Where There’s Despair, Let Us Bring Hope

For the past few weeks I’ve been shadowing instructors from a local pro-life group that goes to Catholic and Christian schools teaching junior high students about the current life issues in our world. (I’m delighted to instruct my own class in less than a month.) The curriculum includes facts about abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, as well as the Good News of chastity and how we are all created in the image and likeness of God and what respecting human dignity entails.

Most of the classes are inspiring and educational as these kids learn about people who were born with disabilities, who were told by their parents to abort, but here they are living and thriving. They hear and read testimonials from post-abortive women who now advocate and promote the pro-life message. They hear from rape survivors who became pregnant and gave their child life.

On one particular day, as the 8th graders learned about abortion, I had a moment of profound sadness.

A boy in the class asked the question:

“So what do they do with the baby when it’s aborted?” 

The instructor responded with the truth: “They throw the baby into the trash, into biohazard waste.” 

The look on the children’s faces was something I don’t think I’ll forget.  They just couldn’t believe it. They were shocked and appalled.

I was told later by one of my friends who’s been advocating for the unborn for years that they don’t actually throw them in the trash. At least some places don’t.

“They put them in a grinder and grind them up into pieces,” he said.

Maybe we need to just reflect on that for more than a second.

Dead humans.

In pieces.

In the trash. 

No funeral. No burial. No memorial.  Just thrown into the trash. 

I really have a hard time wrapping my head around all of it. 

I sometimes just sit in plain shock at it all.  

Like looking at the pictures of the victims of the Holocaust. The burned bodies lying on top of one another in black and white photos that I’ve seen. And even having visited a concentration camp when I took a trip to Europe as a teenager – I saw death. I felt it, it was palpable. Even decades later.

And there was another feeling there…


I don’t think I identified it as Evil at the time. I think I just knew the feeling was dark. Only years later as I would tell people that I visited one of the camps did I then recall and think, Oh….so that’s what that was. That was indeed evil I felt. It permeated the site.


I get that same feeling over me as I visit and stand outside abortion clinics to pray. There’s this dark, heavy feeling. Like you know something sinister is happening behind those doors but you can’t do anything to stop it at that moment.

It’s a very helpless feeling.

And it can quickly turn into hopelessness. 

It has on occasion.

But thank God for those kids. Thank God for those kids having the courage to ask questions and listen and hear the truth.  This is a lot of their young minds to process. What I would have given to have heard this message at their age!

I noticed something else about these young pro-life warriors:

They have NO FEAR. They are not afraid to engage.  

An outsider reading this might think, “Just wait until they get to high school or college. They’ll be too afraid to fit in to speak up about anything.”

While it’s true that most 20-somethings become easily swayed into moral relativism in college, I still have hope.

You just wait. This generation is braver and smarter than we are. They have much more information at their fingertips than we ever did. Which means they have greater access to the TRUTH, while filtering out the LIES. 

And they aren’t pushovers. They want Authenticity. They want people, adults and peers alike, to be Genuine. Heartfelt. Compassionate. Fighters! Honest! Bold! 


So when I look around me at the various people praying outside abortion clinics, when I look around to see who will stand with me to fight for the unborn, the disabled and the elderly, the most vulnerable and weakest in our world, and when I look around and wonder who will have my back at the times when it seems hopeless, I see these kids.

I see hope in their eyes. I see something GOOD that I can cling to and hang on to.

The voiceless have a voice in the youth of today. 

“When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God — and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there’ll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world — and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, ‘Spare him, because he loved us!‘”  – Congressman Henry Hyde – author of The Hyde Amendment, which the Democratic Party wants to repeal.

Anytime I blog about abortion, I think it’s important to mention post-abortive healing and counseling:





Voting as a Catholic


Recently a priest by the name of Rev. John Lankeit from the Diocese of Phoenix delivered a homily shared by EWTN via their Facebook page and has close to 300,00 views in just a couple days. In this homily, Lankeit made clear and concise points about which political/social issues Catholics can vote on based on prudential judgement, and which issues are non-negotiable.

This is an absolute spot-on homily. It takes a lot of guts to preach from the pulpit on the issue of abortion. But we can’t be afraid. Not when it’s taken 60 million lives from us. There is nothing to be fearful of. We have the truth on our side.

Prayers to this priest and all the clergy and laity and all who bravely preach exactly what all Catholics and people who consider themselves Christian, to hear. Souls are on the line. You owe it to yourself and the future generations of Americans to listen to this  or read the text below. We cannot claim to be Catholic while enabling the culture of death to continue by voting for a pro-abortion candidate/party.

If you prefer to watch the Homily instead of listen to the audio that I linked above, EWTN still has it up on their Facebook page from Thursday October 6th.

