Catholic Exchange: The Cross Leads to the Greatness We Are Made For

There is a quote by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that frequently makes the rounds in social media: “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” On the surface it is a summons to rise above the things of this world in order to achieve the greatness we are made for by God. The question is: How do we achieve this greatness? The answer is through the Cross.

In the West, we live in an age of comfort. This comfort is plaguing the Church at pandemic levels. It has eroded away her evangelical witness and it has led far too many Catholics to abandon the call of Christian discipleship for the things of this world. It has also led far too many in the ministerial priesthood to fail to teach, to govern, and to sanctify the People of God. Comfort acts as a cancer within the Mystical Body destroying everything it touches in the process.

The path to holiness is not an easy one. It is deeply difficult and it is impossible for us to achieve on our own. It is only through a radical surrender of our entire being to Christ that we can be transfigured into who we are meant to be for the salvation of souls and our own salvation. The means by which Christ transforms us into great saints is through the Cross. It is the only way because it is the same path He walked.

I will freely admit that I did not come to understand this central aspect of the Christian life until a few years ago after many years of intense suffering and after Our Lord quite literally placed three pieces of His True Cross in my hands when he entrusted them to me as their temporary guardian when I was 33-years-old. God was not subtle about it when He made it clear to me that I was to pick up my Cross and follow Him.

This should not have been difficult for me to understand. I’m a cradle Catholic, after all. The fact of the mater is, I never heard a passionate call from the priests of my childhood and young adulthood telling me to die-to-self united with Christ on the Cross. In fact, the love of God was frequently preached, but in a manner that was divorced from the Cross. “God loves us” is all I heard for decades. That’s well and good, but that statement lacks any depth without the full force of the Cross with it.

When I hear “God loves us” in a homily my immediate first thought is: “Yes, Father, but what does that mean? What does that love look like in our daily lives? What is Christ calling us to?” Through His love for us, Christ issues each one of us an invitation to walk the Way of the Cross and to be crucified on the Cross with Him because that is what love looks like. That is the love we are called to; a complete abandonment of self to God and in the service of others. It is the call to put others first, not ourselves, which is completely counter-cultural in an age of me and my wants and needs.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been working my way through Servant of God Catherine Doherty’s writings and biographies written about her. In many ways she is a woman after my own heart and a true spiritual sister. The most prevalent theme in her writing is the Cross. Multiple times throughout her life, holy men and  women prophesied to her about the role of the Cross in her life. From her infancy, her own mother said that she was born under the sign of the Cross.

Read the rest at Catholic Exchange.

The Saints and the Cross Episode 19: Sts. Peter and Paul

Happy Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul! I apologize that I haven’t made any videos in the last few weeks. I’ve been working on a few projects and spending time with my family. Today I talk about how St. Peter and St. Paul show us the Way of the Cross and how their examples help us in our own spiritual lives. St. Peter’s doubt and St. Paul’s unshakeable faith are representative of the ups and downs most of us face in the spiritual life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we too can have unshakeable faith despite the Crosses we face. These two saints show us that regardless of our faith journey the Holy Spirit is guiding us on the Way of the Cross in our own lives.

Catholic Exchange: St. Clare and the Power of Our Eucharistic Lord

In 1224, an army of soldiers on errand from Frederick II arrived to attack Assisi. St. Clare lived in Assisi with the sisters of her newly formed religious order at the time. In response to the coming invasion, St. Clare—while very ill—went out to meet the soldiers with the Blessed Sacrament in her hands. She placed the Blessed Sacrament on the wall where the invaders could see it. She then fell to her knees and begged God to save her sisters. It is said that she prayed:

“O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now,” she prayed. A voice seemed to answer: “I will keep them always in My care.”

The attackers were then filled with fear and fled from the town as fast as they could without hurting anyone in the process.In 2014, it became national news that Satanists planned to host a “black mass” at Harvard which was being hosted by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club. There was a great outcry as Catholics rallied around the world through prayer to combat the sacrilegious event. In response, Catholics in the Boston area participated in a Eucharistic procession through the streets near MIT.

In a great show of spiritual power, the priests, religious, and faithful present demonstrated to the world and to the Satanists that true power comes from the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The “black mass” was canceled by Harvard and moved to a local bar where it apparently was not performed in its entirety and without a consecrated host.

Nearly 800 years after St. Clare, Catholics still respond to threats of evil by holding high the Eucharistic Presence of Our Lord. In doing so, we are showing the world Christ Himself body, blood, soul, and divinity who is the ultimate answer to all evil, affliction, sin, and death. He is the source of all power. In the end, it is the higher supernatural order that truly conquers what transpires in the material world as ordained by God. It is this supernatural understanding and vision that we must reclaim to an even greater extent now.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: The Ascension Reveals to Us Our Ultimate Hope

It is during these dark days of uncertainty that we must raise our eyes to heaven. It is through Christ’s Ascension and return to the Father that we learn to follow Christ to our ultimate end. He shows us that our true home is not to be found in this world. We are made for eternal life. It is this message of hope that we must cling to and boldly proclaim as we continue through this pandemic and the separation from the Sacraments that continues in so many dioceses around the world.

