My Radio Interview on the Live Hour WNGL Archangel Radio

This morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m. Arizona time for a radio interview on the Live Hour WNGL Archangel Radio in Mobile, Alabama. The radio interview was from 5:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. Arizona time, 7:00 a.m. Central Standard Time. During the interview, I was drinking coffee and water…3 cups of coffee actually!

To say the least, it was one of the best live radio interview experiences I have had to date. I really enjoyed my time on the radio with host Todd Sylvester, Station Manager David Renshaw, and Production Coordinator Patrick Alog. I hope to sit down with these fine Catholic gentlemen again in the future.

To listen to my interview, just play the YouTube Video below.

St. Mary Magdalene and Three Things We Can Learn from Her Life

Today, in both the Eastern and Western lungs of the Church, we celebrate the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. Her name Magdalene derives from the tradition that she hailed from a town in northern Galilee called, Magdala. Along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Apostle, and other female relatives, it is revealed in the Sacred Scriptures that St. Mary Magdalene was at the foot of the cross as Jesus was crucified.

Although there are quite a few traditions surrounding the life of St. Mary Magdalene, it is believed universally by the West that she was the woman that Jesus Christ drove seven demons from in the Gospel of St. Luke: “And the Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out…” (8:2; see also Mk 16:9).

The writings of St. Clement of Alexandria and others also teach that the woman who anointed Jesus with an alabaster flask of ointment and wet his feet with her tears in Luke 7:37-38 is St. Mary Magdalene –

“And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was sitting at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”

In other traditions, some see St. Mary Magdalene as the sister of Martha and Lazarus. This tradition even has her traveling with her brother, sister, and some of the other disciples of Jesus Christ to Marseilles, France, after they were exiled from their home region by the Jews for believing in Jesus Christ. It is taught in France that she lived in a cave for 30 years, speaking with the angels often until her death. Tradition also teaches that Lazarus became the first bishop of that area.

The Eastern Tradition has her traveling to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Apostle and remaining there for the rest of her life until her death at an old age. The East adheres that her relics were transferred to Constantinople in 886 A.D.

St. Mary Magdalene

Although all these traditions have their own important value, we see her importance in all four gospels (Mt 28:1; Mk 16:9; Lk 24:10; Jn 20:11-18) where it is revealed that Jesus appeared to St. Mary Magdalene on the day of His Resurrection, Easter Sunday. In two of the four gospels, St. Matthew and St. Luke, other women accompany Mary Magdalene. Since it is St. Mary Magdalene who first professes to the Apostles the Resurrection of Jesus, she is often referred to as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

So what we can learn from the life of this important saint?

First, like St. Mary Magdalene, all Christians are called to wait with faith and trust in God. So many of us want God to work quickly in our lives, we forget that God works at His pace and in His time. We must have faith that He knows exactly what we need despite our own desires. Just as St. Mary Magdalene heard the words of Jesus and trusted that he would rise from the dead, so we must also hear the words of Jesus in the Sacred Scriptures and trust in all that he professes.

Second, we must stand outside the tomb seeking Jesus Christ. As Catholic Christians today, we must establish a personal friendship with Jesus Christ. It is great that we know about Jesus Christ and His Church, since they are one and the same, but do we truly have a deep friendship with Him? Do we speak to Jesus on a daily basis? Standing outside the tomb waiting for him always will keep us focused on what truly matters in this life and in the life to come.

Third, we must have the ability to repent of our sins and be humble in the face of God. Although St. Mary Magdalene is not the prostitute in the scriptures some have claimed, she at one point must have confessed her sins to Christ, where upon he then forgave her of those sins. To be a follower of Jesus Christ, a intentional disciple, one must confess the wrongs he/she have committed in life and be humble enough to say – “O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” As Catholics, reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is fundamental and should be practiced often.

Let Us Pray: O God, you gave St. Mary Magdalene the important duty to tell His apostles and others the news of Easter joy. Through her intercession, may we have the courage to spread the gospel message to all we encounter daily.

