Wednesday, October 28, 2009

St. Theresa's in Little Rock

I'm in Little Rock, Arkansas this week giving a mission at St. Theresa's parish. The talks are as follows:

Sunday: "Put out into the Deep" Using these words of Jesus from Luke 5: 4--words which Pope John Paul II repeated in his Apostolic Letter "At the Beginning of the New Millennium"--we begin the parish mission recognizing our need to go deeper in our prayer lives.

Monday: "The True Love Story" We reflect on the best love story of all--the love of God that is revealed in the Heart of Jesus.

Tuesday: "The Merciful Heart of Jesus" We recognize our need for reconciliation and healing and that we meet the merciful Heart of Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Wednesday: "The Eucharistic Heart of Jesus" In the Eucharist Jesus gives us His Heart to transform our hearts.

Thursday: "Living the Eucharist" In his Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" Pope Benedict called the Eucharist a mystery to be believed, celebrated, and lived. We reflect on how, practically speaking, we are to live the Eucharist.

On trips like these I often try to spread the message of the Apostleship of Prayer beyond the parish where I'm giving a mission. Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with Bishop Anthony Taylor. While visiting the diocesan offices, I was also able to meet with Malea Hargett, the editor of the "Arkansas Catholic" newspaper. We talked about publicizing the Holy Father's intentions and possibly providing a link to the Apostleship of Prayer on the diocesan web site.

I find that parish missions are not only opportunities to share the Eucharistic spirituality of the Apostleship of Prayer with large groups in a parish, but also to spread the word in parts of the country that may not know too much about it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

I'm on the mailing list for "Instaurare," the quarterly magazine of Christendom College. The latest issue begins with a message from Christendom's president, Dr. Timothy T. O'Donnell, who shared with readers his thoughts for his students and faculty as they began their new academic year. He wrote about the "new evangelization" and held up "the radiant example of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati" who died in 1925 when he was only 24 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1990. In talking about this young saint, Dr. O'Donnell made mention of the fact that he was a member of the Apostleship of Prayer.

Blessed Pier Giorgio was clearly someone who not only prayed the "Daily Offering" but lived it. He showed us that Jesus can be met in all the events and people of our day. Here's an excerpt from a letter of his that Dr. O'Donnell quoted in his talk:

"How unfortunate are those who live without faith! To live without the faith, without this heritage to defend, without this truth to uphold by a struggle at every instance, is no longer to live but to waste one's life! for us, it is not permitted to 'just manage'; to live is our duty! A truce then with melancholia, let us lift up our hearts and go forward, always, for the triumph of Christ in the world!"

This heroic attitude led Blessed Pier Giorgio to defend the Church and to serve the poor. In doing so, as he hints in his letter, he never gave in to "melancholia" but kept a cheerful attitude that attracted people to him and to Christ. He found Jesus in friendships and fun. When we begin our day offering God our joys as well as our sufferings, we'll be ready to meet Christ in those joys and joyfully bring Him to others.

You can find out more about this young Apostle of Prayer at:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mount Sacred Heart

From Monday to Friday of this past week I was in Hamden, Connecticut, at Mount Sacred Heart, the provincial house of a group of Sisters called the Apostles of the Sacred Heart. Here's their web site:

I first visited the Mount a few years ago when I gave the Sisters a retreat based on the Litany of the Sacred Heart. This time I was there to give a talk on Monday night at the Caritas Christi Center (see about "Living the Eucharist," and to give classes about the Sacred Heart to the Sisters in formation. From Tuesday through Thursday, for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, I talked about the Sacred Heart. We began by discussing the meaning and importance of the heart and the symbol of the heart in contemporary culture. Then we talked about the the importance of a heart-centered spirituality and the Scriptural basis for talking about the Heart of God. From the Bible through the Patristic era and the Middle Ages, to St. Margaret Mary and the present, we looked at the history of devotion to the Heart of Jesus. We concluded by talking about how to practice devotion to the Sacred Heart today: the meaning of reparation, the role of lectio divina, the Eucharist and living the Eucharist in our daily lives.

It was a good opportunity for me to pull together a lot of things about the Sacred Heart and I'm hoping that the recordings we made of the classes will turn out so that I can share my thoughts on this devotion which Pope Benedict has called "indispensable for a living relationship with God" and of "an irreplaceable importance for our faith and for our life in love" (see his May 15, 2006 letter marking the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII's encyclical Haurietis Aquas:

It was a joy to spend time with these good Sisters--in class, at Holy Mass, over dinner. I had the special treat of meeting Sister Cecilia who is 102 years old and who works at the adult day care center that the Apostles run. She helps to feed those who need extra help and brings a smile to their faces with her warmth and care. On my last day at the Mount, Sister Cecilia was planning her Halloween costume--a dancing angel. The Apostles of the Sacred Heart truly embody their motto: "Caritas Christi Urget Nos" or "The Love of Christ Impels Us."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Durward's Glen

This weekend I participated in the second annual Fall Faith and Family Conference at a retreat center near Baraboo, Wisconsin--Durward's Glen ( The history of this place is fascinating and the location beautiful, especially as the trees in central Wisconsin have begun to change. There are several shrines on the property, including one to Mary, Mother of God and another to the Holy Family. I highly recommend Durward's Glen for a visit or a retreat. I celebrated Mass for the conference as well as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I also gave two talks, one on living the Eucharist, in which I present the spirituality of offering that the Apostleship of Prayer promotes, and the other on Family Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Children's Prayers

I've always thought that the prayers of children are especially powerful. With that in mind, when I'm giving parish missions, I always make myself available to talk to the grade school children about the Apostleship of Prayer. I usually begin my presentation by asking them, "Who do you pray for?" The most common responses are for sick family members, deceased grandparents, a friend, our soldiers, and pets. I ask them if they would pray for something that the Pope asked them to pray for and, of course, they all raise their hands and give a resounding "yes!" And then I ask the question that brings silence: "Did you know that every month the Pope has two special intentions that he wants you to pray for?" Unfortunately I've yet to meet a child who knows this. The Apostleship of Prayer really has its work cut out for it!

