it very well.  It may be incomplete but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.  We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.  We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.  We are prophets of a future not our own.

This prayer was composed by +Ken Untener (bishop of Saginaw), drafted for a homily by +John Dearden (cardinal archbishop of Detroit) in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests.  As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of +Oscar Romero (assassinated archbishop of San Salvador), Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.”  The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him (Friars of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph, 2018: 1121, p. 1).

March 20, 2014

Father, thank you for planting me in the soil of your grace and presence!  Lord, may I find all the nourishment I need at the table of your word and the table of the Eucharist (the Word among us, Lent 2014, p. 42).

May 18, 2014

“By how much the more a man dies to himself, by so much more he lives to God”
(St. Catherine of Siena).

June 15, 2014

“Think of the Father as a root, and of the Son as a branch, and of the Spirit as a fruit; for the substance in these three is one” (St. John Damascus).

July 9, 2014

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying.  Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day.  Do it! I say.  Whatever you want to do, do it now!  There are only so many tomorrows (Venerable Pope Paul VI).

April 5, 2015

On the third day, the friends of Christ, coming at daybreak to the place, found the grave empty, and the stone rolled away.  In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night.  What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool, not of the evening, but of the dawn (G. K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man).

April 9, 2015

Love, in addition to being a giving or an outpouring, must also be a recovery….  In other words, love must increase and multiply; it must recover itself in a harvest; it must, like the love of earth and tree, be fruitful unto a new love (Venerable Fulton Sheen in God’s World and Our Place in It).

April 10, 2015

“We must often remember what Christ said, that not he who begins, but he [who] perseveres to the end, shall be saved” (St. Philip Neri).

April 29, 2015

“Ponder the fact that God has made you a gardener to root out vice and plant virtue” (St. Catherine of Siena).

May 11, 2015

“I’m planting a tree to teach me to gather strength from my deepest roots” (Andrea Koehle Jones).

November 22, 2015

We must live in this world as if our spirits were in heaven and our bodies in the tomb.  We must live a dying life and die a living and life-giving death in the life of our king and sweetest savior (St. Francis of Sales).

December 11, 2016

Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains (James 5:7).

December 19, 2016

“It is in vain that we cut off the branches of evil if we leave intact the root, which continually produces new ones” (St. Gregory the Great).

December 27, 2016

“Through St. John we know how we are to participate as our destiny in the life of Christ— as a branch of the divine vine— and in the life of the triune God” (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: Edith Stein).

February 26, 2017

You must compare your heart to a garden.  If we cultivate it well, it will yield good fruit.  If we don’t keep an eye on it and tend it a little every day, our garden will be overrun with weeds, true?  Therefore, take courage (St. Maria Domenica Mazzarello in Sisterhood of Saints).

March 18, 2017

We need the cleansing water of life and of forgiveness.  We need to clear the clutter from our hearts and minds.  We need to accept pruning and nourishment to grow in God’s grace and perhaps make a fresh start on the journey (Phyllis Zagano in Sacred Silence).

April 3, 2017

Love, in addition to being a giving or an outpouring, must also be a recovery….  In other words, love must increase and multiply; it must recover itself in a harvest; it must, like the love of earth and tree, be fruitful unto a new love (Venerable Fulton Sheen in God’s World and Our Place in It).

April 22, 2017

In the beginning, God made a garden, rich with compost and humus, a black loam that smelled of dawn.  Seeds began sprouting in this soil; trees’ roots wound deep within it as their branches reached toward the sun; grass, clover, and forbs of every kind spread over the earth in a green and golden carpet.  God took some of this dirt, made muddy with dew, and formed a creature from it— a body of soil.  Bending down, God breathed spirit, animus, into the earth so that it became an animal a living thing.  And God gave this animal something different from the others— a purpose, a call, an invitation to join God in moving the creation toward its flourishing.  God put this humus-man, this human, in the garden and gave it a call— a vocation.  God put the human in a place cultivated toward its fullness— a garden— and called the human to “cultivate it and keep it” to bring it to life and yet to respect its integrity (Genesis 2:15; Wendell Berry and the Given Life).