27th Sunday OT (Year C) – October 2, 2016

HAB 1:2-3; 2:2-4; PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; 2 TM 1:6-8, 13-14; LK 17:5-10

The Devil is a divider who will use almost any tactic to separate Christians from Christ…except for one. He doesn’t typically come right out and say, “Deny Jesus Christ!” because he knows that someone who loves Jesus would immediately reject the suggestion. So, he tends to use more subtle means and subtle words. But more on that later…

For now, let’s deal with something closer to home, and very much in the forefront of many people’s minds: the 2016 presidential election. But let’s do so from a Catholic perspective. Let’s consider the intersection of the practice of our Catholic faith and the exercise of our civic duty, especially when it comes to voting.

Let’s first acknowledge that there has never been a political party in the United States that is perfectly aligned with Catholic teaching on every issue. That does not mean, however, that we are therefore automatically free to vote for either major party, because one party can be much further from Catholic principles on the most important issues than the other party. As a result of that, we are often faced with the task of discerning which party and which policies are most in line with Catholic teaching, and which ones aren’t.

So many issues are subject to the prudential judgment of Catholic voters. What does that mean? It means that Catholics can legitimately disagree, for example, on the best way to address issues such as racial injustice, education, the economy, immigration and healthcare and still remain in good standing in the Church.

There are other issues, however, which touch on matters of intrinsic evil—actions that can never, at any time, under any circumstances be committed, promoted or even enabled by a faithful Catholic. But setting aside issues of intrinsic evil for now, let’s consider some of the more common issues for which Catholics can legitimately exercise prudential judgment.

One such issue is Affirmative Action. This program aims to eliminate perceived disadvantages that minorities face when competing, for example, for admission to college. In our nation, one party favors Affirmative Action to bring justice and balance in our multiracial society. The other party holds that it penalizes high achievers by giving limited spots in the college classroom to less qualified candidates, while denying more qualified students access. One party sees affirmative action as a matter of justice…while the other party sees it as injustice.


But, suppose a candidate for president promoted a policy that would make it legal for someone to kill a black person if that black person created a hardship for them getting the education they desired.

How many of you would be comfortable voting for that candidate?

Another issue that falls under the category of prudential judgment is immigration. One of the major political parties seeks to allow immigration with very little restriction. The other party is concerned that unrestricted immigration leads to, among other things, non-citizens taking jobs that could be worked by citizens. One party favors open borders—the other favors “law and order”.

Now, suppose a candidate for president promoted a policy that would make it legal for someone to kill a Hispanic person if the presence of that Hispanic person made it more difficult to pursue one’s career of choice.

How many of you would be comfortable voting for that candidate?

Thank God we don’t have a candidate from either party who says that they condone such policies. Nobody in their right mind would say such a thing—that we could kill blacks or Hispanics—or anyone else—just for the sake of protecting personal economic or educational interests.

Nobody would say it, but, as you’ll see in a moment…

There is a candidate, in this 2016 race for president, who along with that candidate’s political party does, in fact, sanction the killing of blacks and Hispanics in the situations previously described…under one…particular…condition:

That the black person or the Hispanic person is still in his or her mother’s womb.

Now, this candidate and party certainly won’t say it that way, not publicly anyway. Instead, they use words like “choice” or “reproductive rights” or “women’s health” or other sanitized statements in order to cover up what abortion is and what abortion does.


Now, before we go any further in discussing the extremely sensitive issue of abortion…

I want to say a word to any woman in this congregation here today—or among those watching or listening on TV or radio—who has chosen abortion:

God’s mercy is bigger than your sin and your pain. In ten years of priesthood, I have often been blessed to welcome a woman back to the merciful embrace of God the Father after she has admitted to, and repented of, her abortion in the Sacrament of Confession. A priest in such a situation has the privilege of assuring the woman that she has never lost the love of God the Father, nor her dignity as his beloved daughter, no matter what she did. And so I say to these women today: You do not have to hide from God any longer. I know it’s exhausting to pretend that your pain is not real, that your loss is not immense and that your choice was not devastating. But when you experience God’s loving mercy even after the abortion, you will really come to know and experience that God’s love in forgiving our most serious sins is even greater than his love in creating us. Your Father has been waiting for you for a very long time. It’s time for you to come home!

So, now, having shared that important word with grieving mothers let’s return to the subject of our duty as Catholics in the public square.

When we consider that a woman can walk into Planned Parenthood and have her baby put to death because she doesn’t want to jeopardize her education or career, we must acknowlege that the shocking scenarios described previously are not only possible…not only real…but also among the most common reasons for abortion in America.

Even the word “abortion” has been drained of its meaning—we treat it like nothing more than a term that starts a heated debate rather than a procedure that stops a heartbeat. Many want to treat abortion as merely one issue among many—but that requires that a person pretend not to know what abortion is and what abortion does.

So let’s stop beating around the bush with regard to the current presidential race:

  • Do you know which candidate and party in this election promotes abortion and even promises to expand its availability here at home as well as abroad?
  • Do you know that this candidate and party intend to make you and me pay for other people’s abortions with our tax dollars—something that has always been illegal?
  • Are you aware that this candidate and party, which until recently, said that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare” no longer even bothers to say that it should be rare—but rather, that it must be available any time, any place, even up to the last moment that the fully formed, full-term baby remains in the womb?

