Monday, December 28, 2009

Archbishop Lyke

Today is the day that Archbishop James P. Lyke, of Atlanta, passed away in 1992. We had only been back in Atlanta for a short while before his passing so we never had the privilege to hear him preach.

Although his tenure was short, he made a lasting impression of the Archdiocese.

You can read more about his remarkable life here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


For you viewing pleasure, I have attached the Pope's Urbi et Orbi. Courtesy of


Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Formation Year Ends

Yesterday, my classmates and I finished our third year of diaconate formation in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. We had only a short time to reflect since we still had a full day of classes, three papers to turn in and a final exam in Moral Theology.

But during that short time, we were amazed by many things. First, how quickly the time has flown by. It seems like yesterday when we met each other as aspirants; concerned if we would fit in or even if they would let us stay. Second, our attitudes had changed quite a bit. It is no longer perceived as a competition on who can make the best grades but a journey; and one we want to travel together. It is no longer about our personal success, but of our collective success. Each and every one of us will do all we can to help our classmates succeed; all the while knowing that it is still a personal journey with God. We learned that it is not a question of whether you could meet some particular criteria that the Church desired in a Deacon. No, it is a discernment process on each of our parts to ask the question: Is God calling me to this ministry? The Church's role is to validate that call.

We have lost a few dear men in the last three years. Each of them are wonderful men but found that serving as a deacon is not what God was calling them to do. It was not an easy decision for these men because it is not black and white. It is something that comes from the heart. The remaining 13 men in the class are still on that same journey of determining whether this is what God wants us to do; and we still have two years to go.

But it is nice to reflect for a moment on the process. For soon enough, we will be back in class, too busy to stop and think about this journey.

And pray for us so that we are able to rest during this break and to continue to have the strength and wisdom to discern what God put us on this earth to accomplish.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thomas Merton

Today is the anniversary of Thomas Merton's death. For me, the writings of Thomas Merton were a revelation and my introduction to Catholic Spirituality. It takes me a long time to get through his books because I need to adsorb them; portions are so rich that it becomes a sentence by sentence process.

There is a great story about a recent visit to the Abbey of Gethsemane by James Martin, SJ over at America.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today is the celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (and a Holy Day of Obligation to attend Mass for Roman Catholics). Although the concept of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is a very old tradition (St Augustine spoke of it), it was not until the 19th century that the Pope Pius IX declared it a dogma of the church.

What is the Immaculate Conception? For Catholics, it means that Mary was conceived without original sin. I have heard many people say "How can that be?" or "How did it happen?".

I prefer to take the approach of our Eastern Catholic tradition where having to understand the details of this mystery is a futile exercise. I like the sound of mystery; something that cannot be completely understood, but feels right in your heart.

Monday, December 7, 2009

St Ambrose Feast Day

St Ambrose was born around 339 in what is now Trier, Germany. He was born to a wealthy Roman family and came to the City of Rome after the death of his father. He rose through the administrative authority of the empire and eventually ended up in Milan. After the death of the Bishop of Milan, Ambrose was elected Bishop.

In my opinion, a turning point in Church history is illustrated by one of the actions of Ambrose. At that time, Emperor Theodosius was involved in a military campaign that lead the the murder of 7,000 civilians in Macedonia. Ambrose wrote a letter to the Emperor and threatened to excommunicate him unless he publicly repented as well as do his penance in front of the citizenry. To everyone's surprise, Theodosius did just that.

This is the first example that I am aware of where the authority of the Church extended to the leaders of the empire. The Church had the power to bring a ruler, literally, to his knees. After Theodosius' death, the empire slowly fell apart, leaving only one institution, the Church, left to pick up the pieces.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Prohibition on Recieving Commumion on the Tongue

A friend has made me aware that this year, the Bishop of Calgary has banned the reception of the Body of Christ on the tongue. The basis for this ban appears to be fears over the H1N1 crisis. In all of my studies, the ordinary method of reception of the Body of Christ is on the tongue. Reception on the hand is considered an "extra-ordinary" method.

So the question to ask is this. Does a Bishop have the authority to ban the reception of the Eucharist on the tongue. In the document Redemptionis Sacramentum (RS), put out by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament and approved by John Paul II in March 2004, the congregation is "always" allowed to receive on the tongue and the only possible ban is for the reception of the Body of Christ on the hand (RS:92).

Therefore, it seems to me that the Bishop has the authority to ban reception on the hand but not on the tongue since this is the "ordinary" method.

What do you think?

You can read more about this issue here and here.

John Cardinal Foley Retires from Christmas Mass Commentary

To me, Cardinal Foley is a legend. His voice during Christmas Mass at the Vatican is such a part of the sounds of the season. For me, it will not be the same this year.

You can read more about the announcement and hear his legendary sign-off at Whispers in the Loggia.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Catholic Origins of Thanksgiving

Here is an interesting article by Taylor Marshall over at Canterbury Tales.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Manhatten Declaration

On November 20th, 152 religious leaders in the United States issued the Manhatten Declaration. This declaration, in my mind, is a first "shot across the bow" to the secular value system that many in government are trying to impose on all Americans.

It is an interesting read and may be the beginning of a new approach by conservative religious groups on how to handle some of these issues.

You can read the declaration here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sola Scriptura

Today I read an interesting article by James Akin about the practical reasons that Sola Scriptura cannot be a part of God's Plan for mankind's salvation. If God intended that we can rely on scriptures alone, Tradition and the Magesterium cannot have any authority over our belief system and we must look to scriptures alone for the answer. However, this belief is fatally flawed if one considers Church history and the lives of average Christians.