April 26, 2017

“But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance” (Luke 8:15).

July 20, 2017

Life is given that we may learn to die well, [but] we never think of it!  To die well, we must live well (St. John Vianney).

August 14, 2017

Anything that does not lead you to God is a hindrance.  Root it out and throw it far from you (Josemaria Escrivá).

October 19, 2017

“Where there is love there is life” (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi).

February 15, 2018

“He who plants kindness gathers love” (St. Basil).

July 15, 2018

Today we may visit or plant a garden to appreciate beauty; to harvest herbs, fruits or vegetables for a healthy meal or to simply connect with the deep part of ourselves that wants to be in harmony with the rhythms of the sun, moon, rain and seasons.  The manual labor we do in the garden can be bone wearying, yet richly satisfying. When we experience visible results from the earth, we find solace and peace in an otherwise fragmented world.  Gardens teach us disappointment when bugs or four-legged critters destroy hard effort and beauty.  Growing something, anything, is a lesson in patience and love.  Gardens fill us with gratitude (Pegge Bernecker in Your Spiritual Garden: Tending to the Presence of God).

July 17, 2018

In a visit to a garden shop or when leisurely reading through a seed catalog or favorite gardening book, we face a myriad of choices.  Our interest in a seed is to develop the potential enclosed within its small interior.  Countless seeds have already been planted in our lives!  We become spiritual gardeners as soon as we begin to cultivate and appreciate the ways that our life can bear fruit and bring love into the world.  Every single seed contains potential for development and growth, as do our life choices (Pegge Bernecker).

July 27, 2018

In a garden, tending to the soil and light ultimately provides the nourishment and ability for plants to take root.  Like plants, we have places that we dig our life roots into deeply and that nourish us.  At different times in our lives, we may take the opportunity to determine if we need additional nutrients, look more closely at the ground of what our life is “growing” in, and pay attention to light sources and the life-giving water available to us (Bernecker).

February 22, 2019

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone.  The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes.  To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction (Cynthia Occelli).

June 25, 2020

“Just as cultivating a garden requires turning over the ground, pulling weeds, planting, and watering, doing the work of love is all about taking action” (Bell Hooks).

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Links of interest…  Compost happens (poem)…  Dying to a lower life (book)…  Earth is a sacred text…  Easter & Shakespeare…  Everyday happiness tips…  Forest man: Inspiration for those who wish to change…  Garden news & nursery…  Gardening & self sufficiency / as medicine for millennials & the rest of us…  God’s favorite garden…  Gardens planted with prayers…  Going home…  Grain of wheat…  Hold fast to hope, the fragile flowers shout…  How dung helps our faith to bloom with abundant flowers / the parable of the sower can change your life…  Joyce Kilmer & the “Fighting 69th”…  Key to approaching the mystery of Jesus…  Moving forward to life…  Pruning leads to proliferation…  Search engine that plants a tree every time your click & what is Ecosia…  Six ways to cultivate roses for a more beautiful yard…  We are all farmers…  What is wisdom…  Why I’m giving the gift of boredom to my kids this summer / nature should be your children’s playgroundsome Catholics cause so much trouble

WP posts…  Concrete abstraction…  Forever grateful…  Making meaning…  Mourning joy…  October novena…  One prayer…  Prayer power…  Revisiting St. Simon…  St. Anthony Claret…  St. Jude novena…  St. Jude Shrine (Chicago)…  St. Jude Shrine (Corpus Christi, TX)

Concrete abstraction


A few days before Easter I received a surprising request in a dream.  A man told me, “I want you to write about the resurrection.”

And what am I supposed to say when I’ve never questioned it? 

The directive weighed on me like a term paper.  I thought and thought, tried to ignore it, felt discomforting disequilibrium beyond the beyond, and hoped it would go away.  Yet I knew the message would bug me until I dealt with the assignment.  So, even if I didn’t want to comply, I felt obliged to see the task through to completion.

Shared thoughts

The following month Mary B stayed at her beach house, so I rode my bike over for an afternoon visit.  I took my Bible and the Word among us, since I’d read an interesting article I wanted to talk to her about.

