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Jul 19, 2024
Evangelize Jul 19, 2024

When she lost her mobility, eyesight, listening, voice, and even the sense of touch, what prompted this young girl to describe her life as ‘sweet?’

Little Benedetta, at age seven, wrote in her diary: “The universe is enchanting! It is great to be alive.” This intelligent and happy lass, unfortunately, contracted polio in her childhood, which left her body crippled, but nothing could cripple her spirit!

Hard Times on Roll

Benedetta Bianchi Porro was born in Forlì, Italy, in 1936. As a teenager, she began to go deaf, but despite this, she entered medical school, where she excelled, taking oral exams by reading the lips of her professors. She had an ardent desire to become a missionary doctor, but after five years of medical training and just one year short of completing her degree, she was forced to end her studies due to increasing illness. Benedetta diagnosed herself with neurofibromatosis. There are several iterations of this cruel disease, and in Benedetta’s case, it attacked the nerve centers of her body, forming tumors on them and gradually causing total deafness, blindness, and later, paralysis.

As Benedetta’s world shrank, she demonstrated extraordinary courage and holiness and was visited by many who sought her counsel and intercession. She was able to communicate when her mother would sign the Italian alphabet into her left palm, one of the few areas of her body that remained functional. Her mother would sign letters, messages, and Scripture painstakingly into Benedetta’s palm, and Benedetta would reply verbally despite her voice having been weakened to a whisper.

“They’d come and go in groups of ten and fifteen,” said Maria Grazia, one of Benedetta’s closest confidantes. “With her mother as interpreter, she was able to communicate with each one. It seemed as though she could read our innermost souls with extreme clarity, even though she couldn’t hear or see us. I will always remember her with her hand extended ready to receive the Word of God and her brothers and sisters.” (Beyond Silence, Life Diary Letters of Benedetta Bianchi Porro)

It’s not that Benedetta never experienced agony or even anger at this disease that was robbing her of the ability to become a medical doctor, but in accepting it, she became a doctor of another sort, a kind of surgeon to the soul. She was, indeed, a spiritual doctor. In the end, Benedetta was no less a healer than she ever desired to be. Her life had shrunken all the way down to the palm of her hand, it was no bigger than a Communion host—and yet, just like a Blessed Communion Host, it had become more powerful than she would have ever imagined.

It is impossible to miss the correlation between Benedetta’s life and Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament who is hidden and small too, silent and even weak, but an ever-present friend to us.

Towards the end of her life, she wrote to a young man who suffered similarly:

“Because I’m deaf and blind, things have become complicated for me … Nevertheless, in my Calvary, I do not lack hope. I know that at the end of the road, Jesus is waiting for me. First in my armchair, and now in my bed where I now stay, I have found wisdom greater than that of men—I have discovered that God exists, that He is love, faithfulness, joy, certitude, to the end of the ages … My days are not easy. They are hard. But sweet because Jesus is with me, with my sufferings, and He gives me His sweetness in my loneliness and light in the darkness. He smiles at me and accepts my collaboration.” (Venerable Benedetta Biancho Porro, by Dom Antoine Marie, OSB)

A Compelling Reminder

Benedetta passed away on January 23, 1964. She was 27 years old. She was venerated on December 23, 1993, by Pope John Paul II and beatified on September 14, 2019, by Pope Francis.

One of the great gifts that the Saints bring to the Church is that they give us a clear picture of what virtue looks like, even in incredibly difficult circumstances. We need to ‘see ourselves’ in the lives of the Saints in order to be strengthened for our own.

Blessed Benedetta is truly a model of sanctity for our times. She is a compelling reminder that even a life filled with serious limitations can be a powerful catalyst for hope and conversion in the world and that the Lord knows and fulfills the deepest desire of every heart, often in surprising ways.

A Prayer to Blessed Benedetta

Blessed Benedetta, your world became as small as a communion wafer. You were immobilized, deaf, and blind, and yet you were a powerful witness to the love of God and the Blessed Mother. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is hidden and small too, silent, immobilized, and even weak—and still all-powerful, ever present to us. Please pray for me, Benedetta, that I will collaborate, as you did, with Jesus, in whatever way He wishes to use me. May I be granted the grace to allow the Almighty Father to speak through my littleness and loneliness, too, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Amen.


By: Liz Kelly Stanchina

Jul 12, 2024
Evangelize Jul 12, 2024

Q – My many Christian friends celebrate ‘Communion’ every Sunday, and they argue that the Eucharistic presence of Christ is only spiritual. I believe Christ is present in the Eucharist, but is there any way to explain it to them?

