Perhaps not surprisingly, I have found myself thinking about sickness lately. From colds, to Covid, to cancer, it’s likely you know someone who is sick, are caring for a sick family member, or are sick yourself.
Being sick is miserable and caring for someone who is sick is no picnic either. It is hard to watch our loved ones suffer.
The Catechism counts illness and suffering among the “gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1500).
The way we respond to sickness can tell us a lot about ourselves. The Catechism describes two different responses: “Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1501).
While possible reactions are not limited to these two, I tend to fall into the first category. I often respond to illness by wallowing in self-pity and self-indulgence. When I contemplate saints who suffered terrible illness without complaint, I feel as though I fall very short.
Can I really live my sickness or that of my loved ones in the presence of God?
If I remain wrapped up in myself, sickness is simply misery. But if I am open to receiving the grace of God, it’s a very different story. Take today’s readings for instance.
On today’s feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, we hear about his reaction to being struck down and left blind, weak, and clueless. How does Saul (later known as St. Paul) respond to his illness? He allows himself to be led by the hand and, under Ananias’ care, recovers his sight and regains his strength.
Ananias’ role in this healing is remarkable. He responds to God’s call to care for Saul, who just before had been “breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). Ananias goes so far as to call Saul “my brother” (Acts 9:17) and nurses him back to health, despite having many reasons that might justify doing otherwise. Ananias exemplified Christ’s own compassion toward the sick and his ministry of healing.
“Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases’ (Mt 8:17; cf: Isa 53:4)… By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1505).
Though we may sometimes feel abandoned in our illness, Christ is not indifferent to our suffering. On the contrary, he has made it his own, and, through his own suffering and death, Christ has transfigured it. When we respond to illness with a desire “to freely unite [our]selves to the Passion and death of Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1499), suffering takes on a new meaning. It can be an opportunity to become more like Christ and to participate in the saving work of Jesus. This in no way downplays or dismisses the difficulties and challenges of being sick, but rather elevates them and transforms them into something greater, something which contributes “to the good of the People of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1499).
Let us allow today’s readings to prompt us to examine our own attitudes towards sickness and suffering, especially if we find ourselves in the position of caring or being cared for.
How can we, like St. Paul, allow ourselves to be taken by the hand? How can we more readily and gratefully accept help in our illness? How can illness serve to draw us closer to God and make us more Christ-like? How can sickness make us more mature and help us to recognize what is essential? How can we be more open to the grace of God which can offer us the strength, peace, and courage to overcome the difficulties that come with sickness?
How can we, like Ananias, respond to God’s call to bring his healing to others? How can we lovingly lead our sick loved ones out of anguish, self-absorption, or despair? How can we imitate Christ in our compassionate care for the sick and suffering?
To visit our COVID-19 Resource Page, please click here.
St. Vincent Pallotti, founder of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottine Fathers and Brothers), and the Pallottine Sisters, whose feast day is on January 22, believed that all are called to be apostles, co-responsible for the mission of Christ and the Church. This was a rather radical understanding in the Rome of 1835.Today, it is central to the teaching of the Church, especially those of the Second Vatican Council, subsequent popes, and in the contemporary conversations about missionary discipleship and synodality.
The members of the congregations of priests and brothers and sisters that Pallotti founded do not stand apart from the Union of Catholic Apostolate But are members of their own congregations and of the Union and share co-responsibly with lay people in leadership of the Union. Its mission is to“promote the co-responsibility of all the baptized to revive faith and rekindle charity in the Church and in the world, and to bring all to unity in Christ” (UAC General Statutes, n. 1).
Reviving faith, rekindling charity, and living as apostles is what the Pallottine Spiritual Way is all about. To understand fully the mission and work of the Catholic Apostolate Center as we celebrate our 10th anniversary, it is important to know that it arises from and is always rooted in this spiritual way of being Church that Pallotti proposed and lived.
The Center provides formation for living the mission of an apostle of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, all those who live as apostles of Christ are seeking not their own glory, but the infinite glory of God. For as Pallotti said:
“Seek God and you will find God. Seek God in all things and you will find God in all things. Seek God always and you will find God always.”
May the Charity of Christ urge us on!
In God, the Infinite Love,
A little more than 100 miles south of Berlin, Germany, just north of the Ore Mountain Range, lies the small town of Lomnitz. In the early 20th century when millions of Europeans journeyed to the United States in search of a better life, a small group of immigrants from Lomnitz was processed through Ellis Island. To those immigrants, the United States federal government assigned the last name “Lomnitzer.” Just as those from New York are called New Yorkers, so too were those from Lomnitz to be called Lomnitzers.
Although I am not German by blood, there is a special place in my heart for the small town of Lomnitz and the group of Lomnitzers that settled in America. When my paternal grandfather was born, he was left by his biological mother at the doorstep of a convent. The loving nuns found a home for the baby and he was adopted as an infant. He then became Charles Lomnitzer, a beloved member of the Lomnitzer family. It is through the generosity of the Lomnitzers that I, Tyler Lomnitzer, three generations removed, have a wonderful life and continue to bear the family name with honor and gratitude.