Saint Mary Magdalene…Pray for Us.

This blog post is dedicated to the clergy, staff, and parishioners of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Gilbert, AZ.

“Mondays with Mary” – “Praying Daily to Mary for My Vocation”

For today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I give you something very different than what I have given you in the past, however, today’s post should give each and everyone of us great hope for the Catholic Church in America in the years to come. It should also inspire us to continue to pray for vocations to religious life. In recent days, it may seem that the world is just falling apart all around us, but when you read a vocation story like this one, you realize that God is still and always in control.

This is the vocation story of Ava, a former student of mine and now high school graduate of St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School in Austin, TX. When I taught high school theology at Savio from 2010-2012, Ava was my student during her sophomore year. Even then I could see there was something special about this young woman. There was a light in her eyes not often seen in the face of a 16-year-old teenager. To this day, I remember when she first shared with me that she was thinking about religious life. If there was one (and trust me, there are a few more in this class) student in the Savio Class of 2014 who could have a calling, it was Ava. 

Please read this blog post, pray for Ava and all women entering religious life this year, and then share this story with everyone you know, especially young women who might be discerning a calling to religious life.

As my August 28th, 2014 entrance date quickly approaches, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  It is only by the abundant graces of God that I am preparing to enter the beautiful community of the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist this year.

Ava dressed as Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) for Third Grade Living Museum.

Ava dressed as Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) for her Third Grade Living Museum.

I recall a time when I was very young that I thought I would be a nun.  I didn’t know any sisters, but I believe that it was through the prayers of my parents that God gave me the gift of a religious vocation.  In the fourth grade, I joined a Catholic girls group that offered me the opportunity to attend retreats and to meet Consecrated women.  It was during these years at the end of elementary school and through middle school that I first began to hear Jesus inviting me to be totally His.

My eighth grade year, I began to grow closer to Jesus in the Eucharist.  I strove to attend weekly Eucharistic Adoration in our beautiful perpetual adoration chapel at my parish.  Jesus continued to draw my heart to Himself in a very special way.  I knew He wanted me to be His.  I began to ask Jesus where He was calling me, and I began praying daily to Mary for my vocation.  The associate pastor at my parish mentioned in a homily the sisters who were on Oprah.  I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember going home and watching the videos on YouTube.  I could hardly believe that the sisters were sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, the two treasures of our Faith that I had so recently been deepening my devotion to.  Once I discovered that the sisters were teachers, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect order for me since I had always wanted to be a teacher.  I worked up the courage to email the sisters, and then I realized that the sisters had a mission convent 5 miles from my house!  I was even more shocked to recall that I had gone Christmas caroling with a church group at their convent a few months earlier!

Another wonderful priest encouraged me to make contact with the sisters here by the end of that year.  My natural introversion and quiet demeanor made me nervous to do so, but I continued to ask Jesus to work it out for me if this was his plan.  Someone I barely knew invited me to an event with the sisters at the Cathedral. I accepted her invitation thanking God for paving the way for me to get to know the sisters.

Ava with some of the Dominican Sisters, including Mother Assumpta (left of Ava).

Ava with some of the Dominican Sisters, including Mother Assumpta Long, O.P. (left of Ava).

The summer after my freshman year I attended Sunday Vespers (which I frequented more as the years went on) and really talked with the Sisters for the first time.  I am so blessed to have met so many incredible Sisters right here in my own community!  God had much in store for me when I transferred to Catholic school for the first time my sophomore year. I then was blessed to have Sister Mary Elizabeth, O.P. as a teacher in chemistry, physics, and an independent study in theology over the next three years!  Her beautiful love of Christ and His Church, her genuine love of her students, and her passion for helping them truly learn was so inspirational for me.  Her prayers and support sustained me through so much and I am incredibly grateful for her daily beautiful witness of religious life.

My sophomore year, my parish priest asked me if I had thought about entering the convent right out of high school.  The thought had never crossed my mind!  I began bringing that to prayer, and I was led to the conclusion that entering out of high school was indeed what God wanted for me.  The idea overwhelmed me though, because I couldn’t even fathom leaving my family (I have six younger siblings and the youngest is only two).