A – It is indeed an incredible claim to say that at every Mass, a small piece of bread and a small chalice of wine become the very flesh and blood of God Himself. It is not a sign or a symbol, but truly the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. How can we make this claim?

There are three reasons why we believe this.

First, Jesus Christ said so Himself. In John’s Gospel, Chapter 6, Jesus says: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him.” Whenever Jesus says, “Amen, Amen, I say to you…”, this is a sign that what He is about to say is completely literal. Further, Jesus uses the Greek word trogon which is translated ‘to eat’—but really means ‘to chew, gnaw, or rip with one’s teeth.’ It’s a very graphic verb which can only be used literally. Also, consider the reaction of His hearers; they walked away! It says in John 6: “as a result of this [teaching], many of His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.” Does Jesus chase them down, tell them that they misunderstood Him? No, He allows them to leave—because He was serious about this teaching that the Eucharist is truly His flesh and blood!

Second, we believe because the Church has always taught it from its earliest days. I once asked a priest why there was no mention of the Eucharist in the Creed which we profess every Sunday—and he replied that it was because no one debated His Real Presence, so it wasn’t necessary to officially define it! Many of the Church Fathers wrote about the Eucharist—for example, Saint Justin Martyr, writing around the year 150 AD, penned these words: “For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but we have been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” Every Church Father is in agreement—the Eucharist is truly His flesh and blood.

Finally, our faith is strengthened through the many Eucharistic miracles in the history of the Church—over 150 officially documented miracles. Perhaps the most famous occurred in Lanciano, Italy in the 800s, where a priest who doubted Christ’s presence was shocked to find that the Host became visible flesh, while the wine became visible as blood. Later scientific tests discovered that the Host was heart flesh from a human male, type AB blood (very common among Jewish men). The heart flesh had been badly beaten and bruised. The blood had congealed into five clumps, symbolizing the five wounds of Christ, and miraculously the weight of one of the clumps is equal to the weight of all five taken together! Scientists cannot explain how this flesh and blood has lasted for twelve hundred years, which is an inexplicable miracle in itself.

But how can we explain how this happens? We make a distinction between accidents (what something looks like, smells like, tastes like, etc) and substance (what something actually is). When I was a young child, I was at my friend’s house, and when she left the room, I saw a cookie sitting on a plate. It looked delectable, smelled like vanilla, and so I took a bite…and it was soap! I was so disappointed, but it taught me that my senses could not always decipher what something actually is.

In the Eucharist, the substance of bread and wine change into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (a process known as transubstantiation), while the accidents (the taste, smell, look) remain the same.

It does indeed take faith to recognize that Jesus is truly present, since it cannot be perceived by our senses, nor is it something we can deduce with our logic and reason. But if Jesus Christ is God and He cannot lie, I am willing to believe that He is not a sign or symbol, but truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament!


By: Father Joseph Gill

Jul 07, 2024
Evangelize Jul 07, 2024

Tired of all that life is throwing at you? This super-food might be just what you need!

Homer’s Odyssey, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road…all have something in common—the main characters are making their way through their respective life journeys. They can serve as a reminder to us that we are also on a journey.

Winner Takes it All

At the high point of Prophet Elijah’s life journey, he faces down the prophets of Ba’al, the pagan god. Elijah is on the top of Mount Carmel with 400 pagan prophets and challenges them to a prophetic duel. He says: “Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; the god who answers by fire is indeed God.”(1 Kings 18:24) It’s a great confrontation, a real test. One can imagine how this duel would have been promoted on Pay-for-TV!

The priests of Ba’al really get into it: they pray and dance themselves into a frenzy as if they were at a rage gathering, all the while calling upon their god to do his thing. Nothing happens. Elijah taunts them: “Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” (1 Kings 18:27) So, they dial up their effort. They call and call, slash themselves with swords and spears until they are a bloody mess…of course, nothing happens.

In contrast, Elijah calmly calls upon Yahweh just once, who brings down fire to consume the sacrifice, proving that there’s only one true God: Yahweh. With that, the crowd is astounded, and all the people fall prostrate as they exclaim: “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.” (1 Kings 18:39). Elijah then commands the crowd to seize the pagan prophets and have them marched down to the brook Kishon, where he slits their throats. Talk about winner-take-all!

An Unexpected Twist

Well, one can imagine that the pagan Queen Jezebel was not a happy camper, having 400 of her prophets humiliated and slaughtered. She has to do something to save face and maintain her imperial prerogatives. If Ba’al is discredited, she will be as well, so she sends her secret police and troops after Elijah, who is now on the run. He is fleeing for his life, and if they catch him, they will murder him.

