Our Blessed Lady and Her Daughters: Tuesday of Holy Week, March 27, 2018


In our contemporary era, there are many competing images of women and womanhood.

Saint John Paul II, in harmony with Sacred Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition, believes women to be holy daughters of the Creator who possess an intrinsic beauty and value because they, like men, have been fashioned in the imago Dei—“the image of God.”

In his Letter to Women (June 29, 1995), he wrote that the Almighty has a “mysterious plan regarding the vocation and mission of women in the world.” Each and every woman—regardless of her role as mother, wife, daughter, sister, consecrated person—is remarkable and special in God’s sight. “Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.” (2)

Where would we be without women? The astounding realization—but perhaps not too astonishing, upon prayerful reflection—is that we owe women our very physical lives. Our mothers and fathers conceived us and brought us forth. We did not exist until they provided the physical matter and God furnished the spiritual matter.

The Ever-Virgin Mother of God is the only woman hailed as both Virgin and Mother. She, more than any other person, cooperated freely in the inscrutable design of the Maker by yielding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, thereby living with a zest to do good that is at once amazing and inspirational. Our Blessed Lady teaches us how to put aside our projects so that Christ can work in us His inimitable plan of salvation.

After Jesus Christ, we owe Mary our salvation, given her generous participation with His redeeming work on Calvary.

As the Church praises God for Our Lady, we also offer our gratitude for women and womanhood. As Saint John Paul expressed in his August 15, 1988 Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (“The Dignity of Women”), the Church “desires to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the ‘mystery of woman’ and for every woman—for all that constitutes the eternal measure of her feminine dignity, for ‘the great works of God,’ which throughout human history have been accomplished in and through her.” (31)

The Madonna is, in the words of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), the stellar example of “obedience, faith, hope and burning charity” (61) for all women, no matter their state in life. She reflects Christ and instructs all her daughters to do the same. Mary is the model for all peoples, but especially for women.

When we recite the Most Holy Rosary, let us pray for women everywhere, that they may imitate Our Lady in her countless virtues.

Where would we be without women? No Mary . . . no Jesus . . . no mothers . . . no wives . . . no daughters . . . no sisters . . . no consecrated women . . . how impoverished our world—and depleted Heaven—would be!

Our Lady and Our Love for the Blessed Sacrament: Tuesday, February 27, 2018


In his final encyclical, which was dedicated to the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, Saint John Paul II hailed the Ever-Virgin Mother of God as the “Woman of the Eucharist.” He wrote: “Mary can guide us towards this most holy sacrament, because she herself has a profound relationship with it.”

Our Lady is a living template of how we are to adore Jesus Christ in this “Sacrament of Sacraments.” Be it during Mass or in our time before the Tabernacle or the Monstrance, Mary offers to us an example of Eucharistic piety, which quickly becomes evangelical zeal for all the things of God.

Father Emil Neubert, S.M., in his Life of Union with Mary, asked “what will be our relations with Mary in our devotion to the Eucharist?” He replied: “First of all, we shall have to ask her assistance, as in all other manifestations of our supernatural life. In view of the exceptional importance of devotion to the Eucharist, this request for help must be pressing and trustful.”

As we continue to seek Our Lady’s assistance, “we will try to enter into her dispositions toward the mysteries which the Eucharist recalls and continues. Sharing the dispositions of our Mother becomes a reality almost necessarily as soon as we understand the mysteries taking place and the part Mary has in them. Once we thoroughly grasp the meaning of the actions and prayers in which we are taking part, we quite naturally begin to contemplate the Eucharist with the eyes of Mary, to love It with her Heart, and to unite ourselves to It, one with her.”

Our transformation into Christ Who gives His Body and Blood to us occurs by way of the maternal intercession of His Mother.

A Client of Our Lady: The Memorial of Saints Joachim and Ann, Wednesday, July 26, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)


Nicholas GilroyOur Lady and the Guardian. By Father Stephen and Deacon George. Bloomington, Indiana: Archway Publishing, 2017. Paperback, 112 pages. $11.99.

Veteran teachers and members of the Regina Literary Guild, Father Stephen and Deacon George offer a delightful story about a very young man who enters Saint Peter’s High School Seminary.

Nicholas Gilroy seeks God’s wise will. He believes that the Lord desires that he become a priest. Therefore, with confidence in Him and His Holy Mother, the fourteen-year-old leaves his loving family to embrace the life of a seminarian.

Along the way, as one would expect, Nicholas meets various persons and challenges, but also many joys! With uncommon trust in Jesus, he perseveres and completes his freshman year in the Seminary.

The reader will note the lasting friendships that develop between Nicholas and the other seminarians, the paternal encouragement of the Rector, the discipline established by the Vice Rector, the demanding classes that broaden the horizons of these prospective priests, the fun that the seminarians have together, including on the football field, and the generous spirit displayed by them in providing food and lodging for some of the poor and in traveling to the inner city to assist grade school students after-school.

