Sunday, August 28, 2011


I know that the first reading at Mass today (Jeremiah 20: 7-9) is a favorite of many, including my friend and fellow-blogger Anne Bender, whose blog "Imprisoned In My Bones" takes its name from this passage. The first lines ring true for most of us: "You have duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped." Sometimes I think of my vocation story in light of that line.

My parents grew up in the 1930's, a time of economic crisis known as "The Great Depression." In rearing their children they emphasized education as a way to get ahead or at least guard against economic difficulties. This was especially true for their only son whom they encouraged to get what in their eyes was the best Catholic education in the city of Milwaukee--at Marquette University High School--even though this meant economic sacrifices on their part. Thus I made my way from the south side of Milwaukee, across the Menominee River Valley, to a Jesuit high school, having never met nor heard of Jesuits. One of them played an important role in helping me negotiate the trials of adolescence and so when the time came to consider what I was going to do when I "grew up," I began to think about being a Jesuit priest. I wanted to do for others what he had done for me. And so, forty years ago I entered the Jesuit novitiate with the dream of working in an urban Jesuit high school just like the one from which I had graduated a year earlier. How much time have I spent doing that? Zero. Nada. No time. Not even during our novitiate apostolic experience when I worked at a non-Jesuit high school and parish grade school in the inner city of Omaha.

Am I disappointed? Do I feel that my dream has gone unfulfilled? No, not at all. God may have used the desire to teach in an urban Jesuit high school to lead me into the Jesuits, but what I've done since has been better than I imagined. God's ways are not ours. If I had known what I ended up doing or if I had known the challenges I faced in my Jesuit formation and life, I would probably have never applied. I would have been afraid. Yet now, in retrospect, I am grateful because God's plan was indeed much better than mine.

In today's Gospel (Matthew 16: 21-27) Peter, out of love, tells Jesus, who has just informed him and the others that he was going to suffer and be killed: "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you." Peter loved Jesus and wanted to save him from pain and death. Jesus rebukes Peter for thinking in human ways, even though they arose out of love, rather than in God's way--the way of perfect love. Jesus loved Peter and all people and wanted to save them from ultimate pain--separation from God--and eternal death. His own suffering and death would accomplish that and he tells Peter not to stand in his way. He challenges Peter to pick up his own cross of sacrificial love and join him in the work of salvation.

This is the life of every Christian. It is the "simple and profound" spirituality of the Apostleship of Prayer. We often quote today's second reading (Romans 12: 1-2): "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice." We do that by praying the Morning Offering, then striving to live the offering we've made throughout the day, and then reviewing the offering we've made at the end of the day. It's a "living" offering that needs to be constantly renewed because it can be easily taken back.

Blessed John Paul II often said that to love is to make a gift of yourself. We have been loved by God who proved that love my sending the Son to suffer and die. We return love for love now by making a total gift of ourselves, by offering to God the most precious thing we have--time--the seconds, minutes, and hours of every day, one day at a time.

When I entered the Jesuits I didn't plan on doing what I've ended up doing these past forty years, but I'm glad my plan didn't work out. God's plan was better even though it involved challenges and pain that I would have avoided had I known they were going to be part of the plan. But I wouldn't change any of that plan. Through it I've received more of God's love than I ever imagined. Through it I've been touched by God's love through my neighbor in ways that I never imagined.

In the end the story of God's dealings with us is all about love. That's why I prefer a different translation for the first reading. Where the New American Bible has the prophet saying that he has been "duped," the Jerusalem Bible has a different word that I think captures better my own experience: "You have seduced me, O Lord, and I have let myself be seduced."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

More on World Youth Day

I'm continuing to receive reports about World Youth Day and the Apostleship of Prayer's presence there. Jesuit scholastic Nathan O'Halloran has another beautiful reflection about his pilgrimage to World Youth Day. It can be found here at the blog "Whosoever Desires." I talked this morning with Fr. Chris Collins, S.J., the president of the U.S. Apostleship of Prayer's board of directors. He said that the "Hearts on Fire" events which we led at the "Love and Life" site in Madrid drew many young English-speaking people from around the world. One, a young woman from South Africa, came to every session wanting to hear again and again the message of the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and how we can return our love by making a daily offering.

He said our buttons, created especially for World Youth Day, "went like hot cakes."