We hear that Elijah “went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.’” (1 Kings 19:4) His life, which had just come to a high point with the confrontation of the pagan prophets, has now bottomed out. He’s discouraged, saddened, and so depressed that he wants God to take his life—he wants to die. He is tired of running.

The prophet’s prayer for death is not heard. His mission has not yet been completed. Then an angel of the Lord, a messenger from God, comes to him: “Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him: ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said: ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’” (1 Kings 19: 5-7)

The angel directs him to Mount Horeb, which is another name for Mount Sinai, the holy mountain. Sustained by the mysterious food and drink, Elijah is able to walk for forty days, a very significant number as it signifies completeness in the Biblical context. He then receives a revelation, just as his ancestor Moses did. So, we have a story that begins with desperation and ends with the prophet once again actively engaged in the affairs of God.

Modern-day Jezebels

We may not be pursued by the agents of Jezebel, but we do have to contend with evil influences in our daily lives, so we can easily identify with the prophet Elijah. Many of us, especially those who have lived a while, reach this point where life is really difficult. We don’t have the energy that we once had when we were younger, and the enthusiasm for life has waned. Sometimes, it’s all we can do to get through the day, and that is before we had to contend with the pandemics, racial discord, threats to our democracy, and environmental degradation. Life has really beaten us up. There are only so many psychological blows that we can handle. On top of that, our religious practice has become way too familiar, even mechanical. Sometimes, it seems that we’ve lost our sense of direction or purpose. A lot of us have become like Elijah the prophet.

When we hit bottom like this, what do we need? The same thing Elijah did—sustenance for the journey and a renewed sense of direction and purpose. We find our sustenance in Jesus, who said: “I am the living bread … Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51). Notice two things: Jesus, the living bread, is both the means and the end. Not only is He our sustenance for the journey, but He is also the destination.

The Food that We Become

When we celebrate the Holy Mass, we offer ourselves as a gift to God, symbolized by bread and wine. In return, we receive the self-gifting Real Presence of Christ himself. As we consume the Eucharist, we don’t make bread and wine become alive, rather, that consecrated, Heavenly bread makes us become alive because it assimilates us to it! When we receive His body and blood, we are receiving His soul and divinity. When that happens, we are drawn into His Being, into His divine Life. We now have the means to see as Jesus sees and to live a life similar to His— to value all we do as serving the Father.

The Eucharist is also the end of our journey. We have a taste of Heaven on Earth because we enter into the mystery of God. Through the Eucharist, we experience Heaven in space and time. We experience oneness with God, each other, and all of Creation. We experience a fullness of self, which is what our heart desires now and forever!

If you want to have sustenance and courage for the journey, make the Eucharist, the living bread, the very center of your life. If you want the joy and satisfaction of a life fully imbued with God, receive Jesus’ gift of living bread.


By: Deacon Jim McFadden

Jun 28, 2024
Evangelize Jun 28, 2024

My new hero is Mother Alfred Moes. I realize that she is not a household name, even among Catholics, but she should be. She came on my radar screen only after I became the Bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, where Mother Alfred did most of her work and where she lies buried. Hers is a story of remarkable courage, faith, perseverance, and sheer moxie. Trust me, once you take in the details of her adventures, you will be put in mind of a number of other gritty Catholic Mothers: Cabrini, Teresa, Drexel, and Angelica, to name a few.

Mother Alfred was born Maria Catherine Moes in Luxembourg in 1828. As a young girl, she became fascinated by the possibility of doing missionary work among the native peoples of North America. Accordingly, she journeyed with her sister to the New World in 1851. First, she joined the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Milwaukee but then transferred to the Holy Cross Sisters in La Porte, Indiana, a group associated with Father Sorin, CSC, the founder of the University of Notre Dame. After clashing with her superiors—a rather typical happenstance for this very feisty and confident lady—she made her way to Joliet, Illinois, where she became superior of a new congregation of Franciscan sisters, taking the name ‘Mother Alfred.’ When Bishop Foley of Chicago tried to interfere with the finances and building projects of her community, she set out for greener pastures in Minnesota, where the great Archbishop Ireland took her in and allowed her to establish a school in Rochester.