    If you do not know which candidate and party I’m referring to, then you should not even consider voting until you do know! Ignorance in this area is unacceptable, because ignorance in this area costs millions of babies their lives and jeopardizes the souls of many Catholics voters.

    On the other hand, if you DO know which candidate and party want to promote and expand abortion, and you still intend to enable them to continue their war on the unborn with the help of your vote, then it is my duty as a priest to tell you that your soul will be in grave danger, especially if you present yourself for Holy Communion after casting such a vote with the full knowledge of what you’re doing.

    Every election season, when a priest addresses such topics from the pulpit, a certain portion of the population complains that he’s preaching politics:

    “A priest has no business discussing politics in church!”

    That’s what some people say.
    But what does God say to the priest whom he has designated to be spiritual father for the people entrusted to his care?

    The same thing he said to the Prophet Ezekiel: “…I have made [you] a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked man shall die in his [sin], but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way; he shall die in his [sin], but you will have saved your life. (Ez 33:7-9)

Another of the Devil’s tactics is to encourage us to make excuses for our participation in really bad things by appealing to other good things that we support, which we try to convince ourselves somehow “cancel out” the grave evil we enable.

Take capital punishment, for example. If you bring up abortion, some people will say, “I’m against capital punishment…and if you’re against abortion, then you should be against capital punishment!” Fair enough. What is the biggest objection to capital punishment? That innocent people might be mistakenly put to death. And it must be acknowledged that innocent people very well could be unjustly executed due to the many flaws in our legal system.

And this very reason for opposing capital punishment is precisely the reason that Catholics must never willingly support or even enable abortion with their vote. Because, while some innocent people have no doubt been put to death mistakenly through capital punishment, in abortion an innocent person is always put to death, and never by mistake. It’s always chosen…always intended.

If a person is against capital punishment, then, they necessarily must be against abortion because the intention of abortion is to knowingly and deliberately kill an innocent boy or girl—each and every time.

What about war? People who vigorously oppose the wars in the Middle East, for example, often quote statistics on the great number of innocent people accidently killed in the crossfire. “Collateral damage”—the innocent people killed in war—is, perhaps the greatest tragedy of war. But if a person opposes the accidental killing of innocent people in war, while enabling the intentional killing of the most innocent human beings on the planet with their vote—well…this is hypocrisy of the most extreme kind.

If a person opposes war because of the accidental, unintended deaths of innocent people, they necessarily must oppose abortion because the killing in abortion is neither accidental nor unintended, but always directly willed.

Sometimes we hear the stupendously deceptive claim that a candidate or party will reduce abortions by improving economic or social conditions, while simultaneously promoting abortion as a right worth protecting.


But let’s face facts: Abortion is not caused by economics or social conditions. Economic and social factors are, no doubt, circumstances that affect a mother’s decision in some cases, but they are not causes.

After all, if eliminating abortion were merely a matter of economics, or access to healthcare, or other socioeconomic factors, then why do wealthy mothers also abort their babies?

There are plenty of Catholics who, quite rightly, have criticized bishops and priests in recent years for not having spoken out more forcefully against the sexual abuse of children by priests.

Why, then, do many of these same Catholics want to silence bishops and priests who speak out forcefully against killing innocent children?

Why is opposing sexual abuse of children a matter of justice, but opposing the murder of children a matter of “preaching politics”?

Regardless of the resistance, a priest must follow the example of Peter and John in the Acts of the Apostles when it comes to preaching difficult truths. To those who sought to silence their proclamation of the Gospel these Apostles boldly responded:

“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for I cannot but speak of what I have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19- 20)

A priest is not only protected by the 1st Amendment (at least for now). He is also bound by the 5th Commandment—Thou Shalt Not Kill.

If a priest doesn’t speak up for those most vulnerable in our society, and if the Catholic faithful don’t actively protect the most vulnerable in our society by refusing to enable their deliberate destruction with their vote, then such Catholics are condoning the killing by their cowardice.

And what did St. Paul say to Timothy about cowardice in today’s 2nd Reading?


God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self- control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord…but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God. (2 Tim 1:7-8)


Part of every Catholic’s share in the hardship for the Gospel is that we must repent of our actions that are offensive to God and destructive to our brothers and sisters. And we must oppose the threats to innocent life that are most real and most urgent. Make no mistake! There is no single issue that threatens innocent human life more directly, consistently and urgently than the deliberate killing of baby boys and baby girls in their mother’s womb. No…issue!

In the time since this homily started, at least 30 children have been deliberately executed in the womb in the United States—and that’s just the ones that are reported.

Let me sum up with some very challenging words:

“We have a serious obligation to protect human life, and especially the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable among us. Whoever fails to do this, when otherwise able to do so, commits a serious sin of omission. They jeopardize their own spiritual wellbeing and they are a source of scandal for others. Should they

be Catholics, they should not receive Holy Communion.”

Catholics in the Public Square, 4th Ed., p. 25

Now, I hope you realize that it takes a lot of courage for a priest to communicate such challenging words as these—reminding his people that some actions are so gravely sinful that they render a Catholic unworthy to receive Holy Communion until there is complete repentance.

