He Has Risen Indeed

Happy Easter! I first heard about this painting of the Resurrection in a book (I can’t remember which one) by one of my favorite travel writers, Frances Mayes. The masterpiece resides in the Tuscan hill town of Sansepolcro, and was painted by Piero della Francesca sometime in the 1460’s. It modern times, it was made famous by the British author Aldous Huxley, who upon seeing it for the first time in 1920, called it “the greatest picture in the world.” Seeing it myself is on my bucket list. Maybe one day…

Today, let us ask for the grace to share the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection with all those we talk to in the coming days and weeks. The world needs this good news and we should not be afraid to share it. Let’s not be asleep like the soldiers in the painting, and miss the opportunities all around us.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of eternal glory! Alleluia!

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, triumphing over death, rising again to share Your message of peace and hope! Alleluia!

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, for sending Your disciples out to share Your labors and Your eternal life! Alleluia! Amen!


Sowers of Hope

On this most unusual Holy Saturday, I’ve been at home all day. The birds are out, the flowers are blooming and the trees are leafing out. The world, as it always does, keeps it’s rhythms. For people all over the world, however, life isn’t the same. A worldwide pandemic has altered our normal rhythms. I was supposed to be on a Triduum retreat this weekend, but it was canceled. I was hoping to replicate my time there last year, where the quiet and peace of those days were such a respite for me.

Like believers all over the world, the Triduum liturgies will be seen online, since our churches are closed as a precaution against the virus. To be honest, I’ve gotten a lot out of the experience, and have watched priests, bishops and the pope do their best to help us feel connected. God bless them for their efforts. In his Easter Vigil Homily, Pope Francis talked about the importance of planting seeds of hope. Jesus, the premiant Sower of hope, gives us an example to follow. The world is in much need of hope right now. Everywhere, right down to our own houses and friends. Instead of despair and worry, let’s plant seeds of hope during this Easter Season. Let’s start with ourselves and our own hearts.

Here is the Holy Father’s Easter Vigil homily for your reflection and encouragement:

The women bring spices to the tomb, but they fear that their journey is in vain, since a large stone bars the entrance to the sepulcher. The journey of those women is also our own journey; it resembles the journey of salvation that we have made this evening.
At times, it seems that everything comes up against a stone: the beauty of
creation against the tragedy of sin; liberation from slavery against infidelity
to the covenant; the promises of the prophets against the listless indifference
of the people. So too, in the history of the Church and in our own
personal history. It seems that the steps we take never take us to the
goal. We can be tempted to think that dashed hope is the bleak law of

Today however we see that our journey is not in vain; it does not come up against a tombstone. A single phrase astounds the woman and changes history: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5). Why do you think that
everything is hopeless, that no one can take away your own tombstones?
Why do you give into resignation and failure? Easter is the feast of
tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside. God takes away even the
hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin,
fear, worldliness. Human history does not end before a tombstone, because
today it encounters the “living stone” (cf. 1 Pet 2:4), the risen
Jesus. We, as Church, are built on him, and, even when we grow
disheartened and tempted to judge everything in the light of our failures, he
comes to make all things new, to overturn our every disappointment. Each
of us is called tonight to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls
back from our heart the heaviest of stones. So let us first ask: What
is the stone that I need to remove, what is its name?

Often what blocks hope is the stone of discouragement. Once we start thinking that
everything is going badly and that things can’t get worse, we lose heart and
come to believe that death is stronger than life. We become cynical, negative
and despondent. Stone upon stone, we build within ourselves a monument to
our own dissatisfaction: the sepulcher of hope. Life becomes a
succession of complaints and we grow sick in spirit. A kind of tomb
psychology takes over: everything ends there, with no hope of emerging
alive. But at that moment, we hear once more the insistent question of
Easter: Why do you seek the living among the dead? The Lord is not to be
found in resignation. He is risen; he is not there. Don’t seek him
where you will never find him: he is not the God of the dead but of the living
(cf. Mk 22:32). Do not bury hope!

There is another stone that often seals the heart shut: the stone of sin. Sin
seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then
leaves behind only solitude and death. Sin is looking for life among the
dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away. Why do you
seek the living among the dead? Why not make up your mind to abandon
that sin which, like a stone before the entrance to your heart, keeps God’s
light from entering in? Why not prefer Jesus, the true light (cf. Jn1:9),
to the glitter of wealth, career, pride and pleasure? Why not tell the
empty things of this world that you no longer live for them, but for the Lord
of life?