It was in that tiny town in southern Minnesota that God commenced to work powerfully through her. In 1883, a terrible tornado tore through Rochester, killing many and leaving many others homeless and destitute. A local doctor, William Worrall Mayo, undertook the task of caring for the victims of the disaster. Overwhelmed by the number of injured, he called upon Mother Alfred’s sisters to help him. Though they were teachers rather than nurses and had no formal training in medicine, they accepted the mission. In the wake of the debacle, Mother calmly informed Doctor Mayo that she had a vision that a hospital should be built in Rochester, not simply to serve that local community, but rather the whole world. Astonished by this utterly unrealistic proposal, Doctor Mayo told Mother that she would need to raise $40,000 (an astronomical figure for that time and place) in order to build such a facility. She in turn told the doctor that if she managed to raise the funds and build the hospital, she expected him and his two physician sons to staff the place. Within a short span of time, she procured the money, and the Saint Mary’s Hospital was established. As I’m sure you’ve already surmised, this was the seed from which the mighty Mayo Clinic would grow, a hospital system that indeed, as Mother Alfred envisioned long ago, serves the entire world. This intrepid nun continued her work as builder, organizer, and administrator, not only of the hospital that she had founded, but of a number of other institutions in southern Minnesota until her death in 1899 at the age of seventy-one.

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the pressing need in our diocese for priests, and I urged everyone to become part of a mission to increase vocations to the priesthood. With Mother Alfred in mind, might I take the occasion now to call for more vocations to women’s religious life? Somehow the last three generations of women have tended to see religious life as unworthy of their consideration. The number of nuns has plummeted since the Second Vatican Council, and most Catholics, when asked about this, would probably say that being a religious sister is just not a viable prospect in our feminist age. Nonsense! Mother Alfred left her home as a very young woman, crossed the ocean to a foreign land, became a religious, followed her instincts and sense of mission, even when this brought her into conflict with powerful superiors, including a number of Bishops, inspired Doctor Mayo to establish the most impressive medical center on the planet, and presided over the development of an order of sisters who went on to build and staff numerous institutions of healing and teaching. She was a woman of extraordinary intelligence, drive, passion, courage, and inventiveness. If someone had suggested to her that she was living a life unworthy of her gifts or beneath her dignity, I imagine she would have a few choice words in response. You’re looking for a feminist hero? You can keep Gloria Steinem; I’ll take Mother Alfred any day of the week.

So, if you know a young woman who would make a good religious, who is marked by smarts, energy, creativity, and get-up-and-go, share with her the story of Mother Alfred Moes. And tell her that she might aspire to that same kind of heroism.


By: Bishop Robert Barron

Jun 28, 2024
Evangelize Jun 28, 2024

In the early 1900s, Pope Leo XIII requested the congregation of Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to go to the United States to minister to the significant number of Italian immigrants there. The congregation’s founder, Mother Cabrini, desired to do a mission in China, but obediently heeded the Church’s call and embarked on a long journey across the sea. 

As she had nearly drowned as a child, she formed a great fear of water. Still, in obedience, she…across the sea. On arrival, she and her sisters found that their financial aid had not been sanctioned, and they had no place to live. These faithful daughters of the Sacred Heart persevered and began serving the people on the margins. 

In a few years, her mission among the immigrants flourished so fruitfully that till her passing, this aquaphobic nun made 23 transatlantic trips around the world, founding educational and healthcare facilities in France, Spain, Great Britain, and South America. 

Her obedience and attentiveness to the Church’s missionary call was eternally rewarded. Today, the Church venerates her as the patron saint of immigrants and hospital administrators.


By: Shalom Tidings

Jun 07, 2024
Evangelize Jun 07, 2024

What would you do when a stranger knocks at your door? What if the stranger turns out to be a difficult person?

He says his name with emphasis, in Spanish, with a certain pride and dignity, so you’ll remember who he is—Jose Luis Sandoval Castro. He ended up on our doorstep at Saint Edward Catholic Church in Stockton, California, on a Sunday evening when we were celebrating our patron feast day. Somebody had dropped him off in our relatively poor, working-class neighborhood. The music and the crowd of people apparently drew him like a magnet to our parish grounds.

Unveiling the Truth

He was a man of mysterious origins—we did not know how he arrived at the church, let alone who and where his family was. What we did know was that he was 76 years old, bespectacled, dressed in a light-colored, well-worn vest, and was pulling his luggage by hand. He carried a document from the Immigration and Naturalization Service granting him permission to enter the country from Mexico. He had been robbed of his personal documents and carried no other identification with him. 

We set about exploring and discovering who Jose Luis was, his roots, his relatives, and whether they had any contact with him. He hailed from the town of Los Mochis in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. 

Anger, vitriol, and venom spewed from his mouth. He claimed that his relatives had ripped him off and robbed him of his pension in the United States, where he had worked for years, as he went back and forth to Mexico. The relatives we contacted claimed they tried to help him on various occasions, yet he called them thieves.