The Lomnitzers recognized the dignity of each and every human person. Charles’s biological mother was unable to care for him, but the Lomnitzers nevertheless saw Charles as a gift and blessing to their family. Just as America provided a beacon of hope and the promise of a better life to the Lomnitzers, so too did the Lomnitzers provide a beacon of hope to my grandfather.
I found the story of my family to be a powerful moment of prayer last Thursday, January 18 during the annual Vigil Mass for Life. The Mass takes place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. the night before the annual March for Life. Packed into the basilica were thousands of Catholics from all over the country who had gathered to pray for the legal protection of the unborn and for an increase in the recognition of the sanctity of life from conception until natural death. We gathered under the leadership of the bishops—Cardinal Dolan from the Archdiocese of New York was the celebrant and homilist—to come together as a Church in fellowship and prayer. It was the nuns’ prayer and commitment to life that found a home for my grandfather and paved the way for my life in this world; it will be the prayer and commitment to life of all those present at the basilica that will lead to (God-willing) thousands of beautiful lives to come. It was also the prayer and commitment to life of the Lomnitzers that allowed them to find room in their home for a little boy who needed parents. The Lomnitzer lineage is my lineage, not by blood, but by love.
Please join me in prayer for all those who need parents, or lack other necessary means of survival.
Question for Reflection: What are some ways that you can touch the life of someone you encounter so that the other might recognize their own life’s gift and sanctity?
**This post was originally published on 1/23/2018.
Walking into the Catholic University Career Fair in the Fall of 2019, I had no idea the impact that it would have on my life. I remember seeing all these scientific and engineering firms and feeling totally lost and defeated as a history major, when then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a table for the Catholic Apostolate Center. I remembered the organization from a friend of mine who was working at the Center and I decided to go up and learn more. A few months after going to the Center’s table, I began as a marketing intern for the Center and I really enjoyed learning and collaborating with my fellow staff members.
During my internship semester, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and everything was moved online. I was so anxious about my internship. I saw a lot of friends losing their jobs, positions, and internships due to the pandemic, but the Center was able to quickly adapt to remote work and I was able to keep my internship. I was thrilled! During a time of uncertainty, my work as an intern was one constant in an ever-changing world and it felt great to be able to rely on the Center during those difficult times. The staff would virtually gather weekly in prayer and in lighthearted conversation throughout the pandemic which allowed for some much needed interaction in a newly virtual world.
I was so impressed with how the Center was able to not only adapt to the pandemic, but also grow and continue to put out amazing content for our audience. The Center provided thoughtful and helpful resources, podcasts, and webinars surrounding the pandemic such as adapting to telework, anxiety surrounding the pandemic, providing virtual mass links, and other spiritual resources to allow the Lord to guide us through these unforeseen circumstances. These not only were helpful to me as a staff member, but as a college senior who was struggling with the loss of my final semester of school, leaving my friends, and returning home to virtual classes.
My time with the Center continued after graduation as I continued to work part time as a program associate throughout the summer and fall of 2020. It was wonderful to be able to rely on the support of the Center and be able to aid in the creation of new programs and resources. I would work my 9-5 job, eat dinner, and then complete my Center work at night. I still felt like I was part of something bigger than just myself and my work and that I was contributing to helping others.
Now working full time for the Center, I have been even more blessed to continue working for such a wonderful organization. In my two years working for the Center, I have seen myself grow from a shy intern, to working part time, and now being able to embrace the Lord’s call in my work. Not only have I seen this growth in myself, but I have also seen this growth in the Center as an organization. From partnering with other organizations, to holding new and exciting webinars, creating and updating resource pages, growing our Ad Infintium blog, and an increased social media presence, the Center continues to be a place where all can grow spiritually.
With this New Year, we have once again seen an uptick in the number of COVID cases throughout the world. I know that throughout these continued challenging times, the Catholic Apostolate Center will continue to be a source of fruitful conversation, evangelization, and growth throughout the pandemic, 2022, and for many years to come just as it has been for the past ten years. I am so thankful and grateful to be a part of this team and I cannot wait to see what the Lord has planned next for us.
To visit our COVID-19 Resource Page, please click here.
St. Vincent Pallotti, the Missionary of Rome, was a Roman Diocesan priest of the 19th century whose life, works, ministry, and witness offer the best models for modern lay ecclesial ministers, especially lay college ministers. Pallotti was a theologian ahead of his time, founding the Union of Catholic Apostolate and Society of the Catholic Apostolate to propagate and revive the faith among practicing Catholics while fostering a more profound devotion of love by rekindling charity. The implementation of this ideal is still needed in today’s Church, and here is where lay ecclesial ministers come in. When ministers work for Pallotti’s goals of reviving faith and rekindling charity within a Cenacle or community-based mindset, countless people in the larger Church community can be touched and impacted. I have worked in college ministry for two years now as a peer minister, and Pallotti’s ideals have led to my ministerial community’s most fruitful work since we sought to help the needs of the greater college campus community through intentional accompaniment.