A priest who is more concerned about the state of his people’s souls than they are themselves, deserves the esteem of his people for his willingness to speak such difficult truth to them with genuine love—to put the welfare of his people’s souls ahead of his own reputation, popularity or comfort. Such a priest should receive respect, admiration and support, rather than their resistance or criticism.

So please pray for, thank and encourage the spiritual father that God has appointed for you and who loves you enough to tell you the truth.

Because the priest who said these particular words…is your bishop…and mine.





On That Day – Growing Old On Facebook


“On This Day” is a feature on Facebook where you can view what you posted on that day a year ago, or two years ago or however long ago you began your Facebook life.

I haven’t quite decided if this is a good feature or a cringe-worthy one.

For those of us who have been on FB since the “early days” of 2007, it’s kind of like a time capsule. I mean, let’s face it, when we all started tweeting or face booking, we had no idea what we were doing. How many of you click that feature and see that way back in the day you posted “On my way to do laundry.”  “Feeling tired.”  “Bored at work.” Come on, admit it!

Besides embarrassment at reading those silly status updates, I do get a kick out of seeing what I thought was newsworthy at certain times of my life, compared to now.

The most glaring difference is my blog had began as a fitness site where I documented my progress to get on stage to do my first (and only) bodybuilding competition in the category of Figure. I posted all my progress photos, I wrote about my training, the foods I was eating, and how I was feeling about getting on stage.

So for about 2 or 3 years, the majority of my posts are all fitness related. People seemed to like them but, looking back, that’s all my life was.

Prior to that, I shared your typical funny memes and cat videos. Amazing that we were enthralled with stupid cat videos for so long. (Okay I admit I still watch those from time to time!)

And before that I posted about training for a marathon while living in Chicago in between going to the bars and watching Cubs games. (Let’s not talk about the random partying/drinking photos of myself I have since removed from Facebook. Not a good look.)

What I have found the most interesting is the change in tastes and what I find important enough to “Share” on my “timeline.” When my Mom was sick with cancer, I posted asking for prayers for her. I shared memories and photos of her after she passed and continue to do so on special anniversaries. And for any of us who have lost a loved one, there’s nothing worse than clicking “On This Day” and seeing posts celebrating a “cancer-free” diagnosis. Only to know that a short time later, you’ll be asking for prayers again. And then later on sharing memories of that same person, now passed on.

So for those particular moments, I have bittersweet feelings, as I’m sure many of us do.

But then there’s really dramatic changes that are really cool to see:

I look back in time and see that I went from posting satirical articles from The Onion and Funny Or Die to sharing homilies from my priests.

I went from sharing fitness articles on how to sculpt your dream body to sharing videos on aborted baby parts for sale.

I went from “sitting on the couch on a lazy Sunday” to bragging about my PSR kids reciting  the Apostles Creed by heart.

Who does that?!

I’ve written about this already several times (here and here to name a few) so I’m sure people are tired of hearing it but Theology of the Body had a huge hand in this transformation. I would also say that my mother’s passing was a catalyst in this shift in thinking as well. And overall, it’s been the most positive and exciting experience I’ve ever had the fortune to go through.

But it’s also just a matter of getting older and growing up. Facebook itself “grew up” as well. It changed and shifted the way we communicate and share information. Now people get their news with a click of a button and can share it instantly. Again, is this a good or a bad thing? Sometimes I’m not so sure it’s all that great.

And while I’m forever grateful I don’t have to see status updates from my friends who are doing their laundry or watching tv, I sometimes get a little nostalgic for those simpler days.

I could always quit social media for good of course. I’m sure we’ve all considered it from time to time. But instead of quitting it for good, I try to and take my own advice:

No matter what you post, make sure it’s something you wouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed about. Of course this should be the universal social media rule for all of us, right? But what I mean, and this is going to sound morbid but hear me out – Just in case something should happen to me, I tend to think “What would I be okay with other folks seeing on my wall if it’s the last thing I ever posted?”

I know, totally morbid but…it’s something to think about. I suppose I would want people to see something positive on my “wall.” Something to make them think. Something to make them change their hearts perhaps on a certain issue. Or something to make them cry happy tears or have a good laugh.

So go ahead and take a look at the last thing you commented on, the last video you shared, or the last status update you typed. Maybe go ahead and use that “Edit” or “Delete” option. Remember, years from now, you may look back On This Day and say “What was I thinking?!”

Ahhh the ups and downs of social media.



Listening to Mama Church


In granting married persons the privilege and great responsibility of becoming parents, God gives them the grace to carry out their mission adequately. As spouses, parents and ministers of the sacramental grace of marriage, they are sustained from day to day by special spiritual energies, received from Jesus Christ who loves and nurtures his Bride, the Church.  —The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, Guidelines for Education Within The Family

Most people that know me are aware I have a lot of time on my hands.(Not too surprising considering that I’m single and childless). But what many are NOT aware of is in the past year and a half, I’ve basically gone “all in” with my Catholic faith; reading and researching and attending webinars and seminars and conferences and retreats. And among the many things I have uncovered, is that there’s more that the Church has gotten RIGHT than most people realize. And one of those is Her teaching on sexuality. 