Who were we to believe? All we knew was that we had a wandering, regular drifter from Mexico in our hands, and we could not abandon him nor put the old, infirm man out on the street. Coldly, callously, one relative said: “Let him fend for himself on the streets.” 

He was a man of bluster, bravado, and gruffness, yet he flashed signs of vulnerability again and again. His eyes would water, and he would almost sob as he told how people had wronged and betrayed him. It seemed like he was all alone, deserted by others. 

The truth was—it was not easy to help him. He was ornery, stubborn, and proud. The oatmeal was either too chewy or not smooth enough, the coffee was too bitter and not sweet enough. He found fault with everything. He was a man with a gigantic chip on his shoulders, angry and disappointed with life.

“People are bad and mean, they’ll hurt you,” he lamented. 

To that, I retorted that there were Buena gente (good people) too. He was in the arena of the world where good and evil intersect, where people of goodness and kindness mixed together, like the wheat and chaff of the Gospel. 

More than a Welcome

No matter his defects, no matter his attitude or his past, we knew we should welcome him and help him as one of the least of the brothers and sisters of Jesus. 

“When you welcomed the stranger, you welcomed me.” We were ministering to Jesus himself, opening the doors of hospitality to him.

Lalo Lopez, one of our parishioners who took him in for a night, introduced him to his family, and took him to his son’s baseball game, observed: “God is testing us to see how good and obedient we are, as His children.” 

For several days, we put him up in the rectory. He was weak, spitting out phlegm every morning. It was obvious he could no longer roam and drift freely as he was accustomed to doing in his younger days. He had high blood pressure, over 200. On one visit to Stockton, he said he was hit behind the neck near a downtown church. 

A son in Culiacan, Mexico, said he “engendered me” and that he never really knew him as his dad, for he was never around, always traveling, heading for El Norte.

The story of his life began to unfold. He had worked in the fields, harvesting cherries, many years ago. He had also sold ice cream in front of a local church a few years ago. He was, to quote the Bob Dylan classic song, “like one with no direction home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.”

As Jesus left the 99 sheep behind to rescue one stray sheep, we turned our attention to this one man, apparently shunned by his own. We welcomed him, housed him, fed him, and befriended him. We came to know his roots and his history, the dignity and sacredness of him as a person, and not just as another throwaway on the streets of the city. 

His plight was publicized on Facebook by a woman who transmits video messages of missing persons to Mexico. 

People asked: “How can we help?” 

One man said: “I’ll pay for his ticket home.”

Jose Luis, an illiterate man, rough and unrefined, came to our parish fiesta, and by the grace of God, we tried, in some small way, to emulate the example of Saint Mother Teresa, who welcomed the poor, the lame, the sick, and the outcasts of the world into her circle of love, the banquet of life.  

In the words of Saint John Paul II, solidarity with others is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a reminder that we commit to the good of all because we are all responsible for one another. 


By: Father Alvaro Delgado

May 17, 2024
Evangelize May 17, 2024

A one-stop solution to all the problems in the world!

Christus surrexit! Christus vere surrexit! Christ is risen! Christ is truly risen!

Nothing expresses the ecstatic joy of Easter more charmingly than the image of Peter, falling out of the boat in his excitement to reach Jesus. On Easter Sunday, we get the triumphant, even triumphalist declaration of Jesus that we are God’s children now. There is no reaction so ecstatic that it could match the magnitude of the miracle.

Is it sufficient?

The other day, I was discussing all this with one of the wise old monks in our monastery (senpectae, we call them—the ‘old-hearts’). Something he said struck me deeply: “Yes! A story like that makes you want to tell someone about it.” I kept coming back to his phrase: “…makes you want to tell someone about it.” It does.

However, another one of my friends had a different point of view: “What makes you think you’re right about all this? Don’t you think it’s just arrogant to expect that your religion is sufficient for everybody?”

I’ve been thinking about both the comments.

I don’t want to just share this story; I want to convince other people because it’s more than a story. It’s the answer to everyone’s problems. This story is THE GOOD NEWS. “There is no salvation in anyone else,” says Saint Peter, “there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) So, I guess I have to admit that I’m right on this one, this news needs to be shared!

Should that strike you as arrogant?

Fact is, if the story of Christ’s Resurrection isn’t true, then my life has no meaning—and more than that, life itself has no meaning because I, as a Christian, am in a uniquely difficult position. My faith hinges on the truth of one historical event. “If Christ is not risen, then your faith is in vain,” says Saint Paul (1 Corinthians 15:14-20).

