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Urgent Prayer Requests

March is always a crazy, crazy time for me. I know that this next week will be so busy, I’ll hardly be able to think straight – so I wanted to be sure I passed on these important petitions to all of you while they were still fresh in my mind and heavy on my heart. Please join me in praying for the following intentions:

For reader L. and her son, Brandon (urgent intention).

For first-time parents and fellow missionary “alumni” Andrew and Cristina, and their daughter in utero, Maria Isabella (urgent intention). I met Andrew and Cristina during my mission year; since returning to the States, they’ve gotten married and started a beautiful little family. About a month ago, their lives changed forever when Baby Bella was diagnosed with spina bifida. Cristina and Bella are set to undergo a promising pre-natal surgery early next Wednesday morning (March 14) and are asking for prayers for their preparation, surgery and recovery, as well as prayers that their family can find affordable temporary housing near the hospital. You can read more about this precious young family and the beautiful example they are to me and so many others on their blog, Café con Leche.

For reader G.G., whose family is struggling financially (urgent intention). She will be finishing an important course next week (on March 15) and asks for prayers for her studies, prayers that she could obtain her nursing registration this month and find employment as a nurse, and prayers that she and her husband could be reunited with their young daughter.

For reader Rodrigo, who recently found out that he has been admitted to enter the Order of Preachers (Dominican Friars) this fall! (What joyful news!)

For my new blog-friend Ryan and the apostolate he’s begun that will minister to those who suffer with HIV/AIDS. Ryan wrote to me recently to offer some encouragement and to ask for my prayers – and when I visited his blog in the hope of “getting to know him” a little better, I was totally floored. I was so humbled by his example and very deeply moved by so many of his posts, especially this one. I continue to be amazed that the Lord, in His Providence, has begun to bring people who are truly learning how to suffer fruitfully into my life precisely at a time when I’ve been praying to learn how to do just that. He is so faithful! You can learn more about Ryan’s apostolate and read his reflections on redemptive suffering on his blog, Living the Message of Mercy.

For a friend who is passionately in love with Our Lord but struggling to come to grips with her mental illness.

For the repose of the soul of Deacon Mike, who watched me grow up (over the course of 15 years or so) at my home parish and who passed away last week after a long illness, and for his family.

For a retreat I will be staffing next weekend (March 16-18) for 100 high school teens from my diocese. Please join me in praying that the hearts of these young men and women would be prepared and disposed to receive the Truth of the Gospel, as well as the many graces of healing and conversion that God desires to offer them during this retreat. Pray with me that they could fall in love, finally and definitively, with Christ and His Church.

For a confidential special intention, which I hope to be able to share more about next week.

Thank you all for your prayers and sacrifices and your daily “yes” to Jesus. You inspire me every day!

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It’s only Week 2! There’s still time!

For anyone who, like me, feels like they’ve totally failed (so far) to make a holy Lent:

“When you fail to measure up to your Christian privilege, be not discouraged, for discouragement is a form of pride. The reason you are sad is because you looked to yourself and not to God; to your failings, not to His love. You will shake off your faults more readily when you love God than when you criticize yourself. God is more lenient than you because He is perfectly good and therefore loves you more. Be bold enough, then, to believe that God is on your side, even when you forget to be on His.”

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

We’ve still got five weeks left of Lent – let’s make them count! And when we’re tempted to focus on our failings, let’s turn our gaze to our loving Father instead, remembering His tenderness and mercy.

(HT to Maggie at Ten Thousand Places)

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A few addenda to yesterday’s Potpourri post

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and Bl. John Paul II (photo credit: Gianni Giansanti/Corbis)

Two of my heroes: Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and Bl. John Paul II (photo credit: Gianni Giansanti/Corbis)

I posted yesterday about the world needing heroes, and wouldn’t you know, four more links came my way this morning that fit that theme so well, I just had to share them:

First, this sweet post about fatherhood from Catholic blogger Matthew Archbold: Some Things Moms Can’t Do. For me, this is one of the simplest answers to the question: Why no women priests? Priests are men because they are fathers, and only men can be fathers. (Of course, that answer doesn’t satisfy people who no longer recognize authentic fatherhood…)