Since most people are totally unaware of this (The Church and SEX don’t exactly appear in the same sentence very often), I figured I’d give out some resources that parents can use to not only educate themselves, but their kids as well.

Mama Church Knows Best

“No good parent accepts and endorses everything their child chooses.”

We view the Church as our Mother. And like any good Mom, she wants what is best for us.

If you’re scratching your head in disbelief, allow me to explain.

Let’s take the example of a child running into the street without looking. If you see your child starting to run into oncoming traffic, are you going to say “Well, I can’t judge them for doing that. If they feel like running into the street, that’s their right. I can’t stop them.”  Of course not!! You’ll run to save them. You’ll tell them to stop running so they don’t hurt themselves! Because you love them.

If you see your child start to take drugs, will you just sit by and say, “Well, that’s their choice. I mean, they might end up hurting themselves in the long run but I can’t stop them. If they feel it’s right for them…” Clearly you wouldn’t. You would try to stop them and tell them that there are consequences for their actions and that doing drugs is wrong and unhealthy and harmful. And since you love them, you get them help so they can thrive and stay alive.

This is how the Catholic Church sees us – as children in need of guidance. One of the best examples of this is seen in the document entitled Humanae Vitae. This document (HV for short) explains the Church’s stance on contraception (a big no-no). But WHY was Pope Paul VI (the Pope at the time this was written) so down on the pill? Well, just read it to find out.  It’s easy to understand, I promise!

For one thing, the Pope predicted that the legalization and widespread access of contraception in partnership with the sexual revolution would lead to: single parent families, fatherless children, increased divorce, unplanned pregnancies, and increased abortions. In other words, a culture of death.

Gee…you think he may have been right on that?

What makes this document so controversial for some of us in the Catholic world is that the teachings are difficult to implement. Because, as we know, it’s not easy to be a Christian, especially today.

So maybe before you start to talk to your kids about sex and God’s design for our bodies and marriage, perhaps you need a re-fresher? Reading HV is a great start. But wait, there’s more!

Educate yourself:

  • One good first step is to get yourself a copy of the Catechism. It’s easy to read, although it’s very thick. But it’s divided up into sections so you can jump around. One of the best tips I received recently was from Dr. Bob Rice at Franciscan University at Steubenville. He says to start reading the In Brief sections and praying with those before actually reading it from cover to cover. I am finding that to be really helpful.
  • If you’ve followed my blog you know I’m a Theology of the Body enthusiast/addict/obsessed person. Besides listing everything in my Recommended Reading tab, I would say the best book for married couples and parents is The Good News about Sex and Marriage by Christopher West. It’s format is Q&A so you can jump around to the sections you want to read. It addresses infertility, contraception, celibacy, natural family planning and much more. Best of all, it addresses the beauty and truth about what marriage means between a man and a woman.
  • Hate reading?  If you prefer videos, you’re going to want to subscribe to both Fr. Mike Schmitz and Bishop Robert Barron. Bishop Barron is especially popular for his YouTube videos explaining everything from Advent to War. You can find his homilies, videos, and blog posts at Word on Fire. Here’s what you get when you search “Sexuality.”
  • As for Fr. Mike Schmitz, he’s considered more “real-world” and is a big hit with the teens and young adults. His videos can be found on Ascension Presents YouTube channel. Here is his video on the Transgender question which was probably one of the most popular.

Educate Your Kids:

I’m sure there’s plenty of parenting styles that someone is going to use to discuss the uncomfortable topics (pornography, masturbation, premarital sex, cohabitation, etc) and maybe you have already covered all of these topics with your kid. But I would definitely suggest none of these are “One and Done” subjects. I think it needs to be an ongoing dialogue as they grow up.

One great resource I found recently is this document from the Pontifical Council for the Family from entitled “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality written in 1995.

This won’t tell you exactly what to say and how to say it, but hey, it’s a start! I would especially encourage parents to keep these things in mind:

  1. The information you present should be appropriate to the child’s developmental phases.

  2. The media violates these stages of development. Don’t allow the media to tell your child what is moral/immoral.

  3. Present chastity and virginity in a positive light (because it is!) and that’s contrary to what kids, especially teens, hear from their peers/media.

  4. It doesn’t matter what *you* did in the past. You can be vulnerable in front of your children but don’t think just because perhaps you fell into temptation, that you have “no right” to tell your kids how to be chaste. Don’t fall into the moral relativism trap.

  5. Everyone can be chaste, because we are all called to holiness.

  6. Not everyone is called to marriage. Be supportive in the discernment process for your children, especially if they seem drawn to the celibate/religious life as they become teenagers and young adults.

