Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Stability in a Changing World

Today, the Church celebrates one of my favorite saints; St. Bruno the Carthusian. The writings of his order have nourished my spirituality since the early 90’s and helped me find silence and solitude amidst a clamorous and bustling world. Most importantly, the Carthusians have taught me how to enter into the divine love affair through Sacred Scripture and what it is supposed to look like.

At this specific time in our history, I believe the Carthusians’ motto is particularly relevant:

Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis


The Cross remains firm as the earth turns.

There is much consternation and upheaval in the Church in our time but the Cross and the Gospel, like Our Lord, never change (Heb 13:8). This is especially important to remember during the present Synod on the Family.

Since so few know anything about the Carthusians, I have provided you with ten facts about this saint and his order to hopefully whet your appetite to learn more. Enjoy!«Continue Reading»

2015 Synod on the Family: Pulling the Sources

pppetererdo011009The 2015 Synod of 270 Bishops is now underway and it began with the Holy Father setting the stage for the next three weeks. It is no secret that there have been a number of pre-Synodal skirmishes among the Synod Fathers attempting to politicize the meeting. So what are the issues that have raised the blood-pressure of so many?

John Allen of summarized the most controversial topics in his article (Pope Francis faces an uphill climb to get the synod he wants) this weekend as such:

  • Should the Church’s traditional ban on Communion for Catholics who divorce and then remarry civilly be relaxed?
  • Should the Church adopt a more welcoming posture to same-sex couples?
  • Should the Church take a more positive view of couples who live together outside marriage, along with other forms of what have traditionally been called “irregular” relationships, acknowledging some moral value to them even if they fall short of the ideal?

In an effort to keep the proper focus, Cardinal Peter Erdö, Archbishop of Budapest and Synod Rapporteur (General Relator), used his introductory 7,000 –word opening address before the first working session, to provide a proper context and boundaries for the Synod Fathers. He shared the following during today’s press conference,

“I tried to systematise all the data which was received from the Church around the world, including families and individuals who wrote to us, following the themes already in Instrumentum Laboris.”[1]

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Fathers and Marriage: What’s a Synod

A number of individuals have asked what is the history behind the Synod of Bishops. The TV news agency, Rome Reports, has put together a short video with an explanation. Take a look!

Fathers and Marriage

12140619_10153577503400498_145819986366434379_nToday in Rome, the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops begins and it will be convened from October 4 to October 25, 2015. Many are concerned with the outcome of the Synod and how it will shape the future of the Church. To be honest, I agree with one writer who stated that we are approaching another Humanae Vitae moment. I believe, that it is so important that the Synod opens with our Gospel from Mark 10:2-16 concerning divorce and remarriage. As the Holy Father opened the Synod, he preached in his opening Mass,

“This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self.”

A great start to the Synod.

And, I have to be honest, I have never understood how a Synod is convened and the process that takes place. So, I thought I would share what I have learned and, during the Synod, maybe provide some information that might be helpful. Let us continue to prayer for the Synodal Fathers to be guided by the Holy Spirit in a spirit of truth and peaceful fraternity…«Continue Reading»

“Lift High the Cross”

One of my favorite feasts of the liturgical year is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It draws me back to Good Friday but in the light of Easter Sunday. that which was meant for death and despair has become our joy and hope. In a world that exalts a life free of care and suffering, this feast reminds us that the cross can bring sweetness when a situation is so sour.

The following is a meditation was written last year by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M. at St. Jude Maronite Church in Murray, Utah on the occasion of the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross ~ September 14. Enjoy!«Continue Reading»

On the Queenship of Mary

From Ad Caeli Reginam by Pope Pius XII on Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary:

8. From early times Christians have believed, and not without reason, that she of whom was born the Son of the Most High received privileges of grace above all other beings created by God. He “will reign in the house of Jacob forever,”[5] “the Prince of Peace,”[6] the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”[7] And when Christians reflected upon the intimate connection that obtains between a mother and a son, they readily acknowledged the supreme royal dignity of the Mother of God.

