March 29, 2017

What Would Padre Pio Say?

[This is a guest post from Norine.]

Someone asked me to pray a novena to Padre Pio for an intention. I love novenas. Not everyone does. But I love them. As long as I had him on the phone for that intention, I asked him about a few other things. One of the things I asked him was what he would say to me if he were my confessor.
Padre Pio was famous for spending hours in the confessional. People came from miles around to experience the sacrament with him. He didn’t mince words in confession. If he didn’t think you were really sorry, he kicked you out. If you were truly repentant, he had a gift to know why you were sinning, and he would bring you right to the root of the problem. If you needed encouragement or solace, he gave it. Padre Pio did the work of God, setting people free in the confessional.

So, I asked him, “What would you say to me? Would you yell at me? Would you encourage me? What do I need to hear?”

I was pretty eager to go to confession the next time I was due. I finished my list of sins (which I’m not telling you), and the priest said, “Do you think God is always out to bust you? I think you don’t believe enough in His mercy.”

Now, I know perfectly well that God is merciful. But I realized I actually don’t know that God is merciful. Do you know what I mean? It’s one thing to say it, but there are some places of the heart that don’t know it yet. There are times I still feel guilty for making mistakes. There are past sins I find myself going over in my mind, even though the priest has clearly transmitted the absolution and it’s over. Do you ever feel that way?

The priest asked me what penance I wanted. How do you answer that? I could say, “What’s your heaviest penance? I’m a sinner.” But I said, “I don’t know…should I read something in the bible?” He gave me to read John 8, the story of the woman caught in adultery. I was to meditate on God’s mercy.

Padre Pio must have come to do the penance with me because I had a deep encounter with God as I read the story. The woman was dragged out, caught in the very act of adultery. And I imagined myself being pulled out of my home by every person I had ever sinned against or sinned with. They were angry and they wanted me dead. They pulled me through the street, calling me names and hurting me. I felt such heavy shame as I was publicly outed for my sins.

They wanted to stone me and I agreed. I could have thrown the first stone at myself, I was so despondent. But we didn’t stop. We kept going. We were going to see Jesus.

On this point, I was genuinely surprised. I mean, obviously, I know that Jesus is the judge. But actually, I didn’t realize that He was the judge.  Do you know what I mean? I realized, in this place of shame, I had already judged myself as guilty. I let the group judge me as guilty. But I’m not the judge. And people who accuse me aren’t the judge. Jesus has the final say. Do all of the places of your heart know that?

We got to Jesus and I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen. But He said something I didn’t expect at all. He said, “This one is precious to me. You can’t have her.” And everyone had to leave.

Precious. He loves me. He wants me.

What He did not say was, “Actually, she isn’t guilty.” My guilt was not in question. He merely said He wasn’t calling me out on it. He wanted me anyway. He was wiping out that debt so He could have me. He thirsted for my soul and His thirst was going to be quenched.

It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about them. It was about Him... [To read the rest of this story, please click over to ATX Catholic.]

March 1, 2017

You Are "That Man"

Once upon a time there was an important man who oversaw a big group. He was very wealthy and had many responsibilities. To his credit, the man loved the Lord and knew that everything he had was from God. But somewhere along the way his love of God began to slip. Feeling entitled and prideful, the man began making some devastating decisions.

The group under his authority had to go out on a big project. Instead of going along with them, the man decided to stay home and delegate. He enjoyed his time relaxing at home and taking long naps. One day after a nap, he noticed a beautiful woman and became intrigued.

He asked people about this woman and found out she was the wife of one of the men who was away working on the big project. With the husband out of the way, the rich man summoned the woman. He saw her as an object – his object. He was consumed with lust. He sexually assaulted her then sent her home.

The woman did not tell anyone about this. Her assailant was her husband’s boss, and she did not want to risk him losing his job. But when the woman found out that she was pregnant, she sent word back to the rich man. He panicked.

He ordered the husband to return from the project, hoping that the worker would be so happy to see his wife that they would sleep together to cover up who the real father was. But the husband was so dedicated to his job and focused on his work that he never went home.

So the important man came up with another plan. He invited the husband to eat with him and got him drunk. Again, he hoped the husband would go home to his wife and sleep with her. But it did not happen.

Now the rich man was desperate. There was only one thing left to do. He decided he’d have to have the husband killed on the job and make it look like an accident. Word of the death eventually got back to the wife, so the rich man promised he would take care of her and the child.