Speaking of fatherhood, I’ve been meaning to recommend my friend Fr. Jeff’s new blog about his day-to-day experiences as a joyful young priest determined to find God in the “little things”: A Priest Life. (Here’s one of my favorite posts of his.) Fr. Jeff is a fantastic writer and more importantly, a wonderful priest who deeply loves Our Lord and His Church. His reflections inspire me to live my own vocation with greater dedication every day! You should also check out his recent interview with CatholicMom.com’s Lisa Hendey. I just loved what he had to say about his vocation story:

“I’m a ‘kindergarten vocation,’ so to speak. One of my earliest memories is wanting to be a priest. Well, that and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. In my baby book, my mom kept little facts about us: favorite food – pizza; favorite color – blue; favorite sport – soccer; what [Jeff] wants to be when he grows up – priest. That desire never left.”

I feel like I know more than a few priests who wanted to be Ninja Turtles or superheroes when they grew up. The world needs heroes, right?

And while we’re on the topic of priesthood, I also wanted to point out another article about the chaplain on the sinking Costa Concordia cruise ship. There are heroes among us, but we don’t always hear about them in the mainstream media.

For example, I’ve been meaning to “introduce” you guys to one of my personal heroes (well, heroines): my high-school classmate Megan, who moved to Haiti last year to work full-time in a non-denominational missionary apostolate called Respire Haiti (which she founded). Her blog, Blessed with a Burden, continually calls me to be more authentically committed to loving Christ in His poor.

I continue to be inspired daily by the people in my life who live out their vocations with such humility, passion and joy: my married friends, who are such beautiful examples of the Father’s totally selfless love for His children; my friends in formation for priesthood and religious life, who have gone out of their way to support and encourage me with their kind words and prayers; my single friends, who help me to be authentic as they ask the tough questions and work out their own vocations (sometimes with more than a little fear and trembling). Most of all, I’m thankful for my parents and my little brothers and the priests who have taken it upon themselves to “father” my soul and my vocation. How very good our good Lord is to those who love Him, whom He calls to do His will (c.f. Romans 8:28).

Who are your heroes? Who in your life has inspired you to pursue your vocation and live it to the full?

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Potpourri: The world needs heroes!

Inspired by my incredibly creative friend Maggie and her beloved “Clippings” posts over at Ten Thousand Places, I thought I’d try out a similar series of posts on this blog. Each Potpourri post will consist of a list of miscellaneous links, photos, videos, quotes, and/or other tidbits I came across during the week that I thought might interest you all. Let me know what you think!


March for Life 2011

March for Life 2011: Mary marching toward the Capitol.

First things first: everyone ought to pray in a special way this weekend for all those who will be standing up for LIFE at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., as well as at local marches around the country. (For readers outside the U.S., January 22 is the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States in 1973. Current estimates say that hundreds of thousands of pro-life marchers take to the streets of our capital each year to be witnesses for LIFE.) The world needs heroes who will be a voice for the voiceless!

Speaking of heroes, I was inspired and touched by two articles that came in one of my “Daily Dispatches” from Zenit this week: one about persecuted clergy being unjustly detained by the Chinese government, and another about the ministry of maritime chaplains in Italy following the Costa Concordia cruise ship tragedy. The life of the priest is, by nature, a heroic life – not because it wins the priest acclaim and earthly glory (quite the contrary, actually). No, the life of the priest is heroic because of what it requires: a total death to self for his beloved, the Church.

Of course, all of the faithful are called to be heroic in their own way. I have always taken great delight in the Church teaching which affirms that heroic sanctity can be achieved in every state of life, in every situation, in every vocation (cf. Lumen Gentium 39). Catholic blogger Simcha Fisher has posted a beautifully-written reflection on the sufferings and joys of being a mother of many (nine!) children: To the Mother With Only One Child.

