Monthly Archives: March 2016

EASTER SUNDAY by Deacon Marty

Israel 182

This is a picture that I took while we were out on the Sea of Galilee in a boat.  It was early in the morning and there was a low fog on the waters.  We started singing the song, “How Great Thou Art” and all of a sudden rays of sun came through the clouds.  It was a real Holy Moment.  God is good.

CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN TODAY, ALLELUIA – What a day of Joy for the Church, for the world.  Today the victory over death has occurred.   Because of Jesus’s  resurrection we now have Hope and Joy and Peace and Love and Life.  God is so good!  For the next forty days the Church will CELEBRATE the resurrection of the Lord.  This echoes the forty days that Jesus spent with His disciples in His Resurrected Body.  He spent those days teaching them and getting them ready to form the Church and spread the GOOD NEWS throughout the world.  He prepared them for His own leaving (Ascension in to Heaven) and for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Today the Church begins the Easter season where we too will be learning so much from the Lord through the scripture readings of mass.  It is a very Holy time for us.  We too need to learn about the gift that God will give us at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit.  In Romans, Paul tells us that the Spirit that lives within us is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.  Now that is true power.  We need to learn more about what God can do through us when we are open to His Spirit.  The Easter Season will help us do that.  Remember that Easter is a forty day process.  Make the best of it.  May our good Lord continue to bless you and yours and may you have the very best Easter season ever.

A reading from the first apology of Justin Martyr in defense of the Christians, c. 100-165

No one may share in the Eucharist except those who believe in the truth of our teachings and have been washed in the bath which confers forgiveness of sins and rebirth, and who live according to Christ’s commands.

For we do not receive this food as ordinary bread and as ordinary drink; but just as Jesus Christ our Savior became flesh through the word of God, and assumed flesh and blood for our salvation, so too we are taught that the food
over which the prayer of thanksgiving, the word received from Christ, has been said, the food which nourishes our flesh and blood by assimilation, is the flesh and blood of this Jesus who became flesh.

The apostles in their memoirs, which are called gospels, recorded that Jesus left them these instructions: he took bread, pronounced the prayer of thanksgiving, and said: “Do this in memorial of me.  This is my body”.  In the same way he took the cup, pronounced the prayer of thanksgiving, and said; “This is my blood”, and shared it among them and no one else.  From that time on we have always continued to remind one another of this.  Those of us who are well provided help out any who are in need, and we meet together continually.  Over all our offerings we give thanks to the Creator of all through his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

On Sundays there is an assembly of all who live in towns or in the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read for as long as time allows.

Then the reading is brought to an end, and the president delivers an address in which he admonishes and encourages us to imitate in our own lives the beautiful lessons we have heard read.

Then we all stand up together and pray.  When we have finished the prayer, as I have said, bread and wine and water are brought up; the president offers prayers and thanksgiving as best he can, and the people say “Amen” as an
expression of their agreement.  Then follows the distribution of the food over which the prayer of thanksgiving has been recited; all present receive some of it, and the deacons carry some to those who are absent.

Those who are well provided for, if they wish to do so, contribute what each thinks fit; this is collected and left with the president, so that he can help the orphans and the widows and the sick, and all who are in need for any other
reason, such as prisoners and visitors from abroad; in short he provides for all who are in want.

So on Sunday we all come together.  This is the first day, on which God transformed darkness and matter and made the world; the day on which Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.  For on the day before Saturday he was crucified, and on the day after Saturday, that is the Sunday, he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the truths which we have put before you for your consideration.


Justin Martyr – Christian apologist, born at Flavia Neapolis (northern west bank of Israel), about A.D. 100, converted to Christianity about A.D. 130, taught and defended the Christian religion in Asia Minor and at Rome, where he suffered martyrdom about the year 165. Two “Apologies” bearing his name and his “Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon” have come down to us. Leo XIII had a Mass and an Office composed in his honor and set his feast for 14 April.

HOLY SATURDAY by Deacon Marty

Israel 550

The church built around the empty tomb.  The church door is closed while the monks change their shift.  On Holy Saturday the rock closed the tomb.

During the day, the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb.  We think about how Jesus suffered and died just for us.  We do not celebrate any sacraments today until we come to the Easter Vigil this evening.  When the Vigil comes, we will finally be able to celebrate; and celebrate we do.  I would like to go over what happens during this most beautiful service.  I do not think that reading about it is enough; I really suggest that you attend one in your own parish.

The Vigil is divided in to four parts:  A service of LIGHT; The liturgy of the WORD; The liturgy of BAPTISM; and the Liturgy of the EUCHARIST.  Here is a breakdown of the major happenings within each part.

A service of LIGHT – The vigil begins in darkness. All of the members in the church receive their own small candle.  Outside of the Church (or in the vestibule) a fire is prepared and blessed.  The deacon holds the Easter candle near the fire.  The priest lights the Easter candle from the fire and places five grains of incense in to the candle on a sign of the cross calling to mind the five wounds of Jesus.  This Easter candle represents the Risen Jesus, the light of the world, but even in His resurrected body He shows the wounds of His crucifixion.  The deacon carries the Easter candle in procession in to the Church and up to the altar.  He stops at the door and sings, Christ our Light, and then again at the middle of the church and then again at the altar.  Everyone’s candle is lit from the Easter candle by people sharing the light given to them.  By the time the candle is at the altar, the whole church is lit by candle light.  It is very beautiful to see.  We can’t help to better understand how Jesus is the light that dispels all darkness and we are the ones who spread that light to each other.  The Easter Proclamation EXSULTET is then sung by the deacon (or singer).  This is a most beautiful ancient poetic song.  The church lights are put on, but the altar candle as left unlit.

The liturgy of the WORD – The Church provides us with nine readings for the Vigil (pastoral necessity allows it to be shortened slightly).  Seven are from the Hebrew scriptures and two from the New testament (one is a Gospel).   The readings are followed by a responsorial psalm and a prayer.  This evening we hear of the history of salvation as it leads to Jesus.  The readings are very important and a homily must be given.   The church candles are lit when the first new testament reading is read.

The liturgy of BAPTISM – The Easter Vigil has traditionally been the time when new people come in to the Church.   Our RCIA programs prepare converts and new people for this evening.  Very often Baptisms are necessary (converts from other Christian faiths do not need a baptism if the first is done with the Trinitarian formula).  The waters to be used for Baptism, and the sprinkling of the people, are blessed using the Easter candle.  The very beautiful singing of the Litany of the Saints is something everyone should experience.  The new people are baptized and confirmation is also done when it is indicated.  Not only do the new people state their baptismal promises, but all the faithful renew their baptismal promises and are sprinkled with water recalling their own baptism.

The liturgy of the EUCHARIST – The Vigil continues with the Eucharist prayers and all the faithful receive.  The mass is ended with a real sense of Joy of the Resurrection.

NOTE:  The Easter Candle is let at all liturgies during the Easter season.  It is also lit at all baptisms and funerals during the Church year.

What Does Easter Mean in Deadly Practical Terms? By Ken Hensley

In Catholic parishes throughout the world this coming Sunday, the words “He is risen, alleluia!” will be proclaimed.

But what will most Catholics have in their minds when they mutter, or speak, or even shout with joy, those words? Probably something along these lines: “Jesus Christ rose from the dead and now in him we have the forgiveness of sins. Thank you, Lord!” Or maybe, “Jesus Christ rose from the dead. This is a fact of history. Christianity isn’t a cleverly devised story but really true!”

These are both good and appropriate responses. But I want to add something here. When we look at the teaching of the New Testament, the resurrection isn’t only about the forgiveness of sins or evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be and who the earliest believers claimed him to be. In the New Testament, the resurrection is about power to become holy.

Let me explain by taking you on a brief tour of Scripture.

Way, way back in the book of Deuteronomy, before the Israelites had even crossed into the Promised Land, speaking to a people who had shown themselves incapable of living in trusting obedience to God, Moses looked to a future day when

The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live (Deuteronomy 30:6).

One day, Moses said, God will act to change his people so that they will love him and walk in his ways.

Some seven or eight centuries later, the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah of a New Covenant he would at some point in the future make with his people. When that time comes, the Lord said, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). God’s law will not be something merely etched on stone tablets. Instead it will be etched on human souls.

A little later the prophet Ezekiel, speaking in God’s name, described this same mysterious distant event in some of the most beautiful words in all of Scripture:

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean . . . and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statues and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God (Ezekiel 36:25-28).

Scroll forward another five hundred years.

Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night, and our Lord speaks words that seem to him incomprehensible: “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). Now, this poor Jewish scholar was completely bewildered. But he shouldn’t have been. If only he had read Deuteronomy 30 and Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36, he would have understood what the Lord was saying to him. Jesus asks Nicodemus, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?”

So when was this New Covenant put into effect? And how does it come to be effective in each of our lives?

Well, the New Covenant the prophets were pointing toward is the covenant Jesus established at the Last Supper when Jesus broke the bread and shared the cup saying, “This is my blood of the covenant . . .” (Matthew 26:28).

After this, he died, was buried and was raised from the dead on the third day. He ascended to sit at the right hand of power and on the Day of Pentecost he poured forth into his Church the promised Holy Spirit. St Peter stood and preached the first sermon of the Christian era and when the crowds were cut to the heart by his words and cried out, “What must we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized . . . and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” What’s Peter saying? He’s saying, “Repent and be baptized and you will receive what Moses talked about, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and our Lord as well! What Ezekiel described in detail will happen to you!”

We know this is what Peter had in mind because in the first letter he wrote to the early Christians, he says in chapter 1, verse 3 that the “new birth” Jesus told Nicodemus about takes place “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (in other words, through the power unleashed by the resurrection) and in chapter 3, verses 21-22 he intimates that this takes place through our baptism.

