Category Archives: Virtue

Possession of Love

In a few short days, here in my diocese, we will be celebrating the ordination to the priesthood of young men who have spent years in prayer and discernment of God’s will for their lives. The readings for this ancient liturgy have been chosen by the bishop and, while the first two readings (Isaiah 61:1-3 and 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 5-7) clearly point to the anointing of each of these men and God’s specific call of each of these men by name, the Gospel reading from John 15: 9-17 seems to shift focuses slightly. It says, “you are my friends if you keep my commands. I no longer call you slaves… I have called you friends.”

While, of course, this reading continues the theme of being chosen, it seems to shift away from the idea of this outward anointing and this outward calling to an inward movement of the spirit toward God. Jesus says, “if you keep my commands, you are my friends.” This requires an action on the part of the individual; he must make a choice to follow the commands of the Lord! Of course the interesting dichotomy comes next when the Lord points out that in following his commands we are not his slaves. How can this be? One

who is commanded to do something and who follows those commands is often seen as nothing more than a slave, but Jesus says these very people have been called his friends! I think the reason can be found in Pope Francis’s message on the 2014 World Day of Prayer for Vocations. He states:

“Many times we have prayed with the words of the Psalmist: ‘It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture’ (Ps 100:3); or: ‘The Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession’ (Ps 135:4). And yet we are God’s “possession” not in the sense of a possession that renders us slaves, but rather of a strong bond that unites us to God and one another, in accord with a covenant that is eternal, ‘for his steadfast love endures for ever’ (Ps 136).”


That word, “covenant”, is essential to the entire message. Jesus is not asking us, who are followers of his, to be friends in the sense of hanging out together on the weekend around a pizza or getting on the phone everyone once in awhile to check in. When he uses the word “friend” here, he very clearly expects more: he expects a covenantal relationship. When do we, as humans, enter into a covenant? On our wedding day and, for those who have been chosen, on the day of our ordination! And when we think about these human relationships, that of a husband and wife or of a priest for his flock, we completely understand the close comparison between friend and slave. We honor the one we love and we do what she “commands” us to do because we put ourselves in the position of a slave out of the great love we have for the other! We humble ourselves, we sacrifice ourselves and we given entirely of ourselves because our love makes us bound to that person! It is one of the most beautiful paradoxes that can be found in this world and Jesus wants that of each one of us.

Our vocation, our call to holiness, is rooted in the great love Jesus has for us and in his invitation for us to be possessed by that love. He wants us to freely make of ourselves slaves to his divine will, and in so doing, to become his closest friends. He doesn’t coerce us as a slave is forced by his master, rather he invites us to love him with the same amount of love with which he loves us. And let us not forget what St. Paul said of that great love, “rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (Phil. 2:7). Let us pray, then, that those who will be ordained priests on May 19th and those who will be entering into sacramental marriages throughout this upcoming wedding season will truly allow themselves to be possessed by God’s great love, that through that possession, they may draw us and one another closer to their best friend, Jesus Christ.

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Posted by on May 14, 2018 in scripture, Virtue


Why I Love Being Catholic

Today, while going through my email and checking Facebook for the first time in a few days, I noticed something very exciting. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is giving away an iPad Mini full of Catholic content! The sweepstakes is easy to enter and there are multiple ways to enter. Go here to find out more about it and all that the Archdiocese is doing to celebrate the Year of Faith!

One of the ways you can enter to win is by commenting on this post and telling the world why you love being Catholic. Well, for those like me who read blogs regularly, leaving extra long comments are not generally good form, even on a post like this. (They generally get skipped over if they are more than about 100 words long.) So, I’ve decided, since there really is so much to say about why I love being Catholic, I should just write my own blog post, like Lindsey Simmons did, and leave my link over there.

So, why do I love being Catholic?