St. Vincent Pallotti—much like saints Francis, Dominic, Thérèse—sought to help mend the gaps in the Church by giving all Catholics more ways of achieving holiness. Pallotti founded the Union to help Romans become better Catholics, and modern ecclesial ministers continue this. On college campuses today, many students who identify as Catholic can be lost in the cracks of campus life if they are not actively seeking faith formation and development. Pallotti and his contemporaries went out, looking to meet people where they were and teach them along the way. College ministers must do the same. Instead of forcing program after program (whether Bible studies of social events) onto their students, ministers should instead meet people one on one, learn about their unique qualities, and intentionally invite them to go deeper into their faith. Large-scale social events or small intimate groups like a Bible study allow for an initial contact with students, but these events are not ends in themselves. Instead, they should lead to more connection and discussion. These deeper conversations are what allow faith to be revived. Ministers and those they accompany collaborate to learn more and better live the Christian life of loving charity. However, ministers must look to each other for support and collaboration. Fruitful ministry cannot come from one person alone. Like Pallotti, ministers must work in a Cenacle spirituality, utilizing others’ gifts, talents, and observations to improve everyone’s individual and the overall community’s ministry.
To teach a fellow priest how one’s smallest actions deeply affect others, Pallotti used the money he got from selling excess paper to help minister to a man on his deathbed. Pallotti then turned to Father Paul de Geslin and said, “Now you see the importance of even little scraps of paper.” College ministers must work with the same mindset. The way one lives their own life, interacts with community members, and participates in the greater campus community serves as a witness of Christ to the whole campus. Simple day-to-day interactions allow people to encounter Christ through their actions. Small acts like checking in on a stressed resident can enable them to feel cared for, reach out, and take the initiative to revive their own faith life. Too often lay ecclesial ministry, especially on the college level, boils down to how many people came to a specific event, leading to a discussion of whether resources were utilized well. While good stewardship is necessary in ministry, numbers cannot fully reflect how well the ministry was done. Event statistics show how well a ministry is reaching the community, but it does not account for the small interactions or the “scraps of paper” that make ministry fruitful one-on-one. Ministry must be viewed both on a large scale and on a small scale. The Sermon on the Mount and Jesus meeting the woman at the well are equally important, and both show good ministry.
St. Vincent Pallotti’s dedication to reviving faith and rekindling charity makes him a model for all the Church’s ministers, especially college students. Pallotti worked to show people ways of living a charitable and faith-filled life by walking with them and living among them. This is why college peer-ministry is integral to young adult ministry. College students must see role models who live virtuous faith-filled lives on campus that engage with the greater community and campus culture. Ministers are not meant to live and work in a monastery of a perfect Christian life. Instead, they are meant to engage with others and live their lives with the community. Like Pallotti and his peers, ministers must also draw strength from each other and learn more about those they are ministering with by working collaboratively. This Cenacle spirituality allows for greater engagement in ministry by creating programs and fostering relationships of accompaniment aimed at developing faith for all involved. Finally, the Holy Spirit moves within pastoral communities at all levels of the Church to deepen the Cenacle Spirituality to strengthen its ministers to go out and serve others instead of being inwardly focused. The Holy Spirit inspires lay ecclesial ministers to embrace their individual charisms, recognize others’ gifts, and utilize shared talents to serve others and bring them the Good News. Through Pallotti’s example of ministry, one can “seek God in all things” and “find God in all things.”
For more resources on St. Vincent Pallotti on our Feast Day site, click here.
To view our Pallotti Portal, click here.
For more resources on Lay Ecclesial Ministry, click here.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
These words from Paul’s letter to the Philippians rang out to us a few weeks ago on Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice? How can we rejoice when there are so many bad things happening all around us? We are approaching our second full year of this global pandemic. The virus continues to rage and destroy lives, livelihoods, and ways of life.
As a parent of small children, I feel a sense of dread each time my email alert sounds, wondering if my child has been exposed at school and will she need to quarantine again? How am I supposed to rejoice in this?
As excited and grateful as I was to feel the sense of relief when my older daughter was able to be vaccinated, I continue to feel a sense of uneasiness and concern that my younger daughter, who is under five, will need to wait many months to get her vaccine. How am I supposed to rejoice in this?
In December, there was a deadly school shooting in Oxford, MI, thirty miles north of where I grew up. My heart aches for the families and students who lost loved ones and friends. I also fear that this could happen closer to me, in my daughters’ schools, or in a public place nearby. How am I supposed to rejoice in this?
How am I supposed to rejoice in this? I am supposed to rejoice in all of this because my faith compels me to. How can we exist if we don’t have joy or trust that God is taking care of us? As people of faith, we need to respond to what is going on around us with the lens of our faith. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul continues:
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The world around us is full of stressors, fear, and uncertainty. Our sense of security is shaken. Throughout this pandemic, I have found that there is only so much I can do to control what is happening. I take the necessary precautions for my family and myself, but beyond that, there is a sense of liberation in letting go of what I can’t control. It helps when I put away my phone or turn off the TV, and focus on what is most important: my family and friends, my own self-care, and my faith. As Paul continues in his letter:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
As we start a new year, I encourage you to put these words into practice. Think about what is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Focus on the positive aspects of what is happening, take care of ourselves and those around us, and rejoice in the Lord always!