Another great (and shorter) resource comes from Focus on the Family. This PDF is free and downloadable after you enter in some basic information. This is probably most helpful for parents who have children who go to a public school but children who are at private schools can benefit as well: Empowering Parents Amidst Confusion on Sexuality

Lastly, the best one-stop-shop for teens and parents is the Chastity Project. You can search their resources for all kinds of answers to your questions regarding sexuality and what is in line with Catholic doctrine. Many of their blog posts are from teens and young adults struggling with everything from peer pressure to same-sex attraction to discerning consecrated life. Visit it often for all your questions and concerns about the confusing culture we are living in today.

There are countless other resources, books, talks, commentaries, etc. on how to raise your kids and discuss sexuality in a positive way that I cannot possibly list them all. My main point here was to emphasize that we can’t rely solely on the schools, teachers, catechists, priests, or youth ministers to “take care of it” for you. Parents NEED to be open about these things, especially with the conflicting and confusing messages kids see in the news, on social media, on the cover of magazines, from pop culture, and from their peers. Remember to teach the truth in love and to make sure your child knows they can come to you if they have questions. Be not afraid!

Love Thy Neighbor or Mind Thy Own Business?

no-access-71233_1280You know how people usually compare  the journey of dieting and losing weight to the journey of faith?  Maybe it’s just me since I seem to have an ear for this sort of thing and my ears perk up when I hear anything related to food. But I swear ever since I started reading more about the saints and listening to Catholic speakers and reading Catholic books, it seems like desire and sin are always compared with our desire for food, and the  journey to sainthood and heaven is always linked to a weight loss goal.  It’s fascinating because, truthfully, it’s spot on!

Don’t believe me? Read on.

So I have a spiritual director (Hello Fr. Adam!) and what I’ve discovered is that SD’s are similar to Personal Trainers in a lot of ways (similar to any coach/counselor).

We give instruction, we give guidance, we ask questions. But ultimately, we can’t force you to lose weight/get stronger etc. That’s something you have to do on your own. My SD can’t force me to do anything but he does provide guidance, instruction, asks probing questions (that I sometimes hate to answer). “Did you workout like you planned?” similar to “Have you prayed using Lectio Divina?” to which I usually answer, “I plead the fifth Father!”

Most personal trainers or strength and conditioning coaches will ask their client to record their workouts and their food intake in a journal. It’s more about self-reflection than anything else. Same is true for anyone seeking the “more” to life. I’ve always journaled but I go through periods of lulls where I just don’t feel like writing anything. And I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I’ve attempted to log my food and kept failing because of laziness.  It’s an ongoing struggle.

And then there’s the gym. Clearly, the most obvious similarity is that to a Church, with the congregation being fellow gym-goers.

But I would say watching people work out is not like sitting in the pews. That’s probably more comparable to every day activity.

For example – I see people at the gym doing exercises improperly at least once or twice at each visit. Of course, no one is going to be perfect all of the time, but that’s why we have gyms – so people can exercise and work their way to their own version of the “perfect” body. (A whole other blog post)

But what about these gym people who seem to have terrible form and their breathing is off and they look like they might drop a dumbbell on their foot (or face!) any minute now?

Do I have an obligation to go up to them to tell them what they are doing is wrong and that they might hurt themselves? If the potential to hurt themselves is imminent, I do and I have. (A dumbbell to the face is no something I would like to watch!) But usually, they’re just going to hurt themselves over time. Not right away.

Keep in mind these are people I have seen repeatedly throughout the week. It’s usually something as simple as improper form. Will it kill them? No. Will it hurt them? Most likely, over time. Will it be an injury they can’t recover from? No idea. But most likely not.

Do I now have an obligation to help them or to say something? What if I wasn’t a PT and just a regular knowledgable gym-goer? Do I interrupt their workout and say something or just let them figure it out on their own? I could just wait until they learn from someone else more qualified. But then, won’t they feel kind of silly or stupid for doing it “their way” for so long? Will they wonder – “Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?”

Why is it so hard for me to work up the nerve to say something, and offer a better way for them to achieve their exercise goal at that moment?

Won’t You Be My Nosy Neighbor?

As you ponder that, let’s take the guy out of the gym and put him in a real-life scenario. Let’s say it’s a neighbor. Like, literally, your next door neighbor.

You know he’s married with a kid. You’ve met his wife and daughter. They go to your church. But you don’t know them that well. Just well enough to wave hello and once in a while borrow a cup of sugar or something. (Does anyone do that anymore?)

Let’s say over a period of time, you notice this guy talks down to his wife and daughter. But he seems to verbally abuse the wife more than the kid. You only notice this when you can overhear them if they’re outside. But let’s say it starts to become more frequent. And let’s say he starts to do it while you’re hanging out with him and his family at a cookout or something. Or at a church function.

Do you wait and not say anything? Do you pull her aside and say something? I mean, these people go to your church. But it’s not like he’s sinning right? He’s not hitting her because you’d be able to tell, right? You could always assume he’ll learn how to be a better communicator eventually from someone more qualified than you. You’re just a neighbor and you should probably just mind your own business…right?

The big dilemma is this: At what point do we go from casual observer to intervener?

Because I think that’s what’s happening in the world today but it’s being misinterpreted as being nosy and injecting your self into someone else’s life. Or the most popular argument: “You’re forcing your beliefs onto me!”