“What do you think about the resurrection?” I brazenly asked, not knowing how she’d respond (react), being that we could get into differences of opinion really fast.

Mary wasn’t surprised by my question.  We talk pretty much about everything, namely our beloved grandkids.  But our spirituality is so intricately woven into our everyday lives that religious perspectives aren’t separate topics.

Sticky conversations aside, we both attended Catholic school as kids.  But Mary has been Methodist her whole life, so her opinions always seem to matter more than mine!

Making meaning

Regardless, I took the plunge and found myself explaining the resurrection out loud not to Mary, but to myself with the classroom in mind.

This is like the Sharon Wells approach to math.  Kids have to work with the concrete before they can understand the abstract.  At the start of each week’s math concept kids work with hands-on activities.  Then, midweek, they progress to the mental math.  In my classroom we reviewed, quizzed, and retaught on Thursday to gauge mastery for Friday’s test.  My kids were great teachers.  We cheered each other on.  We were all responsible for our collective (and individual) success.

From that perspective the resurrection made perfect sense!

God knew that people couldn’t fathom the abstract without first experiencing the concrete.  This is why he sent Jesus to live among his people.  And, when Jesus vanished from the tomb, he appeared to Mary Magdalene so she’d tell the others.  Then, when the apostles were in hiding, Jesus appeared once more.  He wanted Thomas to see him and touch his wounds so he’d stop doubting.

The Paraclete on Pentecost was the transition between the concrete and the abstract.

Concrete abstraction

The way that I checked for understanding through Thursday’s quiz was the way that God checked for understanding through Jesus.  Once the apostles and the others in hiding understood what was about to happen— that Jesus had to leave but that the Paraclete would take his place— God knew he’d successfully taught his lesson.

The Holy Spirit is the abstraction that restores our memory of the concrete Jesus!

Not only that, I believe that Jesus was just an instrument in God’s master plan.  God understood human nature: Seeing is believing!  So, for people to believe in God— and know he’s real— he had to reveal himself through Jesus.  Otherwise, how would we know that he’s always here for us and that he loves us unconditionally?

“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29).

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O Holy Spirit, in these days of doubt, confusion, and uncertainty, come into our hearts with your light, your strength, and your consolation.

Come with the light of truth and teach us the will of God in our daily living, especially now when God’s basic laws are challenged or ignored.

Come with your strength that purifies our heart and our desires and guards us against the danger of pride and self-conceit.

Bring your consolation so that, with a heart attuned to your holy love, we may live in peace and harmony in our families and give to our communities the spirit of cooperation, tolerance, and understanding.

O God, you have instructed the faithful with the light of the Holy Spirit.  Grant that, through this same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise and enjoy his consolation always.  Amen.

OLCC6714-69Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.

O God, you have taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit.  Grant that, by the gift of the same Spirit, we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill my heart with your holy gifts.

Let my weakness be penetrated with your strength this very day that I may fulfill all the duties of my state conscientiously so that I may do what is right and just.  Let my charity be such as to offend no one and hurt no one’s feelings, so generous as to pardon sincerely any wrong done to me.

Assist me, O Holy Spirit, in all my trials of life, enlighten me in my ignorance, advise me in my doubts, strengthen me in my weakness, help me in all my needs, protect me in temptations, and console me in afflictions.

Graciously hear me, O Holy Spirit, and pour your light into my heart, my soul, and my mind.

Assist me to life a holy life and to grow in goodness and grace.  Amen.

God of grace, thank you for loving us and showing us the way to a personal relationship with you through your son, Jesus.  We are thankful for his birth and for his saving grace on the cross.  Teach us how to respond to such love by loving one another. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Holy Trinity…  Glory be to the Father, who by his almighty power and love created me, making me in the image and likeness of God.  Glory to the Son, who by his precious blood delivered me from hell and opened for me the gates of heaven.  Glory be to the Holy Spirit, who has sanctified me in the sacrament of baptism and continues to sanctify me by the graces I receive daily from his bounty.  Glory be to the three adorable persons of the Holy Trinity now and forever.  Amen.