And baptism . . . now saves you . . . through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities and powers made subject to him (1 Peter 3:21-22)”

Notice how Peter repeats those words “through the resurrection” when speaking of both the new birth and baptism. Peter is telling us that it is through the power of the resurrection that we are born again in our baptism.

One final witness. In Romans 6, St Paul says that in our baptism we were united with Christ in his death and in his resurrection in order that we “might walk in newness of life.” He says that in our baptism our bondage to sin was broken and that we no longer need to be slaves to sin. He’s saying that something actually happened to us in our baptism. He’s saying that God was acting and that he changed us! Two chapters later Paul says that in Christ the Holy Spirit has been given to us “in order that the just requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4).

Ah, sounds just like Moses and Jeremiah and Ezekiel!

Connect the dots. Do the numbers. And this coming Sunday, when you shout out, “He is risen, alleluia!” here’s what I want you to be thinking: “Lord, it is the power of your resurrection that became active in me through baptism, granting me the new birth you told Nicodemus about, removing my heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh, giving me your Holy Spirit in order that I might love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and walk in faithful obedience to your word. To this I commit myself this Easter Sunday. God, help me!”

Now there’s  a way to celebrate Easter.

About the Author

Ken Hensley is a former Protestant minister and convert to the Catholic faith. He’s an author, speaker and teacher.

“Having worked in the field of Catholic apologetics for nearly 30 years, I’ve been privileged to know and collaborate with many talented, inspirational, and effective teachers of the Faith. It’s no exaggeration to say that my friend Ken Hensley is among the very best of the best of the Catholic apologists serving Christ and His Church today.” Patrick Madrid

“Ken Hensley is a truly remarkable apologist, especially when it comes to Sacred Scripture, Reformation history, and taking complex theological issues and making them accessible to the average Catholic in the pew.” Tim Staples

“As an apologist, Ken Hensley has three secret qualities that, thankfully, aren’t so secret anymore: he’s an exceptionally engaging teacher who brings to the craft his own curiosity and love of the subject; he knows how to distill deep content for the average person; and he’s evangelically Catholic. And did I mention his relentlessly off-beat sense of humor?” Patrick Coffin

“I want to recommend my good friend, Ken Hensley, who is a very effective speaker on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from Scripture and Apologetics to Church History and the New Atheism… Ken is an expert pastor, with a pastor’s heart, who can make the Bible come alive. I’m looking forward to more of his teaching in the future.” Scott Hahn

Ken Hensley –



Good Friday by Deacon Marty

Today we recognize that Jesus, after being arrested and detained overnight, went to the officials and, by the demands of the people, was sentenced to crucifixion.  This is a most horrible form of death and torture.  Our word excruciating, as used in describing pain, comes from the same Latin root.  Today, because it is such a solemn day, I am posting only one short post, with pictures, to help you meditate on what Jesus did for us.  Remember that on Holy Thursday, after celebrating the Last Supper, Jesus and His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane where He was betrayed and arrested and taken in to custody.  That evening was spent in the holding pit in Jerusalem, with other criminals.  I visited that pit and it is deep, hollowed out from rock, and has only one hole that Jesus had to be let down in by ropes.  Here is a picture that I took of it:

Israel 644

While we were there, we read Psalm 88 which says:

LORD, the God of my salvation, I call out by day;

at night I cry aloud in your presence.

Let my prayer come before you;

incline your ear to my cry.

For my soul is filled with troubles;

my life draws near to Sheol.

I am reckoned with those who go down to the pit;

I am like a warrior without strength.

My couch is among the dead,

like the slain who lie in the grave.

You remember them no more;

they are cut off from your influence.

You plunge me into the bottom of the pit,

into the darkness of the abyss.

In the morning, Jesus was led to the officials traveling over these steps:

Israel 677

Before His crucifixion, He was scourged while tied to this pillar:

Israel 874

He was forced to carry His cross to Golgotha, and the stone it was placed in can be seen through the plexiglass at this altar in the Church of the  Holy Sepulcher:

Israel 541

His Mother, Mary, was present for the crucifixion and truly her heart was pierced by a sword as predicted.  Here is a statue showing this.  This statue is right next to the place of crucifixion:

Israel 542

When Jesus was taken off the cross, his body was anointed for burial.  Here is a picture of the anointing stone:

Israel 531

Jesus was then laid in the empty tomb.  Here is a picture of where He was laid.  The marble was placed on top of the actual place to protect it.

Israel 561

Mary and the disciples were devastated.  The church today waits anxiously for the Easter Vigil mass when we celebrate His resurrection.  The altars are bare and the tabernacles are empty until then.  We too are in sorrow.

Holy Thursday by Deacon Marty

Israel 624

The Upper Room where Jesus had the Last Supper. 


Israel 875

The Garden of Gethsemane where the disciples slept while Jesus had his Agony.  Some of the Olive trees here today are over 2000 years old (proved by Scientific testing), thus present when Jesus was here.

Israel 887

Inside the Church of All Nations; this is the stone which Jesus laid upon during His agony.  The altar is built right next to the stone.  We sat around the stone during mass.

This is such a special day for the Church.  Today we celebrate how Jesus gives us the Eucharist and the Priesthood, as well as the call to service.  We do not have our normal mass schedule in Church today.  Rather we celebrate two masses; The Chrism mass and the Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper.  The Chrism mass is held in the morning at the local Cathedral where the Bishop blesses all of the oils that will be used for this year by each of the Parishes in the diocese.  He blesses the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of the Catechumen and the Oil of Chrism.  Each parish in the diocese sends representatives and they take back to their own parishes the blessed oils.  This shows the link between the Bishop and his parishes.  The priests and deacons of the diocese gather together for this mass along with the faithful.  The priests renew their commitment to priestly service.  Remember that today is the day that Jesus gave us the ministerial priesthood.  If you see your priest today, tell him “thank you” for answering God’s call.  In the evening the local parish celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  This reminds us that Jesus gave us the gift of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday.  The priests and deacons and faithful gather together in their parish.  It is at this mass that we have the Washing of Feet.  The pastor, or his representative, usually washes twelve people’s feet.  This reminds us of how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples at the Last supper.  It is a call both to humility and to service.  We then celebrate the Eucharist and consecrate enough hosts to be used until the Easter Vigil.  Mass is not celebrated on Good Friday or during the day on Holy Saturday.  There is a procession, after we receive the Blessed Sacrament, where the consecrated hosts are brought to a side chapel for reposition.  The main tabernacle in the church is left empty and the doors open.  It is desirable for the people to gather around the consecrated hosts in the side chapel for adoration and prayer.  This reminds us of how Jesus asked his disciples to remain with him in the Garden of Gethsemane while He had His agony.

During Holy Thursday Jesus had the disciples prepare for His Last Supper.  When they gathered in the Upper Room for this, Jesus taught them the breaking of the bread, the Eucharist.  He washed their feet and He told Judas to go and do what he had planned.  After the Last Supper, Jesus and the disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus had his Agony and the disciples slept through their watch.  Judas comes there with the authorities and picks out Jesus with a kiss.  Jesus is arrested and the disciples all become fearful.

Have you thought about how special our Bishops and Priests are?  Do you see the link between the local Church and the Bishop?  Do your see the link between the Bishop and the Pope and the world wide Church?  How special is the Eucharist to you?  Do you receive often?  Do you spend much time in adoration and prayer?  The Church gives us so much to help us grow in our faith.  Do we make use of what the Church gives us?

The Mouth as a Lethal Weapon by Patti Maguire Armstrong

Words can hurt in more ways than one. The tongue can be a lethal weapon of mass destruction, inflicting damage on others, on relationships, and on the soul of the one who uses them in a harmful manner.
In theory, it would seem easy to control our tongue. It’s small and even can be kept locked up simply by shutting our mouths. Yet, for something that weighs so little, it so often weighs us down in sin and destruction.
Fr. Gary Benz, Pastor, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary in Stanley pointed out that it is often the misuse of speech that destroys relationships, particularly the marriage relationship.
“In our time, a staple of advice given to married couples is the need to communicate,” he said. “You have to talk to each other; you have to communicate daily.” However, he noted that often, the problem is not so much a lack of communication, but too much negative communication.
“Married couples, I find, do talk to each other, but they are saying the wrong things,” he said. “They put one another down; they constantly point out one another’s faults; they make selfish demands; they tell their spouse to be quiet; or they bombard their spouse with words of anger or disdain. Yes, technically, these are forms of communication, but they do little good within married life.”
According to Fr. Benz, communication in marriage should be rooted in love. “Saint Paul reminds Christians, including married couples, in his First Letter to the Corinthians that love is kind; it is not arrogant; it is not rude; it is not irritable; it is not resentful; etc.” He said that true communication in marriage is to communicate like Christ, who is love.
“Jesus’ words to us are always kind, loving, merciful, good, and gentle,” Fr. Benz said. “Couples must imitate this Christ-like way of communication. In doing so, they will have great peace and love within marriage and some day when their spouse passes from this life, they will live with no regrets.”
Another way he said that we let our tongue cause damage is when we have a responsibility to use it and do not. “The mouth can be dangerous when it says nothing,” he said. “When we refrain from fraternal correction and allow people to engage in grave sins which destroy the life of grace in the soul and threaten their salvation, we are hurting them by not using our mouth to speak in the name of Jesus Christ, who uses us daily as His instruments of salvation.”
Fr. Joshua Ehli, who has been serving at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck while on break from studies at the North American College in Vatican City, also noted that words have the power to seriously fracture a marriage.