This is a horrible story filled with pride, laziness, lust, rape, lies and murder. Sounds like a Hollywood movie. But this was not a work of fiction. It is the story of King David.

Tragically, King David did not even realize how much he had sinned until God sent the prophet Nathan to retell the story but without telling him who it was about. King David was so angry about the story that he said the sinner deserved death. Nathan said, “You are that man.”

That moment of seeing the sin and understanding the sin brought King David to write Psalm 51, which is the Psalm at Mass today... [To read the rest of this story, click over to ATX Catholic.]

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January 4, 2017

Have You Met a Modern-Day John the Baptist?

We sure could use a guy like John the Baptist around here. If Jesus happens to casually walk past me one day like he did in today’s Gospel reading, I sure hope that someone like John the Baptist will point Him out to me if I’m not paying attention.

Saint John the Baptist
"John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus."
When I read the Gospel story of The First Disciples a few days ago, it reminded me of The Road to Emmaus when I reflected on whether I had encountered Jesus during a long day of travel. While I always hope and pray that I will see the face of Jesus in everyone, I know that I fall short. We all do. Maybe seeing John the Baptist is the next best thing.

Perhaps Jesus walked past me in the days leading up to Christmas through the end of the year. And if I didn’t notice Him, I wonder if these people I did notice were modern-day John the Baptists, trying to lead me, either actively or passively, to follow the Lamb of God through their acts of kindness, charity and sacrifice:
  • The medical technician who worked late into the evening just a couple of nights before Christmas to stuff me and other patients into a smaller-than-a-coffin MRI machine. (Santa gave me a cervical herniated disc as an early Christmas present.)
  • The relatives who traveled to my home on Christmas Eve, saving me and my immediate family from having to make a trip out of town.
  • The priest who raised the Host at Christmas Mass (and every other Mass) and, just like John the Baptist, said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
  • As I served as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at Christmas Mass, the parishioner who gave me a forgiving smile as I offered the Host and accidentally said, “May you receive God’s blessing today” instead of “The body of Christ” because the previous four people in my line had come forward for a blessing.
  • The workers who apparently had to do some urgent repairs of a building at my parish on Christmas day.
  • My four-year-old nephew who insisted on giving me a “Disney’s Finding Dory Calculator Set” as a Christmas present. (In his defense, I do fit in the recommended age range of “3-and-up.”)
  • The person who wrote this message from God on a chalkboard inside a restaurant where I took my younger daughter for a daddy-daughter dinner date: “The next time you swear, use your own name instead of mine!”
  • The older gentleman at the next table in the same restaurant who smiled at my four-year-old daughter when she was being a little loud.
  • The mechanic who was covered head to toe in grease after working on my wife’s car but quickly washed his hands so he could shake ours.
  • The other driver at a four-way stop who waved for me to go even though I'm pretty sure she got there first.
  • Every single person, especially strangers, who said “Merry Christmas” or "Happy New Year" to me over the past couple of weeks... [To read the rest of this story, click over to ATX Catholic.]

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January 1, 2017

Happy New (Saint) Year

Need a helping hand in 2017? Head over to the Saint's Name Generator to get a randomly selected saint.

I've been using this tool each year for the past several years to select a patron saint for the year. My new saint for 2017 is St. Raymond Fitero who, according to, was born in Spain, was a Cistercian warrior abbot and the founder of a military army of Christian soldiers. His feast day is March 15.

St. Raymond Fitero (Credit:

He joins an already strong lineup of my annual patron saints:
  • 2017: St. Raymond of Fitero
  • 2016: St. Wenceslaus
  • 2015: St. Radegunde 
  • 2014: St. Cajetan
  • 2013: St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi
Get your patron saint for the new year today!

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December 7, 2016

Would You Walk Away?

[This is a guest post from Norine.]

The woman serving as extraordinary minister reached into the ciborium and grabbed a host. At that moment, something white seemed to fly out. We both saw it. It flew off, falling to my left, her right. We looked at each other.