    FMA-R12R-a      FMA-R12R-b      FMA-R12R-c      FMA-R12R-d

Contact information

To receive prayer leaflets like the one on the Holy Spirit (R-12 R), contact Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mt. Vernon, NY 10551-0598.

January 10, 2013

God was incomprehensible, inapproachable, invisible, and hard to imagine.  He became man, came close to us in a manger so that we could see and understand him (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153).

August 24, 2013

Come, Holy Spirit, open my eyes to the glory of God that is all around me.  Help me to see Jesus with the eyes of faith, so I can become his witness (the Word among us, July/August, p. 74).

October 30, 2013

The Spirit comes to the aid of our weaknesses for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.  And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will (Romans 8:26-27).

January 2, 2014

“The spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings perfection to those who are making progress” (St. Basil the Great).

April 20, 2014

Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra!  The resurrection of the Lord is our hope! (St. Augustine).

May 29, 2014

“If the sun is going down, look up at the stars” (Father Lasance).

July 3, 2014

O Glorious St. Thomas, your grief for Jesus was such that it would not let you believe he had risen unless you actually saw him and touched his wounds.  But your love for Jesus was equally great, and it led you to give up your life for him.  Pray for us that we may grieve for our sins, which were the cause of Christ’s sufferings.  Help us to spend ourselves in his service and so earn the title of “blessed” which Jesus applied to those who believe in him without seeing him.  Amen.

August 1, 2014

“Realize that you may gain more in a quarter of an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament than in all other practices of the day” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).

August 2, 2014

“Happy is the soul that knows how to find Jesus in the Eucharist, and in the Eucharist all things!” (St. Peter Julian Eymard).

August 6, 2014

“At his Transfiguration, Christ showed his disciples the splendor of his beauty, to which he will shape and color those who are his: ‘He will reform our lowness configured to the body of his glory'” (Philippians 3:21; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae).

May 14, 2015

From the first till the last, every grace has passed and will pass through Mary.  Just as she prayed to the Holy Spirit to come upon the apostles, she will do for all till the end of the world (Blessed James Alberione).

May 15, 2015

Whom do we want to win the battle for our mind: the flesh or the Holy Spirit?  If we want the Holy Spirit to prevail, we’ll need to take an active, rather than a passive, approach.  Unless we actively present our minds to the Lord, we’ll allow our thoughts to welcome among them the voices of evil.  Taking active concert for our minds involves both refusing the influence of the flesh and yielding to the grace of the Spirit (Bert Ghezzi, 2001).

May 17, 2015

Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you, for you alone?  He burns with the desire to come into your heart (St. Thérèse of Lisieux).

May 19, 2015

The Holy Spirit is the fire of charity which burned up the apostles from the moment of Pentecost, when it kindled in them the flames of divine love until there was no longer love of self left in their souls.  “Our God is a consuming fire” (Dom Hubert Van Zeller in How to find God).

May 23, 2015

Be ever mindful of the Holy Spirit who is within you, and carefully cultivate purity of soul and body.  Faithfully obey his divine inspirations so that you may bring forth the fruits of the spirit— charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity (Chaplet of the Holy Spirit, 1892).

May 24, 2015

“Father of Light from whom every good gift comes, send your Spirit into our lives with the power of a mighty wind and, by the flame of your wisdom, open the horizons of our minds” (Pentecost morning prayer).

November 14, 2015

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

December 10, 2015

“Those whose hearts are pure are temples of the Holy Spirit” (St. Lucy).

December 25, 2015

God becoming man is the great message of his love.  In it we humans see God’s face (St. Hildegard of Bingen).

April 10, 2016

“Faith in the resurrection of Christ never misleads us and hope in our own resurrection never deceives us because God… restored our Lord to life and will restore us to life, too, by his power” (St. Bede the Venerable).

April 2, 2017

“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’” (John 11:40).