“Through the exchange of consent using simple words (“I do”) God unites a man and a woman in a sacramental bond so strong that only death can fracture it,” he said. “We know the power of simple words like ‘I love you’ or ‘You are beautiful’ to uplift the soul and fill our hearts with love.” Unfortunately, he explained, spoken words can also be seriously detrimental to the spiritual bonds of love and communion. “It is for this reason that St. Paul declares that, ‘No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.’ (Eph. 4:29).”
Therefore, he said that this is the reason that the Church takes very seriously the sins of detraction and calumny. Both “destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor” (CCC 2479). Detraction harms the bonds of love between people by disclosing “another’s faults and failing to persons who did not now them”, while calumny, “by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others…” (CCC 2477).
“When we engage in gossip, or idle and fruitless talk about others,” Fr. Ehli said, “we very easily move into the realm of either detraction or calumny, or even both. The extent of damage can be so severe that the Church even makes provision for significant canonical sanctions (penalties) to be applied to one who ‘injures the good reputation of another.’” (CIC 1390).
“It is clear how seriously Mother Church considers the spiritual damage that can occur through sins of the spoken word, as well as the written word,” he said. “Through His Church, Jesus asks us to be ever vigilant to the power of the tongue and exhorts us to use it to build up bonds of communion and love, avoiding at all costs, no matter how difficult, the spiritual destruction that comes by way of gossip giving way to detraction and calumny”.
In the Church’s Tradition and in basic human experience, it is evident that spoken words can have tremendous effect in building and maintaining bonds of love, according to Fr. Ehli. “Jesus, Himself– the ‘Logos’ or Word–restores the life of Grace in the sinner through a priest’s words of absolution. He also strengthens and nourishes the life of Grace in the faithful who approach Him is the Great Sacrament of the Altar.”

Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband Mark are the parents of ten children–two AIDS orphans from Kenya.  She is a speaker and author of 10 books, was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s “Amazing Grace” series, published around 1,000 articles, appeared on Fox & Friends, EWTN Bookmark program, EWTN LIve, and Catholic TV as well as radio stations across the country. She also won the 2011 Reader’s Choice award.

Patti has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration. Writing began as a hobby while raising children. After giving her gift of writing back to God, Patti went from writing for gossip tabloids and secular magazines to authoring Catholic books and articles.

For more information and inspiration, check out Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families. Your children will laugh while learning spiritual lessons with Dear God, I Don’t Get It! and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious.

Follow Patti at Twitter and like her Facebook pages at Dear God Books,  Big Hearted Families and  Catholic News & Inspiration on Facebook.

The Magic Piano by A.J. Avila

There’s an old black-and-white sitcom on television called Make Room for Daddy, sometimes entitled The Danny Thomas Show. It’s one program I actually encouraged my children to watch. No violence. No sexual situations. Definitely family fare.

[SIDENOTE: If you’re unfamiliar with Danny Thomas, he’s the guy who founded St. Jude’s Hospital for Children. He wasn’t making it as an entertainer and one day upon entering a Catholic church saw a statue of St. Jude, the patron of lost causes. He prayed to St. Jude and promised that if he ever made it as a performer, he’d build a shrine to the saint. The hospital is the promised shrine.]

On the show, Mr. Thomas portrays a nightclub singer. In his living room at home, he’s got a baby grand he often uses for rehearsal.

I call it a Magic Piano. That’s because when Mr. Thomas plays it, all of a sudden we hear an invisible violin. Then some woodwinds and percussions join in. Next thing you know, you’re hearing an entire orchestra.

Boy, he sure gets a lot of music out of that piano!

I need something kind of like a magic piano when I’m praying. Now, I don’t mean there’s any magic involved in praying. No, no. Praying is supernatural, not magical.

What I mean is that my praying is so poor that in order for it to be worth something, it needs some accompaniment.  A lot of accompaniment, in fact.

Fortunately, such help does exist. It’s called the Holy Spirit.

As St. Paul tells us, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)

So, to use an analogy, when my praying is as bad as “Chopsticks” on a piano that’s horribly out of tune, the Holy Spirit intercedes and turns my pathetic music into a beautiful concerto.

Now, I’m sure this doesn’t mean I’m supposed to slack off and not put any effort into praying. I’m sure it doesn’t mean I’m supposed to just kick back and let the Holy Spirit do it all.

But it’s gratifying to know that no matter how poor my praying is, if I’m making the effort to do as well as I can, what starts out as a tinny, tuneless prayer becomes majestic when it reaches the throne of God.

Find A.J. Avila at Reflections on My Catholic Journey –

A.J. Avila lives in San Bernardino with her husband. She is the author of three Christian novels: Rain from Heaven, Nearer the Dawn, and Amaranth, which are available on Amazon Kindle with all net profits going to charity. (You can learn a bit about those by reading the synopses on Amazon.)

Faith versus Reason – Fight by Devin Rose

Protestants often fall back to “faith” when challenged with Catholic arguments.

“Well, I just believe that it is true,” they will say.

Whether it is their belief in the shorter selection of books they’ve chosen to be in their Bibles, or in their interpretation of Scripture, they rely on faith and not reason, which they see as another corrupted human faculty.

But truth is one, and truth is found through faith, and through reason.

The Catholic Church teaches that faith and reason complement each other and work together, like two wings on a bird giving it flight.

From Bumper Sticker Catholicism’s Faith and Reason chapter:

1. Faith is not unquestioning belief in something that has no evidence to support it. That is fideism. The dogmas of the Catholic Faith, it is true, cannot be proven by reason alone, or they would not be truths that God needed to reveal, but every dogma has historical and biblical evidence supporting it, which give motives of credibility to believe it is true.

2. God gave us a great gift in His Church by making it both beautifully faithful as well as eminently reasonable. If either piece were missing, it would be immeasurably more difficult to discover her. But God in His wisdom has shown us that just as grace builds upon nature, so faith builds upon reason and does not eradicate it or make it unnecessary.

3. Because Protestants reject the Catholic belief that Christ founded a visible Church and has protected His Church from error in her teachings, they are forced to fill in the holes, inconsistencies, and discontinuities in their beliefs with ‘faith,’ yet doing so is really (unintentionally) being fideistic and not the true use of faith.

Faith and reason don’t have to fight. They were meant to be a matched pair, like two horses harnessed together, pulling a carriage in perfect harmony.

To read about how faith and reason played a key role in my conversion, check out this guest post I wrote for Called to Communion, which garnered over 100 comments and lots of good debate with Protestants.

Devin Rose is a Catholic apologist and a computer programmer.   His book, The Protestant’s Dilemma tells of his journey from Atheist to Baptist to Catholic.

Love Story by Matt Vander Vennet

God is very much still active in the world today. To help illustrate that fact, I’d like to share a personal story. It’s a love story. One of the best, in my opinion. Course, I’m biased.


“We can’t do this. It’s not right for either of us.”


So were the words I spoke to a former girlfriend and fiancé. At that point, I had been wrestling and praying about this decision to get married to her or not. We were a little over two months out and I couldn’t bear to go another minute realizing that this was not the path that either of us were called to. Once we discussed it, and after shedding many tears, we both realized that it was the right choice. The Lord was working and had a plan; I just had to make sure I was open to his promptings.


About 6 years ago, as I type, I realized that I loved Liz. I tried to check it. I tried to be objective about it. Alas, it was to no avail. At this time, as I explained above, I was praying a lot. I went to adoration during lunch time at our tiny Newman center and prostrated myself before the Lord. It was so peaceful. I would set an alarm so that I would wake up when lunch was over. I could have spent the entire day there. While I was praying about my situation, I was including how I should be taking these feelings. I was in another relationship for goodness sake! This was not supposed to be happening. But God had different plans. I submitted that God knew better than I did at this point.


Remember, I had just ended my previous relationship and didn’t want to jump into anything too soon. We were just friends. Really. But, God had different plans.


I had known Liz for about 3 years prior to her internship. We’d met when I was a senior and she was a freshman. Part of the reason she was so cool was that she was Catholic and she loved her faith. That alone made her attractive as a person. Luckily, that was only one of the things that made her attractive, in addition to everything else. We got to know each other through the Newman center on campus. For such a small school as Eureka College, to have a Newman center was a miracle in and of itself. We were able to come to know each other as friends first because each one of us was dating other people. There were no expectations. When I graduated, I immediately began work for my alma mater as an admissions counselor. I was able to stay involved with the Newman center as a staff advisor. Again, God was at work. These were formative years for Liz and I and we didn’t even know it at the time.


In late May 2010, I said a temporary goodbye to a good friend and someone who I really respected as a person. This moment was to be the start of a truly amazing (and ongoing) love story. Liz was going to intern at the Kansas City zoo for the summer since she planned on becoming a veterinarian. We promised we would keep in touch. We ended up writing to each other daily. I would always look forward to reading and composing the night’s e-mail. Luckily, we still have them to look back upon.


During the e-mail exchange, I would joke around with her about coming to visit if she made fun of my age just one more time. (We’re only two years apart, by the way.) She did and I planned a visit. Then I went. I said a rosary as I departed and I’m pretty certain that I sang the entire way there. I barely had a voice by the time I got to KC. Of course, at this point, I had realized that if we started dating, this was it. I was going to marry this girl. Finally, I was starting to see His plans.


It rained the first night there and we tossed around a football, splashing as we went around the condos where she was being hosted. I’ll admit (and she will too) that I wanted to kiss her then and there. However, I didn’t want to show my hand just yet. I didn’t want to give my heart to her just yet, even though I was pretty sure she felt the same way. I also didn’t want to lose a friendship if it was not supposed to be the way I wanted it to be.


We had fun during her off days from the zoo and I played a song on my guitar that I had written (for her, she just didn’t know it yet). We sat on a rooftop and watched the sun go down. I still hadn’t put my heart on the line yet. It was coming. God was making it just right.


By the third day, I finally got enough gumption and I said we should go out to my truck and listen to some Frank Sinatra on a mix tape I made. I’m old school like that. During the song “You Make Me Feel So Young” I said a little prayer and grabbed her pinky with my pinky. Then she moved her fingers into mine and we interlocked our hands. It was complete. We were meant to be. You know how I know? The first thing she did after she turned her head was ask, “Did you pray about this?” I laughed and said that I had. I completed a novena and everything. She had as well. Everything finally made sense.