As we start 2022, the lives of the saints can be an inspiration for us in our faith journey this year. Today we celebrate St. André Bessette and tomorrow we celebrate St. Raymond of Penyafort. While they lived two very different lives, they help show us that there is a unique path to holiness for each of us. On January 17th we will celebrate St. Anthony who is known as the founder of modern-day monasticism in the 4th century. Then, at the end of the month we will celebrate St. Marianne Cope and St. Angela Merici, both female religious whose lives we can look to this new year.
Saints We Celebrate Today and Tomorrow
Today, January 6th, we celebrate the feast of St. André Bessette. Brother André was a brother in the Congregation of the Holy Cross in the 19th and 20th century in Canada. He had a great devotion to St. Joseph which led him to recommend devotion to St. Joseph to those who were sick. This led to Brother André’s reputation as a miracle worker. Even as his reputation grew, he remained devoted to St. Joseph and made sure he was the center of his ministry. Tomorrow we will celebrate the feast of St. Raymond of Penyafort. St. Raymond is known for his work compiling canon laws and he is known as the patron saint of canon lawyers. Both of these saints came to know Christ in radically different ways and had very different life paths, but they both lived their lives for Christ. I find their feast days back-to-back particularly inspirational that Christ has a unique path to holiness for each of us.
St. Anthony the Great
St. Anthony the Great lived in Egypt in the 3rd and 4th centuries and is known as the father of monasticism. Last year, I had to read the Life of Anthony written by St. Athanasius. It is the source for most of what we know about St. Anthony and helped spread St. Anthony’s life to other monks. Even though I had to read it for class, I found my own faith being strengthen by this ancient text. What particularly stood out to me in the text was that even though St. Anthony wanted to be a monk and removed from earthly distractions, he recognized where God was calling him and followed His will. Many of the stories for the Life of Anthony have helped me grow in my own faith and realize that even when I sometimes want to be far removed from a situation, we ultimately need to listen for God’s will for us. I encourage you to prayerfully read through the Life of Anthony this new year.
Inspirational Female Religious
On January 23rd we will celebrate the feast of St. Marianne Cope. She is known for working with St. Damien in the leper colony at Molokai. Even though working with leprosy suffers could be dangerous, St. Marianne Cope led her religious community to helping the king of Hawaii with Molokai. She took on the challenge and devoted her life to caring for leprosy sufferers, recognizing that they were not defined by their illness. Her courage and dedication can be an inspiration to us this new year.
Then, on January 27th we will celebrate St. Angela Merici. She founded the Company of St. Ursula which became a religious community that was focused on the education of young girls. Like St. Marianne Cope many centuries after her, St. Angela Merici had the courage and dedication to found this community and focus on girls’ education even at a time when this was not very common. Let us pray for the intercession of both of these saints for the same courage and dedication they showed throughout their lives.
In the beginning of this new year, let us pray for the intercession of these and all the saints to help us grow in our relationship with God and to follow His will.
To learn more about the saints, visit our Catholic Feast Days Website by clicking here.
To view a calendar of the feast days in January, and each month, click here.
“The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills it; and thirdly to do it because it is his will.” – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821), whom we celebrate on January 4, holds the distinction of being the first native-born American saint. Looking back over her great achievements (which include planting the seeds of Catholic education in America and founding a religious order, the Daughters of Charity), what is so special and relevant about Mother Seton is how ordinary her holiness was.
From Wall Street to Italy, from Baltimore to rural Emmitsburg, MD, Elizabeth initially lead a privileged life, but always remained humble and grounded. After becoming a widow with five children at only 28 years old, she eventually moved her young family to Emmitsburg and founded a religious order and Catholic school. After the death of her husband, her life was difficult, filled with personal trials and hardships. Yet, through all of it, she demonstrated constant dedication to discerning and pursuing the will of God, or, as she simply called it, “The Will.” In fact, it is through looking at how Elizabeth sought God’s will in the toughest moments of life that we stand to learn the most from her remarkable, yet ordinary life.
“God, forgive what I have been, correct what I am, and direct what I shall be.”
Humans are creatures of habit, which makes change a scary thing. God certainly called St. Elizabeth to change directions many times over the course of her life, even change her vocation! Elizabeth remained faithful and constant in the moment, while exercising abandonment to the will of God to respond freely as her circumstances changed. Elizabeth demonstrates how we do not become saints overnight, but grow through a day-by-day process of seeking forgiveness and correction every step of the way.
Faithfulness in Failure
“We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.”
Growing up in a prosperous family, Elizabeth enjoyed a happy and fruitful marriage, blessing her with five children. Together with her husband William, to whom she was very much in love, they inherited a successful business on Wall Street. But in a short period of time, all that changed. William’s business failed and went bankrupt.