“Body of Christ,” she said.
“Amen,” I said, and I received on my tongue the host from her hand.
We looked at each other.
Then we both looked down. We looked around our feet. Nothing. We looked at each other. Then Father, serving the other line and unaware of the flying white thing, stopped and looked at me. His eyes glared. They said, “Go!” I looked at the woman. I considered the line of people behind me.
Did I believe that wasn’t really the Body of Christ? If no, then I could walk away.
Did I believe that was really the Body of Christ? If yes, then I dare not.
 I am the bread of life.  — John 6:48
I grew up Catholic. I made my first communion in second grade with all the other kids. I remember singing the Our Father over and over for practice. I don’t remember whether we were told the bread we were getting was Jesus. I went to Catholic school in 7th and 8th grade and heard the word “transubstantiation” for the first time. I was intrigued by the word. It was long and hard to say. I think we practiced saying it. I don’t remember what the teacher said it meant. I went to Catholic high school, where we had occasional Masses. I remember a day my non-Catholic friend went to receive communion even though I knew she shouldn’t. She went because the upperclassman serving as extraordinary minister was someone we thought was really cute. I didn’t stop her.
I went to a non-Catholic college, but I went to the Catholic center where volunteers baked the communion bread, leavened and whole wheat. I remember so many crumbs.
It wasn’t until I was 24 on Holy Thursday that it finally sunk in. I thought in wonder, “I think that piece of bread is actually supposed to be Jesus. I think we really believe that.” That changed everything.
I started to visit the chapel. I could actually pray in front of Him. Like, in person. That became real to me. I always went to Sunday Mass, even through college, but it meant something else now. I was actually with Him. He was actually there.
The real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was a great consolation after I married and our newborn daughter was diagnosed as having a tumor. She had surgery and later chemotherapy. What a great gift that we were in a Catholic hospital. We often had our little one toddle with us down to the chapel, IV pole in tow. To be in His presence and plead for our daughter during treatment was extraordinary. I know He heard us.
And then, during my little one’s hospitalization for another chemotherapy, I had an allergic reaction. When her blood counts were good, I went to see an allergist, who gave me a test. I went into anaphylaxis on the test, so great was my allergy to grass. The doctor assured me anyone this allergic to grass also had an anaphylactic reaction allergic to wheat. I took all the wheat things out of my diet and tried it again two weeks later. He was right. I was allergic.
I cried at first for cupcakes and donuts, but on Sunday I realized I was also allergic to Jesus. The Eucharistic Jesus in the form of wheat.
 My Father gives you the true bread from heaven — John 6:32
This was where I really found out Jesus is in that bread. I went to the chapel and cried every day. I could not receive a low-gluten host because it still contained wheat. I could sometimes receive the Precious Blood if I was first so wheat did not contaminate the cup. If I had to sit in the back of the church for Mass, I did not receive. Most daily Masses did not offer the Precious Blood. You don’t know how much you want something until you can’t have it.
The Eucharistic Jesus, whom I could not receive, waited for me day after day in the chapel. Before the tabernacle, I contemplated why Someone so powerful would choose the form of food, why He would choose only to move when the priest or extraordinary minister moved Him, why He would choose to be bread and not popcorn or a potato chip, why He chose to be locked in the tabernacle. Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
I dove into biblical accounts of bread and wheat, farming and feasts. Jesus, our perfect nourishment to give us strength for the journey (1 Kings 19:7). Jesus, the kernel of wheat who dies and bears abundant fruit (John 12:24). Jesus, the bread from Heaven (John 6:58). Jesus, who exults and perfects the bread, which after the Fall of humankind, God said we would eat only by the sweat of our brow (Genesis 3:19). Jesus, whose Heaven is our banquet, a wedding feast (Revelation 19:9).
I have to admit, I was jealous of others who could receive Him. Did they know what they were getting? They were taking Him home and to work and I couldn’t. They could treasure Him and talk to Him all day long and I couldn’t. The Eucharistic Jesus became what I desired most.
By Summer 2013, it was five years since I found out I had an anaphylactic reaction to wheat. During a daily Mass, I begged Him to let me receive again. I heard Him say in my heart, “Come.”
I was scared. Would I need my epi pen if I heard wrong? I was alone with my daughters, one six-years old (declared cancer-free at age 4) and the other an infant. Would the girls be okay if something happened to me? I decided I heard correctly and that I would believe Him. I got in line with my girls and received my Eucharistic Lord. I returned to the narthex (where loud babies sometimes have to go) and I cried. The Lord gave me a miracle. I had no allergic reaction to Him. Not then and not ever again.
 I am the living bread that came down from heaven — John 6:51
I cherished the opportunity to receive the Eucharist after so many years of not being able. I tried to attend Mass as often as I could. During one Saturday Mass, the Lord tested me... [To read the rest of this story, click over to ATX Catholic.]
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