No, actually, no one can force you to believe anything. I can’t force you to lose weight, I can’t be forced to lose weight and I can’t force you or anyone to become a saint.

The Christian and Correct Response

It comes back to what I said in the beginning: We can guide. We can offer assistance. We can start the conversation.

And one thing I’d love for people to know, especially those who don’t quite get us Christians, is that we want to help people. I know some Christians are better at this than others. Some yell and scream (not good, seriously can we stop that please?) some calmly approach (better) and some literally offer to accompany and walk with that person on their journey (best). But even this approach may come across as hurting someone, because we are telling them bluntly, that they are hurting themselves by whatever sin they are committing. But even if we tell them the truth in love, I promise we really have their best interests at heart.

When we see someone living their life a certain way that we believe to be wrong and that will hurt them, we have a moral obligation and a duty to help that person the best way we can. But, and this goes to my fellow Christians, once you try to help someone, you have to get out of the way and drop it. No amount of coercion or yelling or degrading will ever get anyone to change their ways.

So I end with a question, for myself and for you, to think about: If you see someone, your neighbor, your fellow parishioner, your friend, doing harm to their soul, will you work up the courage to provide a better way?  Or will you just walk on by? Is minding your own business really the loving thing to do?






The Gift of a Public Faith

“Authentic Christianity is meant for the world and will always be a challenge to the corruption of the world.” – Bishop Robert Barron


The past few weeks I’ve heard and experienced a very clear message from several public figures in the Catholic world: Faith wasn’t meant to be privatized. Christianity is not a privatized religion. It must be shared publicly in order to fight the resistance of the world.

I think now, more than ever, it seems we need more public displays of Christianity.


Well, not only to fight off evil, which is a good enough reason of course. But more to dispel the myths of who Christians are and what they look like and how they act. To clear up the confusion! Because I gotta tell you, there are a LOT of confused people out there who have a warped idea of who an authentic Christian is.

Due to the rise of secularism and people identifying as being either non-religious or just plain old “spiritual,” a common assumption is that we are all just like the group of Westboro Baptists. I was astounded to hear this!  Not only is this completely FALSE but it’s also disgusting and hurtful to be associated with this very very small group of individuals. In doing research for my post today I actually went to their website just to confirm that this group has nothing good to say and I was right. Sadly, they are all very misguided. They preach hate. Plain and simple. It was sickening and most of all, discouraging.

I thought to myself, “This is what non-Christians think of us? That among the 30,000 different denominations of Christianity, we are all associated with these people who preach nothing but hate and make it their duty to protest funerals?”

Isn’t this even more of a reason to publicly express our faith and what we believe, in love and with compassion? It won’t do us much good to retreat to our cozy homes or stay inside our churches and just keep our faith to ourselves.

So it starts with us; with me and you.

But where to begin?

The smallest acts can go a long way

Something as simple as saying grace before every meal, even when you’re someplace like a fast food place or a restaurant can go a long way.  How? Well, because you are being SEEN. Others notice that kind of thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said grace before eating a meal and have gotten just a simple smile from across the room from folks. Almost like a nod of approval or a just a simple gesture to show that they respect it. And it serves as a reminder to others that may have stopped practicing this ritual.

I read somewhere recently to always pray before eating a meal at a restaurant and make sure to pray before the waiter/waitress leaves the table after placing the order. That way, you take that moment to ask him/her if you can offer up any prayers for them, too!

It could be something like just bringing your Bible somewhere. Or the Magnificat or the Liturgy of the Hours. Plenty of people are nosy, I have found. They’ll strike up a conversation with you just about anywhere. (Unless it’s just a friendly Midwestern USA thing?)

Take for example, reading a book. Any place that’s public like a beach, or park or commuting on the bus or at the airport is a place where you find many people are reading while waiting for something. I’m always curious what people are reading so I have no problem just asking someone, “What book is that and is it any good?” Fr. Tom of the TOB Institute mentioned that he brought his Breviary with him on a fishing boat recently and it always gets the locals talking and asking him, “What’s that? Is that a Bible? You some kind of holy man or something?” It’s a great icebreaker.

I will give just one small example from my own life that I thought was interesting. It took place at the car dealership where I was getting my oil changed. Of all the places, I ended up evangelizing to the service guy!  He initiated the conversation by asking, “So is it Sister Michelle? I noticed that book in your car when I went to move it.” The book in question was called A Vowed Life that one of my dear friends loaned to me.

I laughed and said “Oh no, it’s most definitely not Sister Michelle.  But funny you should mention that because I’m actually discerning consecrated life, which is different than religious life.” So he proceeded to ask me all kinds of questions about that which was fantastic. Then I went to see my sales guy and he had heard from the service guy what we talked about and so then HE proceeded to ask me more questions about consecrated life and what that would look like, etc. So we had an awesome conversation about discerning one’s vocation. Both of these men had discerned married life so I explained how and why I discerned that married life is not my vocation and how I came to that conclusion. What a place to have this random encounter, at a car dealership of all places.