Let us return to the women who went to Jesus’ tomb. They halted in amazement before the stone that was taken away. Seeing the angels, they stood there, the Gospel
tells us, “frightened, and bowed their faces to the ground” (Lk 24:5).
They did not have the courage to look up. How often do we do the same
thing? We prefer to remain huddled within our shortcomings, cowering in our
fears. It is odd, but why do we do this? Not infrequently
because, glum and closed up within ourselves, we feel in control, for it is
easier to remain alone in the darkness of our heart than to open ourselves to
the Lord. Yet only he can raise us up. A poet once wrote: “We never
know how high we are. Till we are called to rise” (E. Dickinson).
The Lord calls us to get up, to rise at his word, to look up and to realize
that we were made for heaven, not for earth, for the heights of life and not
for the depths of death: Why do you seek the living among the dead?

God asks us to view life as he views it, for in each of us he never ceases to see an
irrepressible kernel of beauty. In sin, he sees sons and daughters to be
restored; in death, brothers and sisters to be reborn; in desolation, hearts to
be revived. Do not fear, then: the Lord loves your life, even when you
are afraid to look at it and take it in hand. In Easter he shows you how
much he loves that life: even to the point of living it completely,
experiencing anguish, abandonment, death and hell, in order to emerge
triumphant to tell you: “You are not alone; put your trust in me!”.

Jesus is a specialist at turning our deaths into life, our mourning into dancing (cf. Ps 30:11). With him, we too can experience a Pasch, that is, a Passover– from self-centeredness to communion, from desolation to consolation, from fear to confidence.

Let us not keep our faces bowed to the ground in fear, but raise our eyes to
the risen Jesus. His gaze fills us with hope, for it tells us that we are
loved unfailingly, and that however much we make a mess of things, his love
remains unchanged. This is the one, non-negotiable certitude we have in
life: his love does not change. Let us ask ourselves: In my life,
where am I looking? Am I gazing at graveyards, or looking for the Living

Why do you seek the living among the dead? The women hear the words of the angels, who go on to say: “Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee” (Lk 24:6).
Those woman had lost hope, because they could not recall the words of Jesus,
his call that took place in Galilee. Having lost the living memory of
Jesus, they kept looking at the tomb. Faith always needs to go back to
Galilee, to reawaken its first love for Jesus and his call: to remember him,
to turn back to him with all our mind and all our heart. To return
to a lively love of the Lord is essential. Otherwise, ours is a “museum”
faith, not an Easter faith. Jesus is not a personage from the past; he is
a person living today. We do not know him from history books; we encounter
him in life. Today, let us remember how Jesus first called us, how he
overcame our darkness, our resistance, our sins, and how he touched our hearts
with his word.

The women, remembering Jesus, left the tomb. Easter teaches us that believers do not linger at graveyards, for they are called to go forth to meet the Living One. Let
us ask ourselves: In my life, where am I going? Sometimes we go
only in the direction of our problems, of which there are plenty, and go to the
Lord only for help. But then, it is our own needs, not Jesus, to guide
our steps. We keep seeking the Living One among the dead. Or again,
how many times, once we have encountered the Lord, do we return to the dead,
digging up regrets, reproaches, hurts and dissatisfactions, without letting the
Risen One change us?

Dear brothers and sisters: let us put the Living One at the center of our lives. Let us ask for the grace not to be carried by the current, the sea of our problems; the
grace not to run aground on the shoals of sin or crash on the reefs of
discouragement and fear. Let us seek him in all things and above all
things. With him, we will rise again.


Diet Choices and Diabetes

When I was first diagnosed with Type II diabetes, I was simply overwhelmed with information about which diet might be most helpful for someone with this chronic illness. The medical staff at my local diabetes center were of little help. My sessions with them, sadly to say, seemed to be designed to scare me into submission. They focused more on foods they said I could never eat again, like pasta, and emphasized portion sizes that reminded me of my thumbprint. All the books I tried to read gave conflicting information, and the websites I visited all seemed to be selling “the cure.”

Over the span of months, I settled into the rather extreme vegan diet, recommended by one of the top diabetes doctors. I liked his approach because he didn’t emphasize portion control, but rather focused on eating certain kinds of food until you were full. Those certain kinds food, as you can guess, consisted of lots of veggies, some fruit, some pasta, grains, etc., but no meat or dairy. With my exercise routine developing and making a difference, this was the next big step I had to take. I want to say right off the bat that this diet, extreme as it was, helped me lose 65 pounds in the span of about 40 weeks, which was the length of time it took me to go through St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises.

To be honest, after many months, the vegan diet became difficult, especially as the holiday season approached. It was really hard not to be able to share the same foods (which I love) with those who were around the table with me. Eventually, I gave up, although this did not affect my exercise and prayer routines, which by then had become integral to my daily life.