It is within the context of the after-school program that Nicholas learns about violence in society. Although he is scarred by the incomprehensible attack on human life that he witnessed, he remains grateful for the privilege to tutor a minority student, cherishing it as a golden opportunity to share Jesus Christ.

The account of Nicholas repeatedly returns to the beautiful Chapel of Saint Peter’s High School Seminary. It is there that he and his brother seminarians receive the divine grace necessary to walk the path of discernment that, for some men, leads to the Altar of God. His love for the Most Blessed Sacrament—whether in Mass or during Eucharistic Adoration—and his veneration of Our Blessed Lady are palpable.

This volume would make an excellent gift for junior high school and high school boys who wonder what the Holy Spirit wants of them. It is readable, inspiring and informative. Catholic schools and parish religious education programs would do well to make this work available to parents, students and instructors.

Our Newest Saints: Saturday, May 13, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)


Our Newest Saints

The announcement that this year’s Centenary of the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima would include the Canonization of Blesseds Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto on May 13th by Pope Francis has intrigued and uplifted the Catholic faithful.

One saw the visible interest on the faces of so many as they heard the long-awaited news: the Bishop of Rome would travel to the Cova da Iria to raise this venerable duo to the glories of the Altar on the very Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

The exemplary charity, patience and perseverance of Francisco and Jacinta along with their older cousin Lucia continue to awaken deep within the friends of Jesus the desire to love God more and to serve Him better as Mary pleaded one hundred years ago.

These children are holy. And they remain a template for our own efforts to be good before Our Lord.

From the ample testimony given by their contemporaries, Francisco and Jacinta frequently received the Sacraments, particularly Confession and Holy Communion, with profound fervor, daily recited the Holy Rosary with sincere devotion and routinely commended the sick, the suffering and the wayward to Almighty God with remarkable trust.

Although privileged with three appearances of the Angel of Peace in 1916 and six visits from Our Lady during 1917, Francisco and Jacinta did not haughtily exempt themselves from obedience to their parents and their local pastor. They humbly submitted themselves even to misguided civil authority but without retreating an inch from their divinely-inspired convictions.

Mary’s summons to make reparation for sin found a permanent home in these children. As they fasted from their lunch and gave it instead to the sheep they were tending, tied a coarse rope around their tiny waists to mirror the sacrifice of their Savior, bore without complaint the scorching Portugal sun and endured the angry glances and snide remarks from querulous relatives and strangers alike, Francisco and Jacinta embraced mortification not as a means to attract attention but rather to invoke the abiding mercy of God upon themselves and sinners everywhere.

The children acknowledged their nothingness in the sight of their Creator while simultaneously they treasured His tender love. They were well aware of what He required of them, and they sought to perform their daily duty with exactitude and promptness.

In her gentle, forthright manner, Our Lady presented difficult and frightening realities to the children—the horror of sin, the annihilation of nations, the promotion of error, the deliberate attempt to thwart the plan of God, the awfulness of Hell. Far from refusing to accept all that she shared, Francisco and Jacinta recognized Divine Providence. They confided in this kind Mother and welcomed her care for them. Had she not promised that they and Lucia would one day go to Heaven and that, in the end, her Immaculate Heart would triumph?

The parlous state of our era induces us to look again to those who preceded us, certain that we can learn something about how to navigate our treacherous age. Unlettered, poor children from a backwater village as mentors for us and our advanced society? We should take the opportunity to learn from the virtuous Francisco and Jacinta. Their proximity to Jesus and Mary transcends time and place and provides us with a salutary influence as we confront the perennial hazards lurking around us.

These earnest youth experienced what Pope Francis, just hours before he left for Fatima, prayed that Our Lady would do for all Portuguese believers: to “whisper into the ears of each one of them, and assure them that her Immaculate Heart is a refuge and a path leading them to God.”

Conveyed by the Ever-Virgin, the Fatima message of prayer, reparation and the fulfillment of one’s daily duty was observed to an extraordinary degree in the lives of the little shepherds. What great things are accomplished when the counsel of the Mother of God, which, of course, is identical to that of her Divine Son, resonates and is enthroned in the hearts of her sons and daughters!

 Saints Francisco and Jacinta are proof that lasting conversion and purity of soul are both possible and necessary. No matter where we have been or who we have been, Our Lady is here for us.

We rejoice with these children—indeed, the entire Mystical Body of Christ—who once were physically small but for a century have been veritable spiritual giants, these whose names are now enrolled in the catalog of the canonized.

We thank Your Holiness!: Monday, April 24, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)


A Happy Announcement

On Thursday, April 20th during an ordinary public consistory, Pope Francis disclosed that he will canonize Blesseds Francisco Marto (+1919) and Jacinta Marto (+1920) who, along with Lucia dos Santos (+2005), experienced the six apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Cova da Iria near Fatima, Portugal during 1917.