My junior year finally arrived, and I signed up for a discernment retreat.  The moment I walked through the doors into the Motherhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I was flooded with peace.  When I met with the Vocation Director, Sister Joseph Andrew, she spoke the words that made my heart sing, “Welcome Home!”  On this retreat, I realized that I was in the point of discernment that I needed to ask myself what was holding me back.  I was shocked to realize how short the list was, and by how my list melted away when I was looking into the eyes of Jesus in prayer.  By the end of the retreat, I didn’t want to leave!  God blessed me with abundant consolations throughout the whole retreat, and I was floating!

Ava with Sr. Mary Elizabeth.

Ava with Sr. Mary Elizabeth.

My senior year of high school was definitely the hardest year of my life so far.  I thank God for the graces He has given that have enabled me to overcome so many obstacles.  It has been a roller coaster, and there were many times where I wasn’t sure if what I was hearing God ask of me was even going to be possible.  I learned so many lessons, but the one that really stands out is this: God is faithful.  He may lead you to the edge of a cliff, but when He invites you to jump, He is there to catch you.  I am even able to be grateful for the sufferings of this year because it has led me to trust in God more than I ever thought was possible.  His love is real, and it is worth it.

I am so very excited for this August 28th when I will enter the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist as “Sister Ava,” a postulant.  After a year of postulancy, there are two years in the novitiate before temporary vows, and then five more years until final profession.  Please keep me in your prayers as I continue discerning God’s will for my life. God bless!

Our Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of All Religious…Pray for Us.  

Pope St. John Paul II Rockin’ the Brown Scapular

JP2 and the Brown Scapular MemeSince today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I wanted to share one of my favorite photos of the young Karol Wojtyla, the future pope and now saint, Pope Saint John Paul II, wearing the Brown Scapular. 

To learn more about Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Brown Scapular, I recommend my three blog posts -

1. Catholic Dog Tags

2. “Mondays with Mary” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Our Lady of Mount Carmel 

3. “Mondays with Mary” – The Synthesis of Marian Spirituality in the Brown Scapular 

Our Lady of Mount Carmel…Pray for us. 

Saint Bonaventure – The Seraphic Doctor

Saint Bonaventure was born in the year 1221 at Bagnorea in the Province of Viterbo (129 kilometers north of Rome, Italy). He was given the name Bonaventure (“bona” – good and “venture” – event or “fortune”) after he was healed from an illness as a child through the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi.

As a young man, he joined the Order of Friars Minor, one of the three Franciscan orders founded by Saint Francis. As a student, he studied under the great “Unanswerable Doctor”, Alexander of Hales, at the University of Paris – an epicenter of some of the greatest theological minds the Catholic Church has in her ranks. From 1248 to 1257, St. Bonaventure taught theology and biblical theology at the university.

As a Friar Minor, St. Bonaventure was called to live a life as a priest. He lived his priestly vocation with great vigor and sought to bring many souls to Jesus Christ. As a preacher, no one rivaled him for he brought the fire of God into the hearts of the faithful who heard his eloquent and orthodox words. Many who heard his words fell in love with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.

As a professor of theology at the University of Paris, life was rather difficult because of the attacks the Franciscans endured at the hands of the secular professors (also clerics but not in orders). Because the Franciscans were great at bringing souls to Christ with their superb teaching and pastoral skills, the other professors who often were jealous, charged them with error and scandal. The secular professors also did not like that the Franciscans rejected the material items of the world. They felt the Friars had no “real world” experience and believed they could not teach the students properly and should be removed from the school.

After the writing of two books, one attacking the Friars written by William of Saint-Amour and the other defending the Friars written by Bonaventure himself, Pope Alexander IV intervened and sent a commission of cardinals to asses the issues at hand. After finding that Saint-Amour’s book was false in its accusations, the commission ordered that his book be burnt. They also reinstated the Friars to the university and ordered the secular professors to silence their attacks.

