He Has Risen

Happy Easter!  At the Easter Vigil last night at my parish, thirty-two people became Catholic.  It was an amazing liturgy, lasting longer than the Vigil at St. Peter’s in Rome, but it was so filled with grace that it took my breath away and left my heart filled with joy.  Like many Catholic parishes in the United States, the makeup of the congregation is changing.  The majority of our new Catholics last night were Hispanic, and our liturgy was bilingual.

Having grown up in Southern California, I’m used to liturgies where more than one language is used.  When the Vietnamese boat people arrived, our important Masses at St. Finbar became trilingual: English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.  It would probably surprise some in my present church in Maryland to know that those trilingual Masses have been occurring for over forty years.  The make up of Catholic congregations has been changing for decades, and so it should be.

Today, as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, let us rejoice in the new life this singular event made available to us, and that means everyone, regardless of their past, their ethnic background, their age, or anything else.  James Joyce said it well in Finnigan’s Wake:  “Catholic means ‘Here comes everybody.'”  How true, and I’m grateful to have witnessed a validation of that quote last night in my own church.

Blessings to you and yours this Easter Season.




Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Sadly, I’ve only been to Ireland once, and I was about fourteen when I travelled there with my mother for our first big trip abroad. It was an adventure, to be sure, and I think we both caught the bug for travel on that trip, and it’s remained with me to this day. My mom, God rest her, was ready to go on a moment’s notice. She loved to travel, and together with her children, she got to see a good part of the world and made several trips to Ireland, our ancestral homeland.

I have a little souvenir from my trip to Ireland, and, strangely, I came across it just this  morning. We didn’t have much spending money as I recall, but back then we didn’t need much either. My mom had an artsy streak to her, and with a steady hand and amazing handwriting, she wrote in a little sea shell, barely an inch across, “Co. Waterford- Irish Sea, July 1978.”   Where did those 38 years go?

I was glad to come across this little memento this morning. Surely, my mother prompted me to find it, to remind me our trip and bring a smile to my face.  

I hope you are blessed to have memories of travel adventures. Aren’t we blessed to live in a time when we can visit places our ancestors could only dream of?  Yes, I think we are. But as the old song goes, in the end “there’s no place like home.”

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.




A Fresh Take On The Daily Examen

I don’t know about you, but I love short prayers.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that it’s not the length of the prayer, but the sincerity of the person praying it.  That’s not to say that there’s something wrong with long prayers, but we shouldn’t discount those that are brief and to the point. 

One such prayer which I’ve come to love is found at the very beginning of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.  Known as the Examen, it has just five meditative steps and can be praying through in about ten minutes or so.  St. Ignatius held the Examen in highest esteem, and he was never willing to miss praying it each day. 

Here’s the five basic steps:

  • Take a few minutes to become aware of God’s presence.
  • With a grateful heart, thank God for the blessings of your day.
  • Recall the events, both good and bad, of your day.  Where was God in your day?
  • If necessary, ask God for forgiveness for any failings you may have had.
  • Look forward to the day to come, asking God’s help to make it a better day than today.

Earlier this past week, I was talking with one of the people I’m guiding through the Spiritual Exercises, in a format which lasts about thirty weeks.  I had just sent the participants the link to a new app (see below) which has a variety of different versions of the Examen, and my friend said he found the new options refreshing.

We’re about two-thirds done with the Exercises, and he told me that using the same Examen all these weeks had caused his once fruitful prayer time to become a bit stale.  He thought changing them up from time to time through all the options on the app would be very helpful.  Just this morning, I used the app and found an Examen which was perfect for what I wanted to pray through.  I hope it might be the same for you.

My colleagues at Loyola Press just launched a new app based on Fr. Mark Thibodeaux’s best-selling book, Reimagining the Ignatian Examen. The app, called Reimagining the Examen, allows Android and iPhone users to scroll through more than thirty Examens that are tailored to their needs, wherever they are. You can download Reimagining the Examen on iTunes or on Google Play.

Whether you’ve never prayed the daily Examen, or if you have been praying it for years, I hope you’ll check out this app.

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow we’ll be celebrating the 4th Sunday of Lent.  If you haven’t yet gotten into the spiritual disciplines of Lent, don’t lose heart.  God always meets us where we’re at.


What About You? What Will You Do?

In the Catholic Church, today’s feast day honors a saint from Philadelphia, Katharine Drexel (1858-1955). While he was visiting Philadelphia this past fall, Pope Francis talked about an event that would change St. Katherine’s life and effect the lives of countless people who benefited by her ministry and the millions she gave away in service to the poor. Here’s what the Holy Father said of her, and how he used her example to challenge his listeners and now us with these questions, “What about you? What will you do?”

“Most of you
know the story of Saint Katharine Drexel, one of the great saints raised up by
this local Church. When she spoke to Pope Leo XIII of the needs of the
missions, the Pope – he was a very wise Pope! – asked her pointedly: “What
about you? What are you going to do?”. Those words changed Katharine’s life,
because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman, by
virtue of baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond, as
best we can, to the Lord’s call to build up his Body, the Church.

“What about
you?” I would like to dwell on two aspects of these words in the context of our
particular mission to transmit the joy of the Gospel and to build up the
Church, whether as priests, deacons, or members of institutes of consecrated

First, those
words – “What about you?” – were addressed to a young person, a young woman
with high ideals, and they changed her life. They made her think of the immense
work that had to be done, and to realize that she was being called to do her
part. How many young people in our parishes and schools have the same high
ideals, generosity of spirit, and love for Christ and the Church! Do we
challenge them? Do we make space for them and help them to do their part? To
find ways of sharing their enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all
in works of mercy and concern for others? Do we share our own joy and
enthusiasm in serving the Lord?

One of the
great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the
faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to
enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven
of the Gospel in our world. This will require creativity in adapting to changed
situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by
maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but
above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us
and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life.”