9. Hence it is not surprising that the early writers of the Church called Mary “the Mother of the King” and “the Mother of the Lord,” basing their stand on the words of St. Gabriel the archangel, who foretold that the Son of Mary would reign forever,[8] and on the words of Elizabeth who greeted her with reverence and called her “the Mother of my Lord.”[9] Thereby they clearly signified that she derived a certain eminence and exalted station from the royal dignity of her Son.

10. So it is that St. Ephrem, burning with poetic inspiration, represents her as speaking in this way: “Let Heaven sustain me in its embrace, because I am honored above it. For heaven was not Thy mother, but Thou hast made it Thy throne. How much more honorable and venerable than the throne of a king is her mother.”[10] And in another place he thus prays to her: “. . . Majestic and Heavenly Maid, Lady, Queen, protect and keep me under your wing lest Satan the sower of destruction glory over me, lest my wicked foe be victorious against me.”[11]


Queen of Hearts

Monaco_coronationTwenty-three years ago on August 16, my father approached me and asked me to give him three good reasons why I should not propose to my now wife, Christine Lynn that very day. I came up with two reasonable and responsible reasons that he tossed by the way side with ease. The third, which I thought to be a clincher, was that I wanted to propose on a Marian feast day. Little did I know that the Queenship of Mary was in just six days. Through my dad’s encouragement and the intercession of our Lady, Christine said, “Yes!”

Today’s feast is close to our hearts and we have relied on her intercession under her title, Queen of Heaven and Earth throughout our entire marriage. She has intercession has carried our family through every triumph and trial we have faced.

Christine Lynn, thank you for saying “yes” and raising the beautiful children that the Lord has entrusted to us. You are a beautiful woman of God who reminds me of our Lady’s maternity and sovereignty through service.

Milady de Miriam, thank you for arranging this marriage and watching our children. Please ensure that we all return home safely to our heavenly Father. May we, and our future progeny, serve you with fidelity, fealty and familial love.

Here are some great quotes about the Queenship of Mary:

Mary has the authority over the angels and the blessed in heaven. As a reward for her great humility, God gave her the power and mission of assigning to saints the thrones made vacant by the apostate angels who fell away through pride. Such is the will of the almighty God who exalts the humble, that the powers of heaven, earth and hell, willingly or unwillingly, must obey the commands of the humble Virgin Mary. For God has made her queen of heaven and earth, leader of his armies, keeper of his treasure, dispenser of his graces, mediatrix on behalf of men, destroyer of his enemies, and faithful associate in his great works and triumphs. – St. Louis Marie de Montfort

To serve the Queen of Heaven is already to reign there, and to live under her commands is more than to govern. – St. John Vianney

She is more Mother than Queen. – St. Therese of Lisieux

Let the storm rage and the sky darken – not for that shall we be dismayed. If we trust as we should in Mary, we shall recognize in her, the Virgin Most Powerful “who with virginal foot did crush the head of the serpent”. – Pope Saint Pius X

Let us pray:

August Queen of Heaven, sovereign queen of Angels, you who at the beginning received from God the power and the mission to crush the head of Satan, we beseech you humbly, send your holy legions so that, on your orders and by your power, they will track down demons, fight them everywhere, curb their audacity and plunge them into the abyss. Who can be compared to God? Oh good and tender Mother, you will always be our love and our hope. Oh divine Mother, send the Holy Angels and Archangels to defend me and to keep the cruel enemy far from me. Holy Angels and Archangels defend us, protect us. Amen. (Prayer to Our Lady, Queen of Angels)



Encourage & Teach: 5 Tips for a Successful School Year at Home

My wife Christine, writes her first blog post on Encourage and Teach:

Christine3It is that time of year again. You homeschooling moms know what I am talking about. The new materials are waiting and we are trying our hardest to garner up the enthusiasm to begin another year of teaching. (I know I am!) For me, this school year is looking very different with junior and a rising freshman heading off to Franciscan University of Steubenville in just four days. This means that for the first time in a very long time, I am only teaching two kids here on the home front. It will be a very strange experience for me.

