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This makes me think… an ancient church prayer for political leaders…

“Grant to them, Lord, health, peace, concord, and stability, so that they may exercise without offense the sovereignty that you have given them. Master, heavenly King of the ages, you give glory, honor, and power over the things of earth to the sons of men. Direct, Lord, their counsel, following what is pleasing and acceptable in your sight, so that by exercising with devotion and in peace and gentleness the power that you have given to them, they may find favor with you.”

-Pope St. Clement of Rome-

(As found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1900)

Dear St John Paul II… a thanksgiving for your holy influence in my life

Dear St John Paul II… a thanksgiving for your holy influence in my life

Dear St John Paul II,

What a blessing to go to Mass this morning on your feast day! Your life had such a big impact on mine; your holy influence has fueled some of my best prayer practices and my most earnest studies.

Long before you instituted World Youth Days, you struck a chord with me as a youngish youth minister when I accompanied my youth group to Madison Square Garden. You told us: “Look to Christ!” So simple, yet so life-changing. We have so much that distracts us in this age. Only one thing is needed: keeping our eyes on Jesus.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 4.23.47 PMYour love for the Blessed Mother caught my attention. I had mixed emotions about Mary until I read your advice in Redemptoris Mater about Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. You said it was a way to better live my baptismal promises. That inspired me to say yes to Marian Consecration when I was invited by some local friends to do so. Who knew the timing would be just months before my breast cancer diagnosis? I would need Momma Mary all the more during that time. But you know that ANY TIME is a good time to get closer to Mary.

To this day, I remember my profound shock and joy when the The Catechism of the Catholic Church came out in English in 1994. I have a first edition. Some people laughed that I cared to read it. Yet its teaching grounded my love for Christ and the wisdom of the Church. It’s amazing footnotes and multiple indices sent me back to grad school for my Masters to learn what all that “alphabet soup” meant — all those abbreviations! — all the magisterial teaching and the wisdom of the church doctors and saints continues to thrill and inspire my life and my work. I’m still learning from it, by the way. I’m grateful that I’ve been blessed to write a monthly column in Catholic Digest about it for the last few years.

A happy fallout of learning the Catechism in the 90s is that it put me in touch with the profound theological master, our dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Reading you and reading him made me grow to love Christ and the Church all the more.  What a legacy your remarkable friendship has given the world!

Your Theology of the Body renewed my marriage and gave me a path for raising my teens — sharing with them God’s plan for marital love and fidelity to whatever vocation that God gives them.

I remember standing with my Bob and my daughter Katie in St Peter’s Square with you, toward the end of your earthly life. It was our first general audience in 2004. That was a long time since our youthful selves were at the Garden in ’79. But your age and infirmity did not matter, you were still happy to be with us. By then I knew you were a living saint. I yelled out my love and prayers with that crazy throng as you passed by in your Popemobile.

Let me tell you one last thing. When I was a young mom, I stumbled upon your musings about “the feminine genius”, in Mulieris Dignitatem and Letter to Women… Little did I know the impact they would have. Later, those writings, and related homilies, and your encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), would eventually become the basis of my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood.  How can I ever thank you for that? Maybe someday in heaven, right? I’m hoping my work is part of that great thank you. Did you have a hand in my book being recently translated into Polish is advance of the next World Youth Day in Krakow? Either way, I’m crediting your influence.

Speaking of all good things Polish! I have loved the Divine Mercy devotion and St Faustina for years, thanks to you! It has changed my 3 o’clock hour. Not to mention your addition of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. That was brilliant.

Okay I’m rambling here, but you get the point. Thank you, thank you, dear Papa! There’s so much more I could write and gush about. I know you are praying for the universal church, and for your little friend here, who is writing a new manuscript with fear and trembling, and looking to you again for your holy tutelage. What a gift to ask for your intercession!

St John Paul II, pray for us!

This makes me think… “I would rather die loving you, than live without you.” – St John Vianney

“Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” -Romans 5:5

Prayer… draws everything into the love by which we are loved in Christ and which enables us to respond to him by loving as he has loved us. Love is the source of prayer; whoever draws from it reaches the summit of prayer. In the words of the Cure of Ars:

I love you, O my God, and my only desire is to love you until the last breath of my life. I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you, than live without loving you. I love you, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love you eternally. . . . My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it to you as often as I draw breath. (St Jean Vianney, Prayer)

Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2658


Want to learn more about St Jean Vianney? He is an inspiration to all priests and believers. Listen to this 10-minute homily about his life and heart. H/T to Fr Michael Duffy.