  1. The Eucharist. The key teaching of the faith and the source and summit of all the Catholic Church does. We believe that Jesus, in instituting this sacrament at the Last Supper, truly gave us his body and blood and we continue to re-present his sacrifice at every Mass, every day, every hour throughout the world. In the miracle of the transubstantiation, the changing in substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, Jesus shows us at every Mass that he loves us so much and wants to be so close to us as to become nourishment to our very bones.
  2. Mary. No other religion in the world understands Mary’s role in our salvation and her role in the life of the Church today so much as the Catholic Church. Our devotion to her and the honor we bestow on her as our Queen and mother are just a beautiful expression of the depth of the teachings of this Church. Without her great “Yes,” Jesus’ mission would never have come to fruition. Does she not deserve the respect the Church gives her? I say, that’s the very least she deserves.
  3. Its Biblical Roots. Not only was the Church formed in the time of Christ and its inception dictated in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, and its first Papal encyclicals recorded in the letters to the early Church, but the teachings of the Catholic Church can all be found and supported by the Truth found in the Bible. While most teachings also depend heavily on the constant teaching Tradition of the Church, all of them find their inception in the Bible. (Of course, those matters which are new to our specific place in history have teachings whose conclusions were drawn by way of reason from those whose foundations are in the Bible.) It’s spectacular to see when we study the Bible all the connections one can easily make to what the Church teaches today.
  4. Its history. The Catholic Church has been around for over 2000 years and is the only Church instituted by Christ with a direct line of succession to the apostles, whom Jesus picked to form and lead His Church. Throughout those 2000 years it has studied and discussed and taught on nearly every subject that effects our daily lives, and not just once, but studied and re-studied and always it arrives at the truth in love. The position is not always popular, but it is right and true and when we accept those teachings and try to live in accord with those teachings, our lives are all the better for it.
  5. Its Community. Not only is the Church full of wonderful people who love and want to do what is best for all people, especially those who have no one else to care for them and cannot care for themselves, but you can find those people throughout every country in the entire world and we all believe and teach and practice the same faith!! In addition, this community of people doesn’t stop at this world but extends into the next in the communion of saints who are the greatest source of inspiration for us and can show us, by their supreme examples, the way to live today with God’s grace so that we can live in God’s presence eternally in heaven. In addition, the prayerful support we can attain from these saints is nothing short of overwhelming.
  6. Its Sacraments. In addition to the sacrament of the Eucharist, the other six sacraments are like the guideposts and aids for us as we try to live our lives and “become perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.” The sacrament of reconciliation especially is not there to punish us for doing bad things and it certainly isn’t there to make us fools in front of another human person. It is such a wonderful gift that allows us to be free of those past mistakes and to receive the grace of God to help us to not make those mistakes again. The experience of receiving that absolution from the person of Jesus Christ, whose spirit was given to the priest on his ordination (another great sacrament of the Church) is one of the greatest treasures of our faith.
  7. Its Social Teaching. The Catholic Church is the greatest source of charity in this entire world! It beats the great work of national governments in the amount of aid and support they give to all those in need. They stand on the front lines to protect the unborn and the dignity of every human person. To be part of such an amazing institution is just awesome!
  8. Its Cultural Richness. The number of different people and cultures that make up the Catholic Church is almost innumerable. The number of different traditions and prayers and devotions available to help me to get to know, love and serve my Creator are likewise nearly countless. You can never come to the bottom of the barrel as you draw from the well of the richness of this Catholic faith.
  9. Its expectations. The Church, like Christ, expects us to be holy. To live holy and to enter into heaven at the end of our earthly lives is the goal the Church has set for us, because Jesus set that goal for us. They give us the tools to do it, too! With access to God’s grace in the regular reception of the sacraments, the community of believers with which the Church wants to surround us, the many examples of holy men and women throughout the ages and the volumes upon volumes of spiritual readings and reflections from the saints and those who are still studying these things today, the Church not only expects great things but they give us what we need to reach those expectations with God’s grace.
  10. Its Willingness to Stand Alone. The teachings of the Catholic Church are often unpopular and do not change with the times like so many things in society. However, that has not stopped the Church from standing firm in its teaching and doing so by constantly proclaiming the Truth as has been handed to it by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is reassuring to know that even though so many things are uncertain in this world, I always have a steady foundation in the Church upon which I can rely.

