I'm on the road these days and have not had much time to write. I'm in Cascade, Iowa, a town of 2,000 that is only 20 minutes from Dubuque. At one time Cascade had two Catholic churches, St. Patrick's founded in 1840 and St. Matthias founded in 1848. One was for the Irish and one was for the Germans. Now the parishes are combined and I am in the middle of a 40 Hours Devotion with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and talks on the Sacred Heart and the Eucharist. Last summer Fr. Douglas Loecke invited me to come here after he read my book "A Heart on Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus."
Before coming here I was in Burlington, Iowa where I spoke in all the Catholic grade school classes on Valentine's Day. Naturally I spoke about a Heart that shows us the truest and deepest love that has ever existed. I also spoke to an assembly of middle and high school students in the gym. I was invited to Burlington by Mark Knutsen, someone I had on retreat at Bellarmine Retreat House in Barrington, IL last fall. The local Knights of Columbus Council 568 hosted me for a supper Friday night and I gave two talks Saturday morning.
When I met with the children on Friday I talked to them about having a heart like the Heart of Jesus, a heart that goes out to other people with love. I told them that one way our hearts can go out to others is through prayer. Then I shared with them the idea of praying for Pope Francis' monthly prayer intentions and, using the "smart board" in every classroom, I showed them the Kids' Page on our website. They laughed at the photo we have for this month's Universal Intention. We are praying for our seniors or elders. I showed them the activity page which can be printed up and which gives them the opportunity to reach out to an older person to say that they are thinking about him or her.
My good friend, Anne Bender, has a wonderful reflection on her blog "Imprisoned in These Bones" about the joys and struggles of helping our elders. Many of the people coming to the evening talks that I am giving in Cascade are older people who are making the effort to come out in the snow and the cold. They have been the pillars of the Church in rural communities like this and have passed the faith on to future generations that continue to fill the churches here. May God reward them for their faithfulness!