The point is that when out in public, and not just in the pew, we are being seen. We are being observed. Is our conduct in line with what our faith teaches us? Are our actions one of faith or one of what the culture tells us we should be doing? Are we going to let non-religious people stereotype us as “those hateful bigots?” Or are we going to stick up for what we believe while simultaneously preaching the love of Christ?

The public square is open. It’s up to us if we’re going to step into it and declare our faith to all who can hear.











The Celebration That Never Ends

“Sport is a universal language that brings together peoples, and can help persons meet and overcome conflicts. Therefore, I encourage you to live the dimension of sports as the gymnasium of virtue in the full development of individuals and communities.” – Pope Francis


It figures.

It figures that the one time my beloved city of Cleveland did something relevant and timely and AWESOME and RARE by winning a CHAMPIONSHIP, I was on a retreat.

Of course I was. Where else would I be?

In my quest to pursue the full certiication from the TOB Insititute, I decided it would be a great idea to take a week-long course for Theology of the Body in Pennsylvania. Day 1 of the retreat started the night of Game 7 of the Finals.

Great timing.

Now this may be starting out as a pity party for me, but hold on.

Yes, I missed out on high-fiving my family members and my friends who were watching the game at home or at bars or at watch parties. I missed seeing the team come home to thousands of people at the airport. I missed the million+ attended parade. I missed it all but there’s something to be said for social media at this point  – the pictures and videos I saw of all of this was a sufficient substitute for being there in person. I was never more proud of my city and fellow Clevelanders. And to completeley honest, I needed to stop idolizing sports. So this was actually a great way to detach from it and realize there is much more to life than sports.

But of course that didn’t stop me from watching the final 5 minutes of the game.🙂

Those (very few) of us that watched the last moment of the game on our little mobile devices at the retreat center screamed and shouted and celebrated once that final buzzer sounded and the game was over. We remarked how it seemed like we were in disbelief. I know I was! I didn’t really celebrate until I saw about a minute or two of the team on the court. Then it became “real.” But even the next day, so many people remarked on how surreal it was. I myself even posted:

“Is this real life? Did this really happen? We WON something!?”

To the outsider, yes, it’s just sports. It’s entertainment. And those of us who are fans had nothing to do with the team winning this trophy. But when people, complete strangers, are crying and hugging each other and smiling and saying “We did it! We won!” you get this feeling in your heart that says, “We are united in this!” Even if it’s just for this one brief moment.

There are far more important things that will (and have) taken over the headlines in the week since the Cavs won this championship. I noticed one of my friends posted something on Facebook about how this world is so messed up (she used much more colorful language) when more people are celebrating the Cavs win than focusing on gun control in the wake of some recent violence in this country.

(Instead of responding directly I was inspired to write this post. So thank you for the inspiration, friend!)

Of course we should focus on preventing violence, ending terrorism, looking for cures for diseases, feeding the hungry, etc. The problems we have in this world are endless. But can we allow ourselves to celebrate for a brief moment?

Those that just want to despair and complain and lament that this country has its problems and we’re too busy celebrating a silly basketball game to take notice isn’t fair.

Where’s the allowance for joy to balance out all the evil being done in this world? Isn’t it nice, once in a while, to take a breather from the bad to relish in the good?

I think we can use the escape of sports entertainment to briefly take our minds into something “other worldly.” Some that feels like a dream, especially to the fans who live in the city that WINS.  Allow people to be joyful. Allow their smiles to bring back memories for you when you celebrated something with your favorite team or when you were with family or friends at a party, a wedding, a graduation, etc.

And here’s something you may not know: That dreamy feeling does last forever. But only in one place. It’s a place that puts a record breaking parade to shame. A place where the feeling of a championship win occurs every time someone enters there.  Some don’t believe it exists. But many of us do. And that’s what I live for. That feeling of never-ending bliss. That’s what keeps me going.

Dr. Bob Rice from Franciscan University at Steubenville wrote about this place that also served as inspiration for this post today:

Imagine this: You close your eyes for the last time on this earth, and when you open them again, you are in a different place. It is the most beautiful place you have ever seen. Before you is the finish line. As you head toward it, you see deceased family members calling your name and shouting for joy. You see angels and saints clapping and shouting louder and louder. Behind the finish line you see Jesus, with a huge smile and His arms outstretched. As you break through the finish line into his arms, all of creation erupts in song. He then puts you on a pedestal and, in front of all of creation, he places on your head the crown of life. It is the most incredible moment you will ever experience. And it will continue forever.

How beautiful is that?!?

I know not everyone believes. And it’s still hard for me sometimes to truly believe this, too.

But if there are people walking around just assuming there’s NOTHING at the end of life, well…what would be the point of all of this? What in the world are you living for if you don’t think there’s an endgame?

There’s gotta be an epilogue to this life.  That’s how I get through the depressing and dark times and awful headlines that I read every day.

I try my very hardest to live in the moment, knowing the ultimate celebration awaits us all. God-willing, I’ll see you there. And the best part?  EVERYONE GETS A TROPHY!!!