What You Need to Know

Some people call this ‘The Scandal of Particularity.’ It’s not a matter of whether or not this is ‘true for me’ or ‘true for you.’ It’s a question of whether it’s true at all. If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then no other religion, no other philosophy, no other creed or conviction is sufficient. They might have some of the answers, but when it comes to the single, most important event in the history of the world, they all fall short. If, on the other hand, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead—if His Resurrection is not a historical fact—then we all need to stop this foolishness right now. But I know He did, and if I’m right, then people need to know.

This brings us to the darker side of this message: as much as we want to share the Good News, and despite the guarantee that it will triumph in the end, we will find, to our immense disappointment, that, more often than not, the message will be rejected. Not just rejected. Ridiculed. Slandered. Martyred. “The world does not know us,” cries Saint John, “just as the world did not know Him.” (1 John 3:1)

Yet what joy it is to know! What joy there is in faith! What joy there is in the hope of our own resurrection! What joy to come to the realization that when God became man, suffered on the cross for our salvation and triumphed over death, He offered us a share in the Divine life! He pours out sanctifying grace upon us in the Sacraments, starting with Baptism. When He welcomes us into His family, we truly become brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing in His Resurrection.

How do we know it’s true? That Jesus is risen? Perhaps it’s the witness of millions of martyrs. Two thousand years of theology and philosophy explore the consequences of belief in the Resurrection. In saints like Mother Teresa or Francis of Assisi, we see a living testimony to the power of God’s love. Receiving Him in the Eucharist always confirms it for me as I receive His living presence and He transforms me from within. Maybe, in the end, it’s simply joy: that ecstatic ‘unsatisfied desire that is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.’ But when push comes to shove, I know that I am willing to die for this belief—or better yet, to live for it: Christus surrexit. Christus vere surrexit. Christ is truly risen! Alleluia!


By: Father Augustine Wetta O.S.B

May 17, 2024
Evangelize May 17, 2024

Wherever you are and whatever you do, you are irrevocably called to this great mission in life.

In the mid-eighties, Australian director Peter Weir made his first American film, a successful thriller, Witness, which starred Harrison Ford. The movie is about a young boy who sees the murder of an undercover police officer by corrupt co-workers, and he’s hidden away in an Amish community for protection. As the story unfolds, he recalls what happened by putting the pieces together and then, he tells the Ford character named John Book (note the Gospel symbolism). The movie contains the marks of a witness: one sees, recalls, and tells.

Circling Back

Jesus showed Himself to His innermost circle so that the truth of His Resurrection would reach everyone through them. He opened the minds of His disciples to the mystery of His Death and Resurrection saying: “You are witness to these things” (Luke 24:48). Having seen Him with their own eyes, the Apostles could not remain silent about this incredible experience.

What’s true for the Apostles is also true for us because we are members of the Church, the mystical Body of Christ. Jesus commissioned his disciples to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) As missionary disciples, we testify that Jesus is alive. The only way we can enthusiastically and steadfastly embrace this Mission is to see through the eyes of faith that Jesus is Risen, that He is alive, and present within and among us. That’s what a witness does.

Circling back, how does one ‘see’ the Risen Christ? Jesus instructed us: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:23-24) Put simply, if we really want to ‘see’ Jesus, if we want to know Him deeply and personally, and if we want to understand Him, we have to look to the grain of wheat that dies in the soil: in other words, we have to look to the Cross.

The Sign of the Cross marks a radical shift from self-reference (Ego-drama) to being Christ-centered (Theo-drama). In itself, the Cross can only express love, service, and unreserved self-giving. It is only through sacrificial giving of the self for the praise and glory of God and the good of others that we can see Christ and enter Trinitarian Love. Only in this way can we be grafted onto the ‘Tree of Life’ and truly ‘see’ Jesus.

Jesus is Life itself. And we are hard-wired to seek Life because we are made in God’s image. That’s why we’re drawn to Jesus—to ‘see’ Jesus, meet Him, know Him, and fall in love with Him. That’s the only way we can be effective witnesses to the Risen Christ.

The Hidden Seed

We too must respond with the witness of a life that is given in service, a life that is patterned after the Way of Jesus, which is a life of sacrificial self-giving for the good of others, recalling that the Lord came to us as servants. Practically speaking, how can we live such a radical life? Jesus told His disciples: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses.” (Acts 1:8) The Holy Spirit, just as He did at the first Pentecost, frees our hearts chained by fear. He overcomes our resistance to do our Father’s will, and He empowers us to give witness that Jesus is Risen, He is alive and He is present now and forever!

How does the Holy Spirit do this? By renewing our hearts, pardoning our sins, and infusing us with the seven gifts that enable us to follow the Way of Jesus.