Fast forward ten years, and my spring doctor’s appointment this past May. So, it might be helpful to give you a little background on this doctor visit. Two years ago, I felt like my local doctor (morbidly obese himself), was not especially concerned that my glucose levels, along with my weight, were both on a gradual upward trajectory. I felt like I needed a doctor with some expertise in working with diabetes patients over the long haul. I began searching and was grateful that my insurance covered visits to the Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center, not too far from where I live. When I called, I was amazed that it would take a year before I could get an appointment. Imagine that. Anyway, when I did meet a doctor there, I have to say it was probably one of the best doctor appointments I ever had. He spent nearly two hours with me and gave me such sound advice and confidence that I left there feeling like I had a new lease on life.

That being said, changes needed to be made. I needed to refocus my efforts on changing my diet and exercise routines once again. Because I had some family friends who had been on the keto diet for years and had great success and seemed to have a sincere love of life, I decided to give it a try. Although very different from the vegan diet I began my health improvement journey with years ago, I was equally surprised to see the positive effects this diet had on my physical health. But it too was a hard diet to follow and after some success, old habits came back, along with the weight I had lost. I’m sure most of you reading these words have had similar experiences.
The doctor at Hopkins recommended I meet with a nutritionist, since there were some other things my test results showed which could benefit from the input of an expert in this area. I made the appointment and had to wait several weeks before I could be seen. While I was waiting, I came across an article in the newspaper about one of the founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital, William Osler. As a student at Hopkins, I remembered seeing a huge portrait of him, along with the other three “founders,” but didn’t really know anything about him. The article mentioned that he was the person who began what we now know as “ground rounds.” He also wrote a medical school classic entitled “The Principles and Practice of Medicine,” which was, from what I read in the article, a primary medical school textbook for generations of future doctors. I found the article interesting and, maybe out of boredom that day, decided to do a google search on the good doctor Osler. I quickly found that a PDF version of his book was online. I saw in the table of contents that there was a chapter on “Diabetes Mellitus,” which Dr. Osler defined as a “disorder of nutrition…” Imagine that. Well over a century ago, a preemninat medical school/hospital founder made it clear that what we eat is directly tied to diabetes. Now, I know that this may seem so basic for some, and its true I already knew this from years of daily glocuse testing myself, but hearing it once again was a little jolt. What came next in my reading was even more fascinating. Without using the name, Osler went on to propose a treatment plan which was, I think, an early keto/low carb diet. “the carbohydrates in the food shoud be reduced to a minimum.” Wow.

When I did finally meet with the nutriionist, I didn’t mention what I had recently read from Doctor Osler’s book. What amazed me was that, after our discussion about my health, he proposed a “modified low carb diet,” one which had me eat about 30 carbs per meal, no more than 100 carbs in total per day. So, I felt like the low carb diet had been confirmed as my diet of choice. I’m still working on it as I type, but have to say that I feel really good on this diet.

One one of my early retreats, I had a nutritionist come to speak the the group. One of the things she said that day has always stuck with me. “What successfully worked for Paul may not work for you. You have to find what diet best suits you, and then stick with it. Don’t give up!” So the end of the story here is, if you are dealing with a chronic illness or are realizing that you have not been taking proper care of yourself, you have to meet with your doctor and other experts and find out what diet will work best for you. Use this time of isolation to start reading. Make an appointment with your doctor for sometime this summer, when, please God, the COVID-19 pandemic will be over, and get a plan together to get your life back on track, body, mind and spirit. We will get through this. Long Live Christ The King!


Rise and Walk

I know this might be a stretch, but indulge me. We all probably know the Gospel story of the ill man who sat for years at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15). When Jesus came into the scene, he went up to the man and asked him a simple question, “do you want to be well?” Now, one would have thought he would immediately respond, “yes!”, but he didn’t. Instead, he gave his excuses as to why he never received his cure. Jesus could have challenged those excuses, but he didn’t. Instead, he called the man to “rise, take up your mat, and walk.” The man did just that.

As I was praying about this passage, I recalled the fact that so many people dealing with chronic illness could lessen or reverse the negative affects of these life-limiting diseases if they made changes to their diet and exercise routines. When we watch the news about the current pandemic sweeping the world, we’re told that so many people who are passing away have underlying health issues. As a person who has such health issues, hearing this has caused me to look closely at how I’m taking care of myself. Not just to avoid Covid-19, but checking on all areas of my health. It’s good to do these self care checks from time to time, but especially now.

When I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes ten years ago, I quickly realized I needed more exercise. I love nature, and it was spring, so I decided instead of buying a gym membership, I would purchase a good pair of walking shoes, and away I went. At first, just walking around my neighborhood was tough. But with persistence, I began going further and further, feeling better and better each day. It was amazing.