From that point on, as they say, it was history. We started dating that day, still discerning, but this time about our potential marriage. I asked for her hand a little over a year later and we were married the following July. Now we have a beautiful daughter, born just this past January. We couldn’t be more blessed.  Yes, yes we can because “The Best Is Yet To Come.”


At every point, God has been directing us and our lives. Through the hard breakups, to the points where we were discerning different paths and then discerning each other, to our marriage, and now in our current situation, God has been with us every step of the way. Sometimes it’s hard for us to come to grip the fact that our God is at work daily. It’s hard to trust some days, but then I look back on everything that has happened in my life and realize how amazing He has been to me. Truly He loves me. Doesn’t He deserve our love back? He wants to be in our lives, if we only let Him and if we are disposing ourselves to receive His messages. The Church is a good help for that. God wants to give you the best; He desires it because He loves us. His power is manifest everyday throughout the world and in our everyday lives. We just have to make sure we take the time to realize and see it.


If anyone is interested in the overly detailed love story of my wife and I, let me know. It’s better than a fairy tale.




Matt Vander Vennet currently works as a research assistant and is pursuing his doctorate in Church History both at The Catholic University of America. He also writes for He is married to a beautiful redhead named Liz and is daddy to their newborn daughter! He loves a good brew, good music, the Green Bay Packers, & also plays guitar. Feel free to check out his website below. Matt resides in northeastern Virginia with his family.

The Day I Discovered the Greatest and Deepest Truth by Fr. Richard Heilman


It was on February 2, 1998, that I had the experience of a lifetime, in more ways than one. It was a Papal Mass with Pope John Paul II, on the Feast of the Presentation. I was studying in Rome for three months, at the time. The priests studying received a beautiful engraved invitation, and we were thrilled to be going. We were told that we should go two hours ahead of time, if we hoped for a good seat. I joked that I don’t go that early for anything, even for the pope.

We arrived about 30 minutes before Mass, and they were right … there was no hope for a seat, and we were destined to stand in the back. With five minutes to go, an usher looked over at me and a priest friend. Now realize, there were 100s of priests there. He signaled for us to come over to him. He proceeded to take us up the aisle. He kept going and going and going, until we got to the two front rows reserved for Bishops and Cardinals … the only rows with velvet kneelers. He motioned for us to sit there. To this day, I have no clue why he singled us out amongst the 100s of priests in attendance.

There we were in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (see photo above), about to pray with the Vicar of Christ. As Mass began, glorious “sacred” music filled the Basilica … and my soul. Of course, being a Papal Mass, there was great attention given to precision, which struck me as “beautiful order.” But, it was more than that. While I had always loved the Mass, I felt, maybe for the first time, that we were truly “glorifying” God. On that day, February 2, 1998, I was truly changed.

I began to ask myself, “What have I been doing?” I had spent the first ten years of my priesthood buying into the common notion that, if we create all kinds of trendy nuances to the Mass, while we kept the Mass as whimsical and entertaining as possible, people would hear about how “cool” and “fun” and “with the times” we were, and come running. We were treating the Mass as a commodity that we needed to somehow market to the world. Worse than anything, I realized we were all but throwing out any sense of divinity; any sense of the supernatural. Where, in all of this, was any sense of awe and wonder in God’s presence? Where was the sense of God’s majesty?

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Man should tremble, the world should quake, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest.” Where was that in my “night club act” or “Broadway musical” Masses??

I’ve come to understand that we have (actually, I believe this is the work of the devil), by and large, removed the very gateway into the Divine Life. I happen to agree with Pope St. Gregory the Great who, wanting to capture the spiritual dynamism of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, posited the following order:

“Through the fear of the Lord, we rise to piety, from piety then to knowledge, from knowledge we derive strength, from strength counsel, with counsel we move toward understanding, and with intelligence toward wisdom and thus, by the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, there opens to us at the end of the ascent the entrance to the life of Heaven” (“Homiliae in Hiezechihelem Prophetam,” II 7,7).

As you can see, the entry point is “Fear of the Lord.”

What is Fear of the Lord? According to Fr. John Hardon, Fear of the Lord …

“… inspires a person with profound respect for the majesty of God. Its corresponding effects are protection from sin through dread of offending the Lord, and a strong confidence in the power of His help. The fear of the Lord is not servile but filial. It is based on the selfless love of God, whom it shrinks from offending. Whereas in servile fear the evil dreaded is punishment; in filial fear it is the fear of doing anything contrary to the will of God. The gift of fear comprises three principal elements: a vivid sense of God’s greatness, a lively sorrow for the least faults committed, and a vigilant care in avoiding occasions of sin. It is expressed in prayer of the Psalmist, ‘My whole being trembles before you, your ruling fills me with fear’” (Ps 119:120).

St. Francis de Sales said, “We must fear God out of love, not love him out of fear.” In other words, Fear of the Lord is a fear of ever offending the One we love so much; the One in which we have totally dedicated and devoted our lives; the One Who fills us with awe and wonder in His presence. Fear of the Lord is the entry point; this is the trigger that ignites all of the other gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Without this “trigger,” we are prone to reduce our faith/religion to merely another organization that has a sense of social responsibility. Jesus is then reduced to an historic figure to emulate. Mass is just a social gathering that many may say (without saying), “it had better have good entertainment if you are going to make me endure this for an hour.” Again, all of the supernatural is stripped out and the belief in miracles and the power of supernatural grace is mocked as the ignorance of our ancestors.

So, we can see why Satan is winning. He is in the supernatural realm using supernatural weapons, while we have surrendered ours.

Fr. John Hardon wrote:

“St. Thomas Aquinas believed that man is more than a composite of body and soul, that his is nothing less than elevated to a supernatural order which participates, as far as a creature can, in the very nature of God. Accordingly, a person in the state of grace, or divine friendship, possesses certain enduring powers, the infused virtues and gifts, that raise him to an orbit of existence as far above nature as heaven is above earth, and that give him abilities of thought and operation that are literally born, not of the will of flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

However, as I said, we have surrendered our supernatural strength and supernatural weapons. We seem to be choosing, instead, a secular (anti-supernatural) version of religion. Of course outsiders can then accuse us of having a man-made religion … because we are treating it as such.

I am *absolutely convinced* that admittance back to the Divine Life is a movement of monthly Holy Hours, with Confession.

Imagine a man going to church on Sunday in – what is very common – his jeans, tee shirt (recreation attire) and, at Communion, walks up and mindlessly grabs the Host like a potato chip, and then sits in his pew, looking at his watch, wondering if he will be back home for NFL kick-off.

Now, imagine that same man attending, for the first time, a Holy Hour with other men later that week. He sees a beautiful procession and swirls of incense and all around him are other men on their knees before a beautiful golden monstrance containing our Eucharistic Lord. Noble knights, kneeling before their king. And lines of men waiting to purify (detoxify) their soul in the Sacrament of Confession … given new life as they are filled with the supernatural grace – the power – of God.

How will that man approach Mass the following Sunday? He will have, very likely, received the “trigger gift” of the Holy Spirit … the gift of Fear of the Lord … awe and wonder and love and dedication and devotion … all “opening him” to all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.


If my words are not convincing, watch this short video:

Here’s an interesting addendum. Last Fall, I was getting ready to speak to a men’s group. I planned to tell the story of my conversion at the Papal Mass on the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 1998. I figured they were all Green Bay Packer fans, so I thought it would be fun to show them the Packer stock certificate I received that same year. It was then that I looked closely at the date on the stock certificate. Look for yourself. It wasn’t just the same year, but ….  WOW!!!!


Very Rev. Richard M. Heilman was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Madison on May 17, 1988. Father Heilman is the Wisconsin State Chaplain for the Knights of Columbus. Father Heilman is the Vicar Forane for the West Dane Vicariate. He has been a Fourth Degree Knight for more than 20 years, and he is the chaplain of two Knights of Columbus councils.

Since 2004, Father Heilman has served as pastor of two parishes, St. Michael the Archangel parish, with locations at St. Ignatius in Mt. Horeb and Holy Redeemer in Perry, and St. Mary’s in Pine Bluff. Father Heilman served as pastor from 1998-2004 at St. John the Baptist in Montello. He served as associate pastor at St. Henry’s in Watertown from 1994-1998. He was associate pastor at St. John Vianney in Janesville from 1991-1994. He was the Vocations Director for the Diocese of Madison from 1989-1991. His first priestly assignment was at Our Lady of the Assumption in Beloit for one year in 1988-89, prior to being named Vocations Director.

Father Heilman is currently the Wisconsin State Chaplain for the Knights of Columbus. Father Heilman founded an apostolate for men’s faith formation called the Knights of Divine Mercy. Having focused his seminarian studies on spiritual direction, Father Heilman recognized a great need, early in his priesthood, to assist men in their roles as devout Catholic husbands and fathers. He is the author of the Church Militant Field Manual. He has also authored four other books, calling men to ”Special Forces Training for the Life of Christ.” He has been a guest host on Relevant Radio’s “The Inner Life” for the past ten years. He is also the author of a faith formation website for men called,, and leads a podcast for men called, “God Strong.” He is a leader, with Cardinal Burke, of the Catholic men’s movement, “The Holy League.” He is the creator of the “Combat Rosary,” based on the original WWI military issue rosary. Father Heilman is an avid user of new media for faith formation. He is also the founder of the Ladies of Divine Mercy, which is an apostolate for Catholic women’s faith formation. He is the chaplain for the Holy Family Homeschoolers. He is also very involved in pro-life activities as the chaplain for Vigil for Life and the Women’s Care Center.

