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.