God Became Man – my latest article at Catholic Digest

God Became Man – my latest article at Catholic Digest

Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith.” (CCC, 463)

As Catholics, we profess our belief in the Incarnation in the Nicene Creed: Jesus Christ “came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

The Incarnation is a unique and singular event. Its truth informs the way we view God and ourselves.

Divine condescension

When Jesus arrived on the earth, he changed the way humanity viewed God. In Jesus, God came down from heaven to earth, without compromising his divinity.

The Incarnation of Christ crowned centuries of divine revelation, God’s slow revealing of himself, making himself known to humanity over time. God’s divine communication was now to be known through the Person of his Son. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the Incarnation as “the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it” (CCC, 461).

This is the deepest meaning behind our Christmas celebrations.

[T]he Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. (CCC, 464)

This holy condescension of God means that we can never accuse God of being absent or lofty or unreachable or inaccessible. The Incarnation—the taking on of flesh in the Virgin’s womb—is the moment whereby the inexhaustible, inexpressible, invisible, omnipotent, and almighty Holy One takes on human visage. The divinity of God shines through a human person now.

At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word, that is, the Word and substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature. (CCC, 479)

Divine dignity

Jesus, coming as a human person, changed the way we view ourselves. The Second Vatican Council declared that the Incarnation raises our own human dignity.

He who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) is himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam he restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as he assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. (Gaudium et Spes, 22)

Humanity now counts the face of God among its own.

Never again may I look at another person, or myself, with disdain or disrespect, for there is an inherent dignity in all.

Read the rest at Catholic Digest.

I’m pleased to be a regular columnist there writing about the beauty and inspiration that comes from the Catechism of the Church. Click here to subscribe to Catholic Digest. 

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My Top Ten Inspirations from the Pontificate of St John Paul II

My Top Ten Inspirations from the Pontificate of St John Paul II

The long pontificate and life of St John Paul will have a lasting impact on the church until Jesus returns. Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 4.23.47 PMGiven his canonization today, I thought I’d share with you some of John Paul’s gifts to the church, and extraordinary accomplishments, that have held meaning for me through the years. He’s been an inspiration to me since I was 18, a college frosh when he was elected. I’m so grateful that in 1979 I was among the youth who greeted him in New York, as I chaperoned a trip to see him. (More on that below.) Decades later in Rome, I was, again, among the throng at a 2004 papal audience alongside my husband and daughter. Both experiences were unforgettable!

Today I woke up at 4am to watch the canonization. This, after giving a women’s retreat at Saint Benedict Parish in Halifax, NS, that highlighted our new Saint’s writings and teachings! But I could not miss it “live”. And as I sat there in my bed in my hotel room before I had to catch a plane home, all the fondness for this Saint flooded back to me. It’s not just who he was, but what he wrote and taught that has inspired me and helped to shape me as a Christian.


Here’s my Top Ten List of Inspirations from St John Paul II:

  1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church – This was a monumental achievement, as it was the first update to the Roman Catechism in over 400 years. From my archives: some commentary on catechism trivia.  
  2. His Marian Devotion, especially through his Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, and his writings on Mary, including Redemptoris Mater and Rosarium Virginis Mariae.  The latter gave us the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. I’ve been personally inspired by John Paul’s devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on his life.
  3. The feminine genius, as described in Mulieris Dignitatem and Letter to Women… and other related homilies and writings, such as Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). I truly believe these were the fruit of the Saint’s devotion to Mary, our Mother. These specific works also had a positive influence in my own life, and I tell that story in my book… which I’m giving away in a free drawing here.
  4. The Theology of the Body – a series of papal audiences and teaching given over several years on human love, sexuality, and anthropology. You can find classes in this area of study here. In the US, there is a Congress this summer.
  5. His Apostolic visits to 129 countries around the world — including 7 trips to the United States.
  6. The myriad of saints he canonized.
  7. Restoration of the Sistine Chapel.
  8. His books, outside of his magisterial teaching, that are now read in popular culture, especially Crossing the Threshold of Hope and Love and Responsibility.
  9. The Jubilee Year 2000 (and the years of preparation for the new millennium).
  10. World Youth Days (I never did get to attend one, but I was at a special gathering for youth in Madison Square Garden with JP2 in 1979.)Below is a favorite quote from WYD 2000.