The Holy Father will celebrate the Canonization Mass in the enormous Square in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on Saturday, May 13th, which will be the one hundredth anniversary of Mary’s first appearance there.

Pope Francis will be the fourth Bishop of Rome to visit Fatima: Blessed Paul VI (1967); Saint John Paul II (1982, 1991, 2000); Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (2010). During 1977, Albino Cardinal Luciano (+1978), the Patriarch of Venice and the future Pope John Paul I, visited the Monastery of Saint Teresa in Coimbra, Portugal where Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart lived as a Discalced Carmelite. He celebrated Mass in the Carmel’s Chapel and spoke with Sister Lucia.


Our Lady Spoke at Fatima: Divine Mercy Sunday, April 23, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)


During the last couple of months, I have been reading The Priest’s Way to God by Fr. M. Eugene Boylan, O.C.S.O. This book intrigued me because I was familiar with the author, an Irish Trappist Abbot, and the copy I borrowed was owned by the late Msgr. John J. McEneaney.

Fr. Boylan pays much attention to the virtue of humility. He writes that it “means of course a life of ever-increasing dependence on God, but it also means a life of ever-increasing strength, confidence and joy” (pgs. 115-116).

I think of those who are receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation throughout our Diocese this spring, and I pray that the Holy Spirit will give humility in abundance to them so that they will rejoice in their dependence on God and enjoy fresh strength, confidence and joy.

The year 2017 is the Centenary of the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. One hundred years ago, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta near the village of Fatima, Portugal. Humility is woven through the message of Our Lady and the acceptance shown by the three little shepherds.

Our world is vastly different now than in 1917. But human nature is the same. And so is our need for Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Humility lives in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She answered God’s summons, this time, to go to Fatima, but previously to Guadalupe, Mexico and Lourdes, Frances and a host of places. Our Lady celebrates her dependence on God. She shared with her cousin Elizabeth, “for He Who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name” (St. Luke 1:49).

Humility lives in the hearts of Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. Never for a moment did they consider themselves suitable for a visit from Heaven. Yet, that is what happened. And they delighted in Christ and His Virgin Mother, adhering to all that Mary requested of them.

Our Lady’s message at Fatima, I recently mentioned to some Catholic school teachers during their in-service, offers several important realities for our reflection. Here are a few.

1. Daily prayer is crucial. Receiving the Sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Communion, worthily and often is the best prayer “form” that I choose. Reciting the Holy Rosary as Mary asked at Fatima, reading Sacred Scripture and the lives of the Saints, praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, making the Stations of the Cross . . . the possibilities for public and private prayer are nearly endless.

2. Reverence for God bespeaks of our love for Him. Do I live in awareness of my Creator? Do I seek to understand His will for me? Do I recognize the real, true and substantial presence of Jesus Christ in the Tabernacle and on the Altar during Mass and Eucharistic Adoration? Often, my best response to His majestic, gentle presence is silence. Last year, Pope Francis canonized Discalced Carmelite Elizabeth of the Trinity, who once said, referring to God, “Silence is Your greatest praise.”

3. Doing penance for our sins and those of others is a service that we can perform. To repair for my sins and those of my neighbor is charity to a high degree. My penances, whether voluntary or involuntary, afford me the gift of consoling the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, which are offended by sin.

4. Fulfilling our “daily duty” is fidelity to our individual vocations. If I am a priest, then may I be the holiest priest that I can be. My faithfulness to my vocation pleases God and gives good example to those who encounter me. Doing my daily duty—doing the ordinary in an extraordinary way—is the warp and woof of sanctity.

Humility lives in each of these realities. Without this virtue, we will never obtain what God has planned for us in the Father’s House in the next life. But with humility, we grasp what the Angel Gabriel communicated to Mary: “For with God nothing will be impossible” (St. Luke 1:37). Imagine the ever-increasing dependence on God and the strength, confidence and joy that await us.

May humility live in my heart and yours as we commemorate the six appearances of Mary to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta 100 years ago. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

God's Mercy Has Been Poured Out through the Sinless, Ever-Virgin Mary: Saturday within the Octave of Easter, April 22, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)

J.M.J. I was privileged to serve as a “Missionary of Mercy” during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Thanks to Pope Francis and Bishop Swain, and thanks to those pastors who invited me to their parishes for Masses, Confessions, Holy Hours, Missions and presentations. I gave the Fall Lecture at Mount Marty College and spoke to various groups (Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters of America, etc.) throughout our Diocese. I also traveled as requested to five other Dioceses for Holy Year of Mercy activities. Honoraria of approximately $2,000 were received, which were submitted to the Diocesan Finance Office.