Father Heilman is a native of Madison, WI. Born to Walter and June Heilman (both deceased) on June 24, 1958 (birthdate of St. John the Baptist), he is the third of seven children. Father’s family helped begin St. Maria Goretti parish, and he attended SMG for grade school. He went on to Edgewood High School, and was an All-State football player. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Loras College. He earned his Masters of Divinity and Bachelor of Sacred Theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary.



7 Things To Know That Will Change Your Next Mass Experience by Matt Nelson

“Take, eat; this IS my body.” Mt 26:26
I believe that we live in an age where fallen-away Catholics don’t really know what they’ve left, non-Catholics don’t really know what they’re missing, and many Catholics don’t really know what they’ve got. They don’t really know the Mass.
The Mass is the climactic form of Christian worship and within it is contained the greatest miracle on earth. It is a mystery in the fullest sense, and yet, it is comprehensible. As Christians we possess faith, but do we possess understanding? Do we even seek it? I know personally that my understanding of the Mass and what happens during it is inexcusably deficient, mostly from neglect. But I (and you) can change this — and it begins here.
I want to help change your next Mass experience, by the grace of God. So I’ve compiled a list of 7 interesting facts about the Mass, each with a brief explanation. I hope you learn something new!

1. The Mark of the Christian
The Sign of the Cross that marks the beginning and end of the Holy Mass, and which signifies the sealing of the Word of God “in our minds, on our lips and in our hearts” at the reading of the Gospel, has its origin in the first centuries of Christianity.
Tertullian wrote in the mid-3rd century:
“In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross” (De corona, 30).
The sign of the cross, done by faith, has immense power. St. Benedict once did the sign of the cross over a poisoned drink meant to kill him, and as his hand moved reverently through the four directions of the cross, the glass shattered. What would have happened if he had been insincere, or worse, not blessed his food and drink at all with the sacred sign? God only knows.
Each sign of the cross is also a sign —a renewal even — of one’s personal decision to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. How many times have we gone through the “motion of the cross” instead of the “sign of the cross”?

2. “And With Your Spirit”
When the Christian people respond “and with your spirit” to the priest’s greeting (“The Lord be with you”) in the Holy Mass, it is not just a polite (and somewhat odd) response. It is a profession of faith in the power of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It recognizes the unique action of the Holy Spirit in the ordained priest, particularly in the Sacraments. Remember, for example, it is not the priest who changes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ — it is Jesus Christ. Thus, the priest receives the power to serve as a special instrument of the Holy Spirit at his ordination; that is, when he receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders through the “laying on of hands” (see 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6).
Here’s what the 4th century bishop, St. John Crysostom,wrote about these words and their meaning:
“If the Holy Spirit were not in this your common father and teacher, you would not, just now, when he ascended this holy chair and wished you all peace, have cried out with one accord, ‘And with your spirit.’
Thus you cry out to him, not only when he ascends his throne and when he speaks to you and prays for you, but also when he stands at this holy altar to offer the sacrifice. He does not touch that which lies on the altar before wishing you the grace of our Lord, and before you have replied to him, ‘And with your spirit.’
By this cry, you are reminded that he who stands at the altar does nothing, and that the gifts that repose there are not the merits of a man; but that the grace of the Holy Spirit is present and, descending on all, accomplishes this mysterious sacrifice. We indeed see a man, but it is God who acts through him. Nothing human takes place at this holy altar.”

3. Kiss of the Priest
The priest kisses the altar in veneration, recognizing it as the sacred place where Christ’s once and for all sacrifice will be made present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus’s death is re-presented in the Holy Mass as a celebration of the New Covenant Passover, just as the Old Covenant Passover was made present each year it was celebrated (see Ex 12:27). St. Paul contrasts the Eucharistic sacrifice to the pagan sacrifice in 1 Cor 11. Jesus is therefore not re-sacrificed at each Mass but rather, His one sacrifice becomes present to us as He is eternally presenting Himself to God as the sacrificial Lamb of God (Heb 7:25; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Cor 11:26; Rev 5:6).
Around 70 A.D. Church leaders wrote this about the Eucharistic sacrifice (the Mass):
“Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

4. What’s Inside the Altar?
Did you know that many Catholic altars have a relic placed inside?
Father Carlos Martins, CC, of Treasures of the Church describes relics in this way:
Relics are physical objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Our Lord. They are usually broken down into three classes. First class relics are the body or fragments of the body of a saint, such as pieces of bone or flesh. Second class relics are something that a saint personally owned, such as a shirt or book (or fragments of those items). Third class relics are those items that a saint touched or that have been touched to a first, second, or another third class relic of a saint.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 302, contains the following statement:
“The practice of placing relics of Saints, even those not Martyrs, under the altar to be dedicated is fittingly retained. Care should be taken, however, to ensure the authenticity of such relics.”

The bones of St. Polycarp of Smyrna (a disciple of John the beloved apostle) were venerated in the early Church, for example:
“We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp [A.D 156])
For more, I also discuss relics in this recent article.

5. Cross or Crucifix?
A cross with a figure of Christ crucified must be present on or near the altar. This is mandated by the Church. A bare cross or a cross with Jesus depicted in a non-crucified way (like the modern “resurrected” Christ portrayal which has become more common) does not meet this requirement. Like St. Paul in his first letter to the Church in Corinth, we preach Christ crucified as an ultimate sign of God’s love for us and the salvation won for us through His crucifixion:
“we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23; see also 2:2)
The crucifix, properly understood, is not an image of a mere gory execution; rather, it is a sign of the once for all sacrifice of the Lamb of God (1 Cor 5:7).
The General Instruction for the Roman Missal states:
There is also to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation. It is appropriate that such a cross, which calls to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord, remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations (GIRM 308).

6. Sit, Stand, Kneel and Bow
A genuflection before the Jesus in the tabernacle is not meant to be a purely physical action. It requires a simultaneous “bow of the heart.”
The venerable practice of genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, whether enclosed in the tabernacle or publicly exposed, as a sign of adoration, is to be maintained. This act requires that it be performed in a recollected way. In order that the heart may bow before God in profound reverence, the genuflection must be neither hurried nor careless (Inaestimabile Donum 26).
Some people may wonder what’s up with Catholics and all the bowing, standing, sitting, kneeling that they do in the Mass. It’s a good and honest question. Catholics assume these gestures because of who and what they are encountering in the Mass — the King of Kings and His Word. In the case of veneration with the body, the body leads the heart.
Consider these words from C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters:
“At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls” (Letter IV).
Our postures matter, especially in the Mass — the climax of Christian Worship. As King David writes in this beautiful Psalm:
“O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God…” (Psalm 95)

7. The Fraction Rite
After the consecration (when the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus) but before Communion, the priest breaks off a piece of his “big” host and adds it to the precious blood (which still maintains the physical properties of wine). This breaking and commingling of the broken piece of the Body with the Blood is rich in significance:
First, it is not a separating of Christ, as though a “part” of Christ is here and a “part” of Christ is there. In each molecule of the consecrated host, the resurrected Christ is totally and perfectly present in His infinite divine substance.
Second, this “breaking”, called the “Fraction Rite”, follows Christ’s breaking of bread at the Last Supper and is rich in biblical significance (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:42, 46; 1 Cor 10:16).
Third, the commingling of the broken fraction with the blood in the chalice symbolizes the reunification of Christ’s body and blood in his glorious resurrection.
Now here’s an interesting tidbit to end off this post:
Originally, this Fraction rite and commingling had another important significance. At each Mass, the priest would break off a piece of the host (as he does now) but then, that consecrated fraction would be sent to another celebration of the Eucharist at another location. There, the fraction sent from the parish “down the road” would be commingled with the blood of Christ. The fraction of the host from that Mass would then be sent off to another Mass, and so on. This ritual created a great sense of unity among the faithful in the Mass, and signified the continuity of the eucharistic sacrifice in the Church (Mal 1:11; 1 Cor 10:17). This practice was known as fermentum, but has fallen out of practice in modern times.
If you would like to read more about the specifics of the Mass I highly recommend Mass Revision by Jimmy Akin to get you started.
See you in the Eucharist!


Matt holds a B.Ed from the University of Regina and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto, Canada. After a brush with religious skepticism as a young adult, he returned to the Catholic Church in 2010. He writes regularly at his blog,, and contributes at and He and his wife, Amanda, live in Shaunavon, SK, with their two children.

An Easter Welcome to Parking Lot and Pew by John and Therese Boucher

Any special plans for Easter: maybe a meal with family or friends, or an Easter egg hunt, or a trip to church in a new spring outfit? Lots of people like to check in with God for this holy celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, because it underlines the hope of resurrection for earth and soul as well. Whether you consider yourself to be an occasional visitor to your local church or regular churchgoer, here are some easy ways to participate in an Easter welcome.

First of all, keep in mind that God has invited each of us to this year’s celebration. Jesus might call some from the midst of whatever spiritual climate change we are experiencing. The Holy Spirit might beckon through a small, steady voice behind too many drastic spiritual highs and lows. God might speak with a comforting voice, during the inner torrential rains that follows a death, a serious illness or a grave personal loss. God’s stillness might punctuate someone’s search for meaning when there no apparent answers. God speaks and invites. “O, Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit and when I rise up.” Psalm 139

Secondly, we are all meant to provide a spiritual home for one another, especially when we gather together as the Body of Christ. We are meant to be like the apostles in the same boat together with Jesus. So we ask you, “What will you do to make others feel at home?” Here are some suggestions.

  1. Think about inviting someone to come with you this year and offer a ride.
  2. Arrive early so you can greet others in the parking lot or on the steps of the church.
  3. Move over in the pew before others enter the church. Smile when someone sits beside you.
  4. If you know lots of the songs, sit near the back so that you can encourage others to sing by worshiping with full voice yourself.
  5. Compliment someone or how nice they look or how beautiful their children are.
  6. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Ask what brought him or her here today.
  7. Thank someone for coming. You might add, “I will look for you the next time I come.”
  8. Pray that God will touch someone who has come after a long absence. You don’t have to know who, since God can pour out blessings in many, many ways.