And now for the most pressing issue of the day: by now I’m sure you’ve all heard (at least, readers residing in the U.S. will have heard) about the deeply disturbing statement put forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yesterday. You can find a few worthwhile Catholic commentaries about this serious (albeit not unforeseen) threat to religious liberty here, here and here. While I am indeed disturbed by this turn of events, I take great comfort in two things.

First, Church leadership is on alert and fully aware of the gravity of the situation. Just days ago (incidentally, the day before HHS published their statement) Pope Benedict addressed a group of bishops from the United States with these words:

“The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

“In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life.”

(You can read the Holy Father’s entire address on Zenit.org.) Cardinal-elect Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is also taking a public stand against this outrage. Check it out:

According to this article from the National Catholic Reporter (HT to American Papist), President Obama had the audacity to call Archbp. Dolan to “tell him the news” when the HHS statement went out:

“NCR has learned that the President called Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, this morning to tell him the news. Wouldn’t you have liked to be on an extension to listen in on that conversation. The president looked Dolan in the eye in November and said he would be pleased with his decision [regarding conscience protection legislation]. I am guessing that Dolan is not pleased.”

Well, if that isn’t the understatement of the century! (NB: I do not look to the National Catholic Reporter for authentically Catholic news and commentary – though I did find the aforementioned article helpful. You’d be better off getting your Catholic news from the National Catholic Register.)

I also find a great deal of consolation (as I always do) in remembering that no matter what happens in our country and in our world, we always have Our Lord and our Blessed Mother, we always have the Church, we always have the Communion of Saints. The world needs heroes – and thank goodness, we have them: we have the saints!

On that note, I wanted to share this fantastic quote by St. Augustine (HT to Ten Thousand Places and Happy Catholic). Let it be a reminder to us all, especially as we enter into the thick of what my be the United States’ most divisive, most frightening, most crucial election season yet:

Saint Augustine - Botticelli (detail)

Botticelli, St. Augustine (detail)

“Bad times, hard times – this what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times. Such as we are, such are the times.”

– St. Augustine of Hippo

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On the Calendar: St. Matthew the Apostle

The Calling of Saint Matthew Michelangelo da Caravaggio, c. 1599

Caravaggio, The Calling of St. Matthew, c. 1599

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

(Matthew 9:9)

Caravaggio, The Calling of St. Matthew (detail)

Incredulity: "I, Lord?"

For an interesting reflection on today’s feast, check out Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s post: Wealth and Power.

(Happy Name Day to Fr. Savio and Fr. Fields! My prayers are with you both!)

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Potpourri: I love the Pope, Dominican Vocations, Happy Priests!

Inspired by my incredibly creative friend Maggie and her beloved “Clippings” posts over at Ten Thousand Places, I thought I’d try out a similar series of posts on this blog. Each Potpourri post will consist of a list of miscellaneous links, photos, videos, quotes, and/or other tidbits I came across during the week that I thought might interest you all. Let me know what you think!

  • I just now got around to reading the Holy Father’s address to young women religious at World Youth Day in Madrid. LOVE this quote (emphases mine):

“Gospel radicalism means being ‘rooted and built up in Christ, and firm in the faith’ (cf. Col 2:7). In the consecrated life, this means going to the very root of the love of Jesus Christ with an undivided heart, putting nothing ahead of this love (cf. St. Benedict, Rule, IV, 21) and being completely devoted to Him, the Bridegroom, as were the saints… Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter. … In a world of relativism and mediocrity, we need that radicalism to which your consecration, as a way of belonging to the God who is loved above all things, bears witness.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Young Religious, 19 August 2011
Nuns at World Youth Day in Madrid

There were LOTS of young nuns at World Youth Day in Madrid!