I was particularly interested in hearing about the Saturday vigil where Pope Benedict was scheduled to consecrate the youth of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He said that he was about a mile away from the actual site of Eucharistic Adoration hearing confessions, but he heard from someone that while the Holy Father could not finish his prepared remarks because of the storm that hit, he made the consecration.

Here are a couple photos from our good friend, Archbishop Terry Prendergast, S.J. of Ottawa. His blog is always an inspiration and I always wonder where he finds the time to keep it current.

The numbers at World Youth Day far exceeded expectations. Archbishop Prendergast reports that officials had prepared for 750,000 people to come to the Saturday vigil and Sunday Mass. Estimates are that 1.5 to 2 million actually showed up.

On the Vatican Web site you can find the Missal with all the prayers for the various services and Masses of World Youth Day. I went there and found the prayer that was used for the Sacred Heart consecration. It's in Spanish but our able AoP assistant, Stephanie Schmude, translated it into English for us. It's not the official English translation but I wanted to share this beautiful prayer as soon as possible.

World Youth Day Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Lord Jesus Christ,
Brother, Friend, and Redeemer of mankind,
Look with love upon the youth gathered here
And open for them the eternal fountain
Of your mercy
Which flows from your open Heart on the Cross.
They have come to be with you and adore you.
With ardent prayer
I consecrate them to your Heart
So that, rooted and built up in you,
They will always be yours, in life and in death.
May they never turn away from you!
Give them hearts like yours,
Meek and humble,
So that they may always listen to your voice and your commands,
Do your will,
And be praise to you throughout the world,
So that mankind, contemplating their works,
May give glory to the Father with whom you live,
In everlasting happiness,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
Forever and ever.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Magis and World Youth Day

I've been in Milwaukee all week, holding down the fort at the Apostleship of Prayer national office. Fr. Phil Hurley has been in Spain. I've tried to follow the events of Magis and World Youth Day and want to share some of those experiences here.

What is "Magis?" It's Latin for "More" and it's a theme that appears in the life of St. Ignatius and the order he founded, the Jesuits. For St. Ignatius, it wasn't enough to live and work for God's glory. He wanted to give his life for God's greater glory. That's the "more," the "magis."

Magis was a pre-World Youth Day program that brought together, from around the world, people associated with Jesuit schools and apostolates. They broke into small groups and engaged in service projects and pilgrimages. Some went to the birthplace of St. Ignatius where he also experienced his conversion and some others went on the Camino, the road to Santiago Compostela, to the shrine of St. James the Apostle to which pilgrims have journeyed for centuries.

Since the Magis program did not accept pilgrims under the age of 18, some Jesuit schools, like Jesuit High in New Orleans, made their own pre-WYD pilgrimage to the Ignatian sites. I was inspired by a blog entry of one of their chaperones, a Jesuit scholastic or seminarian, Nathan O'Halloran, which can be found here. There are other photos and descriptions of their pilgrimage here. I commented on Nathan's blog that I found these to be a "virtual pilgrimage" for one who stayed home. Through these two links I not only saw the sights but also experienced some of the grace of the pilgrimage.

Fr. Phil Hurley and the Apostleship of Prayer were present at the largest English-speaking venue at WYD in Madrid, the Love and Life site. He was part of a panel that talked about prayer and he sent us the link to the video that Salt + Light TV from Canada made of the presentations. His own contribution can be found on the video from 1:36:40 to 1:47:34 at the following site:

I commented on our Facebook page that I wouldn't be surprised if we start getting requests for Fr. Phil to sing after he displayed his musical talent in the video.

Though a rain storm spoiled some of the Saturday night vigil, I'll be blogging more about that another time....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J.

Though he's not one of the 10 official patrons of World Youth Day (see the official site to find out who those 9 saints plus 1 blessed are), Jesuit Father Willie Doyle is someone to whom I'm praying this week. WYD 2011 officially opened in Madrid Spain yesterday, which happened to be the anniversary of Fr. Doyle's death during World War I. He was a chaplain and was killed in battle as he tended to the sick and dying.

I'm asking his intercession for the young people of the world during this important week for two reasons.

