There’s a line from Coldplay’s “The Scientist” that pops in my head from time to time. Nothing seems to prompt it. The line just comes: “Questions of science, science and progress, do not speak as loud as my heart.”
As I sit with the words now, I notice why they speak to me. A lover of math and physics, questions of science have engaged me from the very beginning. At first it was dinosaurs, fossils, rocks, mountains, stars, planets – big, physical, earthy things. As I grew and learned through the complicated processes of science, the whole world became an infinitely complicated, continuously unfolding window into God’s creative mind. From the quantum entanglement of paired photon particles to the unimaginably long process of creation through evolution that could selectively form the creatures of this mysterious and complicated world, I stand in complete, utter fascination.
Yet, as captivated as I am by science, its questions are not enough. For me, asking the probing questions of science isn’t about head knowledge, it’s about heart knowledge. The created world and all its mysteries, when uncovered and understood, stir in me deeper mysteries, mysteries of a different category and question. At some point I moved beyond asking what and how to asking why and what does it mean.
As we celebrated Pentecost, the receiving of the Holy Spirit, I was reminded that the gifts we have been given are of both head knowledge and heart knowledge. Wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, strength, piety, and fear of the Lord – these challenge and equip us to probe deeper, scientifically and metaphysically, into the mystery of being.
Of all the gifts, fear of the Lord might sound the most antiquated, but it may also be the most relevant for today’s ongoing conversation with secularism. Understood as “wonder and awe”, rather than fear, this gift certainly explains my shift in focus from science to faith. And, I’m certain, explains the drive of so much scientific research today.
Wonder is the starting point for two difficult conversations – one between science and fundamentalism and the second between faith and active secularism. Both the agnostic physicist and the pious mystic share the gift of a profound wonder and awe at the created world, whether or not they both believe the world had a creator.
As we celebrate the gift of Pentecost, and as we give thanks for the Holy Spirit’s continued work, let us take time to wonder with someone about the intricacies of creation – whether it be through the eyes of science or the eyes of faith – and let us hope that this gift of wonder can begin a creative conversation of a different sort.
Mark Bartholet is the Pastoral Associate for Faith Formation at St. Peter Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC.
One late evening on a camping trip in 3rd grade, my dad and a family friend, Mr. Stroude, took my Girl Scout troop out on a nature walk. We weaved along the path through the woods, giggling with our flashlights dancing around the dirt and moss and trees, until the adults stopped us and asked us to turn off our flashlights. As our eyes adjusted, we realized that we had neared the beginning of a long floating bridge across a large marsh. I say “the beginning” because the length of the crossing and the darkness of the Indiana country meant that, even with my 20/20 vision, I could only see to about the middle of the bridge.
Mr. Stroude proceeded to walk out onto the bridge and soon melted away into the darkness at its center. My dad then explained to us that if we wanted to continue, we would have to walk across the bridge individually, without our flashlight, and meet Mr. Stroude on the other side.
“WHAT?!?” More than a little terrifying, Dad!
I wasn’t alone in that sentiment. All of us were frightened of the potentially infinite (but definitely creaking) bridge and the murky water beneath it, but no one really wanted to turn back when others might go on without her and see wonderful sights. Eventually, I mustered my courage and stepped out over the marsh into the darkness.
I am about to step out onto another bridge, the end of which is covered in darkness. I will soon finish my two years in the Echo program through Notre Dame, and I cannot yet see where God is asking me to go. I cannot see whether I will pass the comprehensive exams for my master’s degree at the end of the summer. I cannot see whether I will have a job come the fall, or even what kind of job may present itself. I cannot see where marriage fits into my future. I cannot see how my relationships will hold up when I move to a new city and leave this community behind.
As I pondered all these unknowns, this story from my memory and this prayer from Thomas Merton kept coming forward:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following
your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
The process of crossing these bridges was and will be a matter of trust. I trusted that my dad would not have asked me to walk a bridge that would not hold me, and I had to recall that trust with each ominous creak. I will trust that Christ is doing the same. I trusted that Mr. Stroude had walked the bridge before me and had already confronted the fears inherent in doing so, and was waiting on the other side, even if I could not see him. I will trust that Christ is doing the same.
Of course, I found that each time I reached the darkest part of the bridge, it was no longer completely dark, and there were at least a few more steps to see - enough to allow me to keep walking. I will trust that Christ will show me enough of what’s next to let me keep moving towards Him.
Laura Berlage serves as an Echo Faith Formation Apprentice in the Diocese of Camden, NJ... for now.