In the year 1257, Saint Bonaventure along with the Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas (a Dominican), were awarded the doctor of theology together by the University of Paris. In the same year, the Friar Minors elected him as the minister general to the order. He was just 36 years old.

As Bonaventure was handed the reigns, he found the order in disarray. There were fractions among the friars – some believed the order was too stringent while others believed the order was too lax. There were the Spirituals, extremists, who fell into error and were deliberately disobeying the rule. During the attacks on the Friar Minors at Paris, this group of extremists assisted the secular professors. Overall, it was a complete mess!

St.Bonaventure

With his strong intellect and love for the gospels, St. Bonaventure sent an extensive letter to his provincials demanding that the rule be followed with obedience, but with some reformation. To the Spirituals, he gave them nothing, because they deserved nothing! In 1260, he held five general chapters that produced constitutions on the rule of the Friar Minors. These constitutions were adopted and had a major impact on the order in the centuries ahead. However, his work on the rule did not appease everyone, as it seems even today in most cases. Someone will dislike even the best solutions.

During the chapters at Narbonne, the Friars who were gathered requested that Bonaventure write the life of Saint Francis. He wrote his life well and showed the great virtues of St. Francis and the beauty of the order he founded.

Since he did such a great work reforming the Friars Minor, Pope Clement IV, in 1265, asked St. Bonaventure to be the archbishop of York. Although he asked the Holy Father not to elevate him to the episcopate, he was still made cardinal-bishop of Albano by Blessed Gregory X in 1273. Gregory asked Bonaventure to oversee the matters for the Second Council of Lyons in 1274, which brought the Greeks back in union with Rome. Although the greatest theologians of the time were invited, St. Thomas Aquinas died en route – St. Bonaventure was the “man of the hour” at Lyons.

During the second and third chapters of the council, he resigned his position as minister general of the Friar Minors. As the Greek delegates for Emperor Michael Palaeologus arrived, he accepted them and they were reunited with Rome again. In order to give praise and thanksgiving for the reunification of the Greeks with Rome, the Holy Father chanted the Holy Mass on the feasts of St. Peter and Paul. The second reading, gospel, and Nicene Creed were chanted in both Latin and Greek. At request of the Pope, St. Bonaventure preached during the Mass.

On July 15, the night before the fourth session of the council was set to begin, Saint Bonaventure died and entered Heavenly glory. As the minister general of the Friar Minors, he served faithfully for 17 years. He is known as the “second founder” after St. Francis of Assisi.

His greatest work, which he wrote while teaching theology at the University of Paris, is the Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. Its focus is the entire systematic approach of scholastic theology. For the Poor Clares at Longchamps, he wrote Concerning Perfection of Life. Along with many other writings, he wrote two mystical works – Soliloquy and Concerning the Threefold Way.

Saint Bonaventure was canonized a saint of the universal Church in 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV (the same Pope who constructed the Sistine Chapel). In 1588, by Pope Sixtus V, Saint Bonaventure – The Seraphic Doctor, was declared a Doctor of the Church. He is the patron saint of bowel and intestinal diseases. Source: Walsh, Michael. Butler’s Lives of the Saints. HarperSanFrancisco, 1991

“Mondays with Mary” – The Synthesis of Marian Spirituality in the Brown Scapular

With Wednesday being the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I found it fitting today to write about the importance of the Brown Scapular or as I like to call it – Catholic Dog Tags (the title of my post from 2013 and a very popular post at that).

It was Our Lady at Carmel who gave St. Simon Stock the Brown Scapular and asked him to promote the devotion. Because of this the Brown Scapular has a true Marian spirituality synthesized to it. All that wear the Brown Scapular have a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and seek to assist her in leading others to Jesus Christ. If you don’t wear a Brown Scapular already, I would highly encourage you to enroll in the devotion. The sacramental has truly changed my relationship with Jesus, Mary, and the Church.

Young Karol Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II) wearing the brown scapular.