That is just some of why I choose to be Catholic and why I love being Catholic and yet, as I said, there are so many other reasons not mentioned above. The smells and bells of the liturgy, the beautiful way in which the Church’s calendar works, the celebrations, the beauty of its buildings and art…I could go on and on with the little things I love about this Church, but none of that matters if I can’t inspire you with my life. So, why do you love being Catholic? Or, for those who left, what made you stop being Catholic? Or for those who aren’t and have never been, what’s keeping you from being Catholic? I love this Church, I want you to love it, too!

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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in All In, Discipline, Mass, Prayer, scripture, St. Joseph, Virtue


Window Glare

I was in my car on my way back to work during one of those rare sunny days we’ve had this month and I came up to a stop light. Right across the intersection was a car who seemed to slowly move right into the spot where the sun was shining the brightest and send those rays of light beaming right into my pupils. It was painful and there was nothing I could do to get away from it, except squint and turn my head. Of course, turning my head would lead to me missing the light change, so I decided to bear it.

In that moment, though, I had two somewhat profound (for me at least) besides the fact that I should have worn my sunglasses. The first thought is this: this is glimpse of God’s glorious light and I’m called to be that car! Okay, so maybe not that car exactly, but I’m supposed to be reflecting God’s glorious light to the world and I should not be seen. When I looked at that car, even for the briefest second that I could, I didn’t see the windshield or the person inside, I saw the light. The car was simply receiving the light and passing it on in all its splendor. When people see me on the street, when they talk to me in my house, when my kids work with me on their school work or when we make cookies, do they see me, or do they see God working through me? Do they get a glimpse of God’s love pouring out of me into the world or do they get a glimpse of selfishness and anger?

The second thought I had was that despite the imperfections of the car (certainly, this car wasn’t perfectly clean and free from scratches), God was still able to radiate. And so there is a message of hope in here. Despite our imperfections and despite our moments of selfishness and anger, God can still use us and wants to use us to help spread His Love and Mercy and Hope to everyone we meet. Certainly, as was the case when that light hit me, people may be uncomfortable with seeing Christ’s love and light. Some people may even reject it (it certainly was the case when Jesus walked the earth), but we are called to shine nonetheless. Because even when I turned my head, I could still feel the warmth of that light and I knew that it was truly there no matter where I looked.

So, it is my prayer, that throughout the coming Advent season, as we await the coming of Christ’s light into this world, we are all able to prepare ourselves to be the bearers of this great and glorious light and that we are able to carry it boldly to all the people we meet.

God, grant us the grace to be your windshields. 🙂

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Posted by on November 9, 2012 in Virtue


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Patience is a Virtue (that I wish I had)

Below is a post I began writing a couple months ago but until now didn’t get a chance to finish. Reading over the beginning I found that it is as true now (if now more so) as it was then, so I decided to finish it because I need to hear it and it needs to be said.

Attending a beautiful wedding this past Saturday, I was afforded a welcome retreat from the constant movement of taking three kids to Mass. I was actually able to listen to the readings, the psalm and the homily! Of course, it is in those times when we have a chance to listen that God comes in and speaks to our hearts and so it was this time.

The psalm chosen by the wedding couple was one I had heard a thousand times growing up: Psalm 103 “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, the Lord is kind and merciful.” While I know this particular version of the psalm is not drawn directly from Psalm 103 as it is meant to be, it struck me how directly this related to my life and the life of the soon to be married couple on their wedding day!

It is something I’ve been reflecting on a great deal, really and hearing it in Church made it all the more prominent. We are the children of God and as children are wont to do, we make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are huge, sometimes they are minor. Sometimes we don’t live up to our potential and yet, how does our God repay us for those failures? With love! With compassion! With Mercy! With overflowing, total self-giving, sacrificial LOVE! 

