Time With God Shouldn’t Be a Chore

Posted on March 31, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

ChoreWhen I first came to faith in Jesus Christ, I struggled to focus during my prayer, worship, or devotional time. I knew I was supposed to spend time with God, but it became more of a “punch the clock” situation rather than a vibrant, connected relationship with my Creator.

As I read more of the Bible, I encountered prophets, priests, and kings who spoke of delighting in the Lord with all their heart. That’s what I wanted. And as I encountered more and more of Jesus in the Gospels, I saw that he did anything but punch the clock with the Father — he lived out his faith in every circumstance and brought God into every situation.

LakeSo I began to seek out ways to do that, to meet God in unexpected avenues and to invite him into areas of my life where I had been unintentionally leaving him out. I still prayed. I still went to church every week. But I widened my perception of what a relationship with God could be and delighted in the ways God would show himself everywhere if I opened my eyes and my heart to receive him.

Last week, I ran across an article from Relevant Magazine that spoke exactly to this issue – how we can get to know God in unexpected avenues and transform our regular time with the Lord so that our soul is set alive.

If this is something you struggle with or know someone who does, please feel free to read and share.

No Rewind; Press Play Now

Posted on March 30, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

After my mother passed away, my sister and father had a falling out of sorts. When he moved to be closer to me, she told me that she didn’t ever want to speak to him again, saying, “Even if he is on his death-bed, do not call me.” My father was in his late 70’s and the pain he would have felt if he knew her wishes would have been too much to bear.

Because of this, I made a decision to not tell him. This also put a strain on my relationship with my sister, caring for the one person in this world she seemed to despise the most.

shutterstock_137446907 copyOf all the gifts God has given us, time and family are at the top of the list to be cherished. Also, both are finite gifts. Our family members will not walk in this world forever, and each day that slips away cannot be restored.

Still, we build up walls of fear, doubt, resentment, anger, and pain, not allowing ourselves to forgive and be good stewards of what we have been given.

God’s mercy is overflowing through all the earth.

There is no excuse for you and me not to be reconciled with God and accept this profound compassion. In turn, there is no excuse to not extend that mercy and reconcile with those who have hurt us.

I always believed I would have a renewed relationship with my sister when my father’s death would come to pass. Two weeks after he passed, my sister suddenly died as well. There is no rewind of time. Yes, good stewards, today is the day!


Easter Sunday is Concluded…Now What?

Posted on March 29, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

EasterIt is now the quiet time… The Triduum services are completed. The Easter Vigil (the “mother” of all vigils) has been concluded for another year — to varying degrees of liturgical success in each individual parish, I am sure.

The crowds that seem to magically appear and arrive for Easter Sunday Mass have come and gone. Candidates and catechumens have been received into the Church. Easter egg hunts are wrapped up as well as family Easter gatherings. Now what?

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Healing Our Woundedness

Posted on March 29, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, April 3, 2016, 2nd Sunday of Easter

A hand reaching out to help another.

Wounds! Wounds! Wounds! It seems that everywhere we look in our world today there are wounds! Last week’s horrendous happenings in Brussels brought back fresh memories of the tragedy in Paris not so long ago. That triggers the horrors of Boston and the more than three thousand lives that were lost September 11, 2001. These catastrophes—the most recent in America—our great wounds!

Simultaneously with the tragic events in Brussels, the media was covering the conviction of the former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, by a United Nations tribunal at The Hague. The atrocities he directed boggle the mind. Again, there are echoes. This time it’s the incomprehensible horror of the WWII Holocaust. At the same time, rumbling in the background of all this, is the multitude of Syrian refugees seeking asylum! Ethnic cleansing has not gone the way of past barbarian civilizations. It is still with us. Our world of 2016 rends the heavens with cries and groans from so many wounds.

Just last week we remembered the atrocity of Calvary. The heavens themselves were torn asunder at the wounds inflicted on the very Savior of our race. Did those wounds cry out for vengeance? Not really! Jesus brought a new way. Even as he was dying, he made a declaration of forgiveness. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Mercy flowed like a balm from the wounds of Jesus. Forgiveness was the wellspring of that mercy. Jesus’ wounds bled mercy!