Pope Gelasius (d. AD 496) said of St. George that he is one of the saints "whose names are rightly reverenced among us, but whose actions are known only to God."
Little can be verified about the life of St. George. He is remembered as a martyr for the faith, and claimed as a patron by thirteen European countries. His intercession is sought constantly on behalf of soldiers and farm workers (and those suffering from the plague, though luckily with less frequency as of late).
St. George is best remembered for his defeating a dragon to rescue the fair maiden (which naturally makes him a favorite of this fairy-tale loving girl). The beast attacked a quiet little kingdom, and his hunger demanded hefty payment, leading up to the necessary sacrifice of the king’s own daughter. Just as the dragon is about to devour the princess, St. George rides by, conveniently enough, and after making the sign of the cross and proclaiming the name of Jesus, he defeats the dragon. In thanks, the entire kingdom is baptized. The end. 
But clearly it's not the end, because this myth has been a favorite for 1500 years.
So what can a 3rd century saint, whose life and deeds are wrapped in myth and legend, tell us about being a Christian in the 21st century? Like in so many other tales and stories, the facts are less important than the message they bring. In this case, we learn that dragons are indeed real. Sometimes they are obvious and obtrusive, demanding immediate attention, like road rage or constantly breaking into conversations with “Well, in my
opinion.” Often, however, they emerge in the form of redundancy, mediocrity, boredom, or the benign. What do we do about these sneaky, shadow dragons which creep into our lives in the form of a snooze button or accidental rude comments? These dragons grow slowly in the secret and dark where nobody can see them and think poorly of me.
This tale also reminds us that courage takes many forms. Often, courage is speaking out in defense of the faith in the face of blatant injustice, as is still seen in too many places in the world. For my life today, courage takes the form of remaining steadfast in seemingly benign moments, like laundry and emails. My challenge is to remain dutiful and prayerful while I wait. For this twenty-something, courage is taking the waiting as seriously as what I am waiting for. I wait to finish my Masters; wait until I get married; wait to move closer to my family; wait for a job. Lately I have been praying for a heart like Mary's, courageous in all matters, great and small. She allowed God to break into her quiet life, and then she waited for her Son to be born, waited to find him in the Temple, waited for the Resurrection. As the psalmist says, “Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).
I recently stumbled upon an icon of St. George which I bought for my fiancé. It is currently hanging in his bedroom, and in less than four months will hang in ours. I love to see it when I visit, because George’s story is one I can relate to. For, as G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “Fairy tales are not important because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” St. George, pray for us that we may develop courageous hearts to maintain our faithfulness to Christ in small moments and defeat the less obvious dragons in our lives. Abigail Craycraft is an apprentice with the Echo Program through the University of Notre Dame where she is currently serving at Bl. Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Collingswood, NJ.  The tale is found in the book The Golden Legend, a compilation of saints’ fantastic deeds, published in 1483
"Christ in the Desert" Ivan Kramskoi 1872
With the liturgical season of Lent – one of the holiest and most sacred times for our Church – now upon us, - many Catholic minds are churning in anticipation. While we prepare ourselves with the due reverence for Lent, we are equally busy devising just exactly what we shall sacrifice and how shall we keep it. While this great fast is meant to ignite a vision of our Christ, unyielding in temperance through the desert in the face of Satan’s temptations, our holy fast often is diminished to a game of “what is the best fasting practices to talk about with others?” or “I’ll kick start my diet by giving up sweets for Lent.” Suddenly our religious devotional practice becomes much less about Christ, much more about ourselves.
This is not to say our mismanaged practices are meant to only serve ourselves. It is also not meant to say that our “sacrifices” are not challenges. Nor is this meant to discourage anyone from giving up sweets. This is to say that there is a chasm in many of our modern, personal interpretations of our Catholic practice. Often, we attempt to fulfill the tradition without prayer or holy intentions and we boastfully bemoan our devotion with ironic agony to our friends and family “I won’t even have sweets on Sunday, not a bite!”
This, I believe, is not what is meant for our journey through Lent with Christ. This journey is a glorious opportunity for devotion and recommitment to prayer, abstinence, and almsgiving. We may share our devotions with others, but we should seek to share as a means of support and reflection without pride or seeking attention.
So, I propose a new kind of devotional practice. Instead of banishing the tasty treats from your pantry or giving up your favorite television show, let’s take one step closer to our Community of Faith in our Lenten sacrifice. These practices help us to grow closer to Christ. This year, why not try this through a prayer-filled recognition of the struggles that our brothers and sisters here on Earth face each day?