And here I am, the father of three children, the husband of one amazing wife, and how does my response to my childrens’ mistakes and bad choices compare to God’s? I’ll tell you right now, that it’s not a pretty comparison. Of course, you might say, we can’t expect to be like God, he is perfect, and that is true, but I remember a line in scripture that says, “be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.” A lofty goal to be certain, but one toward which we should all be striving. And so it is with fathers in a particular way because…well, we’re fathers. So, the image of God the father that my kids will first see is supposed to be me. If they don’t see me being slow to anger, rich in kindness, full of compassion, how can they be expected to understand that God, who is all knowing and all powerful, is also all merciful, all just and all loving.

I think I just realized my new year’s resolution.

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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Children, fatherhood, scripture, Virtue


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A Priestly Calling from a Father’s Perspective

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a national convention for Diocesan Vocation Directors. This convention has several functions for the priests who attend: social networking and just plain camaraderie with fellow Vocation Directors, education and “professional development,” and spiritual and physical refreshment. Each of these pieces year in and year out are equally valued by the members of the NCDVD and I, being a lay, married, father of 3 children and an associate vocation director, get a chance to experience all this from a decidedly different perspective.

Throughout the week I listened as priests and lay people taught priests how to work in the field of Vocation Promotion, how to increase the effectiveness of the message they hope to spread and how to reach more efficiently the right young men who are being called to the priesthood. I listened as priests taught their brother priests in the homilies during Mass. I watched as young priests met fellow young priests from across the nation and shared what is working for them and what they need help with and all the while I was able to sit back and think, what does this all mean for me as a husband and father.

The answer I received on the last day of the convention was one that surprised me a little. The realization is that almost everything that was being taught in those workshops and applied to the priesthood in those homilies was also very personally applicable to my life! Sure, the “professional development” applied very directly to my work, but the homilies about the role of a vocation director, the hard work of the vocation director, the importance of the priesthood in the life of the church all applied to me personally, because, I am a FATHER!

In paragraphs 1655-1657 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read that the family has the special distinction of being called the Domestic Church, the place in which our Faith is first introduced, fostered, and shared and it is in leading ones children to discover their vocations that a father and a mother participate fully in the priesthood of the baptized.

At the conclusion of this fantastic week of learning and reflecting, I finally understood that my role as father of my family is not so different than the role of the priest of my parish. We are entrusted with the souls of our families. It is our duty to make sure that while attempting to work with God’s grace to get ourselves to heaven, we live out a life of total self-sacrifice that enables those around us to get to heaven as well. We are expected to be holy examples of virtuous living and when we fail to do so, it matters all the more because of the responsibility in being entrusted with God’s children (no matter the number).

So, there I was, at the convention’s closing Mass, in front of the icon of the NCDVD patron, St. John Vianney, asking for prayers that I might be a good and holy priest for my family because, in that moment, I realized, that is my vocation; that is my responsibility; that is my gift.

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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in All In, fatherhood, Virtue


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Passing on the Praise

This past week, I spent 5 days in Chicago, IL with the youth group from my parish doing mission work and attending a Catholic youth conference at Alive in You (fellow youth ministers, check it out!!). During that conference, whose focus this year, “Cornerstone,” was on using scripture to help build our foundation in Christ, one of the speakers gave us all a very simple formula: NO BIBLE, NO BREAKFAST; NO BIBLE, NO BED. The first thing you do in the morning is read the Bible, the last thing you do before going to bed is read the Bible. It’s a simple formula and one that I’m sure many of you already are following in your daily routines, but for me, this was earth-shattering – why didn’t I think of this before?!