Elizabeth knew success very early on, but learned firsthand the difference between success and faithfulness. As an American saint, Elizabeth powerfully challenges the American tendency to view outward success as an indisputable sign of God’s grace. The experience awakened in Elizabeth a newfound love of the poor, as well as a deeper understanding of the will of God in the midst of many obstacles and difficulties on the path to a holy life.
Trust During Tragedy
“The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends, but let us not despair. God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other. The more we are united to Him by love, the nearer we are to those who belong to Him.”
Not long after her family went bankrupt, Elizabeth and her husband William moved to Italy, where he became sick and died of Tuberculosis. Elizabeth had already lost her mother and sister early in life. Following her husband’s death, Elizabeth found consolation and hope in visiting and praying in various churches throughout Italy, and felt especially drawn to the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary even though she was still Episcopalian. Her experience planted seeds for her entrance into the Catholic Church.
Many of us, myself included, have experienced tragedy strike at the heart of a family. Elizabeth demonstrates that tragedy, though profoundly shaking, need not lead to despair, but an invitation to rely even more on the will of God.
Rejoice Despite Rejection
“Afflictions are the steps to heaven.”
When news of Elizabeth’s conversion in 1805 became public, many parents removed their children from the school where Elizabeth taught in Baltimore (after returning from Italy) and other friends no longer associated with her. Used to being a well-liked socialite, this experience must have been painful. Despite feelings of rejection, Elizabeth did not become bitter, defensive, or lose her natural joy and generosity. Instead, Elizabeth teaches us that following the will of God opens us to greater love and acceptance of others, not enmity with them.
The tragedies and setbacks in Elizabeth’s life were not enough to keep her from trusting the will of God. In her own words, “God has given me a great deal to do, and I have always and hope always to prefer his will to every wish of my own.” Let us approach this new year as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton would have, eager to both desire and do the will of God. Consider starting off 2017 with this novena to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton starting tomorrow, January 4th. Pray in a special way to desire, know, and follow the will of God as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton did.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us!
For more resources on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, click here.
For more resources on the saints, visit our Feast Day Website.
January 1, Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, one of the holy days of obligation in the Church. This celebration is a special way to celebrate Mary’s special role in God’s plan in the Christmas story, as well as a way to start the year full of grace, ready to tackle those New Year’s resolutions. Although the practice of New Year’s resolutions is not distinctly Christian, our resolutions gain a new significance when we attend to Mary’s story.
Discern Your Resolutions
The story of Mary’s call to motherhood is a paradigm of Biblical discernment. When Mary received Gabriel’s announcement, “She was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:29). In faith, Mary wrestles with God’s calling. Even after her great “Yes,” and giving birth, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19), revealing she is still learning what her vocation means and how to live it.
What’s this got to do with New Year’s resolutions? Discernment is a spiritual, prayerful decision-making process between possible courses of action. What specific habits or practices is God calling you to work on this year? There are plenty of worthwhile resolutions—there’s a million things I need work on—but it’s just not all possible to accomplish in a year, or ever. Prioritize resolutions that strengthen your personal vocation.
Expect Without Expectations
Mary’s faith is “expectant” but without “expectations.” In other words, Mary expects God to act in her life, but doesn’t place limitations on who, what, when, and where. Mary trusts the angel Gabriel’s words, “nothing will be impossible for God” and is free to live and say, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:37-38).
Maybe God will bring about the outcomes of your resolution through unexpected ways or people. That’s the way it often works in scripture and the lives of the Saints. When you give God permission to act on his terms, you are free to boldly expect that God will do new and great things in your life this year.
Make Room For Others
Even free from original sin, God uses other people to accomplish his plan in Mary’s life. Mary’s story was made possible through her reliance upon truthful friends and family. Her cousin Elizabeth speaks truth and hope into her situation (Luke 1:42), and her husband Joseph goes to heroic lengths to let God’s call come to fruition.
Share your resolution with someone you trust. Whether it’s a major lifestyle change or not, ask them to keep you accountable, and always with prayer. Accountability also prevents goals from becoming purely self-centered or even idols from seeking God first (e.g., just to impress people at the beach). No one can accomplish your resolution for you, but you can find people to accomplish it with you.
Resolve to Live the Truth
Mary shows the true path by always making everything about Jesus. “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). A true personal change will always lead us to more fully reflect our true identities as sons and daughters created in the image and likeness of God.
But the truth is, sometimes resolutions are born of self-loathing or lies we’ve bought instead of the desire to more fully reflect God’s truth. This often happens with body or image-related resolutions; to be thinner, smarter, stronger, etc. While these aren’t de facto bad things, the tendency becomes seeking physical solutions for a spiritual or psychological wound that really needs healing. That’s why discernment with spiritual direction and honest accountability is vital. Exercise programs or supplements say we should consult a physician first- but it’s also true when it applies to spiritual exercises for our soul! Mary and the saints save us from spiritual self-medication, which close us off from the Divine Physician.