It is only through the Cross of the hidden seed, ready to die, that we can truly ‘see’ Jesus and therefore give witness to Him. It is only through this intertwining of death and life that we can experience the joy and fruitfulness of a love that flows from the heart of the Risen Christ. It is only through the power of the Spirit that we reach the fullness of the Life He gifted us with. So, as we celebrate Pentecost, let us resolve by the gift of Faith to be witnesses of the Risen Lord and bring the Paschal gifts of joy and peace to the people we encounter. Alleluia!


By: Deacon Jim McFadden

Apr 26, 2024
Evangelize Apr 26, 2024

Anacleto González Flores was born in Mexico in the late 19th century. Inspired by a sermon heard in his childhood, he made daily Mass the most important part of his life. Though he joined the seminary and excelled in academics, on discerning that he was not called into the priesthood, he later entered law school.

During the years-long Christian persecution in Mexico, Flores so heroically defended the fundamental rights of Christians that the Holy See awarded him the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for his efforts. As many Mexican Christians courageously gave their lives for their faith, he continued to write against the atrocities and became a prominent leader of the Cristero War.

In 1927, he was arrested and cruelly tortured—he was flogged, his feet were cut open with knives, and his shoulder was dislocated. An unfazed Anacleto remained firm in his faith and refused to betray his fellow faithful. As he was shot to death, he openly forgave his killers and died, exclaiming: “I have worked selflessly to defend the cause of Jesus Christ and His Church. You may kill me, but know that this cause will not die with me.” He openly forgave his killers and died, exclaiming: “I die, but God does not die. Long live Christ the King!”

After years of living a holy life centered on devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and an exemplary Marian devotion, Flores gave his life to the Lord with three of his fellow faithful. This brave martyr was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, and he was declared the patron of the Mexican laity in 2019.


By: Shalom Tidings

Apr 20, 2024
Evangelize Apr 20, 2024

Several years ago, I participated in the annual meeting of the Academy of Catholic Theology, a group of about fifty theologians dedicated to thinking according to the mind of the Church. Our general topic was the Trinity, and I had been invited to give one of the papers. I chose to focus on the work of Saint Irenaeus, one of the earliest and most important of the fathers of the Church.

Irenaeus was born around 125 in the town of Smyrna in Asia Minor. As a young man, he became a disciple of Polycarp who, in turn, had been a student of John the Evangelist. Later in life, Irenaeus journeyed to Rome and eventually to Lyons where he became Bishop after the martyrdom of the previous leader. Irenaeus died around the year 200, most likely as a martyr, though the exact details of his death are lost to history.

His theological masterpiece is called Adversus Haereses (Against the Heresies), but it is much more than a refutation of the major objections to Christian faith in his time. It is one of the most impressive expressions of Christian doctrine in the history of the church, easily ranking with the De Trinitate of Saint Augustine and the Summa theologiae of Saint Thomas Aquinas. In my Washington paper, I argued that the master idea in Irenaeus’s theology is that God has no need of anything outside of Himself. I realize that this seems, at first blush, rather discouraging, but if we follow Irenaeus’s lead, we see how, spiritually speaking, it opens up a whole new world. Irenaeus knew all about the pagan gods and goddesses who stood in desperate need of human praise and sacrifice, and he saw that a chief consequence of this theology is that people lived in fear. Since the gods needed us, they were wont to manipulate us to satisfy their desires, and if they were not sufficiently honored, they could (and would) lash out. But the God of the Bible, who is utterly perfect in Himself, has no need of anything at all. Even in His great act of making the universe, He doesn’t require any pre-existing material with which to work; rather (and Irenaeus was the first major Christian theologian to see this), He creates the universe ex nihilo (from nothing). And precisely because He doesn’t need the world, He makes the world in a sheerly generous act of love. Love, as I never tire of repeating, is not primarily a feeling or a sentiment, but instead an act of the will. It is to will the good of the other as other. Well, the God who has no self-interest at all, can only love.

From this intuition, the whole theology of Irenaeus flows. God creates the cosmos in an explosion of generosity, giving rise to myriad plants, animals, planets, stars, angels, and human beings, all designed to reflect some aspect of His own splendor. Irenaeus loves to ring the changes on the metaphor of God as artist. Each element of creation is like a color applied to the canvas or a stone in the mosaic, or a note in an overarching harmony. If we can’t appreciate the consonance of the many features of God’s universe, it is only because our minds are too small to take in the Master’s design. And His entire purpose in creating this symphonic order is to allow other realities to participate in His perfection. At the summit of God’s physical creation stands the human being, loved into existence as all things are, but invited to participate even more fully in God’s perfection by loving his Creator in return. The most oft-cited quote from Irenaeus is from the fourth book of the Adversus Haereses, and it runs as follows: “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Do you see how this is precisely correlative to the assertion that God needs nothing? The glory of the pagan gods and goddesses was not a human being fully alive, but rather a human being in submission, a human being doing what he’s been commanded to do. But the true God doesn’t play such manipulative games. He finds His joy in willing, in the fullest measure, our good.