Practicing sacrifice with added prayerful reflection and a commitment to our community is much more doable than one might think! This Lent, park in the back of the grocery lot; as you walk towards the door, say a prayer for older adults who may be challenged to walk such a short distance Or, if you like to give up sweets, do so in celebration for the abundance of what you have been blessed with! The money that is not spent on sweets may be used to purchase non-perishables to donate to a local Saint Vincent de Paul societies. The idea is that while we make sacrifices this Lent, we do so in the spirit of Christ and in support of our community!
When we sacrifice of ourselves so that others may be blessed in the wake of our actions, we grow closer to Christ. As we sacrifice with a humble and gracious heart, prayer becomes a natural step towards not only a stronger relationship with Christ, but so too, with fellow members of our community. Brothers and sisters, let us prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Easter season by using the sacrificial Lenten season as a means to strengthen the bonds between Christ and community.
Samantha Alves is working toward a M.S.W. at Boston College and currently works for the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.
"Shock." "Disbelief." "Uncertainty." "Bittersweet."
The above descriptors were all used by friends to describe their reaction to last week’s resignation announcement
by Pope Benedict XVI. I awoke at 6:02am last Monday to several text messages from friends informing me of the reported, yet still unconfirmed, “shot heard round the world.”
The resignation of our Holy Father, at first, felt like the loss of a grandparent that you have grown up with; I have grown up in the Church of Pope Benedict XVI. After letting the news sink in over the last week, I have found some inspiration in Psalm 30:6, which speaks of sorrow leading to rejoicing: “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” My sense of loss has been transformed into a greater sense of admiration for a man that I have never met, yet have such a deep respect for.
For lack of something more appropriate to say, I offer to you the words of the Holy Father during his homily
at the Final Mass of the 26th World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain on August 21, 2011. May his words serve as a challenge to all of us during the last days of his momentous pontificate. Oremus pro Pontifice et pro invicem. Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the center of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with that kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus. Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others. I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word.
In closing, I share with you a rendition of Tu es Petrus
, composed by Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci, Director Emeritus of the Sistine Chapel Choir, performed during World Youth Day in Madrid.
Once, I was a college “mentor-in-faith” for the Notre Dame Vision
program, leading small groups for a series of weeklong vocational conferences for high school students. During these conferences, I presented a risky talk
. It was risky because I knew there was a possibility of stigma and verbal abuse associated with owning some of my actions. In fact, there was a near certainty of it. However, there was also a real possibility that one or more high school students who had been struggling with sin or guilt could find some real relief, insight, or conversion. When the idea to write this talk first came to me, I found myself unable to brush it aside. Yet I struggled. I went back and forth. Eventually, however, it became apparent to me that there was nothing else to do but to offer this story. So I wrote... My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness.
I closed my talk with these first lines of the Magnificat, as I could understand a little of what Mary was expressing. I was amazed that my soul could
proclaim any of the greatness of the Lord to others. My
soul? Even in my smallness and brokenness? Yes. Even that brokenness had been turned around to glorify the Lord.
Now, compare that simple story to our Mother’s. While Mary had no brokenness, she too had a smallness; an anonymity; even, arguably, a degree of worthlessness to her society.
By deciding upon the motherhood of Christ, she accepted the near certainty of stigma, ostracism, even death. Yet through that decision, anonymous young Mary was able to glorify the Lord in an unprecedented way - she is the model of everything the Church can be. She is the model of conforming to God’s will. She is the model of trust in the Lord. She is the model of allowing the Lord to proclaim His greatness through her. In the Magnificat, Mary’s amazement that this could
be the outcome is evident (even before she knew it would
be). The greatest result was, of course, the Incarnation, and thereby human salvation. I am grateful that she thought the work of God worth the personal risk, both at her first fiat
to Gabriel, and at every subsequent time her heart stood in danger of being pierced.
I presented a risky talk... once. However, Mary shows us that we are called to take risks for the sake of the Gospel witness more than once in our lives, and without my deliberation born of hesitation. I ask your prayers that both you and I may be given the strength and the spirit to follow Mary’s model, to keep taking the actions that carry with them both personal risk and the corporate reward of building God’s Kingdom.
Henry Tanner's "Annunciation"
Laura Berlage serves as an Echo Faith Formation Apprentice in the Diocese of Camden, NJ Note: I don’t share that talk’s content here because it involves more than my own story, and the other persons involved have not authorized me to make their story the kind of public that lives online indefinitely.