**This post was originally published on 12/30/2015.
As we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ at Christmas, I find myself grateful that the Church has established the liturgical calendar in such a way as to help shake us out of our spiritual complacency. The high-points of the Church year—and the larger Christian experience— are referenced so much in our Faith that we may sometimes find ourselves on spiritual autopilot. Before we know it, we might find that solemnities are immediately upon us (or past us), and we feel that we could have benefited from more spiritual preparation. This year, I was looking for a clear and direct theme I could really focus on as Christmas approached. I came across some writings of Venerable Servant of God Fulton Sheen that called to mind certain details of Scripture that my eyes (and spiritual life) might typically gloss over. Recalling the helpless innocence of the Christ-child ready to be born of Mary, Sheen related Mary and Joseph’s plight in searching for late-night shelter in Bethlehem to the lack of hearts open to God which can offer the King of Kings and Lord of Lords a place to dwell and reign:
[W]hen finally the scrolls of history are completed down to the last word of time, the saddest lines of all will be: ‘There was no room in the inn.’ The inn was the gathering place of public opinion, the focal point of the world’s moods, the rendezvous of the worldly, the rallying place of the popular and the successful. But there’s no room in the place where the world gathers. The stable is the place for outcasts, the ignored, and the forgotten… The lesson is: divinity is always where you least expect to find it. So the Son of God-Made-Man is invited to enter into His own world through a back door.
With all the seasonal emphasis on gifts and personal generosity, I am especially touched by that first line and the reality that there was no room made available for the arrival of the long-awaited Son of God. How often do we hear calls to be watchful and ready for the Second Coming of Christ; that is, to be repentant of sin and committed to pursuing holiness? This preparation is what the first part of the Advent season is all about. When we are called before the Final Judgement seat of the Most High, and God Himself shows us what we did or did not do for Him in our earthly encounters with the people in our lives, will we say that it was too difficult or inconvenient to take up what we knew was expected of us? All of the baptized are called to be missionary disciples—people who spread the joy of the Gospel by their very lives. We can bring others into an encounter with the Living God—or at least instill a sense of hope, dignity, and love in those who are in need—in the workplace, at home, in our neighborhoods, in our parishes, and within our families. In doing so, we make room in the inn of our hearts for the Christ-child.
Without Christ present in our hearts and at the core of our being, we will find ourselves serving a different master—be it vices, worldly pleasures, fleeting successes or honors, or other vanities. Just as the innkeepers of Bethlehem two-thousand years ago declined to open their doors to the Holy Family, so too do each of us have the choice either to be seduced by the empty promises of the world or to pursue a life of holiness and of speaking the Truth among the doubtful, suspicious, hateful, or unrepentant.
This Christmas season, let us allow Christ into our lives in order to bring him to others. Let us preach the Gospel with our lives and seek to always make room for him in the inn of our hearts. Christmas is a time for celebration! We rejoice that the Lord God Himself took on human nature and was born as a helpless Child into the world He created in order to free us from sin and death and invite us to live with Him forever. The occasion of Christmas encourages each of us to be a welcoming soul to the Lord rather than one who closed their doors to the Holy Family that holy night:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room.
And let it begin with me. Amen.
 Sheen, Fulton. “Life of Christ” (1954).
 cf. Matthew 25:40.
**This post was originally published on 12/27/2019.
It is just a couple of days before Christmas and the sparkle and bright lights of the season have been adorned in homes, neighborhoods, and towns all over the country for weeks now. Trees are trimmed, lights are hung, special foods baked, festive music plays, and gifts are purchased and wrapped. It is the season of light, but as Christians, are we receiving Christmas or are we giving it? Are we soaking in the bright warmth of all the lights – or are we being lights? The older I get, the more mindful I am of what that first gift of Christmas helps us to be. Christmas is a gift to be received deep in our hearts and then to be shared. The first gift of Christmas is love: love incarnate, love divine. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to walk with us and instruct us how to be light in a world filled with darkness.
Unwrapping the gift of Jesus is our most important mission as Christians. We revel at the manger and are filled with warmth and joy at the birth of a newborn baby. But, we must fully comprehend the entirety of the Christmas story that brings the baby from the manger in Bethlehem to the man who was sacrificed on the hill in Calvary to ransom us from the darkness of our sin.
“Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians fear; for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading:
Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through, the cross be born, for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the Babe, the Son of Mary.”
William C. Dix
‘What Child Is This?’
As we enter into this holy season of light, we celebrate all the richness it bestows in our hearts and souls. Let us not forget amidst the glittery enhancements we have placed on this holiday that it is a sacred holy day- the birthday of our Savior! We receive His love that came down from heaven to earth and we rejoice in the fullness of that gift opening the door to our eternal salvation! When we really grasp the immensity of this gift, we cannot help but want to share it with everyone around us. And how do we live as Christmas lights? We shine with encouragement and support to our neighbor. We sparkle with unashamed exuberance in sharing the Good News of Christ’s saving power. We generously share what we have to those in need. We reach out in flesh and allow the divine to work through us to dispel any darkness that would prevent us from reaching our heavenly inheritance. We embody hope, peace, joy, and love in everything we do. This is how we unwrap the gift of Christmas and be His light to the world.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone
light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand and it gives light to all in
the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so they may see your
good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
“Each of us – let’s not forget this – has a mission to accomplish. So, let’s not be afraid to ask the Lord: what should I do? Let us ask him this question repeatedly.” – Pope Francis, Angelus, December 12, 2021
What is our mission in life? As Christians, it is obvious, we share in the mission of Christ. That is easy to say, but a challenge to do. What Pope Francis proposes is important, especially about asking the question “repeatedly.” Sometimes we might think that discernment of how we live the mission is something done once or occasionally. Instead, it is a day-to-day discernment and sometimes even moment by moment.