Young Karol Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II) wearing the brown scapular.

If my words are not enough for you, then let’s read what Pope St. John Paul II said about the Brown Scapular (something he himself wore for many years) to the Carmelites on the 750th Anniversary of the Bestowal of the Scapular on March 25, 2001. Although the letter is important, I have not quoted it in its entirety. Furthermore, the bolded words are mine since they stood out to me when I read it.

Pope St. John Paul II says…

“Therefore, Carmelites have chosen Mary as their Patroness and spiritual Mother and always keep before the eyes of their heart the Most Pure Virgin who guides everyone to the perfect knowledge and imitation of Christ.

Thus an intimacy of spiritual relations has blossomed, leading to an ever increasing communion with Christ and Mary. For the members of the Carmelite Family, Mary, the Virgin Mother of God and mankind, is not only a model to imitate but also the sweet presence of a Mother and Sister in whom to confide. St Teresa of Jesus rightly urged her sisters:  “Imitate Our Lady and consider how great she must be and what a good thing it is that we have her for our Patroness” (Interior Castle, III, 1, 3).

This intense Marian life, which is expressed in trusting prayer, enthusiastic praise and diligent imitation, enables us to understand how the most genuine form of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, expressed by the humble sign of the Scapular, is consecration to her Immaculate Heart (cf. Pius XII, Letter Neminem profecto latet [11 February 1950:  AAS 42, 1950, pp. 390-391]; Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, n. 67). In this way, the heart grows in communion and familiarity with the Blessed Virgin, “as a new way of living for God and of continuing here on earth the love of Jesus the Son for his Mother Mary” (cf. Angelus Address, in Insegnamenti XI/3, 1988, p. 173). Thus, as the blessed Carmelite martyr Titus Brandsma expressed it, we are put in profound harmony with Mary the Theotokos and become, like her, transmitters of divine life:  “The Lord also sends his angel to us…we too must accept God in our hearts, carry him in our hearts, nourish him and make him grow in us so that he is born of us and lives with us as the God-with-us, Emmanuel” (From the report of Bl. Titus Brandsma to the Mariological Congress of Tongerloo, August 1936).

Over time this rich Marian heritage of Carmel has become, through the spread of the Holy Scapular devotion, a treasure for the whole Church. By its simplicity, its anthropological value and its relationship to Mary’s role in regard to the Church and humanity, this devotion was so deeply and widely accepted by the People of God that it came to be expressed in the memorial of 16 July on the liturgical calendar of the universal Church.

The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother’s loving presence in their lives. The Scapular is essentially a “habit”. Those who receive it are associated more or less closely with the Order of Carmel and dedicate themselves to the service of Our Lady for the good of the whole Church (cf. “Formula of Enrolment in the Scapular”, in the Rite of Blessing of and Enrolment in the Scapular, approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 5 January 1996). Those who wear the Scapular are thus brought into the land of Carmel, so that they may “eat its fruits and its good things” (cf. Jer 2: 7), and experience the loving and motherly presence of Mary in their daily commitment to be clothed in Jesus Christ and to manifest him in their life for the good of the Church and the whole of humanity (cf. “Formula of Enrolment in the Scapular”, cit.).

Therefore two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on life’s journey, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour on certain occasions, but must become a “habit”, that is, a permanent orientation of one’s own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the “covenant” and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful:  indeed, it concretely translates the gift of his Mother, which Jesus gave on the Cross to John and, through him, to all of us, and the entrustment of the beloved Apostle and of us to her, who became our spiritual Mother.

A splendid example of this Marian spirituality, which inwardly moulds individuals and conforms them to Christ, the firstborn of many brethren, is the witness to holiness and wisdom given by so many Carmelite saints, all of whom grew up in the shadow and under the protection of their Mother.”

To enroll in the devotion of the sacramental, purchase a Brown Scapular, locate yourself a Catholic Priest (or Deacon), and have him bless the scapular and recite the formula with you.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Simon Stock…Pray for Us.

Our-Lady-of-Mount-Carmel