One is because he fits Pope Benedict's description of youth in his Message for World Youth Day 2011. Reflecting on his own experience growing up, the Holy Father wrote:

In thinking of my own youth, I realize that stability and security are not the questions that most occupy the minds of young people. True enough, it is important to have a job and thus to have firm ground beneath our feet, yet the years of our youth are also a time when we are seeking to get the most out of life. When I think back on that time, I remember above all that we were not willing to settle for a conventional middle-class life. We wanted something great, something new. We wanted to discover life itself, in all its grandeur and beauty. Naturally, part of that was due to the times we lived in. During the Nazi dictatorship and the war, we were, so to speak, “hemmed in” by the dominant power structure. So we wanted to break out into the open, to experience the whole range of human possibilities. I think that, to some extent, this urge to break out of the ordinary is present in every generation. Part of being young is desiring something beyond everyday life and a secure job, a yearning for something really truly greater. Is this simply an empty dream that fades away as we become older? No! Men and women were created for something great, for infinity. Nothing else will ever be enough. Saint Augustine was right when he said “our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you”.

I can't help thinking that Fr. Doyle embodied this desire for greatness. He was a hero in the best sense of that word.

But there's a second reason that I'm asking Fr. Doyle to intercede for the youth of the world. On Saturday, Pope Benedict will consecrate them to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Leading people to the Sacred Heart was Fr. Willie Doyle's own deepest desire. In a quote from his writings that appears in the book Merry in God, we read:

My intense desire and longing is to make others love Jesus and to draw them to His Sacred Heart. Recently at Mass I have found myself at the Dominus Vobiscum opening my arms wide with the intention of embracing every soul present, and drawing them in spite of themselves into that Heart which longs for their love. "Compel them to come in," Jesus said. Yes, compel them to dive into that abyss of love. Sometimes, I might say nearly always, when speaking to people I am seized with an extraordinary desire to draw their hearts to God. I could go down on my knees before them and beg them to be pure and holy, so strong do I feel the longing of Jesus for sanctity in everybody; and since I may not do this, I try to do what I find hard to describe in words--to pour out of my heart any grace or love of God there may be in it, and then with all the force of my will to draw their hearts into the Heart of Jesus.

Please join me in praying with Fr. Doyle for the youth who will be at World Youth Day and for all young people as they prepare for Saturday's consecration to the Sacred Heart. May Fr. Doyle intercede for each one of them and draw them into the Heart of Jesus!

To find out more about Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J. go to the blog "Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ". My friend Fr. Mark Kirby also wrote about Fr. Doyle the other day on his blog "Vultus Christi".

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Assumption

Yesterday we celebrated Mary's birthday in heaven. Though we also celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary's conception (December 8) and her birth (September 8), we remember her as well on the day she passed from this life to the next. This is the usual date when a saint is honored: their birthday in heaven. But in Mary's case, we have an extra reason to celebrate. We believe that Jesus not only welcomed her soul into heaven but also her body.

This makes absolute sense. One of Mary's titles is "Ark of the New Covenant." The Ark of the Covenant was the the special chest which the Israelites carried through the desert and into the Promised Land. It contained signs of God's guidance and care--the tablets of stone on which were inscribed the commandments that God had given to the Israelites to help them know how to live; some of the manna or bread-like substance with which God fed the People during their journey through the desert. Mary is truly an Ark as well because she carried within herself the New Law of Love and the Bread of Life--Jesus himself. Through Mary, God was more present to the world than ever before.

According to Blessed John Paul II, writing in his last encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia #55, "When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a 'tabernacle' – the first 'tabernacle' in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary." Thus it is altogether appropriate that no corruption should touch the Ark of the New Covenant, the first tabernacle in history.

We too receive the Bread of Life into our bodies. Blessed John Paul II also writes: "At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord's body and blood." We too, in a mysterious and sacramental way, become tabernacles.

However, we have sinned and, unlike the sinless Blessed Virgin Mary, we must experience the effects of sin in our bodies--death and the corruption that follows it. In the words of Genesis 3: 19: "Dust you are and to dust you shall return."

Christ's Resurrection and Mary's Assumption are our hope. Though sin leads to the corruption of our bodies, Christ promises to share the fruits of the Resurrection with us. He began with his own Mother Mary. Our bodies are not meant for corruption and annihilation but will one day, in a mysterious way, be joined to our souls and given a new and eternal life. Because we have eaten the Bread of Life, because we have become tabernacles for Christ truly present in the Eucharist, we too will one day be in heaven body and soul, just like Mary, just like Jesus.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Christ the Teacher

This afternoon I spoke at a holy hour of "Roses for Our Lady," a group in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that gathers at the local seminary to pray for vocations in the Church.