“What should I do, Lord?”
Consider the question now, then ask it again and again. This deeper portion of Advent, on the cusp of Christmas, provides a perfect time to reflect on what we should do for Christ, with Christ, and in Christ to accomplish well our particular mission.
We are not alone in this mission, we might have a unique way to go about it, but the mission is Christ’s. Our sisters and brothers in the community of faith that we call the Church live this mission as well. Let us pray for and support one another as we discern and then live what we should do for the Lord each day.
May the Charity of Christ urge us on!
May you have a blessed Christmas. Our prayers are with you.
In God, the Infinite Love,
A few weeks ago, I spent 3 days with over ten thousand Catholic youth and their leaders at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Pre-pandemic, NCYC would welcome twenty-five thousand Catholic Youth and their leaders for an experience of big-name Catholic speakers, large liturgies, small group time, workshops, and more. Even though the Catholic Apostolate Center attended NCYC in 2013, this was my first. While I could write, for pages and pages, about our booth, stage, and experience, I want to focus on another aspect of my time in Indianapolis that has not left my mind since. That is the joy that was felt.
It’s fitting to reflect a bit about joy in this liturgical season of Advent. St. Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” We pay special attention to joy and the action of rejoicing in Advent as we await and prepare ourselves for the incarnation of Jesus Christ at Christmas. We have joy in this season because we know that God’s gift to man, the Word being made flesh, is on its way. As the famous hymn says, Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel, shall come to thee O Israel.
Joy is not an emotion; it is a state of being which transcends one’s individual experience or circumstances. Happiness is often conflated with joy. I’m happy because my favorite song came on the radio or because my favorite pizza was served in the dining hall. Joy, though, remains with the Christian in particular, in both good and bad. Joy remains in illness, in emergency, in suffering. Joy comes from knowing that Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, came among us, lived with us, suffered and died for us, redeemed us, and freed us from the grasp of sin and death. If hope is the rock upon which the Christian life is rooted, then joy is the flower that springs from the roots. As Bishop Arturo Cepeda said in 2019, “the joy of the Gospel begins with a smile.”
So why am I reflecting upon joy in light of my experience of NCYC? Because the joy was palpable, it was unescapable, it was refreshing. In so many parts of our world, including and at times especially in the Church, there is a lack of joy. The pandemic, racial unrest, injustice of all types has led to a world that is less and less joyful. Wherever you turned at NCYC, there was joy. It could be seen in the chants and the hats that groups used and wore as a calling card for their groups. It could be seen in the interactions at the booth as video games were played, radio shows were streamed, karaoke was sung, and conversations were had. It could be seen in the workshops as participants were challenged, were welcomed, and encountered the merciful love of Jesus Christ. This joy was most palpable in the liturgies, in adoration, and in the moments of prayer. Whether it was Christian rapper Lecrae’s concert, Eucharistic Adoration in Lucas Oil Stadium, or daily Mass in one of the conference center’s halls, you could tell that Jesus was present. He wasn’t just present because of the proximity of the Eucharist, or the gathering of his people, no that joy and his presence could be felt so tangibly because of the demeanor of his disciples who had gathered.
Anyone who knows me knows that I caution against these conferences without proper formation and accompaniment. Participants, especially youth, can fall into the trap of seeing the life of faith as being only emotional experiences, massive highs, which can result in the normalcy of the everyday life of the disciple as being unattractive. But at NCYC, I was reminded of the power of thousands of Catholics, especially young Catholics, joining together in worship, praise, and prayer. In these moments, conflicts and disagreement were not at the forefront. Certainly, if we’d polled every person there we would have found thousands of different opinions on liturgy, prayer, spirituality, music, etc., but that wasn’t the focus. No, the focus was the body of Christ and communal prayer and worship of our Lord. Isn’t that a beautiful goal for this Advent season? We know that the disagreements and the conflicts will continue. They’re not always bad in and of themselves. But can we enter into this Advent season with joy? Joy that is rooted in the hope that incarnation gives us. Joy that makes us effective evangelizers. Joy that is the hallmark of a Christian. Joy that comes from Christ alone.
Ten years of the Catholic Apostolate Center. It has been a joy to be a part of this ambitious and collaborative team for almost five years. I never pictured myself running social media for a Catholic organization. In fact, social media was just a personal hobby until my senior year of college at The Catholic University of America. I started my journey in Catholic social media at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. That opportunity honestly came to be through a few jokes made by close friends. After a few months in my role at the Basilica, Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C. reached out to me about the Catholic Apostolate Center. I remember being floored. I joined the Catholic Apostolate Center team in January 2017 as the Social Media Associate.