Consider reading our book, Sharing the Faith That You Love, so you can learn more ways to welcome people every week.

John and Therese Boucher are noted authors and run the websites, Catholic Evangelizer, Christ Key and Christmas Carol Festival as well as their own site John and Theresa Boucher.  They also have numerous speaking engagements and run various workshops.    The links are below:


7 Steps to Bring Any Young Person Back to the Church by Brandon Vogt

Over the last several years, I’ve spoken with thousands of Catholics around the country at large conferences, small parish groups and everything in between. After each talk I give, there’s usually a time for questions and answers, and inevitably, no matter the topic of my talk, the most common question I hear is some version of “My child has left the Faith, and I’m devastated. What should I do?”

The Catholic Church is hemorrhaging young people.

A recent Pew Research Center study found that half of young Americans (50 percent exactly) who were raised Catholic no longer identify as Catholic today. Think about what that means: Over the last 20-30 years, half of the babies you’ve seen baptized, half of the children you’ve seen confirmed and half of the young people you’ve seen married have probably left the Church.

The Pew study also found that four out of five Catholics who left the Church did so before age 23. These aren’t disgruntled middle-aged adults, fed up with the changes of Vatican II. These are our own sons and daughters, and they’re leaving the Church in high school, college or as young adults.

Most of us know this from experience. We know parents in our parish who grieve their fallen-away children. Maybe our own sons or daughters have drifted away.

Whenever I talk to parents facing this problem, they often use the words “helpless” and “hopeless.” They feel helpless because their children tune them out or ignore them whenever they bring up religious topics, and they feel hopeless because they think it’s impossible their children would ever come back. These parents are desperate to do something — they just don’t know what to do.

I’m convinced what they most need is a plan, for as the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” It’s not enough to just sit back and hope our children will return. We need a proven road map.

That’s why I spent several months researching the problem, talking with experts and those who have left and returned, all to determine what really works to draw young people back. The result was a 16-part video course and book that pulls together the best tips, tools and strategies, titled RETURN: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church.

FREE BOOK! For a limited time, you can claim a FREE copy of the paperback edition of RETURN (you just cover the $4.99 shipping + handling). Click here to get your copy!

But here are seven simple strategies you can use right now to draw your child back. This isn’t a “convert your child quick” scheme, because these steps can take months or years to complete. But they are proven signposts on the road back to faith.

1. Pray, fast and sacrifice

If you aren’t doing these three things, the other steps won’t matter. Commit right now to praying 5-10 minutes each day for your child’s return. Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow (Lk 18:1-8) confirms that God loves tireless prayer — even if you pray for the same need every day. Don’t give up, and don’t think your prayer is unheeded or pointless. Look at what St. Monica’s prayers did for St. Augustine.

Also, fast and sacrifice for your child. Skip a meal, give up Facebook or Netflix for a week or willingly bear a small pain. Then offer your sufferings to God on behalf of your child. Unite them to the cross and ask that he send new grace into your child’s life.

2. Equip yourself

You can’t give what you don’t have. You may be excited about sharing the Faith, but enthusiasm and goodwill won’t get you far. You need to know your faith. The two go-to sources are the Bible and the catechism. Become familiar with them and read them each day, in small doses.

Then find good Catholic books that will help you explain and defend the Faith so you’re ready when your child reveals his main hang-ups with the Church.

3. Plant the seeds

You should also begin planting “seed gifts” in his life. These are DVDs, books or CDs that can lead him to reconsider the Church. Many people who come back to the Church point to a resource like this that sparked their return. Leave a booklet on his desk, mail him a DVD or drop a CD in his car.Even before you start discussing God or the Church with your child, you need to plant small seeds of faith and trust in his life. One seed is unconditional love. Your child needs to know that you’ll love him no matter what — no matter his moral choices or whether he stays away from the Church. He must know that you totally will his good. Only then will he listen to you.

BONUS: Want the 12 best seed gifts? The 12 best books, DVDs, and CDs to give a fallen-away young person? I’ve pulled them all together for you in the RETURN Complete Game Plan.

4. Start the conversation

At some point, you need to open a dialogue about God and the Church. You might say, “Can I ask you something? I wonder if you’d be up for talking about spiritual things some time. I know you have a mixed relationship with the Church, but would you be open to chatting about it with me? I just want to listen.”

Then do just that: listen. Your goal is to detect why your child has drifted from the Church. Note that the reasons he gives may be different than what you expect. Ask him what he believes and why, and what pushed or pulled him away.

Don’t respond to the objections or criticisms just yet — just absorb them. This may involve biting your tongue, but the scar tissue will be worth it!

5. Move the dialogue forward

RETURN-Sidebar1You’ve now identified why your child left the Church. Maybe he drifted away unintentionally. Maybe he switched religions. Maybe he disagrees with the Church’s moral teachings. Or maybe he no longer believes in God. Whatever the case, now’s the time to start discussing those factors.

Speaking with joy and positivity, clear up any misconceptions he has. For example, if he says, “I was never spiritually fed as a Catholic,” it’s likely he never fully understood the Eucharist or was exposed to the great spiritual masters of our tradition. Gently propose those to him and encourage him to reconsider.

6. Invite and connect

Once your child expresses curiosity and openness to returning, invite him to a parish event. This might be a weekend retreat, such as Christ Renews His Parish or Cursillo, or perhaps a parish small-group study or community event. Your goal is to usher him into the life of the parish, which will re-establish the communal bonds of faith.

If your child is in college, connect him with the local Catholic campus ministry, such as FOCUS or the Newman Center. Leaders there will be thrilled to talk with him and help him on his journey.

Don’t move too fast, though. Only extend these invitations after he’s expressed openness to returning, otherwise you may push him away.

7. Close the loop

Finally, you need to help your child formally reconcile with the Church. Lots of people get stuck here. A priest once told me about a lady who left the Church as a teenager and stayed away for over 30 years. Her reason? She simply didn’t know how to come back.

Don’t let that happen. Once your child is ready to return, talk with your pastor and determine the right steps to close the loop. Maybe he just needs a good confession, or perhaps the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is more appropriate. A good priest will assess the situation and determine the best next steps.

Obviously, we’ve only scratched the surface of this road map. To go much deeper, check out the tips and strategies in the RETURN Video Course and book.

The key is to never give up hope. Hopelessness is not a word in God’s vocabulary. As long as your child still has breath, there is always hope. God loves your child even more than you do. As much as you yearn for your child to come home, God desires his return infinitely more and is continually working to make that happen, even when things appear dire.

So trust God, beg him to keep moving in your child’s life, and be confident that he will bring your child home.


Filling the Mind with Everything Jesus by Laura Hensley

At the beginning of the school year in 2015, I found myself e-mailing my Director of Religious Education (DRE) several times asking to be enrolled in an online catechism class, and for her to cover the cost for a Bible study in our parish and a Bible study with my mom’s group. I told her I felt bad about asking, again, but figured the worst she could say was ‘no’ and I’d have to cover the cost myself, plus she told us in the beginning of the year they would cover the costs of studies for Catechist’s under an education fund. I also told her I wanted to fill my mind with “Everything Jesus”.

For me as a catechist, it is important to be able to clearly explain to the children what our faith is and why we believe what we believe. In addition, part of my job is catechizing to the parents who may not have studied the faith since they completed their religious education classes. My studies have helped me to defend the faith when asked questions and given me the resources to know where to go when I do not know the answer to questions. I am able to more clearly explain my position on political topics. Finally, in my personal life, I know better how to live according to God’s law and boundaries, not only to not break the 10 Commandments, but those things which Jesus has taught us to avoid, such as killing someone with hateful thoughts (Matthew 5:22) or committing adultery through lusting after another (Matthew 5:28).

Today, there is so much out there that we can fill our minds with, good and bad. It is important that we filter out the bad things that can draw us into temptation and lead us to sin, and stay close to God and living a life pleasing to Him. When going online, we must steer clear of sites which are filled with pornography or other evil. If we view these sites, it is easy to be drawn into to thinking “I’m just looking because who is it really hurting”. We must reflect upon how it will hurt our spouse or dating partner when caught, how it hurts the people involved who are being exploited for their body, or our sons and daughters who see celebrities posting immoral selfies and themselves fall into pornography if we don’t speak up against it. A good question we can ask ourselves is, “Would I be looking at this site or watching this movie if ____ (or Jesus) was standing behind me?” If this is a temptation, then cut it off by programming the Internet router to block out those sites, use Internet parental controls or only use a search engine which will block those sites from searches. We must instead look at sites, watch movies or TV shows that are wholesome and godly, and that do not exploit people for their bodies or promote immoral behavior.

While it is good for us to be informed about the evil around us by reading news articles or learning the arguments of those against the Church, we must make sure we do not become a participant in that evil. For example, we must avoid the hateful behavior or words that are often said to each other who support opposing political candidates. While we may respectfully disagree, we must do so in a Christ-like manner so that we are not drawn into hateful speech with another whom we may not even know. People are not always open to accepting Bible verses to argue hot topics, but making justified points as to why it is wrong to support a candidate who believes in such things as abortion, torture, and the death penalty in a way that promotes pro-life values is the best way to get the point across without being condemning of the person supporting such a candidate. Jesus did not argue by putting others down or outright dismissing them and sending them away. He instead pointed out hypocrisy in their words and actions (see Luke 14:10-17 for one example of many). If we are not good at this, learn how to be a better persuasive speaker or writer by joining groups who believe the same things we do first. There, we can read and participate in like-minded discussions, and learn properly how to discuss our Catholic beliefs in a way that isn’t so off-putting and quickly dismissed.