I asked them: Who was your favorite teacher? Who was your best teacher? Sometimes the two aren't the same person. Our favorite teacher might be someone who was nice and friendly and who pretty much let the class do what it wanted. Our best teacher might be someone who was tough and challenging.

Don Clifton, a professor in the School of Education at the University of Nebraska, developed an interview to find the best teachers. He discovered that all those teachers who were considered the best in their field according to their peers and administrators had one thing in common. When asked what they enjoyed most about teaching they responded that it was seeing growth in their students. Naturally, to achieve such growth they had to be challenging at times.

In today's Gospel (Matthew 15: 21-28) we see Jesus, the best of teachers.

At first glance Jesus appears harsh with the Canannite woman, telling her that it wasn't right to give the children's food to dogs. This was a common way for the Israelites to view pagans, yet Jesus softens this by using a term, according to commentators, that means "little dogs," "pets," or "puppies." The woman persists in her plea for help and Jesus, having challenged her to grow even deeper in her faith and seeing her growth, responds by healing her daughter. What joy it must have given Jesus, the teacher, to see her growth demonstrated by her "great" faith.

Pope Benedict is about to challenge the youth of the world. World Youth Day begins in Madrid, Spain on August 16 and on Saturday, August 20, at the Eucharistic vigil, he will consecrate the youth of the world to the Sacred Heart. This is not a symbolic gesture. It has significant meaning. He is placing the youth of the world into the Sacred Heart of Jesus, praying that they will truly be both rooted in the love of Jesus' Heart and strong in their faith. In a special preparatory catechesis, the consecration is called an act of faith. The Pope is challenging the young people of the world, as Jesus challenged the Canaanite woman, to grow in their faith.

The consecration is also an act of hope: "The Pope will consecrate every young person in the world, not only the ones present at the vigil. In today's youth we find the hope of the Church and of humanity. In this consecration, the youth will state, together with the Pope, that 'apart from Jesus Christ risen from the dead, there can be no salvation! He alone can free the world from evil and bring about the growth of the Kingdom of justice, peace and love to which we all aspire.' (WYD Message)"

And the consecration is an act of love: "In this consecration we will touch Jesus, and we will renew the grace of our baptism in which we were immersed in this Love."

Let's all pray that Christ our teacher, speaking through Pope Benedict, may help the youth of the world grow in faith, hope, and love this coming week.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Loss and Gain

The Apostleship of Prayer has lost (and gained) a friend. A good friend and supporter of ours has died. As I thought about writing this, it came to my mind that while we've lost his presence here on earth, we've gained a friend in a place where his prayers can do even more good.

I wrote about Fr. Richard Tomasek last January when he wrote a message informing family and friends that the cancer with which he was diagnosed in June, 2010 had returned. He moved to the St. Camillus Jesuit community and care center in the Milwaukee area earlier this year and in the process donated all his books to the Apostleship of Prayer's national office. I met with Dick a couple weeks ago when such visits were shortened by coughing. The tumor in his lung had grown to a size that restricted his breathing and led to coughing spells when he tried to talk. In all of this he was strong and peaceful, worried only that the end could be a slow and painful process of suffocation. I couldn't help thinking how much this was like another great intercessor of ours, St. Therese of Lisieux, the second patron saint of the Apostleship, whose tuberculosis also led to her feeling that she was suffocating as she neared the end.

People around the world joined a prayer vigil for him so that in his final hours he would know he was not alone. Word that the end was nearing went out on Friday evening and Fr. Tomasek died at 4:05 PM on Saturday. I was not able to be there but another good friend of the Apostleship, Fr. Rob Kroll, who happened to be on retreat at the Jesuit community of St. Camillus, was there.

As we pray for Fr. Tomasek we also ask his prayers for us now that he has passed on to the Lord. I'm always reminded in these cases of the stories that are told of the early martyrs who, as they were being led away to death, were stopped by other Christians who had not been arrested and who would say to them: "When you get there. Put in a good word for me." Dick--Fr. Tomasek--please, put in a good word for us as we put in a good word for you now and pray that you are enjoying the vision of God.

