“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Vladimir

Since it’s been some time that I have focused on a specific title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I thought for today’s “Mondays with Mary” I would turn our attention to one of today’s feasts for Our Lady – the Theotokos of Vladimir, which is celebrated intently in Russia. It’s also a perfect day to discuss this image as we have just celebrated the inaugural memorial – Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. In this image, we see Christ with his Mother.

This specific image of Mary holds a special place in my heart since I received a depiction of this image 10 years ago from a good friend whose marriage I was in as a groomsman. Still a good friend today, he will be my best man when I get married this September. The image he gave to me of Our Lady hangs today in my office/library at home.

Our Lady of Vladimir in Greek (Eleousa) means Mother of Tenderness. We see Christ, as a child, closely nestled to his mother as he gazes into her eyes while his left arm embraces her and his right hand is gently touching her left cheek. The original image is a large icon believed to be one of the images that Saint Luke drew of Mary. Although Mary in the image looks towards us, there is no doubting that she is tightly connected and union with Christ. She is gentle and tender not only with Christ but all of those who love him and seek to know him more. She is the gentle mother leading all believers closer to Christ.

Our Lady of Vladimir

In the year 450, it is believed that image left Jerusalem and was moved to Constantinople. Around the year 1131, the icon left Constantinople and was moved to Vishgorod, near Kiev. In 1155, Prince Andrei Bogolubsky moved it to Vladimir. Eventually the image was transferred to Moscow in 1395, which became the religious capital for the country. Our Lady of Vladimir is the most venerated icon in all of Russia. It has escaped numerous tragedies, which include fires and the plundering of churches. The Theotokos of Vladimir is tied intensely to the life and history of Russia. Many miraculous interventions have been ascribed to it.

The most notable miracle occurred in 1395 when Moscow was facing invasions by the Mongol Empire. After prayers were said before the image and she was asked to intercede for the battle, she became a shield of protection for the Russian people and they held back the Mongol invasion. From that time one, Our Lady of Vladimir became the national sign of the Russian Orthodox Church.

It hung in the Church of the Annunciation in Moscow until 1918. It is now located in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Our Lady of Vladimir…Pray for Us

I grew a beard and now I’m getting married

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly – I grew a beard and now I’m get married. I heard this statement and statements like it for years but refused to grow a beard for a long period of time. In the past, I would grow one for a few weeks and then eventually shave it. This all changed last summer when on July 16, 2017, I decided to take the plunge and grow out a beard, and yes, I was open to meeting a good Catholic woman. So many of my Catholic guy friends, who have beards and were either married or engaged to be married, said to me for a very long time – Perna, if you grow a beard, the right woman will come into your life.

Between you and me – I thought they were all crazy, absolute lunatics…and then it happened! On August 18, 33 days after I started growing a beard, I met my future wife at a Catholic Beer Club at Helton Brewery in Phoenix, Arizona. The full story is good and maybe I will share it with all of you at some point, but I will tell you this – she and her friend approached me (Ha ha!). There were a few reasons why they approached me, but one of the reasons why she came up to me was because I had a beard. At this point, it was in the beginning stages but it was still a beard. Things moved quickly because that night she knew she wanted to marry me and the following night I knew I wanted to marry her.

About one month into our relationship, it hit me what all my beard-growing Catholic guy friends had said to me in the past – if you grow a beard, you will meet the right woman and get married. It turns out that these men weren’t crazy or lunatics but were right on the money! In just about 5 months from now, we are going to be married. Please pray for us as we continue our marriage preparation.

From our Engagement Photo Shoot by Man in the Moon Studios: Arizona Wedding Photography.

Now you might be asking yourself at this point – Tom, why are you writing a blog post about growing a beard and getting married?

I am writing this post because I want to share some information about this awesome Catholic beard balm that I have been using since my fiancée gave it to me as a gift for Christmas. If you are a Catholic man who has a beard, you’re thinking about growing a beard, or you know of a Catholic man in your life who has beard, here is a great product that allows one to share in the traditions and beauty of the Catholic Church.

I had heard about this Catholic beard balm from my former pastor and boss, who by the way has a phenomenal beard (my new boss has a rather awesome beard too), but since I wasn’t growing a beard at that time, I never gave it much thought. As my fiancée and I continued to date, she suggested I check out this Catholic beard balm her older brother uses. It happened to be the same stuff my former boss mentioned long ago. Since she bought me the first tin in December, I have since purchased two more tins (see my favorites below).