It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.

Dear young people, in these noble undertakings you are not alone. With you there are your families, there are your communities, there are your priests and teachers, there are so many of you who in the depths of your hearts never weary of loving Christ and believing in him. In the struggle against sin you are not alone: so many like you are struggling and through the Lord’s grace are winning!

Thank you St John Paul for your holy influence in my life! St John Paul, pray for us!

Know the Catechism: The Eucharist is the Pledge of the Glory to Come

Know the Catechism: The Eucharist is the Pledge of the Glory to Come

Grant, almighty God,
that, just as we are renewed
by the Supper of your Son in this present age,
so we may enjoy his banquet for all eternity.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

-Prayer after communion, Mass of the Lord’s Supper-



1402 In an ancient prayer the Church acclaims the mystery of the Eucharist: “O sacred banquet in which Christ is received as food, the memory of his Passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace and a pledge of the life to come is given to us.” If the Eucharist is the memorial of the Passover of the Lord Jesus, if by our communion at the altar we are filled “with every heavenly blessing and grace,”242 then the Eucharist is also an anticipation of the heavenly glory.

1403 At the Last Supper the Lord himself directed his disciples’ attention toward the fulfillment of the Passover in the kingdom of God: “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”243 Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist she remembers this promise and turns her gaze “to him who is to come.” In her prayer she calls for his coming: “Marana tha!” “Come, Lord Jesus!”244 “May your grace come and this world pass away!”245

1404 Church knows that the Lord comes even now in his Eucharist and that he is there in our midst. However, his presence is veiled. Therefore we celebrate the Eucharist “awaiting the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ,”246 asking “to share in your glory when every tear will be wiped away. On that day we shall see you, our God, as you are. We shall become like you and praise you for ever through Christ our Lord.”247

1405  There is no surer pledge or dearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and new earth “in which righteousness dwells,”248 than the Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, “the work of our redemption is carried on” and we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ.”249




242 Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 96: Supplices te rogamus.
243 Mt 26:29; cf. Lk 22:18; Mk 14:25.
244 Rev 1:4; 22 20; 1 Cor 16:22.
245 Didache 10,6:SCh 248,180.
246 Roman Missal 126, embolism after the Our Father: expectantes beatam spem et adventum Salvatoris nostri Jesu Christi; cf. Titus 2:13.
247 EP III 116: prayer for the dead.
248 2 Pet 3:13.
249 LG 3; St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Eph. 20,2:SCh 10,76.


This makes me think… every sin can be forgiven

There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive.

“There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest.” [Roman Catechism I, 11, 5.]

Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin.

– Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 982


[Bold emphasis mine]

Don’t Miss the USCCB sale on Catechism Titles Every Catholic Home Should Have!

Don’t Miss the USCCB sale on Catechism Titles Every Catholic Home Should Have!

Besides the Bible, every Catholic home should have this reference texts!

This is the annual sale that USCCB offers on these titles. This is the Church’s equivalent of a back-to-school sale. Do it!

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 10.25.36 AMNow thru Sept 30 (yes, there’s a typo above, its not Sept 3, but the 30th) you can get 20% off hard copies of the Catechism (CCC), the US Catechism for Adults, the Compendium of the CCC, and the Compendium of Social Doctrine. Here’s a download of an online-form (.pdf) to use in ordering. 

Use the promo code “faith”!

Website: http://www.usccbpublishing.org

Phone: 800-235-8722

E-mail: publications@usccb.org  Customer Service: css@usccb.org


This make me think…

The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God himself. From their covenant arises “an institution, confirmed by the divine law, . . . even in the eyes of society.” The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God’s covenant with man: “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love.”

Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.

-Catechism of the Catholic Church, par 1639-1640-

note: comments have been disabled because I’m not at my desk to moderate them.