Pallottines at the canonization of St. Vincent Pallotti, Rome 1963
On 20 January 1963, just over a month after the close of the first session of the Second Vatican Council, the rows of tiered seating on either side of the main aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica meant to accommodate over 2000 Council Fathers filled to capacity again. The faithful came on that day for the canonization of one person, Vincent Pallotti (21 April 1795- 22 January 1850), a priest of Rome and founder of the Union of Catholic Apostolate. Blessed John XXIII, who canonized him that day, called Pallotti “an innovator of new ways whereby people could come to know and love God.” For Pallotti this was the way of an apostle, one who is sent on mission, urged on by the love of Christ. As Blessed John XXIII explained, “the apostle does not nourish his personal concerns, nor seek his own glory, but he works for a reward far and eternal, happy to please God alone, and to bring souls, possibly all souls to his merciful love.”
The Rome of Pallotti’s day was not a place of peace and tranquility. His lifetime was punctuated by revolution and his witnessing three times over the forced absence of a pope. He experienced Catholics throwing off their faith and, therefore, saw a great need to “revive faith and rekindle charity” among Catholics and also serve the growing needs of the Church in the missions. On 9 January 1835, he was inspired to found the Union of Catholic Apostolate as a response to these needs of the Church. Pallotti called the Union an “evangelical trumpet, calling all, inviting all, rekindling zeal and charity in all the faithful of every state, situation and condition” that “would effectively cooperate in all evangelical undertakings, and in the growth, defense, and propagation of charity and of the Catholic faith” (OO CC I, 4-5). His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State, summarized the elements and effect of this inspiration in a recent letter to the Pallottine family: “Living faith and active charity were the two pillars on which St. Vincent Pallotti rested firmly his whole luminous life and generous work, two inner forces that spurred and supported the many apostolic initiatives that filled his life. ‘Caritas Christi urget nos’ (2 Cor 5:14) was his motto, which also motivated his followers. The ripe fruit of his zeal was the foundation of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, that even at that time, valued the collaboration of all categories of the faithful of the Church – laity, priests, and religious – vivifying the faith of each to become an authentic apostle, carrying the fire of God’s love!”
In our time there is still an urgent need to revive faith, rekindle charity, and call all the baptized to live as apostles. As in Pallotti’s day, so today, faith is being thrown off, not by revolution, but by indifference, lack of engagement, disinterest. The work of the New Evangelization as articulated by Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and recently reflected upon at the Synod on the New Evangelization emphasizes the intrinsic connection between faith and charity for authentic Christian living, a deepening by Catholics of their baptismal commitment through active evangelizing of self and others, and support of the missionary efforts of the Church throughout the world. These priorities of the New Evangelization were the priorities of St. Vincent Pallotti as well. They are the priorities of the Union of Catholic Apostolate today. According to Fr. Jacob Nampudakam, S.A.C., Rector General of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate and Ecclesiastical Assistant of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, “the Pallottine response to the challenge of the New Evangelization is, therefore, to revive faith and rekindle charity as apostles of Jesus in a changing world, sinking roots into a passion, the passion of St. Vincent Pallotti for Christ!”
This passion for Christ in the spirit of St. Vincent Pallotti is manifesting itself for the twenty-first century in the response of the Union of Catholic Apostolate to the needs of the New Evangelization. The Union “promotes collaboration among all the faithful in openness to new forms of evangelization” (General Statutes
, n. 12). The Catholic Apostolate Center in the United States of America is one of those responses. The Center is collaborating with various Church entities at the international, national, diocesan, and local levels to provide in-person and online formation programs for the New Evangelization and assists in fostering deeper collaboration and greater co-responsibility among all the baptized.
In this jubilee year of the 50th anniversary of the canonization of St. Vincent Pallotti, the Union of Catholic Apostolate actively pursues what Blessed John Paul II called it to do over twenty-five years ago, “Continue to multiply your efforts so that what was prophetically announced by Vincent Pallotti, and the Second Vatican Council authoritatively confirmed, may become a happy reality, that all Christians are authentic apostles of Christ in the Church and in the world.” Fr. Frank S. Donio, S.A.C., D. Min, Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center wrote this piece for the January 23rd English edition of © L'Osservatore Romano, 2013 To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the cannonaization of St. Vincent Pallotti check out the new PALLOTTI APP featuring daily meditations, St. Vincent Pallotti’s vision, and Pallotine Community Prayers.