If you’re a Catholic man like me who loves Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, all the Angels and Saints, and the vast traditions of the Catholic Church, then you’re going to love the Barbatus Beard Balm created and sold by Catholic Balm Company.

Every morning when I put it on, I think how awesome it is to be Catholic. It reminds me of how I have to live my life as a Catholic man in this world and how devoted I need to be to Our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the coolest aspects is that when your order arrives, there is a prayer card that also comes in the box that tells you how to apply the balm to your beard on one side, and on the other side, there is a Daily Blessing of the Beard. This daily blessing is by far one of the coolest things I have seen in a long time. It actually mentions our Baptism!

Together on a day pilgrimage to Our Lady of Solitude Monastery.

When I tell people about this beard balm, especially non-Catholics, they’re amazed that such a thing even exists, but in the same sentence they want to know more about it. You have to admit that a lot of non-Catholics are somewhat intrigued by the Catholic Church and her 2000-year traditions. When I first shared it with my barber, a non-Catholic, he was totally amazed at the idea of a Catholic beard balm and wants me to bring it next time for him to see it, and of course, smell it!

So where do you get this awesome Catholic beard balm? Please visit the Catholic Balm Company website and check out all their products. You should definitely read Their Story to learn how and why they started the company. I would also encourage you to follow them on Facebook and Twitter if you have these social media platforms.

Personally, my favorite Barbatus Beard Balms so far are Holy Smokes and Chrism. I have not tried any of the oils yet but want to soon. I have a beard brush that I use daily, but not from the Catholic Balm Company. I need to purchase one from them as well. At some point, I might join the Order of St. Barbatus, but it’s not doable right now.

If you decide to try out these balms and/or any of the other products for yourself or buy them for the Catholic man in your life, come back to this post and let me know your thoughts. If you already use the beard balm or other products, let me know today what you think.

I leave you with the words of the Early Christian Father, Lactantius

“[T]he nature of the beard contributes in an incredible degree to distinguish the maturity of bodies, or to the distinction of sex, or to the beauty of manliness and strength” (On the Workmanship of God, Chapter 7).

825th blog post. 

My Personal Prayer after Receiving Holy Communion

Over the last twelve years, my understanding of the Holy Eucharist has developed and changed drastically from the many preceding years. Most importantly, I learned that the Holy Mass is about giving thanksgiving to God rather than me getting something specific out of it. I also learned that each time we go to Mass we are renewing the Covenant that Christ established for us in Luke 22…the Mass is covenant renewal!

I think many of us have the wrong idea about Mass when we say – I didn’t get anything out of Mass, the homily was boring, I didn’t receive anything for this week, or the message wasn’t good. Where do these questions and attitudes stem from?

I think they come from the perspective that Mass should give us something instead of us giving back our thanksgiving to God, because as I stated above already – Going to Mass is us giving thanks to God, not about us getting something from God. Furthermore, I also think these attitudes stem from our view of what church is according to many non-Catholic circles these days. We are saturated with the big stadium, non-denominational gospel message, which seems to be about what God is going to give you to help you get through the week (I once lived next door to two girls in Austin who told me this is why they go to church).

The reason I am writing about this today is because tomorrow we celebrate Holy Thursday and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The night we commemorate Jesus giving us his Body and his Blood in the Holy Eucharist. Furthermore, this subject has been on my heart for some time now and I have wanted to write about it, because once I learned that Holy Mass was about thanksgiving and not about receiving something, my prayer after receiving Holy Communion also changed.

For years, after receiving Holy Communion, I would return to my pew and begin this litany of petitions of things that I wanted God to answer for me – family, friends, my own wants and needs, prayers for the sick, for the dead, etc. Don’t get me wrong – prayers of petition are important, there’s a reason we ask the Blessed Mother and all the Saints to pray with us, but I thought to myself at one point – is after receiving Holy Communion the best time for me to ask for all these prayers or it is about giving thanksgiving to God for allowing me to receive his Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist?

Although the second stanza of my personal prayer asks for petitions from the Angels and Saints in Heaven, I simply ask that I may be drawn into a deeper and more profound relationship with the Holy Eucharist. It’s not about asking for my particular petitions, but about falling more in love with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Furthermore, my disposition is directed and focused on the Eucharist, not on my individual petitions. At this time in the Mass, it’s all about Jesus in the Eucharist!

I first “wrote” this prayer about 5-6 years ago in my head, although it has developed a bit since that time. Today is actually the first time I typed it out “on paper”, if you can believe it. If you are familiar with St. Thomas Aquinas’ Prayer After Mass, you will see some of his elements in my prayer.

Sign of the Cross

O Lord Jesus Christ, I give you praise and thanksgiving for allowing me to receive your Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in this Holy Eucharist today. I pray that this Holy Eucharist is not a condemnation on my soul but will give me the grace and strength to live a life of heroic virtue. I ask for the intercession of Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament to pray for me and to always lead me closer to this Sacrament of All Sacraments.

I pray to the Angels, who have perpetually adored you for all eternity, for their prayers and constant intercession which may lead me closer to you in this holy Sacrament. I also ask that the Saints in heaven, who once received you in this Holy Eucharist here on earth, and are now in your Heavenly presence, for their prayers and intercessions.

 Hail Mary…


May we all grow closer and fall more in love with Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament…Pray for Us. 

Our Lady of the Host by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Quiet Solitude in the Arizona Desert

This past Tuesday, I led a group of 12 parishioners on a one-day pilgrimage to Our Lady of Solitude Monastery located in Tonapah, Arizona.  The monastery was built and is cared for by the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (PCPA), originally part of Mother Angelica’s Nuns in Hanceville Alabama. Along with this monastery, there are other PCPA monasteries in the USA and around the world.

The pilgrimage was sponsored by the Porta Fidei Adult Faith Formation Program, which I oversee at the parish of Saint Mary Magdalene. Taking one day pilgrimages had been a goal of mine going back to late 2015. I was finally able to fulfill this goal this year and allow some of our parishioners to take time away from the everyday busyness of life. On March 6, we also visited San Xavier del Bac in Tucson, Arizona, but due to a conflict, I was not able to attend personally, so I asked parishioners to lead this particular pilgrimage for me.

Tuesday began with us meeting at the parish at 8:00am and then carpooling to the monastery, which is about an 85-mile trip one way from Gilbert, where the parish is located. We had to traverse our way through the Phoenix morning commute. Thank the Good Lord in Heaven Phoenix has “HOV” lanes for carpooling! Once we exited the freeway, we had to drive over 7 miles of dirt roads to get out to the monastery. Most of the parishioners were in cars, and I my trusty 2006 4Runner was in the shop, so my fiancée and I were in a rental car for the day. Although the road was bumpy, we made it over the roads unscathed.

As we pulled into the 40 acres of land where the monastery sits, we found ourselves transported to a place of distinct silence – it truly is a place of solitude (Think Superman’s Fortress of Solitude but not cold). That’s the one thing we all noticed very quickly…it’s so quiet. It’s so quiet that you find yourself whispering, especially as you approach the chapel, which stands out prominently on the property.

When we arrived, Our Lord was exposed in the Blessed Sacrament, and there were some other people there adoring Our Lord in the chapel as well. The sheer beauty of the chapel in connection with Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament, just takes your breath away. You are literally transported into the solitude of monastery life. After spending some time in Adoration, our group gathered back outside under the awning where Sister John-Mark Maria, the ex-turn, explained to us some of the history of how the PCPA arrived in Phoenix, how they settled in Tonapah, and the future plans of the monastery.

We then returned to the chapel for Holy Mass. I have been to countless Masses in my lifetime, but I don’t I think ever experienced a Mass like the one on Tuesday. The only way to describe it is to say that it was – intentional gentleness and attentiveness  You would have to experience it for yourself to truly understand. The pace of life at the monastery, along with the pace of the liturgy, is much different than my usual busy day – I would imagine many people, who have busy and full days would find it the same way.

After Mass, we gathered outside under the awning to eat lunch, in the quiet stillness of the monastery. Although we were talking, there was something different – it was the experience of being in quiet solitude in the Arizona desert. As we were having lunch, a group of tourists traveling through the desert in ATV’s and Polaris Off-Road vehicles drove into the grounds. They asked a few questions about the monastery, looked inside and even took a picture of our group for us. We then departed to head home.

From our conversation with Sister John-Mark, she explained that the monastery was only partially finished. Although the main chapel is in place, their living quarters are temporary. They would love to build a permanent structure that would house many more sisters. As of right now, there are only four PCPA at the monastery, with a few women arriving to discern in the upcoming months. For building to start, the goal would be to have 12 sisters at the monastery. The funding for the monastery is strictly from what they receive in donations and gifts from people in the Catholic world.

So, what can you do?

First, Pray, Pray, Pray for Vocations. Ask Our Lord to send young women open to living a contemplative life with the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. We should always be praying for Vocations, but today, and maybe over the next week or so, focus on the PCPA. Take some time to read about their Vocations.

Second, if you have the financial means to do so, pray about donating financially to support the PCPA and their efforts to build. There are variety of ways to give to the PCPA. Visit this page to learn how to do so.

Third, if you live in the Phoenix Metropolitan area or a surrounding region, think about attending and fundraising for the annual Nun Run held on the first weekend of March each year. Furthermore, I would encourage you to take a day trip out to the monastery, you can learn how to do that here.

Saint Clare of Assisi…Pray for Us 

“Mondays with Mary” [on a Tuesday] – 10 Quotes about Marriage from Pope St. John Paul II

Since today in the old Latin Rite liturgical calendar, is the feast of the Espousal of The Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Joseph (read my article from last year), I thought I would write “Mondays with Mary” on a Tuesday and provide you 10 quotes about Marriage from the great Polish 20th century Pope, St. John Paul II. Along with religious freedom and human dignity, the Holy Father wrote quite a bit on marital relations between a man and a woman, just as God intended it.

Today, I draw from three sources, but there are also other writings as well. Most notably is the principal work known as the Theology of the Body as well as the book he wrote before he was Pope, Love and Responsibility. If you have not read this book, I would encourage you to pick it up, however, it is rather philosophical and theological in nature. For another option, I would encourage you read – Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Dr. Edward Sri. It is based on Love and Responsibility, but a little easier to understand, especially if you have never formally studied theology. Although I have read both, I am going to read them again in the upcoming months as I prepare for my own nuptials to my fiancée.

The quotes from Pope St. John Paul II come from three particular sources – Letter to Families, which was promulgated in 1994 during the Year of the Family, Letter to Women, promulgated in 1995, and the Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, promulgated on August 15, 1989. I hope that you can reflect on these beautiful quotes and allow them to penetrate your own life as a married man or married woman –

1. “Since marriage is the highest degree of association and friendship involving by its very nature a communion of goods, it follows that God, by giving Joseph to the Virgin, did not give him to her only as a companion for life, a witness of her virginity and protector of her honor: he also gave Joseph to Mary in order that he might share, through the marriage pact, in her own sublime greatness.”

2. “In this great undertaking which is the renewal of all things in Christ, marriage-it too purified and renewed-becomes a new reality, a sacrament of the New Covenant. We see that at the beginning of the New Testament, as at the beginning of the Old, there is a married couple. But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary arc the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth. The Savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union, wherein is manifested his all-powerful will to purify and sanctify the family – that sanctuary of love and cradle of life.”

3. “The Book of Genesis helps us to see this truth when it states, in reference to the establishment of the family through marriage, that “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). In the Gospel, Christ, disputing with the Pharisees, quotes these same words and then adds: “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mt 19:6). In this way, he reveals anew the binding content of a fact which exists “from the beginning” (Mt 19:8) and which always preserves this content. If the Master confirms it “now”, he does so in order to make clear and unmistakable to all, at the dawn of the New Covenant, the indissoluble character of marriage as the basis of the common good of the family.”

4. “When, in union with the Apostle, we bow our knees before the Father from whom all fatherhood and motherhood is named (cf. Eph3:14-15), we come to realize that parenthood is the event whereby the family, already constituted by the conjugal covenant of marriage, is brought about “in the full and specific sense”. Motherhood necessarily implies fatherhood, and in turn, fatherhood necessarily implies motherhood. This is the result of the duality bestowed by the Creator upon human beings ‘from the beginning’.” [This is something our modern culture is sorely lacking and needs to understand].

5. “As a rational and free being, man is called to transform the face of the earth. In this task, which is essentially that of culture, man and woman alike share equal responsibility from the start. In their fruitful relationship as husband and wife, in their common task of exercising dominion over the earth, woman and man are marked neither by a static and undifferentiated equality nor by an irreconcilable and inexorably conflictual difference.”

6. “Marriage, the Sacrament of Matrimony, is a covenant of persons in love. And love can be deepened and preserved only by Love, that Love which is “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).”

7. “In marriage man and woman are so firmly united as to become—to use the words of the Book of Genesis—”one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Male and female in their physical constitution, the two human subjects, even though physically different, share equally in the capacity to live “in truth and love”. This capacity, characteristic of the human being as a person, has at the same time both a spiritual and a bodily dimension. It is also through the body that man and woman are predisposed to form a “communion of persons” in marriage.”

Marriage of the Virgin – Raphael

8. “By its very nature the gift of the person must be lasting and irrevocable. The indissolubility of marriage flows in the first place from the very essence of that gift: the gift of one person to another person. This reciprocal giving of self reveals the spousal nature of love. In their marital consent the bride and groom call each other by name: “I… take you… as my wife (as my husband) and I promise to to be true to you… for all the days of my life”. A gift such as this involves an obligation much more serious and profound than anything which might be “purchased” in any way and at any price.”

9. “The Church professes that Marriage, as the Sacrament of the covenant between husband and wife, is a “great mystery”, because it expresses the spousal love of Christ for his Church. Saint Paul writes: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Eph 5:25-26).”

10. “In the Sermon on the Mount, recalling the sixth commandment, Christ proclaims: “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery’. But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:27-28)… Why does Christ speak out in so forceful and demanding a way in the Sermon on the Mount? The reason is quite clear: Christ wants to safeguard the holiness of marriage and of the family. He wants to defend the full truth about the human person and his dignity.”

As we remember this day…

Let us pray for the many holy and faithful Catholic marriages that are producing great fruit in the Church.

Let us pray for those who may be struggling in their marriages – may Our Lady and St. Joseph intercede on behalf of their trials.

Let us pray for those Catholics that are not married in the Church – those who are unaware that their marriages are not valid – pray that they, through the intercession of Our Lady and St. Joseph will come to be in full communion again and Convalidate their secular marriage.

Let us pray for those couples preparing to enter the Sacrament of Matrimony in the days and month ahead. Please pray for Megan and I as we do our preparations for Holy Matrimony.

O Mary, Perpetual Virgin…Pray for Us

Saint Joseph…Pray for Us

Top 10 Posts of 2017

Now that we have entered a New Year, 2018, a year that will bring many awesome changes to my personal life, I thought I would share with you the data as well as the Top 10 Posts from my blog and website from 2017. Some of the personal life information has already been revealed in other articles and will continue to be released in the months ahead. Stay tuned for some exciting news.

On this website, in 2017, there were – 192,731 views; 137,436 visitors, 1.40 views per visitor, and I wrote 87 articles. Although I wrote less than the preceding years, my views and visitors increased.116 people started following my blog either through WordPress or by Email. If you are interested in receiving emails when I wrote, feel free to sign-up on the Home Page below my picture where it says “Click here to Follow Me.”

At this point, I am around 5700 views from 1,000,000. That’s exciting but also very humbling. I should hit that milestone this month. I hit a rather big milestone during this year when I wrote my 800th post.

Out of the 87 articles I wrote, 15 of them appeared on NewAdvent.org. Thanks to Kevin Knight for posting my articles on that site. Also, a thanks goes out to Tito Edwards and Big Pulpit for posting a few of my articles as well.

Below are the Top 10 Posts from 2017. They begin with the most viewed, however, each one had over 1000 views.

1. 12 Quotes from the Great Saint of Pietrelcina

2. 12 Quotes from Edith Stein – Jewish convert, Carmelite Sister, Martyr and Catholic Saint 

3. “Mondays with Mary” – St. Teresa of Calcutta and The Miraculous Medal 

4. Sacred Art is Inspiring and Flourishing…in Scottsdale, Arizona 

5. Solidarity HealthShare: The Catholic Answer to the Healthcare Dilemma 

6. Remembering Father Michael Scanlan, TOR

7. “Mondays with Mary” – 54 Days of Rosary Quotes 

8. The Knights of Columbus: A Band of Brothers Going into the Breach  

9. “Mondays with Mary” – Asking for the Intercession of Saint Joseph 

10. It’s Time to Tell the Mainstream Media #WhyWeMarch 

Thank you to all my family members, friends, and followers that follow me on here and/or through Facebook and Twitter. I appreciate your support. My 6th anniversary of writing on here is coming up soon. Watch for that post around the end of January.  Happy New Year! 

I will be on Fiat Ministry Network Tonight at 9:00pm

Tonight, November 8 at 9:00pm Eastern Time, 7:00pm here in Arizona, I will be on the Fiat Ministry Network for an interview with Kent Kuholski.

The Fiat Ministry Network is a Catholic Internet Broadcasting TV Network which encourages us to to say “Yes” to Jesus Christ, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary said “Yes” when the Angel Gabriel came to her at the Annunciation announcing the coming of the Messiah.

Fiat Ministry Network

It’s my hope that many of you will be able to watch the show via the Internet. To watch the interview LIVE, just click on the Fiat Ministry Network above.