April 11, 2017

The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom.  In the Gospel of Luke,  Jesus told his disciples not to worry because the Holy Spirit would tell them what to say.  When you face tough choices, pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance to know what is right and for the strength to do it (Bob Rice in A 40-Day Spiritual Workout for Catholics).

April 16, 2017

“Jesus’s resurrection has formed a bridge between the world and eternal life over which every man and every woman can cross to reach the true goal of our earthly pilgrimage” (Pope Benedict XVI).

May 20, 2018

“Rejoicing and eternal praise be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ, who sent the Holy Spirit into the hearts of your disciples” (St. Bridget of Sweden).

May 21, 2018

On Pentecost, the Church was born with an unprecedented degree of freedom.  As God had once given the law to Moses, so now he gave his own Spirit to the Church (Mike Aquilina in The Apostles and Their Times).

June 18, 2018

“Jesus revealed to us the divinity of God, making it possible for us to enter into a profound relationship with him” (Fr. Maurice Emelu in Our Journey to God: An African Priest Explores the Power of Faith).

April 22, 2019

Love is the energy that sustains the universe, moving us toward a future of resurrection.  We do not even need to call it love or God or resurrection for its work to be done (Richard Rohr, OFM).

April 29, 2019

Jesus came to give us the courage to trust and allow our inherent union with God, and he modeled it for us in this world.  Union is not a place we go to later— if we are good; union is the place from which we come, the place from which we’re called to live now (Rohr).

April 30, 2019

The here-and-now has the power to become the gateway and the breakthrough point to the universal.  The concrete, the specific, the physical, the here-and-now— when we can be present to it in all of its ordinariness— becomes the gateway to the Eternal.  Please trust me on that and don’t dare dismiss it until and unless you have tried it.  One completely loved thing is all it takes (Rohr).

April 2, 2020

O God of heaven and earth, I pause to give thanks to you for the gift of life and the promise of life everlasting.  Amid the challenges of this world, help me to see the precious moments of your grace.  Constantly renew my faith as I live in the power of the resurrection.  These things I pray in the glorious name of Jesus, our Blessed Savior.  Amen (Pittsburg Theological Seminary).



Links of interest…  28 different ways to pray (book / more)…  Alleluia…  Ascension of our Lordour Christian vocation…  Before the Age of Starbucks…  Bert Ghezzi: aboutblog & more / booksGetting free: How to overcome persistent personal problems (more) / interview…  Catholic Exchange…  Chaplet to the Holy Spirit: beadslitany (more) / prayers: one & two…  Come, Holy Spirit…  Christianity is more than getting out of hell…  Defending the truth of the resurrection…  Did Jesus appear to his mother after the resurrection (more)…  Dom Hubert Van Zeller, OSB (1905-1984): about / books (more / titles) / correspondence with Merton / Gospel priesthood / How to find God / spiritual master / writer’s cramp…  Easter Sunday: articles / beginning to understanddeath to life / homily (video)…  Ezekiel’s extraordinary vision of the resurrection…  Holy Spirit: asking a favor / five ways to incorporate / gifts / homily / invokinglitany (more) / promptings…  Monasteries: Cistercian / Clairvaux / lessons from…  Novena to the Holy Spirit: audios (Poor Clare Sisters) / brochure / for the seven gifts / indulgences & more / kindle a fire within / prayers: one & two – printable (pdf)…  On Pentecost the Holy Spirit reveals unity in diversity…  Pittsburg Theological Seminary: Advent & Lent devotionals & archive…  Primacy of Mary Magdalene…  Resurrection: first Easter / forgotten tenet of Christian faith / meaning / why we get our bodies back…  Seeing & believing…  Signs & symbols of Easter…  St. Bernard of Clairvaux…  St. Teresa of Avila & the power of holy water…  Stations of the resurrection…  Ten ways to open up to the Holy Spirit…  Thinking Faith…  What is mystogogy / the disciples’ doubt about the resurrection teaches us…  the Word among us…  Wounds of Christ & doubt of Thomas

WP posts…  Backtracking…  Dear God…  Dying to live…  Growing pains…  Our music…  Picturing God…  Prayerful ways…  Seven dwelling places…  Simple yet profound…  Two angels