Following the new Congress being sworn into office January 3rd, Inauguration Day is now upon us. On this day, hundreds of thousands turn out on the National Mall in Washington and millions tune in on television to watch the great spectacle. President Barack Obama will raise his right hand and place his left on two stacked Bibles as he takes the oath of office for another four-year term.
Inauguration Days are joyous for some but disappointing for others. Yet as Catholics, we also understand that regardless of who wins the oval office, Christ has already won. Because of Christ’s victory, we are called to act with charity toward our fellow citizens and even those who are not citizens. Sacrificial love transcends party lines and political boundaries.
This day is a reminder to us that our country is in need of being rooted in God and in our faith. Yet it cannot be done by one human being and through political methods. One of the unique and fascinating traits of St. Vincent Pallotti, founder of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, was his ability to get others involved in the mission of the Church. He understood that an internal revitalization of the Church or renewal of faith was not going to occur by a single individual. Rather, he envisioned the renewal of the Church as everyone’s task – everyone’s mission. St. Vincent Pallotti formed a small group of followers at the beginning of his ministry to use their talents to evangelize and spread the good news of the Gospel. We too are called to use the skills and talents that God has given us and as the motto of the Catholic Apostolate Center states, to “revive faith, rekindle love and form apostles.” This is what it means to participate in the universal apostolate. And since we are created “in the image and likeness of God,” each of us has spiritual gifts that can touch the hearts of others.
Consider the official motto of our nation: “In God we trust.”
What God asks of us is that we trust in Him at all times, whatever the circumstances and in whatever situation, including whoever is in office. We must submit to His will as the all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-living God. All we need to know about our future and the future of our nation is contained within the trust of His will. We may have the tendency to want to change the direction and determine the course because we think we know it all. But our intelligence and judgment will only take us so far because God we cannot perceive the things God has in store by our sheer intellect. His ways are spiritually discerned. “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)
The United States has long declared where this nation’s trust resides. Our country has historically placed trust in God. Presidents come and go and so does inaugural hype and rhetoric. But the message of Christ and Christ himself are the same yesterday, today and forever (cf. Hebrews 13:8).
Sarah Morris is a senior Politics major at The Catholic University of America.
The night before I travel - whether by car, air or sea - I can’t help but begin to feel anxious and get a little overwhelmed about my upcoming journey. No matter how prepared I think I am or how necessary the trip is, I loathe the process of travelling. I’ve never had a ‘bad’ experience, but it isn’t something on my list of things to do every day either. While I’m sure I’m not alone in my sentiment, and there are probably 101 diagnoses as to why I don’t like travelling, I think it boils down to the fact that transition, no matter the circumstances, causes an upheaval of routine.
Throughout our lives, each of us has experienced the anxieties of transition in one way or another: graduating from school and starting a new job; getting married and having children; getting sick or losing a loved one. Every stage of our lives carries with it transition and to some extent, a change in routine. The Book of Ecclesiastes acknowledges this idea in a very poetic way: “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens” (Eccl 3:1).
The start of Ordinary Time is no different. While most of us would consider this transition as minimal, the truth is our ‘routine of solemnity’ has come to somewhat of a standstill for the next month. The Solemnity of the Presentation of the Lord (on February 2), and the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (on February 11) are among the highlights, but for the non-daily Mass crowd, they will be passed over with little thought.
So, the question then becomes, what are we to make of these next few weeks? With less than a month before we begin our celebration of Lent with Ash Wednesday, many of us are tempted to ask what good these next four weeks of green - of Ordinary Time - truly serve? In fact, we might be tempted to brush them aside and regard them as a welcomed break in our otherwise hectic liturgical year. I would suggest, however, that looking at these next four ordinary weeks is essential to our spiritual well-being.
Our Catholic faith has a rich history of using the ordinary to reveal the extraordinary. Our sacramental life is centered around the idea that ordinary elements - bread, wine, water, oil, gestures and even people - through the grace of God, constantly reveal extraordinary truths. Even in our secular day to day interactions, we believe that God reveals himself to us through the kind word or action of an ordinary passerby; oftentimes to our amazement.
Both the Old and New Testaments tell countless stories of God using ordinary people to bring about His extraordinary plan of salvation: Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Jonah, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, just to name a few. The lives of the saints and martyrs are no exception. Ss. Francis, Therese of Lisieux, Jerome, Vincent Pallotti, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Francis de Sales, among thousands of others, beautifully exemplify living ordinary lives for the sake of an extraordinary message.