Finally, it is most important to really know the faith and what we are talking about before getting into arguments with others who may already have all of their arguments stacked against the faith. The best way to do this is by preparing ourselves by filling our minds with everything Jesus. By putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20), we will be able to know where we stand with God and how to defend the faith when attacked. Start with a good Bible study, such as The Bible Timeline (Ascension Press) which teaches the entire salvation history from Genesis to Acts. To continue to learn more about the history of the Catholic Church, a great study which picks up from the Acts to modern day is Epic, A Journey through Church History (Ascension Press). There are also many great Bible studies which will focus on a single Gospel writer, a single prophet such as Moses, or saints like Mary. We can also learn more about modern day topics which will help us to reflect on the Church’s view, for example the Theology of the Body or the Catechism.

The more we fill our minds with “everything Jesus” the easier it will be to see sin and to avoid the temptations that lead us into sin. We also will be able to use these resources to voice our views with love and with the backing of God who helps us to plant the seeds so that others may see validity in our arguments. We must build our house upon the rock so that our arguments do not wash away, as the foolish who build their arguments upon the sand which washes away (based on Matthew 7:24-27).

God bless!

Laura Hensley

Laura Hensley is a freelance writer, web developer, and runs the blog, Catholic Upgrade (link below). She is a lifelong Catholic who teaches 2nd grade religious education, and has been studying the Bible for over 10 years. She has been married over 15 years and has 4 children with her husband.


The Truth and Life Audio Bible by Mike Stark

We are all used to reading our Bibles.  Now, you can listen to your Bible.  Mike Stark, the Executive Producer of The Truth and Life Audio Bible has given me a link so that you can find out more about this amazing product.  He offers a free version as well as several inexpensive versions.  All of them include a dramatized presentation of the Bible.  I use this application myself and find it quite good.  Please check out this site and download this great way to hear (and study) the scriptures.  The youtube link is here:


Making Pilgrimage – A Touch of Irony by Shane Kapler

Today is Palm Sunday, the liturgical celebration of Jesus’ final Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  As the Torah commanded, He traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover in the Spring, Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks fifty days later, and Tabernacles in the fall (Ex.23:14-17; 34:22-23).  Keeping the feasts allowed the Jewish people to not only relive Israel’s deliverance, the giving of the Law, and entrance into the Promised Land; but to look ahead to the time when the Messiah would usher in a period of unequaled freedom, faithfulness, and prosperity.  That reached a fever pitch when Jesus entered Jerusalem amidst the other pilgrims on Palm Sunday.

Why make pilgrimage to Jerusalem?  Because of the Temple! It is impossible to overstate the Temple’s importance in Judaism.  It was the only place on earth from which legitimate sacrifice, avodah, could be offered by Israel’s Levitical priests.  The synagogue and prayer in the home were never a substitute for the sacrificial worship of the Temple, but means for those living at a distance to unite themselves to it. Prayer in the synagogue took place facing the Temple, at the same time as the morning and evening sacrifice.  And although Jews recognized that the universe itself couldn’t contain God, His presence in their Temple was utterly unique.  It was “His House.”  Just look at the love and esteem Jesus showed for His “Father’s House” throughout the gospels.

And all of these elements have of course been carried over into Christianity – pilgrimage, the centrality of sacrifice (Jesus’ sacrifice, made present in the Eucharist), and even our church buildings as “God’s House.”

Now, in the title of this post I mentioned that there is an ironic aspect to making a pilgrimage.  I do not mean to discount the wonderful experience that pilgrimage can be – traveling to the places where the awesome events in salvation history took place and being able to pray there.  It simply strikes me that the most important pilgrimage we can make is the one we make down the road each Sunday morning to the local parish where Jesus, God Himself, is present in the tabernacle.  We visit God’s House, where we enter into Jesus’ Passover from earth to the Heaven in the Eucharistic celebration!  There are surely wonderful benefits to be gained in making a pilgrimage overseas, but it cannot objectively bring you into any more intimate contact with God than your mini-pilgrimage to Palm Sunday Mass in your local parish.  And that is something to celebrate!

Shane Kapler


For the past 25 years Shane has been involved in evangelism and catechesis in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He has coordinated programs for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults and ongoing faith formation as well as serving on the core teams of both a youth prayer group and LifeTeen program. He was a long-time member of the Archdiocese’s Retreat, Evangelization, and Prayer (REAP) Team.

Shane is the author of The God Who is Love: Explaining Christianity From Its Center and Through, With, and In Him: The Prayer Life of Jesus and How to Make It Our Own, and co-author of Tending the Temple. He is a frequent guest of Catholic radio and contributes articles to a number of websites, including Catholic Exchange and Catholic LaneShane also holds an M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology and is engaged in clinical practice.  He vehemently maintains, however, that his “best gig” is being the father of two.

If you would like to contact Shane with a comment, question, or an invitation to speak, he can be reached at


Write the Holy Mass on the Tablet of Your Heart by Kevin Vost

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments…
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Prov 3:1 & 3

A thing is said metaphorically to be written in the mind of anyone when it is firmly held in memory.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica

I’d like to start with words of thanks and congratulations to Deacon Marty McIndoe on the launch of his new website! What worthier goal for a site could there be than “to help Catholics grow in holiness and in their relationship to Jesus and His Church”? I also found it most fortuitous (well, providential, to be precise) that the grand opening of Deacon Marty’s site is almost to the day the release of my latest book that shares the same goal through that most intimate relationship Jesus provides us through the gift of His very self in the Eucharist at Holy Mass. As an ordained deacon, Marty has been graced with the capacity to participate in Mass assisting the priest and glorifying God in a very special way. Of course, each and every one of us in the laity as well is called to fully participate in Mass in our own role – in heart, mind, body, and soul!
Here, in this little article, I’ll provide a few excerpts from Memorize the Mass! How to Know and Love the Mass as if Your Life Depended On It (En Route Books and Media, 2016) tailored specifically to you, Deacon Marty’s readers, and I’ll begin by telling you how that book began.
When One’s Life Depends on the Mass

As in all other times of crisis, we relied on our religious backgrounds to give us strength and to help us accept the sacrifice of our monastic existence. I went through the Mass each day in English and Latin, took spiritual communion, and meditated deeply.
Admiral Jeremiah Denton

In early 2015 I was working on a book about the Stoic philosophers. While examining their ongoing modern-day influence, I told the story of James Stockdale, a U.S. Navy fighter pilot who was shot from the skies over North Vietnam on September 9, 1965, and would remain a prisoner of the North Vietnamese Communist army for more than seven years. He attributed his success in holding up mentally to repeated bouts of torture and isolation and in giving solace to his fellow American POWs to his previous immersion in the ancient Stoic wisdom of the philosopher Epictetus. Epictetus taught that to maintain emotional tranquility, grow in virtue, and conform our will to God’s, it is essential to distinguish between what we can and cannot control. Sometimes what we can control is little beyond our own mental judgments, attitudes, and moral purpose. We must focus our efforts on those things we can control and endure with dignity events that are not up to us. Stockdale strove to control his own moral purpose and state of mind, since so little else was left up to him. He survived the ordeal and later became an admiral and the vice presidential running mate with Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential elections.
In the midst of writing that book, I received an email from Major Valpiani, a U.S. Air Force officer and experimental test pilot. He had read one of my books on the memory techniques of Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, and he asked me if I could give him suggestions on how to memorize the parts of the Mass. You see, he had found through the Internet that I’d written an article called “Memorize the Mass!” on a now defunct Catholic social media site, and he wondered if I could share it with him. I remembered the article but found that my Word program didn’t!
I was unable to track down the article for him, but I told him that I remembered the basics and could share those with him. What intrigued me about his email, however, was the story behind his question.
Major Valpiani had heard a recording of a talk from a man who had mentally repeated the Mass every day to preserve his sanity and sanctity during nearly eight years of confinement, also as a POW in North Vietnam, like Stockdale. That man, Jeremiah Denton, had been Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron Seventy-Five aboard the USS Independence and was shot down on July 18, 1965, two months before James Stockdale. His ordeal as a POW lasted nearly eight years. He, like Stockdale, later became an admiral, and then he became a U.S. senator from Alabama. I responded to the major that I had not heard of Admiral Denton but had, coincidentally, just written about Admiral Stockdale. In his response he told me that in fact the two were friends! That was news to me. Stockdale had not mentioned Denton in the books I’d read. Admiral Denton’s story was clearly one that I had to investigate.
Sure enough, in his book Hell is in Session, Denton described how he and Stockdale cooperated in keeping the American POWs alive and in preserving their dignity. He described as well, in the quotation that started this preface, that throughout those years, many of which included solitary confinement and a variety of ongoing tortures, he did indeed go through the Mass each day in his head, both in English and in Latin!
Well, not long after this interchange, a Maryknoll missionary priest came to my parish and told the story of Bishop James Walsh, who was imprisoned in Communist China for nearly twelve years (1958-1970). Though he could not actually celebrate the Mass, the Mass and the Rosary gave him strength throughout his years of imprisonment. Indeed, so great was his love for the Mass that in the bishop’s book Zeal for Your House, one photo shows him just after his release, still in a hospital bed, joyfully celebrating the Holy Mass for the first time after so many years, whilst still in his pajamas!
To keep a short article from becoming long, these stories made it quite clear to me that providing a simple means of “memorizing the Mass,” coming to know all of its parts, both backward and forward, would well be worth not just another article, but an entire book. Thankfully, Dr. Sebastian Mahfood and Shaun McAfee at En Route Books and Media agreed.
As much as the lives of Admiral Denton and Bishop Walsh depended on the Mass under such extreme crises, in a way, all our lives depend upon it. After all, the Eucharist is the heart of the Mass, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (1324).
The goal then of the book Memorize the Mass! is to help the reader through a guided tutorial in the implementation of specialized memory methods recommended and employed by Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, to more fully and deeply experience that source and summit by writing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the tablet of your heart (both in the Novus Ordo or Ordinary Form and in the Extraordinary Form of the Traditional Latin Mass).
The Catholic Art of Memory Meets the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