Though today’s Gospel seems like two separate incidents, they are actually related. Jesus enters each event through locked doors. The disciples were terrified of the Jews. When we are afraid and when we are wounded, doors are locked… doors to our hearts and minds. We especially lock the doors leading to our woundedness. They are not available for viewing or touching. Jesus comes to us, bringing peace. In the case of the disciples, his peaceful message had to be repeated. When we are afraid or wounded, we too need extra assurance. We need to hear Jesus’ words… and hear them again and again.

Jesus’ next action is so important. He shows them his wounds. His wounds did not disappear when he rose from the dead. Jesus carries his wounds into his new life. Jesus knows and understands the pain of wounds. There must be something we need to learn about carrying wounds into resurrected life. Until very recently in our American history, we kept our wounds behind locked doors. The maimed, the handicapped, the mentally challenged, and even pregnant women stayed in the privacy of their homes. Thank goodness that has changed. But even now, inner woundedness is still very private. The traditional British “stiff-upper lip” is still practiced in times of grief, depression, and trouble. We don’t “air” our troubles. We are expected to get through and over the grief of divorce and death, loss and failure quickly.

Jesus showed his wounds. He didn’t whine over them or exaggerate them or blame the disciples. He just showed them. He wasn’t looking for pity, just showing the truth. So many of us need to unlock the doors of our woundedness so that compassionate, willing people can help. One reporter on CBS News said that “for every injured person” in Brussels, “there was a hero.” By allowing others to see our wounds, they can show compassion, and care. They help us to carry our burdens. Even the “shadow” of their care can help heal.

This is Divine Mercy Sunday. We’re hearing so much about mercy this year. Can we open ourselves to that mercy? It is related to woundedness. Mercy flows like a healing balm but only as we open the locked doors of our inner selves and let others gaze upon our wounds. Some of us have locked those doors so tightly that we don’t even recognize and admit that we are wounded. We may be too afraid to look ourselves.

This Divine Mercy Sunday offers us the opportunity to have mercy on ourselves. The risen Jesus stands in front of us. He gives us the grace of his peace. He gives it again and shows his wounds. Now he asks us to open our doors to let his peace in. He reaches out his wounded hands and touches our wounds. His peace and merciful love flow into the rawness of our wounds. His mercy heals. Alleluia!

As we are healed, we hold up our wounded world to the healing hands of Jesus. We lift up the wounded of Brussels, of Paris, of Syria and Serbia, of Boston and New York. We lift up those terribly wounded in the past and those who will be wounded tomorrow. God’s loving mercy flows continually from the wounded heart of Jesus in rays of warm, healing love. Alleluia!

Patricia DeGroot, OblSB


Eternal God,
in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible,
look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us,
that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent,
but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will,
which is Love and Mercy itself.

—From the Chaplet of Divine Mercy


Pope Francis delivered the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing on Easter Sunday, following Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Speaking to pilgrims and tourists gathered in the Square for the occasion, Pope Francis especially remembered the suffering peoples of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. To view the full text and video of the Urbi et Orbi message, visit http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-easter-urbi-et-orbi-a-message-of-hope.

A draft of the schedule for Pope Francis’ trip to Poland from July 27 to 31 for the 31st World Youth Day was presented in Krakow on Saturday. The provisional schedule may be viewed at http://www.news.va/en/news/wyd-krakow-2016-draft-schedule-released.

The Holy Father announced the upcoming canonization of five new saints, including Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata (née Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu), whose work among the “poorest of the poor” won her worldwide acclaim. Hundreds of Missionaries of Charity, members of the religious order founded by Mother Teresa, are expected to be in Rome for her canonization, set for September 4, 2016.

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Spontaneous Stewardship

Posted on March 28, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

Jesus_VeronicaI had a wonderful Holy Week and Easter and I hope all of you reading this did so as well! There were so many aspects of the last several days I am thankful for and made me think. One such moment of inspiration occurred on Good Friday during Stations of the Cross.

When we arrived at the 6th Station, the booklet we were using labeled the actions of Veronica wiping the face of Jesus, and then His gift of the imprint of His face on her cloth, as both spontaneous. The light bulb went off in my head. I immediately started thinking of how to make our Easter season more meaningful and more enriching spiritually.

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March 27 – Easter Sunday

Posted on March 27, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

easterSundayToday’s Acclamation

“Christ, my hope, has risen: he goes before you into Galilee,” (Easter Sunday Sequence),

Daily Lent Reflection

This medieval liturgical hymn (‘Praises to the Paschal Victim’ or ‘Easter Sequence’) may be sung before the Gospels throughout the entire Easter Octave. It is a meditation on the Alleluia verse and it contains a powerful proclamation of Christ’s resurrection, even from Mary’s viewpoint. But why Galilee when the empty tomb and all the disciples are in Jerusalem?