I worked for the Center during my last year of undergraduate, my two years of graduate school, and for the first two and half years of my first full-time job at Catholic University in student affairs. I studied higher education in graduate school and thought that I would work at a university forever. During the early days of the pandemic, the Center pivoted its content to provide Covid-19 resources for our community. While it was a weird time for the world, it was a time of growth for the Center behind the scenes and in our content offerings. The Center team was churning out so much content that I found myself doing quite a bit of work for the Center during the initial lockdown. Some days I was doing more work for the Center than my full-time job (due to the early nature of remote work during the beginning of the pandemic). As the pandemic and work from home progressed, I realized that I was enjoying my work for the Center more than the work for my full-time job.
As time passed, I realized that I wanted to make a career change. I came to the realization that I wanted to shift to communications for a Catholic organization (ideally). I never expected that enjoying photography, graphic design, and social media would lead me to where I am today. I am greatly appreciative to the Center for giving me the opportunity to develop the skills that have become my career. It has been such an incredible experience to learn and grow with such a supportive team at the Catholic Apostolate Center. I have learned so much from the wonderful people that I have been able to work with.
In addition to growing my skills in social media and graphic design, the Center has allowed me to grow in my faith. I have learned so much from all of the content and resources that we produce. I have been able to strengthen my faith and theological background through the books that the Center has published and our webinars and podcasts. One of the best things about the Center is that we produce resources for so many learning styles. We have books for readers and visual learners, podcasts for audible learners, virtual retreats for those seeking spiritual resources, and so much more.
I encourage you to spend some time on our website, click through our resources, and see what you can find. One great part of my job is that there is always a wealth of content for me to promote. Some weeks I really have to pick and choose what goes on our social feeds because there is so much to be shared. I am so grateful that the Center is a part of my story, and I cannot wait to watch the Center continue to grow and evolve. I know that the Catholic Apostolate Center will be celebrating milestones for years to come.
This Advent is very special for three reasons. First, my son, who will be two in January, will be experiencing the lights, the beauty, and the gift of Advent in a brand new way this season and I’m so happy to share that with him. The second is because every year I teach about Advent to my class of PreK students, but because I’m really looking forward to it, I think I’ll be able to bring that joy into the classroom with me more than ever. Finally, this year in Advent I will be trying to intentionally do work in the service of others and helping where there is an imperative need. This year, I’m hoping to get caught up in the magic and in the giving and also appreciate the beauty of the season rather than waiting impatiently.
On the first Sunday of Advent, I went to Mass with my son and husband, along with another family with two young children. For the first half, my toddler was overwhelmed with excitement about the tree in the back filled with tags for people who need wrapped gifts for Christmas. He kept taking the tags off and swapping out one for another, screaming in joy about the whole thing while the congregation listened to the readings. After some quieting down, we went back into the pew with his little friends. As we knelt in prayer, I was overcome with emotion and gratitude between my husband and son. But the moment that really helped me see through the eyes of a child was when we walked up for Eucharist and my son noticed the purple at the altar, and the four candles with one purple one lit. He pointed and said, “Candle!” and in that moment I knew we would have such a joyful season of Advent. I invite you to notice something brand new about the lights, beauty, and hope that Advent brings to us all. Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are the four weeks that bring us closer to Christ and prepare us for His coming. We can use this time to reawaken our hearts and see Advent all fresh and new, especially through the gentle ways of children!
In my PreK classroom, the children love holidays and especially look forward to Christmas. So many learn about Christmas and Advent for the first time in my class, and that is a really special opportunity for me as their teacher. Already this year, one student shouted, “Presents!” as we were talking about Thanksgiving, and I had to clarify the confusion between the holidays. Then, it struck me, isn’t that how it works sometimes? We want to skip right to something fun that might be in the more distant future instead of appreciating the celebration that might be happening right in front of us. Advent is this same phenomenon. We’re worried, anticipating, and anxious about one day every year, but if you consider that every day in Advent can be a celebration of the Season, it’s really like we have a whole month of Christmas!
There is so much we can do for others in this challenging world right now and there are many in need of our help. Winter is cold and this year has already been chilly: there is a lot we can do for our Sisters and Brothers in Christ during Advent by sharing in joy, distributing resources, praying for those sick or in need, or offering kindness. In 2018, Pope Francis said, “Advent invites us to a commitment to vigilance, looking beyond ourselves, expanding our mind and heart in order to open ourselves up to the needs of people, of brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world." Advent is a time for service, here are some examples of helping others during this time of giving:
Whether you look at Advent through a child-like perspective, find joy in the daily celebration, or assist those less fortunate this Season, do it all with intentional preparation for Christ’s coming on Christmas. I’ll be busy getting caught up in the magic and beauty too! Happy Advent!
Click here for more resources on Advent.
Click here for more resources on the Works of Mercy.