One of the most beautiful and intriguing of Irenaeus’ ideas is that God functions as a sort of benevolent teacher, gradually educating the human race in the ways of love. He imagined Adam and Eve, not so much as adults endowed with every spiritual and intellectual perfection, but more as children or teenagers, inevitably awkward in their expression of freedom. The long history of salvation is, therefore, God’s patient attempt to train His human creatures to be His friends. All of the covenants, laws, commandments, and rituals of both ancient Israel and the church should be seen in this light: not arbitrary impositions, but the structure that the Father God gives to order His children toward full flourishing.

There is much that we can learn from this ancient master of the Christian faith, especially concerning the good news of the God who doesn’t need us!


By: Bishop Robert Barron

Apr 10, 2024
Evangelize Apr 10, 2024

When a terrible loss led Josh Blakesley into the light, music from his soul became a balm to many bleeding hearts.

Growing up in the small town of Alexandria, Josh was a carefree child.

He grew up listening to his Dad’s music; two elder sisters with a great music collection was a bonus that nurtured his musical taste. Without professional training or theoretical inputs, in an age with no internet and YouTube, Josh had what he would later call ‘a side entry’ into the world of music. Starting on the drums and simultaneously learning to sing, he was enamored by the likes of Don Henley and Phil Collins, following their legendary works through magazines and books.

With his mother, though, Church was a non-negotiable matter. Thanks to her insistence, he went to Mass every Sunday. But he would leave God there and live the rest of his life on a totally different plane.

Diving Deeper

They met in Spanish class when he was 15, and unlike any other 15-year-old, she took him along to a prayer meeting. This was new and different from anything he had experienced before. Teenagers his age were coming together to worship the Lord. This worship experience was modern and engaging…with music, talks, and skits by people his age! He was intrigued, but he wouldn’t have kept coming back every week if Jenny hadn’t asked him to.

Several months later, Jenny was hit by a drunk driver and killed in an accident. Her loss was a huge blow to the entire community. As he struggled with the grief of losing her, it triggered a realization that life here is finite, and there must be purpose in it, a reason that we are living.

From that very moment, he began a journey, searching for answers to the questions that fascinated him…‘What is the reason for me? What is the purpose of what I’m doing right now? Why has God put me on this planet? What’s my role while I’m here?’

He started diving more into why we were here on this planet. In realizing that his gifts were from God, and in searching for a purpose in the use of these gifts, he realized that he wanted to give back to God and return the love.

A Bolt of Realization

He started playing music for Mass and getting involved in the liturgy. As he puts it: “There has been a faith part to my music and a music part to my faith as well. Those are still ingrained. I pray through music a lot”. And it is this experience of prayer that he tries to hand over to his brethren through writing and playing music. The “awesome and overwhelming” experience of leading people into worship and hearing them singing along makes him whisper so often: “The Lord is moving right now, and I don’t have to work.”

Bridging the Gap

Josh is now a full-time singer, songwriter, producer, music director, husband, and dad.

Even while leading the music at Mass every Sunday, Josh knows that Mass can happen without music—what a musician does at Mass doesn’t bring Jesus any greater into the room; He is there regardless. What a musician can do is “elevate the worship of the faithful by bringing some extra beauty through music.” This indeed, is one of his life goals—to try and bridge that gap and bring quality music into the liturgy.

But he doesn’t stop there; in addition to adding beauty to the Sacramental experience, he goes another mile to bring God to the people.

Right from His Heart

As a Catholic musician, Josh writes songs for the Mass and writes from the heart. Sometimes, when it comes out, it might not be out rightly Mass-material, but what comes out is still a tribute to God for the gift of music.

He relates that his song Even in This was such an experience right from his heart.

The Church community he was part of had just lost a teen, and seeing them go through the pain, the tragedy, and the devastation took him back to his own experience of losing a dear friend in his teenage years. Diving into the pain, he wrote that even in these darkest nights, God is with us. In the ‘valleys of pain’, in the ‘shattered, broken things’, in the ‘ hurt you cannot hide’ and the ‘fear you cannot fight’, he reassures his listeners that though you cannot see God, “You are not alone.”

This is one message Josh wants to repeat to the world: “God is moving with you.”


By: Josh Blakesley