Knowing and understanding how God uses the ordinary should be a great source of hope for each of us. It is an invitation for each of us to strip away what we think we need to be and come as we are; in other words, for us to recognize the beauty of our own imperfect humanity. It is through our participation in the ordinary that we enter into a deeper, more honest and fruitful relationship with God, who is perfection.
It’s true that this liturgical season, this transition, might bring about some uneasiness or anxiety because it is a break from our recent pomp and solemnity. For some, it might be a minimal, casual transition. And still for others, it might be off their radar completely. Whatever the case, I would suggest making these next four weeks truly ordinary. If we come as we are - as ordinary people - not just to reacclimate ourselves to a different routine, but to enter into an honest dialogue with God, I am confident He will use us in extraordinary ways. This kind of unique and authentic vulnerability is what we are called to, and why we were created. Why not take a little time to participate in it and enjoy it?
On January 24th, we will celebrate the memorial of St. Francis de Sales. In his book, The Introduction to the Devout Life, he writes,
“When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according
to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring
forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling…
Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection”
(Pars 1, cap.3).
As we begin this short period of Ordinary Time, we are reminded not of what we lack, but of why being ordinary is so necessary to bring about the extraordinary. We are reminded that each of us have been created as is, to bring about a life of devotion, not for our sake, but for the glory of God. In essence, we are reminded why the green of the thorn, eventually blooms into the white of the rose. Happy Ordinary Time!
Jonathan Jerome is the Director of Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown.
Tae Kang on the Shore of Galilee
Without a doubt, the Gospel of John is my favorite book in the Bible. I love the mixture of philosophy and poetry in Jesus’ monologues. It is beautiful how it captures the whole of Salvation History. And it seems that it has quite possibly some of most quotable and recognizable verses in all of Scripture such as Jn. 3:16. Yet the simplest reason is that it contains the profound dialogue that Jesus and St. Peter have post-Resurrection in the 21st chapter.
The scene is simple: Jesus and Peter are sharing a meal on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus asks a seemingly simple question especially for a man who is supposed to be the “rock” (Mt. 16:18) of the Church- “Do you love me?” Peter affirms his love for Jesus and then Jesus proclaims, “feed my sheep”. This sequence happens two more times, which shows Jesus’ mercy and sense of humor. As you probably know, Peter denied Jesus three times rather than stand up for his faith and Savior. This is Jesus allowing Peter to make up for his threefold denial with a threefold affirmation.
Unfortunately, the English translation does not fully capture the drama of this story and thus, we must look to the original Greek. The Greeks had three words for our word, “Love”: Philia (Friendship), Eros (Sexual Love), and Agape (Selfless, Gift-Love). In the context of this story, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you Agape me?” In his shame, Peter can only respond, “I Philia you” or “I am your friend.” While Jesus loves Peter with his whole heart, Peter is a wounded human. On the third try, Jesus meets Peter at his level and asks if they are friends. To this, Peter can agree.
From November 5 to 17, 2012, I had the tremendous opportunity to be part of a pilgrimage to the Middle East. What made the trip special was that I got to spend the time with my mom, who has been a great role model and exemplar of sacrifice and faith. And while seeing the Pyramids in Egypt and Petra in Jordan were great, the part that I was most excited for was the Holy Land. One of the places that we went to was the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter, where it is said that Jesus and St. Peter had this final conversation as told in Jn. 21.
Like many of the other churches that we went to in Israel, I automatically felt the sacred presence of the Spirit. I went into the Church first to say a prayer and then walked along the shore of the Sea. I was so utterly moved to be standing on the ground and touching the water where Jesus and Peter shared this intimate moment. I was speechless to be present there and just gave thanks for this blessing.
The words that I kept praying were the words of Jesus’ command to Peter: Feed my sheep. All my life, I viewed my Catholic faith as an opportunity to be a role model for others. I participated in parish ministry through the Echo Program and taught high school Religion for two years. Now, I am taking a year off to discern my next step in my life journey and where exactly God is calling me to serve his people, to “feed [his] sheep”. Wherever I end up, I will be grateful and remember the incredible time that I spent on the shore of Galilee. The place that Jesus asked Peter a simple question for all of humanity, “Do you love me?”
Tae Kang has his MA in Theology from The University of Notre Dame through the Echo Faith Formation Program and has worked both as a Lay Ecclesial Minister in a Parish and as a High School Religion Teacher.