Wednesday Witness: Equipping the Called

After a whirlwind road trip to Michigan with my oldest to visit my parents, I returned last night and had to make a concerted effort not to plunge neck deep into email. The temptation to see what I would be facing at work this morning nearly got the best of me, but I fought it off and visited with my bride and family, then went to bed.

I rose this morning with a knot of dread in my belly. Over the past few days of travel, I had made it to Sunday Mass, of course, but had not dedicated as much time to personal prayer as usual. I felt the consequence this morning as a distance from God.  I was distracted and foggy, even after coffee. I caught myself expecting the worst and feeling unready, unprepared, unequipped. Continue reading

From Conception

This was my first morning in the Adoration Chapel at my new hour, Saturdays at 5 a.m. It was as I hoped: a beautiful way to regroup—to end a week, start the weekend, and consecrate the days ahead to God.

While praying the Rosary, a thought struck me that hadn’t before. I was praying the Third Joyful Mystery—the Incarnation and Nativity of Jesus is how I spontaneously phrased it this morning—and it occurred to me in that moment that Jesus, at His conception, was an embryo, was He not? Perhaps not a zygote, which is specifically a fertilized egg; that is part of the great mystery of Mary’s virgin pregnancy. But an embryo, surely.

We often reflect on God’s great love and humility, that He would willingly condescend to become, not just a man, but a vulnerable, wriggling infant. But more astounding than that, He became what’s today’s culture wants to call “tissue,” a tiny cluster of cells like those pictured above, alive and human, but utterly helpless without Our Blessed Mother’s bodily protection and sustenance. Continue reading


But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed. — Isaiah 53:5

Almost two weeks ago I shared an image of Jesus I see in my mind, most often in Adoration, in which the scars from His scourging are revealed to me. And as you may have seen, last Thursday I left to make a silent retreat. The weekend was peaceful, profound, and, I believe, fruitful; I will be sharing bits and pieces of it over the next many days, I’m sure.

One particularly impactful reflection began as we prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, and came to a beautiful conclusion early this morning. As we prayed, I meditated on scourging and crucifixion, and as usual, wondered what must happen to people to harden them enough to inflict such suffering on another human being. I can almost imagine it in the abstract—that people could be cruel enough to flay someone ragged and nail him to a cross to die. But when the scene becomes specific—how could this person put his hand to the whip or the hammer and make that person weep and bleed—I struggle to comprehend the inhumanity.

Could I do it? Never…

And then I thought about those around me, whom I profess to love and then lash with my tongue and pierce with my glance. The suffering I inflict out of comfort and convenience by looking away, tuning out, remaining ignorant and silent and comfortable. Continue reading

In Gratitude for Those Who Carry the Water

It’s been a busy spring. One Thursday morning during the sprint through the sacraments of Confirmation and First Communion, I woke in the wee hours, unable to sleep with all the To-Dos and details swirling in my mind. So I lit a candle and prayed a rosary. I’d love to say that I am so devoted to Our Lady that I knew a half-hour spent in prayer would alleviate all my anxieties and bring me spiritual insight and peace. But in reality, I was merely begging for sleep and hoping on repetition of prayers would deliver it.

The second Luminous Mystery was the miracle of the Wedding at Cana, in which Jesus turns six stone jars full of water into wine for a bridal party that has run out. And it struck me like this: out of His gratuitous grace and mercy, Christ overlooked the apparent poor planning of the celebrating families and provided the best wine of the night in superabundance. He rewards our bumbling progress toward Him with the gift of his life-giving love, rich and red and intoxicating. And I heard Mary’s reassuring words to the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.”

I found peace in that moment, knowing that no matter what happened in the coming weeks, as long as we were listening to Christ, His love would flow forth to fortify His people.

A good friend relates to the Cana story from the perspective of the servants, who are asked to go fill the water jars (which Scripture tells us hold 20 to 30 gallons apiece) and bring them to Jesus. This is back-breaking work, yet they obey and are the primary witnesses to Christ’s first miracle. I am grateful for those who have carried the water for Kathy and me during my first year here—for our teachers and facilitators; for our deacons and priests; and especially, for the Faith Formation Advisory Committee (FFAC), which has encouraged me and shaped my thinking and efforts these past several months.

The FFAC has done tremendous work over the years, quietly carrying the water that has been poured out as wine for our parish. From leading the change to family catechesis to improving attendance and retention, evaluating program materials and curriculum, and examining trends and best practices in sacramental preparation across the archdiocese, the FFAC has transformed how we approach religious education at our parish. As a result, other parishes are coming to us to learn from us.

Indeed, the FFAC has tackled so many challenges in the past several months that committee members agreed the April meeting would be their last. Beginning in May, a new faith formation “core team,” the LIFT Crew, will take over the role of helping to plan and implement next year’s programs. And while many of the FFAC members plan to attend the team’s soon-to-be-scheduled kickoff meeting, most plan to move into other ministries.

So let’s take this opportunity to thank them by name: president Greg Huber, vice president Nicole Worms, secretary Jeannine Barthel, and committee members Nora Dehmer, Julie Ferry, Lois Pegg, and Ben Sartori. May God continue to bless and guide you and your families, your vocations and ministries—and may He reward you richly for carrying the water on behalf of St. Michael Catholic Church.

Blogger’s Note: This article appears in the Sunday, April 26, church bulletin .