Galilee is where it all began: the annunciation, origins, birth, growth, hidden life, hard labour, first proclamation, first ministry, first miracles, first following, effervescent zeal. We are invited to complete the circle and start again: at home, at work, called and captivated afresh by the One who leads the Way.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I ask where is my Galilee, the place of my first encounter with Christ? How will my Alleluia be heard today?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

March 26 – Holy Saturday

Posted on March 26, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

holySaturdayToday’s Scripture

“Then the LORD said to Moses: …Tell the Israelites to set out.” (Exodus 14:15 ).

Daily Lent Reflection

It is night. Persecutors are pressing behind the Israelites and the sea is swelling in front of them…and yet God is saying march on. When we find ourselves in such dead ends, it is hard to believe that the original destination, glimpsed in more peaceful moments, is more than an illusion. It is a scary place to be.

It is even easy to blame God for getting us into such troubles on the first place, dismissing the voice that urges us on… And yet persistence is a hallmark of any liberating exodus. The dawn sees both problems miraculously resolved: the crossing accomplished dry-shod and the enemies drowned. But just imagine the morning scene had the Israelites decided, instead, to give up their confidence in God over that one night…

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I ask where am I heading? What helps me not to give up?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

March 25 – Good Friday

Posted on March 25, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

goodFridayToday’s Gospel

“’I thirst,’” (John 19:28 ).

Daily Lent Reflection

As with the Samaritan woman, the Son of God is once again asking for a drink, but now from the cross. And he is offered the drink of the poor people! In those days you would not quench your thirst with water infested with bacteria or parasites, but with fermented or boiled liquids. And if you happened to be poor, you could not afford nice wine, only the sour one comparable to vinegar.

Similarly, we may feel our efforts to quench the thirst of this world for justice, love and peace are just cheap vinegar, yet Jesus does not reject it. And his work is not completed until he has tasted what we have to offer.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I ask where do I hold back because I do not consider my contribution worthy? Where do I offer the “drink of the poor” when I could offer more?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

I’ll Miss Joe Garagiola

Posted on March 24, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Joe GaragiolaMany tributes have gone out today for Joe Garagiola, baseball’s famed catcher and announcer, and recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame Buck O’Neil Award for his achievements off the field.

What isn’t being mentioned much is that Joe was a practicing Catholic and his contributions to those he came into contact with. He likely didn’t realize the impressions he made on people through his celebration of faith.

As a young boy growing up in Cooperstown, my brothers and I were altar servers at St. Mary’s Church. Being a Catholic – and a Polish/Irish Catholic – in Cooperstown in the 1960’s was not what you’d call “cool” by any stretch of the imagination. It was pretty routine, though, every summer to wander down to the Otesaga Hotel with our friends and scout the lobby for baseball heroes to see if they’d sign a baseball. 

These guys were superstars, and we didn’t often see famous people in our daily lives.

Joe CardOne of my earliest recollections as an altar boy was seeing Joe at Mass one Sunday morning during the summer. Here was one of our heroes, praying on his knees, in our little church. And when he received Holy Communion, I got to hold the paten under his chin. 

I was amazed to see a guy like this – who had everything – still coming to church.  What could he possibly need to pray for?

I came to realize much later in life that Joe was simply living his humble life, in the limelight, giving grace to God for his gifts, his family, and likely all of us who needed his prayers.

Today’s role models could take a cue from Joe and impress a generation. 

Thanks, Joe – you’ll be missed.

Tim Potrikus, LPi Vice President Custom Services

March 24 – Holy Thursday

Posted on March 24, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

holyThursdayToday’s Scripture

“Do this in remembrance of me,” (1Cor 11:24 ).

Daily Lent Reflection

The surprising sequence of taking, blessing, breaking and sharing of Jesus’ life was underlined by a momentous act of service: the washing of disciples’ feet! Interestingly, the only memorial worthy of Jesus is us mirroring this – taking, blessing, breaking and sharing life as it comes to us, whilst making an effort to ‘wash’ each other’s ‘feet’ – even if such acts are incomprehensible at the moment.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I ask what will help me give thanks for everything my life includes? What parts of my life do I need to break open so I can share more generously? How am I called to ‘wash’ other people’s ‘feet’?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark