“Mondays with Mary” – The Marian Prayer of Saint Gemma Galgani

This coming Wednesday, April 11, is the memorial for one of the great young saints of the Catholic Church, and I imagine a saint that many of you don’t know well. In recent years, I have come to know a little more about this female saint of the late eighteenth century, but still have much to learn. I have not written anything on her as of yet but hope to in the next few days. The saint in which I am referring to – Saint Gemma Galgani.

Although she did not live as long as St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), she died at the age of 25, there are some rather striking similarities in their lives. Most notably, they are both considered mystics, both were given the Stigmata, and both battled demons. I would love to spend more time on writing about her life, and as I’ve just said, hope to write more this week, however, today’s post is about providing you one of her Marian prayers. Like so many of the saints before her, St. Gemma had a true and deep devotion to Our Lady, which in turn, led her to have a deep passionate love for Jesus Christ. Our Lady interceded for Gemma and led her repentant soul to the great merciful heart of Jesus Christ.

Sassoferrato – Virgin Mother

Here is the Marian prayer of St. Gemma Galgani –

Jesus entrusted me to His Mother,
and charged me to love her very much.
You are then my heavenly Mother.
You will be towards me
like any mother towards her children.
You see me weak?
You will have mercy on my weakness.
You see me poor in virtue?
You will help me.
O my Mother,
do not forsake me!
My dearest Mother,
do not abandon me!

Saint Gemma Galgani…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. 

“Mondays with Mary” – Pope Saint John Paul II, Regina Caeli, and Easter Monday

Now that we have entered the Easter Season, the Marian antiphon that is proper to chant during this time is the Regina Caeli. The antiphon replaces the more common chanted Angelus, which is often heard throughout the rest of the year. Pilgrims traveling to Rome can gather to hear the weekly prayer and message given by the Holy Father. To learn more about the Regina Caeli and the Angelus, I would suggest reading the linked posts.

Madonna by Fra’ Filippo Lippi, O.Carm.

Since Regina Caeli means “Queen of Heaven” and today is Easter Monday, and on Mondays I focus on the Blessed Virgin Mary, I want to concentrate on some of the words from Pope Saint John Paul during from his Regina Caeli on the Easter Monday’s in his later Pontificate. As many of you know, he is big part of what I do for my full-time job and why I am so dedicated to my writing here and in other places.

The Polish Pope said…

“Today is Easter Monday, traditionally called “Monday of the Angel”, because angels appeared beside the women and the Apostles with a significant role in the extraordinary event of the Resurrection. It was precisely an angel who addressed the first message from the empty tomb to the women who had come to finish the burial arrangements for Jesus’ body. He says to them: “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here” (Mk 16:6) …Let us invoke the Queen of angels and saints, that she may grant us, supported by our guardian angels, to be authentic witnesses to the Lord’s paschal mystery.”

“But there is a second teaching we can draw from the angel’s words. When he [the Angel] urges the women not to seek “the living among the dead”, he wants us to understand that Christ — the living God who shines with glory — can be better known by his disciples now than before his passion and death. Now he gives his disciples the Holy Spirit, who can guide them “into all the truth” (Jn 16:13). The Spirit, the first gift of the Risen One to believers (cf. Jn 20:22), helps them in their weakness, leading them to “know fully the mystery of Redemption and to preach the rule of faith in all truth” (Peter Damian, Carmina et preces, III)…Dear brothers and sisters, let us invoke the Queen of Heaven, who certainly did not fail to meet her risen Son and was able joyfully to continue her conversation with him. May Mary obtain for all the faithful the gift of a joyful and consistent witness, which will lead many others to meet and know the risen Lord, who lives always among us.”

“The proclamation ‘Christ my hope is arisen! ’(Sequence) continues to echo in today’s liturgy. In this way the spiritual joy of Easter is prolonged and expands in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful. Christ’s Resurrection is the most overwhelming event in human history. This event gave everyone new hope: from now on hope no longer means waiting for something to happen. It means being certain that something has happened because ‘the Lord is risen and reigns immortal!’…Let us entrust our heartfelt petition to Mary. “Queen of heaven, you who rejoice because the Son you were chosen to bear has risen…’”

Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia – Rejoice, Queen of heaven, alleluia!”

This is the prayer that replaces the Angelus, which we address to her throughout the Easter season. The joy of the Blessed Virgin contains in itself everything for which the Church rejoices: every good of grace and nature. Let us therefore call upon her with faith and devotion: Regina caeli laetare, alleluia!”

“On this holiday, known in Italy as “Monday of the Angel“, there is still a strong echo in the liturgy of the heavenly messenger’s words to the women who had gone to the tomb: “Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead” (Mt 28: 7). We hear the invitation as though addressed to us, too, to “go quickly” and proclaim the Gospel to the people of our time. May Mary, whom we call upon today in the Regina Caeli prayer, help us in this demanding mission which belongs to all the baptized. May she support us especially in bearing faithful witness that Jesus is truly risen and that humanity’s hope is restored to life in him.”

“May Mary, a silent witness of the Death and Resurrection of her Son Jesus, help us to believe totally in this mystery of salvation which, received with deep faith, can change life. May she enable us to transmit it with joy, as consistent and courageous disciples of the risen Lord, to all those we come across.”

“Mary became a model for Christian communities “rejoicing” in the Passover of the Lord, a source of true joy to all believers. Indeed, the Risen Christ is the source of and ultimate reason for this spiritual joy that no shadow can dim. The liturgy of the Octave of Easter echoes it constantly: “Christ has risen as he promised”. This is also what we proclaim in the “Regina Caeli”, a prayer so dear to popular piety…May the Virgin Mary, silent witness of this mystery, strengthen us in our personal attachment to the One who died and rose for the salvation of every human being. May she be our teacher and guide in the faith; may she support us in moments of doubt and temptation; may she obtain for us that inner peace which no one can disturb, because it is rooted in the certainty that Christ is truly risen.”

Regina Caeli…Pray for Us.

Pope Saint John Paul II…Pray for Us.


Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb – Fra Angelico

When the sabbath was over,
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome
bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.
Very early when the sun had risen,
on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.
They were saying to one another,
“Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?”
When they looked up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.
On entering the tomb they saw a young man
sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed.
He said to them, “Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.
But go and tell his disciples and Peter,
‘He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him, as he told you” (Mk. 16:1-7). [Gospel Reading from The Resurrection of the Lord at The Easter Vigil].

To all of my followers and readers through WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media and Catholic websites, I wish you a very Blessed, Joyful, and Happy Easter Season! Thank you for your support and your prayers.

Please continue to pray for my fiancee and I as we approach our Nuptials in just about 5 months. We are excited and still have lots to do.

Christ has Risen, indeed! Alleluia!

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

“Mondays with Mary” – Holy Week with the Mater Dolorosa

Yesterday, beginning with Palm Sunday, the Catholic Church entered Holy Week also known as the Great Week. In my personal opinion, these are the best days in the entire liturgical cycle because we celebrate the High Holy Days of Catholicism.

Holy Week begins with the great imagery of palms and olive branches, which were symbolic for victory and triumphant in the ancient world. We also witness Jesus riding a colt into Jerusalem, just as Solomon rode David’s mule into Jerusalem centuries before declaring him as king. We now see the New Davidic King, Jesus Christ, enter to the words – “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our Father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:9-10; cf. Ps 118:26).

As we begin this week of suffering with Our Lord, I want you to remember the one person who was there with him, most united with him, and always prepared to lead us closer to him, yes, even into his suffering – the person is of course the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the Mater Dolorosa, the Sorrowful Mother, Mary leads us into a more complete union with Jesus, not only during the joyful and blessed times of our lives, but also during the times of suffering and pain. During this week, as we walk with Our Lord to Calvary, we must keep in mind that we also walk with Our Mother.

Mary’s role is so important during the week of Holy Week that in the Roman Missal and Calendar prior to 1970, the Church commemorated the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Friday preceding Palm Sunday. Today, this commemoration is still celebrated in Catholic parishes where the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite is celebrated as well as in the Anglican Ordinariate parishes. This special day is a day where we remember what the Mother of God witnessed and underwent as she watched her Son brutally tortured and executed.

To better prepare for this Holy Week with the Mater Dolorosa, I encourage you to read and pray with the Seven Sorrows (Dolors) of Mary. Often prayed as part of the Mater Dolorosa Rosary, these seven sorrows will lead us into the suffering Our Lady endured not only during Holy Week, but also in the childhood of Jesus.

The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady are the following:

1. The Prophecy of Holy Simeon

2. The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt

3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple

4. The Encounter of Jesus with His Blessed Mother as He Carries the Cross

5. The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Mary at the Foot of the Cross

6. The Descent from the Cross, and Jesus in the Arms of His Most Blessed Mother

7. The Burial of Our Lord, and the Loneliness of the Blessed Virgin

Mater Dolorosa…Pray for Us. 

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