Friends, I know that some may say that with all the “stay at home” orders in place now throughout the country, it’s not a good time to start a new walking routine. I can’t speak for other states, but where I live, walking is permissible, as long as you are by yourself and avoid others.
I love the fact that in his autobiography, St. Ignatius referred to himself as the “pilgrim.” In his day, the vast majority of pilgrims walked to their destination. So, in my mind, tying Ignatian prayer and walking, especially out in nature, would be a great way to getting myself back in shape, both spiritually and physically.

So, as we move into Holy Week, by ourselves and without the opportunity to personally participate in all the rich liturgies of those days, I would like to encourage you to get off your couch and start walking (assuming your doctor has approved). There are some great articles about walking on the internet from places like Harvard, The Mayo Clinic, and the American Diabetes Association to give you ideas and methods to follow. Check them out. Be sure you check with your doctor first before making any changes to your exercise routine.

Friends, remember that simple changes, made consistently over time, can greatly improve all areas of your life. No more excuses. Rise up and get moving. We can use this present crisis as an opportunity to team up with God and get all areas of our lives healthy. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime chance.


Prayer Changes Things

A great and holy priest friend of mine had a wonderful saying, which he shared with probably thousands of people throughout his lifetime. “Prayer changes things.” So simple, yet so true. Many of us turn to prayer when we are facing difficulties, but sadly some don’t have much of a daily prayer life. We need to step up our prayer! Yes, we are now faced with very serious difficulties, but there are also many good things going on in our world, worthy of our prayerful thanks. For many centuries, people have prayed before this image of Mary and Jesus. It was once a little shrine on a street in Rome, and people would stop and pray as they passed by. It’s known as Our Lady of The Way, “Madonna Della Strada” and it now resides in the Church of St. Ignatius (Gesu) in Rome. Ignatius often prayed before this image, asking for Mary’s intercession as he went about serving God’s people.

In order to step up our prayer, here are some links I find helpful. Many of us have more time right now. Pray at the beginning, middle, and end of each day, aim for at least 30 minutes. Build up to one hour. Remember, “prayer changes things.”

Discerning Hearts is a website is loaded with prayer and teaching. I love praying the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet using this site, since it helps me feel part of a larger group.

Ignatian Spirituality is near and dear to my heart. Ignatius’ Daily Examen has helped countless people over five centuries to reflect on their daily lives to see where they both saw and missed God’s presence each day. The prayer’s five simple steps begin with gratitude, a gentle reminder that we have much to be thankful for.
I know many are struggling with the reality that we cannot currently go to Mass and receive communion. Do not despair, this too will pass. I would encourage you to use this present situation as a way of recognizing how often we fail to receive the Lord worthily, how we take His Presence for granted, how we don’t admit how much we need Him in our lives. During this time, please pray this prayer of Spiritual Communion. It will provide some consolation during these difficult days.

Finally, realize that churches all over the world, which probably includes yours, are providing lots of online content, including Daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, Prayers, etc. Take advantage of these opportunities to remain linked to your faith community.

Our Lady of the Way, Pray for Us!


It’s Time To Act

Since I began this blog several years ago, one of my main goals was to help people make the connection between spirituality and health. Many of us have heard these lines from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body” (19-20). I’ve always been struck by the challenge of glorifying God in (with) our body, and how difficult it is to live that out each day. I know it is for me.

Friends, our world is now confronted with the very serious and deadly Corona virus. Over the last several weeks, I’ve heard that when someone dies from this virus, it’s often because they had “existing health problems.” Although I’m no expert and cannot say for certain, my guess is that many of these “existing health problems” are those same chronic health issues which lead me to create this blog. Over ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. I was obese, and was not taking care of my physical body in the way one should if they are attempting to bring glory to God through it. I could go on and on, but for now I want to tell you that I prayed very hard for a solution, and in the end, prayer was a huge part of the solution. So was changing my diet and exercising every day. Prayer, Diet and Exercise. What seemed like an insurmountable mountain turned out to be something I could get to the other side of, but it didn’t take place overnight and certainly wasn’t easy. It took months, and then, once I got to the other side and was healthy again in all areas of my life (body, mind, and spirit), I realized I needed to share what I had done with others, trusting that what happened to me was doable for others.
Over the years, I’ve learned that small changes, done consistently over time, can greatly help people get well in all areas of their lives. If you are suffering from a chronic illness but have not really made those necessary changes to improve, now is the time to act. Today! This morning in my own prayer, I made a commitment to start writing on this blog daily from now until Divine Mercy Sunday (April 19th), offering suggestions on what you can do right now to get yourself back on track in all areas of your life. We have to take personal responsibility for ourselves, and during this time of uncertainty, we can begin our journey to health. We can do this. God wants us well.