Post Pentecost – Recalling the Effects of Confirmation

Post Pentecost – Recalling the Effects of Confirmation

There’s a timely reminder in the Catechism of the Catholic Church for this “time” in the liturgical calendar – smack dab between Pentecost and Ordinary Time. And it is this: Pentecost should remind us of our Confirmation!

CCC 1302 states:

It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.

I grew up in a Catholic home and went to a parochial grade school. It was taken for granted that I would be confirmed. But, despite its importance, Confirmation being a sacrament and all, I was slow to understand its significance in my life. Hindsight, so the saying goes, is 20/20.

If I am perfectly honest, as I look back on my Confirmation at the age of 12, I can say that that I was formed in one thing: being able to stand up for the faith. Not that I completely knew what my faith taught, mind you, but I knew I was responsible to stand up for it. I didn’t question it. I was immature, and I likened my ideas about Confirmation to a kind of “patriotism”… I was a Catholic and it was my honor to live by and defend the laws of the Church, just like I was an American pledging allegiance to the flag.

Actually, my feelings about the sacrament were almost irrelevant. Yet, despite how I would “feel” about my Confirmation, the “effects” of the Sacrament are still the same… the Holy Spirit was poured out upon me. The Sacrament “took” as long as I was properly prepared for it, and the Bishop acted appropriately as to the Rite.

I just did not appreciate my Confirmation until later.

Two years following my Confirmation, the Lord led me to a youth prayer group. Actually, the Lord led my mother to lead me to a prayer group. It seems they needed a musician to help lead the worship, and I had just enough guitar ego in me to oblige. But despite my less-than-noble reasons for serving, that prayer group was where I really started to “live it” – meaning that my faith became “not for Sundays only.”
As I look back, I began a wonderful journey of faith in my teen years, thanks to the grace of God. The grace of Confirmation began to kick in. Little did I know that I was beginning to cooperate with that grace.

CCC 1303 states that our Confirmation brings about five effects, the first of which is that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit increases and deepens our baptismal grace. Confirmation “roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!””
When I was a teenager, I began to understand my identity as a baptized Catholic was that of a child of God. That’s what divine filiation is—to be made part of God’s family.

St. Paul writes in Romans 8:14-17:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Secondly, it follows that CCC 1303 states that Confirmation “unites us more firmly to Christ.” To my tender teenage heart, this was the idea of falling in love with Christ. As if I could really make a return to Christ for all he had done for me. But, truly, that unity with Christ was and is far more dependent on Christ’s gift to me, than my gift to him. And yet, he loves me all the same!

God is determined to give mere mortals the means to live for him. Therefore, we see the third effect of Confirmation being that it “increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us.” The more open we are to the Holy Spirit, the more we can respond to Christ. In other words, our moral life is sustained by the Holy Spirit’s gifts that make us docile and teachable and obedient to God’s will. (Cf. CCC 1830.)

CCC 1303 teaches that Confirmation delivers a fourth effect: it “renders our bond with the Church more perfect”. The Bishop, who administers the Rite of Confirmation, shows us that bond. Where the Bishop is, there the Church is, to paraphrase St. Ignatius of Antioch in the second century. His holy office is our apostolic witness, our tie to the foundations of our faith dating back past Ignatius to the time of Christ and his apostles. As Jesus sent his apostles, so he sends us… and we are to be sent in unity with the Body of Christ, which is the Church.

Not only that, CCC 1303 continues, Confirmation gives us “a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross. This is the Truth that we are called to stand up for and defend, and we already have been given the grace to do it. This is the special charism of Confirmation.

And what is it that we have truly received? In CCC 1303, St. Ambrose, a Doctor of the Church from the fourth century, spells out the fifth and most challenging effect of our Confirmation:

Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence.

Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.

As confirmed Catholics, there is no shirking of the duties and responsibilities inherent in this calling. There may be ignoring of it, and, even a rejecting of it. But we cannot remove this Confirmation that is upon us, once it is imposed.

So much so, that that CCC 1304 reminds us:

Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.

Did that last line sound familiar? These were some of the parting words of Jesus to his disciples, just prior to his Ascension into heaven.

Luke 24:48-49:

You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.

And you remember what that Power was now, don’t you? The Holy Spirit at Pentecost!

©2009 Patricia W. Gohn

:: This post originally appeared at Catholic Exchange. 

Photo Credit: Pat Gohn, Rome, 2011.