The following is an obituary that my province sent out a few minutes ago:

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of our brother Fr. Richard A. Tomasek, S.J., who was called to eternal life on August 6, 2011. Dick died at St. Camillus in Wauwatosa, WI, after a long struggle with cancer. He was sixty-eight years old, a Jesuit for fifty years, and a priest for thirty-eight years.

Born in Waucoma, Iowa on June 18, 1943, Dick attended grade school and high school in Waucoma and in Lawler, Iowa, before entering the Society at Jesuit College, St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, on August 14, 1961. During his studies he earned a B.A. in philosophy and letters from St. Louis University, an M.Div. from Weston School of Theology, and an S.T.L. in Christian Spirituality from the Gregorian University in Rome. Dick was ordained on June 2, 1973, in Waucoma, Iowa, made tertianship in 1978-79 in Ranchi, India, and pronounced his final vows on August 15, 1980, at Sogang University in Seoul, Korea.

Dick's fifty years as a Jesuit were full of good ministry in many places. He was a teacher - of Latin as a regent at Marquette High in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, of theology at Marquette High (1974-1978), of English at Sogang University (1979-1982), and again of theology at Creighton Prep in Omaha, Nebraska (1982-1991). He served as an associate pastor on several occasions. Above all, he touched the lives of many, many seminarians in his role as director of spiritual formation at the Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio (1996-2004) and the North American College in Rome (2004-2009).

Dick had a gift for making friends of those to whom he ministered. He traveled well, handled foreign languages well, and made the most of modern media to stay in touch with the many people he helped journey through life. Even when his cancer appeared and he was forced to return from Rome to care for his health, he managed a final year of parish ministry in Tucson, Arizona before settling in at St. Camillus to prepare to pass to the Lord he served so faithfully.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


It might seem that I am on the road a lot these days but I'm not. I'll be home in Milwaukee for the next three weeks and much of that time will be devoted to writing. I have several regular writing commitments:

  • a daily reflection for the Apostleship of Prayer web site which usually consists of long quotes from the saint of the day or from a papal homily, speech or letter that pertains to the monthly intentions of the Holy Father;

  • a daily two minute radio reflection for the "Morning Air" show on Relevant Radio and a condensed one minute version that can be used throughout the day and which also appears on our web site's daily reflection page as a YouTube video;

  • our monthly leaflets designed to help people pray for the Pope's monthly intentions;

  • a one page summary of the monthly intentions for the magazine Homiletic and Pastoral Review designed to help those in parishes who preach or prepare the Prayers of the Faithful incorporate the Pope's monthly intentions into the Liturgy;

  • a monthly 5 minute reflection on each of the papal intentions that is made into a YouTube video and can be found on our home page;

  • occasional blog posts like this one.

But in the coming weeks I'll also be working hard to finish a book. Last fall Ave Maria Press approached me about writing a book on the Sacred Heart and so in the past months, in between all the above writing and my travels, I've been writing that book. It's working title is "A Heart on Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus." Three of the nine chapters have been sent to the publisher and I'm almost finished with three more. Now I have to work on the last three and also on quotes that will appear throughout the chapters and prayer exercises that will come at the end of each chapter.

Here's an outline of the book. In Chapter 1 I'll talk about the "heart" symbol and how it is a universal and perennial symbol of love. Chapters 2 and 3 will be what I like to call "The True Love Story." I'll talk about how devotion to the Heart of Jesus is really God's devotion to us and our response to that devotion. Thus, we can say that the devotion begins before time, in the Heart of God. I'll also go through how Sacred Heart Devotion developed in history. Since Sacred Heart Devotion is Eucharistic, in Chapters 4 and 5 I'll talk about how we encounter the Heart of Jesus in both parts of the Mass--Word and Sacrament. Chapter 6 will offer an explanation of an often misunderstood theological concept--reparation. In Chapter 7, which I've just begun to write, I will talk about Sacred Heart Devotion in terms of living a Eucharistic life and making a daily offering. Chapter 8 will go through various Sacred Heart practices (like personal consecration, enthronement, badges, and the 12 Promises), looking at them from a contemporary perspective. I'll also discuss the relationship between Sacred Heart Devotion and Divine Mercy. Finally, Chapter 9 will be a summary and conclusion.

That's the plan, so rather than writing about it, I'd better get down to actually writing the book. It's due at the publisher on September 1! The plan is to start advertising it in the winter catalog of Ave Maria Press and to have it in print and available next spring.