In the days and weeks following His Resurrection, Christ sought to prepare the Apostles for His return to the Father, but they could not bear the news. They were filled with grief, so Christ gently, over time, revealed His plan to them that would result in the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who is our Advocate and Comforter.  Nevertheless, His return to the Father was necessary because we are called to follow Him wherever He goes.

Through the Ascension, Christ completes His earthly pilgrimage and leads us to our ultimate home and union with Him. We cannot attain eternal life fully until He ascends back to the Father. The Ascension raises our eyes towards heaven.

The Ascension is, then, a feast of hope, a sweet foretaste of heaven. By going before us, Jesus our Head has given us the right to follow Him there some day, and we can even say with St. Leo, “In the person of Christ, we have penetrated the heights of heaven.” As in Christ Crucified we die to sin, as in the risen Christ we rise to the life of grace, so too, we are raised up to heaven in the Ascension of Christ. This vital participation in Christ’s mysteries is the essential consequence of our incorporation in Him. He is our Head; we, as His members, are totally dependent upon Him and intimately bound to His destiny.

Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary MagdaleneDivine Intimacy, #179.

Through baptism we have been incorporated into the life of Christ, which means we live in the hope of our own resurrection and sharing in His glory. We too will follow Him to the Father at the end of our earthly lives. The Ascension is the event that most clearly reflects our hope in eternal life.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

The Saint and the Cross Episode 10: St. Catherine of Siena

I’m a few days late, but today I talk about St. Catherine of Siena. In this short talk, I focus on her life of prayer and the interior life, which led Christ to use her in extraordinary ways. She’s often quoted in response to the clergy sex abuse scandals. It’s important for us to remember that God is the one who provides the graces we need to live certain missions. If He is calling us to help renew the priesthood, then we must first be people of prayer and mortification. We must seek His will or we may get in the way of what He’s trying to accomplish. It is a life of profound prayer and union with God that makes any missions He gives to us possible. Prayer must come before action.

The Saints and the Cross Episode 8: St. Monica

The next saint in the series is St. Monica. For those of you struggling with wanting your children, family, friends, and others to return to the Church or convert, St. Monica is the saint for you. She shows us how our prayers, sacrifices, and love will be used by the Holy Spirit for their sanctification and ours. We must trust that He is always at work and sometimes we need to get out of the way and allow the people He sends to help our loved ones do His work. No matter what, we can trust God is working in the lives of our loved ones.

*Precision in language matters a great deal to me in both my writing and speaking. I inadvertently–a slip of speech–referred to the Holy Spirit with their rather than His. No, I was not trying to use gender-neutral language. God has revealed Himself through the masculine even though He also possesses all feminine qualities within Himself as well. It was a small enough mistake that I decided not to re-record the whole thing.

The Saints and the Cross Episode 7: St. Joan of Arc

Happy Third Sunday of Easter! Today I talk about the next saint in my series: St. Joan of Arc. This one is for my daughter who loves the martyr saints. St. Joan of Arc is a wonderful example to us of how to follow God’s will even when those around us do not understand it fully. She was tasked with doing extraordinary things in the face of extreme odds, but her faithfulness to God, led her to accomplish all that He asked of her. She eventually gave her life for Christ as a martyr when she was burned at the stake. May we all use this time to prayerfully discern where Christ is calling us to serve Him for the salvation of souls.

The Saints and the Cross Episode 6: St. John the Apostle

Today I talk about a very real danger of the temptation to despair that I see growing as this exile continues. The answer to this temptation is greater love of God. St. John is an example to us of how to endure agonies, trials, and afflictions at the foot of the Cross completely centered in the love of God. If you know someone who is struggling with despair, please share this video with them. When those moments come, may we all have recourse to greater and deeper prayer in the Word of God and the intercession of St. John, and of course, Our Lady.

The Saints and the Cross Episode 2: St. Therese of Lisieux

Today I cover two aspects of St. Therese of Lisieux’s teaching: Doing small things with great love and persevering in trial and testing knowing it is a sign of God’s love for us.

Today is my 39th birthday. I’m requesting that anyone who views this video or stops by the blog to offer a prayer for our priests, bishops, and Holy Father. In your kindness, after you pray for your own parish priests, please remember mine: Fr. Kevin and Fr. Christian. I pray that Our Lord may unleash tremendous graces on our priests through the Immaculate Heart of His Mother.

Here’s a beautiful prayer you can offer written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who is a fellow April birthday.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Prayer for Priests

LORD JESUS CHRIST,
eternal High Priest, you offered yourself to the
Father on the altar of the Cross and through the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit gave your priestly
people a share in your redeeming sacrifice.
Hear our prayer for the sanctification of our priests.
Grant that all who are ordained to the ministerial
priesthood may be ever more conformed to you,
the divine Master. May they preach the
Gospel with pure heart and clear conscience.
Let them be shepherds according to your own Heart,
single- minded in service to you and to the Church
and shining examples of a holy,simple and joyful life.
Through the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
your Mother and ours,draw all priests and the flocks
entrusted to their care to the fullness of eternal life where
you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen

The Saints and the Cross Episode 1: St. Charles Borromeo

Today I begin my video series on the saints and the Cross with St. Charles Borromeo. I also provide a lens through which we can view the present pandemic and exile by referencing St. John Paul II’s Salvifici Doloris:

I’m still taking suggestions for saints you’d like to see me cover. Feel free to post them in the comments or email me.