I am not one to regularly read the Bible. In fact, I would say that my Bible knowledge is probably somewhere close to that of a 3rd grader (maybe worse). I love going to Mass on Sunday and hearing the word of God proclaimed and sometimes I even take the chance to read the readings ahead of time. However, I have never been good at opening Scripture when I pray. And like our speaker asked this past week, “How can we get to really know Jesus if we don’t take the time to listen to the words he spoke and see how he interacted with people?

So, I decided to try this new formula and it’s amazing all the connections that I have made already in my daily life. Today’s lesson is a must share.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is traveling through a town and people are bringing the deaf, the lame, the blind, etc. to Jesus and he is healing them left and right. The way the story reads it is almost as if by the end of the day, there wasn’t a soul left untouched by the miraculous healing of Jesus! Then it comes to the last verse in that story and it says “the crowds were amazed…and they glorified the God of Israel.” This struck me because, I think, it shows us a little bit about the person of Jesus.

So many times in our society when we see a great deed done or someone acts kind to a stranger, we immediately lay the praise on the individual doing the good deed (and rightly so), but here in this story, the thanks is not given to Jesus (even though he has just spent literally hours performing one miracle after the next), but to God! I have no doubt in my mind that almost every one of those people who had been healed were grateful to Jesus, but, even though he was the Son of God (and could even more rightly receive the praise), he humbly asked them to pass their praise to God who made possible the miracle. How often do we accept the praise that might otherwise be passed on to God? Again, I think it is right that we are thanked for the good work we do. However, do we just let it stop there? Do we take the opportunity to pass that praise on to God by whom we were able to perform that good deed or challenging task? By God’s grace I hope that one day I will.

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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in All In, Discipline, scripture, Virtue


Catcher in the Rye and the Role of Fathers

I will just go ahead and admit it, I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye. It is not for lack of wanting to have read it, it is for lack of ambition to actually sit down and read it. My wife and I even purchased the book a couple years ago (or found it in storage somewhere from her high school days – it wasn’t required reading in my school – I can’t remember which) and I still haven’t picked it up and gotten into it.  After reading this excellent article by Fr. Damien Ference, perhaps it is time I dive into it and stop being the uncultured swine that I am.

When I first read Catcher in my junior year of college, my absolute favorite part of the book was when Holden explained to Phoebe that all he wanted to do all day was stand on the edge of a big cliff, making sure that the kids playing some game in the field of rye didn’t fall over the edge. I bracketed that entire section with a blue pen. A couple of years later, when I read Catcher for the second time, that business about keeping the kids from falling over the cliff remained my favorite part, but this time I underlined the entire section with a red pen and then wrote “Priesthood 173” on the first page of my book, which is where I always make a personal index. Every time I’ve read Catcher since, I’ve stopped on page 173 and thought to myself, “this is what the priesthood is all about.” I always thought of Holden standing on the edge of that cliff as an image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and I loved that all he wanted to do all day was to save people. That all changed about two years ago.

Read the rest for yourself but at the heart of the article Fr. Ference’s impression of Holden Caulfield was put to the test and was found wanting. As the article puts it:

O’Connor’s issue with Holden Caulfield, Gooch argues, is “the naiveté of his savior complex.” In other words, rather than humbly recognizing his brokenness and his own need for a savior, Holden believes that he is the savior. Holden is at the center of his own world, and everything revolves around him. He’s actually not very mature for his age, although smoking cigarettes, going with prostitutes, and cussing may make him appear so. Under the edgy surface of his coolness, Holden is a selfish boy who can’t see himself as he really is.

Again, I haven’t read the book and these impressions may be off from your perception of the character but that is unimportant. What is important is the lesson here for all fathers (both spiritual and physical). We are called to lead our families to heaven; to keep those in our care close to Christ and His way of Truth so that when the time comes, they can enter into eternal glory with Christ. However, we can’t forget that we are just as much in need of that same salvation. When we fail to love our children and our wives as we should, we need to make amends and beg forgiveness. Let’s not be so proud as to believe that we can do this all on our own.

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Posted by on May 17, 2011 in Books, Children, fatherhood, Virtue


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