The other day, as I met with the children at St. Paul's Grade School in Danville, IL, I was able to share with them something new. In 2004 we began having a Children's Page on our web site. We tried to explain the Holy Father's intentions to children. Starting this month, with the help of Stephanie our administrative assistant and her sister Stacey, who recently provided the illustrations for our new Sacred Heart children's booklet, we now have a much more engaging "kids' page." Each month there will be simple reflections to help children understand the Holy Father's General and Mission Intentions and questions for them to think and pray about. And then there comes the "fun" part. Each intention has a word search and a coloring page. All of these things are in pdf format and can be downloaded. You can find them here:

When I projected these images on the screen in the audio visual room, the reaction was immediate and positive: "Cooooool!" Then I showed them the YouTube daily video reflection for September 1, when I reflected on being at the Minnesota State Fair. They enjoyed that and afterwards I heard that one of the things the kids most enjoyed about the presentation was that there was a priest showing them "good stuff" on the Internet and YouTube.

That's what we're trying to do. Like St. Paul, we're trying to bring the message to people of all ages wherever they are.

Monday, October 5, 2009

St. Paul's in Danville, IL

I'm giving a parish mission at St. Paul's Parish in Danville, IL, about four hours south of Milwaukee. I must admit that I had never heard of Danville before being invited here and on Saturday, shortly after my arrival, I learned that Danville was home to some pretty famous people--Dick and Jerry Van Dyke, Gene Hackman, Robin Yount, Donald O'Connor, Bobbie Short, and Zeke Bratkowski, who played back-up quarterback to Bart Starr during the glory years of the Packers when I was growing up. I even had breakfast on Sunday after the 6:30 AM Mass with Zeke's sister who is a parishioner here and on Sunday evening I had dinner with a retired priest who went to school with Zeke. It's amazing the things I learn as I travel around the country giving parish missions.

The pastor here, Fr. Gregory Nelson, asked me to give a parish mission that would bring together the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the Eucharist, and the Rosary, a devotion that Bishop Daniel Jenky has encouraged the faithful of the Diocese of Peoria to pray by calling for a Year of the Rosary. Here are descriptions of each of the evenings:

Sunday Evening: "The 'Why' and the 'How' of Life": The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are a tried and true manual for the spiritual life. Tonight's presentation will focus on what he called "The First Principle and Foundation"--basically the purpose and goal of our earthly lives.

Monday Evening: "Following Jesus with Mary": Most of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are a reflection on the life of Jesus, the one who shows us the way and helps us attain our life's goal and purpose. Who better to help us know Jesus than His own Mother. In tonight's presentation we will learn more about how the Rosary can help us to know Jesus better.

Tuesday Evening: "The Amazing Gift of the Eucharist": Jesus not only shows us the way to attain our goal but He actually gives us Himself to transform and empower us. Tonight we will savor the gift of the Most Holy Eucharist and consider the effects that is has in our lives.

Wednesday Evening: "Living the Eucharist in our Daily Lives": After the 2005 Synod of Bishops which discussed the Eucharist, Pope Benedict wrote an Apostolic Exhortation entitled "The Sacrament of Love." In it he wrote that the Eucharist is a Mystery to be believed, celebrated, and lived. In the context of a Holy Hour with Exposition and Benediction, we will talk about practical ways in which we can live a Eucharistic life.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

St. Therese

Today is a feast day for the Apostleship of Prayer. We are celebrating one of our two patron saints, St. Therese, who enrolled in the Apostleship of Prayer on October 15, 1885 when she was twelve years old. St. Therese is often called "The Little Flower," a self-description that comes from her autobiography. Here's how she tells the story of her father's response when she shared with him her desire to become a Carmelite Sister:

"Going up to a low wall, he pointed to some little white flowers, like lilies in miniature, and plucking one of them, he gave it to me, explaining the care with which God brought it into being and preserved it to that very day. While I listened I believed I was hearing my own story, so great was the resemblance between what Jesus had done for the little flower and little Therese."

The theme of "little flowers" shows up later in her description of how she made offerings of the moments of her day, especially the pains and sacrifices:

"Yes, my Beloved, this is how my life will be consumed. I have no other means of proving my love for you other than that of strewing flowers, that is, not allowing one little sacrifice to escape, not one look, one word, profiting by all the smallest things and doing them through love. ... O my Jesus! I love You! I love the Church, my Mother! I recall that "the smallest act of PURE LOVE is of more value to her than all other works together" (St. John of the Cross's "Spiritual Canticle").

This was the secret of St. Therese, the key to her holiness. She lived out her commitment to the primary duty of members of the Apostleship of Prayer--to pray the Daily Offering one day at a time. She prayed it and then, with God's grace, lived it. Truly she's an example for all Apostles of Prayer and for all Christians.