Memento Mori, Revisited

Back in April I shared a post entitled “Memento Mori, or Don’t Get Comfortable.” It was inspired by the sense of urgency I saw in the saints highlighted in Fr. Gaitley’s guide to Marian consecration, 33 Days to Morning Glory. In my reading this summer—particularly Praying With Padre Pio and The Little Flowers of St. Francis (which I’m reading now )—I continue to see this urgency. No sooner is a sin perceived than repentance and penance are undertaken; no sooner does an opportunity arise to serve or suffer than it is pursued to the full; no sooner is a prayer answered than praise and thanksgiving erupt.

LittleFlowersStFrancisCoverThis urgency is particularly edifying to me. Not only do I have a marked tendency to overestimate what I can achieve in the time I have, but I am also tempted more to presumption than despair. In other words, I’m inclined to coast and hope for the best—which is fine for a thing with wheels, but on two legs, usually turns into a long tumble downhill. Continue reading

We’ll Always Have Poland

Poland Family

Last Sunday we were blessed to host a party of sorts. What started as my attempt repay the “Poland daughters” who took me out to dinner for my birthday last fall  turned into a mini-World Youth Day reunion, with many of the teens and a couple of the adults from our trip to Krakow a year ago.

We visited, prayed together, and shared a meal: grilled kielbasa and pierogies, pasta and sauce and salad, cookies and root beer floats. We shared our favorite memories and laughed and laughed. We talked about future plans—many of my Poland daughters are starting college this year. And I think we all longed to go back to visit the Motherland.

The next morning I thought I should re-share the post I wrote after the pilgrimage—only to realize I never wrote a recap. I thought about doing a standard Top-10 list, but no matter how I counted or grouped things together, I had too much to share.

So I’ll keep this to three moments that stand out to me above the others. Continue reading

Victory Is His

For many years I struggled with a number of habitual sins common to the male of the species. I say I struggled with, rather than against, because for much of that time I was complicit. I knew these things were sinful, knew they weren’t healthy for me or my marriage, and yet I was only willing to resist up to a point.

I remember going to confession with Fr. Siebenaler in the old St. Michael church and confessing these same sins yet again. He spoke kindly but bluntly: “You remind me of St. Augustine praying, ‘Give me continence, but not yet!'” And he advised that if I truly loved my wife and wanted to leave these sins behind I should admit them to her and ask for her help in overcoming them.

I thanked him, did my penance, and returned home thinking, He’s obviously never been married—no way am I telling Jodi! Continue reading

Book Break: Praying with Padre Pio

PrayingWith PioYesterday morning I finished Eileen Dunn Bertanzetti’s little book Praying With Padre Pio—a wonderful, simple introduction to the life and spirituality of one of our great 20th-century saints. As I mentioned in the past week, I’m increasingly drawn (or pointed) to St. Pio as an example and intercessor in my own life. A Capuchin monk, priest, mystic, and stigmatist from southern Italy, St. Pio has been the subject of numerous books and biographies; this one breaks his life and spiritual advice into fifteen meditations on topics of particular interest or importance to his practice of the Catholic Christian faith, such as suffering, the Eucharist, Mary, and joy in the Lord.

The book opens with a brief overview of St. Pio’s life before diving into the meditations. Each meditation opens with a one- or two-sentence summary of the topic at hand and an opening prayer. Next follows a brief biographical account of how this particular topic played out in the saint’s life. The book then presents a single question for the reader to reflect on, comparing and contrasting his or her own experience to that of St. Pio’s.

Next, the book shares Padre Pio’s own words on the topic, gleaned from letters, journals, and biographical accounts, followed by three to five reflections, from which the reader is encouraged to choose one. These exercises range from journaling to meditation to resolving to act in a way that underscores the lesson of the day. Finally, the book shares a few relevant scripture passages to reflect on and offers a closing prayer, often in St. Pio’s own words.

I read one meditation a day for the past fifteen days and found the book informative, enjoyable,  challenging, and inspiring. Every day I took something new from St. Pio’s life and spiritual practices that could be adopted to my own—and nearly every day, the topic providentially aligned with the daily scripture readings and other spiritual reading and writing I’m doing these days. This was truly an inspired find; if you are interested, it’s at the parish lending library. (I returned it yesterday, so look in the returns bin!)

More Than Meets the Eye

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and Earth, of all things visible and invisible. — the Nicene Creed, emphasis mine

Each time we pray the Creed at Mass, we acknowledge—in fact, we profess our sincere belief—that there is more to this world than meets the eye. We believe in saints and angels, heaven and hell, the devil and his minions. We believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ—body, blood, soul, and divinity—in the Holy Eucharist. We believe in the power of prayer and redemptive suffering.

Practicing Catholics proclaim this belief in the invisible world and spiritual realities at least once a week. But do we live daily as if we believe heaven is for real? Continue reading