The Sacrifice (of the Mass) is celebrated with many solemn rites and ceremonies, none of which should be deemed useless or superfluous. On the contrary, all of them tend to display the majesty of this august Sacrifice, and to excite the faithful when beholding these saving mysteries, to contemplate the divine things which lie concealed in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
Catechism of the Council of Trent

Nothing that you have seen or heard is useful, however, unless you deposit what you should see and hear in the treasury of your memory.
St. Jerome

The Mass is the heart of Catholic life, and the Eucharist is that heart’s flesh and blood, the flesh and blood, soul and divinity of our Savior Jesus Christ. Christ initiated the Eucharist for us nearly two thousand years ago, and the Church has been greatly blessed by it and by the rites of the Holy Sacrifice that so quickly grew around it to perfect it as the Church’s ultimate act of worship.
Of course, the Church has given us so many great blessings throughout the millennia that it boggles the mind to even begin to catalog them.
One gift of the Church, perhaps little known, is the development and enhancement of ancient Greek and Latin memory improvement techniques by two great Catholic Doctors of the Church, St. Albert the Great (c. 1200-1280), the Universal Doctor and Patron Saint of Scientists, and his most illustrious student, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), the Angelic Doctor and Patron Saint of Scholars. You see, they both considered the powers of memory essential to the exercise of the cardinal virtue of prudence or practical wisdom, for to achieve virtuous goals in the future, we must act in the present, guided by what we have learned in the past and stored in the treasure chests of our memory. They actually described and endorsed an ancient method of memory improvement based on visual images and an imagined system for ordering ideas one wants to remember.
Well, one thing we can apply these memory methods to is the parts and the rites of the Holy Mass itself. Indeed, what is more worth remembering? So here I’ll give just a taste of what the method entails. St. Thomas said that we can better remember even abstract concepts if we represent them in a simple, concrete way, because as human beings, our knowledge and memories start with the information brought in from our senses, particularly what we see and hear, and indeed, things that we see (or even just imagine seeing) are for most people the most readily remembered. Here then is a simple visual example that appears at the book’s location 23 for the Ordinary Form of the Mass.
Images like this one are mentally placed at specific different locations within an imagined house. This one appears at location 23 (which happens to be the head of a dining room table), because the Preface Acclamation that moves into the Eucharistic Prayer is the 23rd of the 32 parts of the Mass as they are numbered in the St. Joseph Sunday Missal that I use.
So now please imagine this: Your eyes zoom in on your own priest’s face as a visual pun reminding you of the “Preface” acclamation (the prayer that starts with “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts…”)
The dove ascending from above reminds us of the part of the Eucharistic Prayer called the “Epiclesis” in which the Holy Spirit is invoked.
The priest raises the host aloft to remind us of the Institution Narrative and Consecration, in which, invoking the words of Christ, the bread and wine become Christ in his real sacramental presence, Body and Blood, soul and divinity, retaining the “accidents” or appearances of bread and wine that remain to our senses, while becoming in substance Christ Himself as perceived through the eyes of faith.
Mother Mary is next to Christ to remind us the after the consecration of and remembrance of all the Church, we pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, to Joseph, to the apostles and all the saints for their intercessions in leading us to eternal life.
Oh, and why the dachshund? He is simply a verbal and visual pun to remind us of the “Concluding Doxology” that ends each Eucharistic prayer, starting with “Though him, and with him, and in him…”
Perhaps few Catholics, even those who’ve attended hundreds or thousands of Masses realize the amazingly rich and deep wealth of Scripture and Tradition that underlie and gave rise to every single rite, every word, indeed to every gesture of the Holy Mass. So, besides memorizing the names and the order of the parts of the Mass, we are called to dig deeply into their spiritual meanings. Behold just a sample, for a ceremony as seemingly simple as the Greeting, the second part of the New Order Mass, right after the Entrance Chant. (At this point in the book the guided memory tour has already been provided and sections like the one below begin to flesh out the meanings of each rite one by one.)
2. Greeting
A doormat (location 2) is a pretty straightforward reminder for a greeting, and this particular greeting from the presiding priest in the sanctuary at the front of the church begins with a sign of the cross. “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he says, and we, of course, answer, “Amen.” The priest’s sign of the cross proclaims the Trinity and reminds us of the cross of Christ’s Passion and the great commission he gave his disciples to go and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19).
Our “Amen” harks back to the worship of the ancient Hebrews, for it is the Hebrew word for “truth” or “certainty” and has been used by Christians for millennia in Mass as a powerful affirmation, meaning “truly,” “verily,” or “so be it!” We should say it not as two mindless syllables we’ve utter countless times, but mindfully, joyfully, and with gusto and conviction. This is the first of many “Amens” we will utter in Mass, and for centuries it has been among the most notable hallmarks of Christian worship. Indeed, in one of the ancient lives of St. Patrick, apostle to the Irish, a fifth century Druid priest forewarns the pagan King Laeghaire Mac Neill of a prophetic vision he’s had of a new faith that would arrive and live forever in Erin (i.e., Ireland), describing it like this:
A Tailecend (i.e., Patrick) shall come across the stormy sea.
His garment head-pierced, his staff head-bent,
His mias (i.e., altar) in the east of his house;
His people all shall answer, Amen, amen.
When we utter our own “Amens,” perhaps we can reflect from time to time that we are joining the chorus of the countless “Amens” across time and across nations, recited in every accent imaginable to affirm that great new faith in the Holy Trinity that St. Patrick and multitudes of great saints like him have gone to such great costs to spread unto the ends of the earth—indeed, all the way to our very own parish!
The priest then welcomes us to Mass using one of these three forms of greeting: (a) “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all,” (b) “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” or simply (c) “The Lord be with you” (or “Peace be with you,” if the celebrant is a bishop). And we answer, “And with your spirit.”
So then, we have all gathered together; sung a hymn of praise to God; honored the Trinity; remembered Christ’s cross and our call to evangelize; been welcomed by the priest; and prayed that God’s grace, love, and peace be with the spirits of the priest and all those gathered for Mass. That’s quite a bit in just the first couple of minutes, but we need to move along to see what may (or may not) happen next…
Out From the Mass and Into the World
“Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

Well, that does it for a brief introduction to my attempt to apply the Catholic Art of Memory to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I pray that whether you come to try to memorize its parts or not, you will continue to grow in your own love and knowledge of the Holy Mass and of all things Christ-centered and Catholic. I hope as well that as you go out from the Mass and into the world, you will remember that Christ is truly then within you, indeed, “cleaving” to your “innermost parts,” in the translated words of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, inspiring you to share Him most lovingly with others.
Further, when you move from the Mass to the virtual world of the Internet, I’ll hope and pray that as you seek trusted guides to the truth, beauty, and goodness of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, you will not forget the wonderful new resource of this very website. Thank you again, Deacon Marty!
Finally I’ll conclude, echoing St. Patrick and billions of Catholics across all lands and ages by loudly proclaiming – “Amen!”

Kevin Vost, Psy.D., his wife and two sons live in Springfield, Illinois an attend St. Agnes Parish. He is author of more than a dozen books from The One-Minute Aquinas to Memorize the Mass!


Count Your Curses by Nicole DeMille

To read the book of Lamentations or some of David’s Psalms, outsiders to Christianity could become very confused. After all, popular Christianity as disseminated in 2016 tells them that adherence to the teachings of Jesus assures the follower prosperity, popularity within a supportive community, and a constant sense of contentment. Many Christians feel a sense of responsibility to present an image to the secular world that is tantamount to good advertising. To that end, they share only positive Christian memes on social media and regale only tales of financial success and favor. The message seems to be: obey God and watch the blessings flow in. Is it true? Like most theological questions, the answer is no . . . and yes. In Bl. Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s book, Way to Happiness , he writes, “Pleasure is a by-product, not a goal. Happiness must be our bridesmaid, not our bride.” And therein the great holy man exposes the truth: we follow Christ for the prize of Christ, not for the prize of blessings. The graces come, and every Christian knows this, but often NOT in worldly wrapping paper. Some Catholics are so eager to participate in the New Evangelization, that they go overboard on the joy factor. Converts can fall into this trap with repeated “I used to be _______ but now I’m _____ “ narratives. Counting our blessings to non-Catholic friends really only proves one thing: we have good lives. That makes us in many cases indiscernible from scads of other folks of any faith living in any given land on planet Earth. What might be more effective is to count out our curses – to transform into someone open and vulnerable enough to bare our scars to those around us, to unbelievers, to pagans, to our separated brethren and to our fellow Catholics. The fact is I was a lot more liked as a Lutheran. I also suffer chronic medical problems, and I struggle with both PTSD and the cross of secondary infertility. Converting to Catholicism has not quite measured up to the divine vending machine sales point that you may have heard! But I can tell you that of all the events, decisions, and watershed moments in my life, that night when I received the Eucharist for the first time is the closest to Heaven I’ve ever come, and this Catholic wife and mother is never turning back. I’ve found Home, and truth. It’s not a giant Band-Aid, and it’s not the Powerball. But it is Jesus. If we can strive to do this, make this our testimony, if we can come before our brothers and sisters, warts and all, and say, in all sincerity, “ . . . and yet, I’m still so thankful, and yet, I wouldn’t choose any other life, any other faith, because THIS is the one true Church, established and protected by Christ ,” then perhaps the rock solid foundation of Catholicism will begin to shine like the city on the hill it is supposed to be, not a guarantee of temporal honors, but a reason to hope for Heavenly rewards.

Here’s my blog:

Nicole DeMille is a convert and mom who writes about life, health, and grief from a Catholic perspective. She has been a guest on EWTN’s “The Journey Home” with Marcus Grodi.