  • More good news from the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, TN: 1 sister recently made final vows, 15 novices made first vows in July, 24 received the holy habit and began their novitiate (including a friend from my hometown, now Sr. Malia Grace!), and 16 new postulants entered in August. Deo gratias!
  • A spunky young blogger reflects on the journey that led her to enter the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, MI: “Why I’m Joining the Habit-Wearing, Rock Star Sisters” (Ha!) And just for the record, this is yet another proof that in the Young Catholic Church, “six degrees of separation” do not apply; it’s always more like one or two degrees. Exhibit A: Meris has just entered the same convent where a dear, dear friend of mine from college (Sr. Mary Martha!) just began her novitiate. Exhibit B: Meris’ high school friend, Brother James Claver, was a missionary with me in Honduras back in 2008. In both cases, it’s just one degree! Crazy!
  • Meris’ friend Carolina, who also entered the Sisters of Mary this fall, has shared a beautiful “glory story” on her blog about the generous donors who paid off her student loan debt so she could enter the convent. Praise God!
  • Clergy are ranked #1 on a list of the “Ten Happiest Jobs,” based on a survey conducted by the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago. I always love to hear the clergy that I know describe their job as “being a happy priest!”
Happy Seminarians

Happy Seminarians. I have no idea who took this photo, but I just love it!

That’s all for now. Look for another I’m-so-excited-about-vocations! linkfest next week!

Charity

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Fr. Longenecker on Cheesy Saint Movies…

And why he liked There Be Dragons. Has anyone seen it yet? Still no sign of it coming to my hometown…

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To brighten your day…

Pope John Paul II

… and in honor of his upcoming beatification, here’s a beautiful story about Pope John Paul II from the blog Roma locuta est. (Thanks to Amy for re-posting on Facebook!)

These sorts of meetings with the Pope are typically very formal. There are any number of people who have been granted a private audience at the same time, and when the Holy Father makes his way around to you, his secretary hands him a blessed rosary, and he in turn hands it to you. At this point, one would probably kiss the Pope’s ring and say something heartfelt, yet almost generic, such as asking him to pray for you, telling him you are praying for him, or thanking him for his service to the Church. However, when Pope John Paul II approached, the priest couldn’t help himself and blurted out, “Please pray for my friend.” Not only this, but the priest continued to blurt out the entire story. The Holy Father, looking concerned, assured the priest that he would pray for his friend.

Later that day, the priest received a letter from the Vatican. Excited and curious, he rushed with the letter back to the church where he last saw his classmate. Only a few beggars were left, and as luck (or grace) would have it, his friend was among the few. He approached the man and said, “I have been to see the Pope, and he said he would pray for you as well.”

The man listened.

“There’s more. He has invited you and me to his private residence for dinner.”

To read the whole story, go here.

Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

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Continued Prayers for Seminarian Philip Johnson

Some of you may remember my asking you to join me in praying the Immaculate Conception Novena for Philip Johnson, a seminarian with an inoperable brain tumor, back in December. In case you haven’t been keeping up with his blog, I thought I would let you know that Philip is still in need of our prayers. Due to the demands of his chemotherapy treatment, he did not return to seminary this semester and will instead continue his studies with a private tutor.

Philip is truly an extraordinary witness. Take a look at what he wrote about his call to the priesthood back in 2008:

“As I deal with a brain tumor, I am not sad that it may eventually cause me to suffer and die. …  The single worry I face every day is that because of various circumstances – some of which are beyond my control – I may never know what it is like to serve God as the alter Christus I desire with all my heart to be. It brings tears to my eyes to imagine departing this world without pronouncing the words of Christ at the Last Supper, ‘This is My Body; This is My Blood’ … I pray fervently that I may one day have the privilege of absolving sins… I offer my suffering from this illness for the intentions and sanctification of all bishops, priests, and religious, and for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.”

And when you’ve got a half-hour to spare, check out this video of a talk Philip gave to students at a Catholic school in Raleigh. Powerful stuff!

(HT to Fr. Z and my friends at The Catholic Underground)

Please join me in continuing to pray for Philip, particularly during the upcoming season of Lent. You can follow his blog at: philipgerardjohnson.blogspot.com

Mother Mary, be his comfort and his joy! Teach him how to suffer with Our Lord. Keep him always close to your Immaculate Heart!

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A Peek Inside the Cloister

The cloistered Passionist Nuns of St. Joseph Monastery in Kentucky just recently posted these beautiful photos on their blog, In the Shadow of His Wings.

Check out their blog for more photos and reflections on life in the cloister.

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