I have been a homeschooling mom for 15 years now and while each year brings its own uniqueness, some things never change. The bookshelf that holds all the school materials is getting organized, talk of earlier bedtime schedules has begun and squeezing out every last bit of summer break is in full swing. We have set the date to begin and all systems seem to be a go!

If you are a veteran homeschooling mom or just beginning or considering this path in your future, here are five quick tips for success I have learned over the years:

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Was it a Morning like This?

The universe is different this morning. All over the world the Easter Vigil was celebrated: the rite of the Lucernarium is processed and intoned, the Exsultet proclaimed, the Gloria once again resounded in creation, the Easter water blessed which culminated in our Easter Eucharistic communion. It is not a celebration of a distant memory but an Anamnesis, a holy remembering, a sacramental participation in the event which makes possible an intentional, intimate and real encounter with the resurrected Christ.


Noel-coypel-the-resurrection-of-christ-1700On Good Friday, sin was defeated completely at the root through His crucifixion. During Holy Saturday our Lord rescues the saints of old and creation receives Holy Communion for the first time. The Solemnity of the Resurrection defeats death definitively; the doors of heaven have been unlocked and the through the Easter water, communion with the Father has been made possible again through Holy Baptism. The Church again remembers her Bridegrooms most amazing feat. He crushed death and demonstrated that it is divine love restores all, “Behold! I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5b).


And then there is Ol’ Scratch. Well, let’s just say that not only has he been defeated but his reign of terror has been ended. We now share in His victory and even mock his defeat, “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15). For now,

…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. (1Peter 2:8-9)


IMG_0973How do we celebrate? With great joy and festivity. There are, of course, the obligatory baskets full of candy but they are only ancillary. The kids have grown to expect the ikon of the Anastasis to be placed in a prominent place and decorated appropriately with flowers and lamp to mark the octave. We like to come downstairs to Sandi Patti’s, Let the be Praise (couldn’t find the CD last year and the kids were not happy that the song was not blaring). Our oldest son greets me with “Surrexit!” to which I reply, “Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia!” And finally, I greet friends and family with “Khristós Anésti!” and my friends reply, “Alithós Anésti!”


Deacon, what about the food? You’ll have to check out Facebook for that. Let’s just say that the Easter fast is over and “Meat is back on the menu boys!” Mmmmmmmmmmmm!


Please make time for recollection and prayer today for it is the Sabbath of Sabbaths! Are you able to sense His resurrection power surging through creation to vivify and restore it? Do you sense it in you? What has changed? Is anything different that yesterday? You should be able to sense it…

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. (Song of Songs 2:10-13)

Books and the Lenten Journey

ash-wednesday-scripture-5Happy Ash Wednesday! Last evening my family celebrated Shrove Tuesday by having breakfast for dinner.  I must say that Hannah’s King’s Cake stole the show again this year.

As usual, there are always questions about fasting and abstinence once we enter Lent. Here is an abstinence explanation, “What’s Up with the Whole Friday Abstinence Thing?” for the studious out there. Fasting has also been part of our blessed Tradition. Here is a quick explanation on the why of fasting, “Vivifying our Spiritual Senses.”

I have also received a number of requests concerning some of my favorites books for Lent. So, I thought that I would list out a few books that have been helpful during my Lenten meditation and retreat:

  1. The Sadness of Christ – St. Thomas More
  2. Lukewarmness: The Devil in Disguise – Francis Fernandez Carvajal
  3. The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell – Fr. Martin von Cochem
  4. Unseen Warfare – Lorenzo Scupoli, Theophan the Recluse and Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain
  5. In Silence with God – Fr. Benedict Baur
  6. A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ As Described by a Surgeon – Pierre Barbet
  7. Life of Christ – Venerable Fulton Sheen
  8. The Ladder of Divine Ascent – St. John Climacus
  9. Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence – Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure
  10. Benedict and St. Therese: The Little Rule & The Little Way – Fr. Dwight Longenecker

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