In his article, James Akin says that Sola Scriptura assumes:

(1) The existence of the printing press,
(2) The universal distribution of Bibles,
(3) Universal literacy,
(4) The universal possession of scholarly support materials,
(5) The universal possession of adequate time for study,
(6) Universal nutrition, and
(7) A universal education in a high level of critical thinking skills.

It is clear that these preconditions are not the case in the United States, much less throughout the world or at any time in Church history.

What do you think about this?

You can read the entire James Akin article here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Roman Missal is Coming

I stumbled upon the USCCB website on the revised Roman Missal. It is expected to be promulgated early next year with implementation within a year of that date.


Monday, November 2, 2009

All Souls Day

I am the Resurrection,
I am the life;
to believe in me means life,
in spite of death,
and all who believe
and live in me
shall never die.

John 11:25-26

Today we remember all those people who have gone to the Lord before us. Let us pray that they are in his presence and that we will see them in the life to come.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Marriage is a Sacrament

This weekend, I will have the privilege to witness the convalidation of the marriage of my long-time business partner and friend (he is really like my brother) and his wife of 23 years. We have known each other for a long time and I feel I had a part in his discovery and conversion to the Catholic faith (he was baptized a Catholic but rarely attended church as a child). Soon after he joined the Church, his wife followed.

One thing they never did was have the marriage convalidated by the Catholic Church. This sacrament somehow got placed on the back burner. Many people would tell them "what for", they are married and the Church cannot change that. But as a couple they began to see the significance of having their marriage blessed by the Church.

Marriage is sacrament. It is a bond between a man and woman that is being witnessed by the community and the Church. That act will sanctify their marriage and welcome the intersession of the holy spirit in their life and relationship.

It also sends a message to their children. Their children will learn that God is present in the relationship and in the family. It teaches them about a commitment that lasts a lifetime, even when things are not going well. It teaches them that when life gets tough, as a family, you can turn to God for strength. That strength and help may come from the larger Church community. I cannot count the times when I have seen couples struggling in their lives and find the support they need within our Church Community. That support can be from food and clothes to watching the kids and helping them find jobs.

But it all begins in the family unit and a marriage that we acknowledge as something that belongs to God as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Other Side

Yesterday I had an encounter that I was not expecting. I was talking with a contractor and as usual in the deep south we made small talk first (an old custom that irritates many people from other parts of the country). As we were talking, we learned that I knew a family that lived in their neighborhood. When I mentioned the family's name, the contractors face suddenly went ashen. It turns out that they had been involved in an accident that resulted in the death of my friend's 7 year old son (he was on a bicycle). For the next 30 minutes they spoke about the hurt; how it felt like it happened yesterday; and the feeling that they cannot forgive themselves for the incident. The most surprising event to them was the forgiveness that they received from our friends (how can they forgive us for being involved in the death of their son). I did my best to listen to their story and explain that supernatural forgiveness that they received from our friends.

I have talked on many occasions with our friends about their loss and how the sting never goes away (nor should it). However, I have never thought about the loss in the context of others involved in the accident. Although no one cannot compare the grief of a parent, even after ten years, the feeling for them is still raw and very real. They also need compassion and forgiveness, even when they are the last people anyone thinks of in those situations.

I do not believe in chance encounters like this one. I feel these people still needed affirmation that they are good people. I hope I helped them along that path.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pilgrimage to Rome Part 2

During our visit to Rome, we visited the four major Basilicas in the city. Other than Saint Peters, we went to St Paul Outside the Wall, St John Lateran and St Mary Major.

St Paul Outside the Wall is south of the center of Rome. The initial basilica was built soon after Constantine legalized Christianity in 313 (Edict of Milan). The location is considered the place where St Paul was beheaded and buried.

St Paul Outside the Wall

This is also the Church where there is a portrait of every Pope. I have heard "end-of-times" theorist say that the last days will come when the Church runs out of room and many were saying that there were only two places left. Well, I counted and there is room for 13 more portraits. These people not only promote bad theology; they also cannot add. I guess people will say anything to sell a book.

Pope Benedict XVI - St Paul Outside the Wall

There is also a chapel to St Stephen. The chapel has a wonderful statue and portraits of St Stephen on both sides. I took this opportunity the pray for each of my brothers in formation and ask St Stephen to pray for us.

St Stephens Chapel - St Paul Outside the Wall

St John Lateran was the official residence of the Pope for most of the last 1,700 years and was the first property that Constantine gave to the Church. Next door to the Church is where the Holy Stairs are located. The Holy Stairs are, reportedly, the steps up to Pontius Pilate's home in Jerusalem and the stairs that Christ walked up before the crucifixion. Today, pilgrims go up the stairs on their knees.

St John Lateran

St Mary Major was the first church built in honor of Mary, the mother of God. St Jerome, a Doctor of the Church and the first person to translate the Bible into Latin, is buried there.

St Mary Major

I will have more later.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pilgrimage to Rome Part 1

On our first day in Rome, Karen and I were walking to the Pantheon and came across a church that we were told us was a must see (St Maria supra Minerva). This church sits on the location of a former temple to the goddess Minerva. Inside is a statue, by Michelangelo, of Jesus and the cross. It is considered one of his great works. The loin cloth was a later addition (which is another story).

In the same church is a crypt for St Catherine of Siena, which is under the altar. Her remains are here as well as in Siena. Karen was happy to see her since St Catherine is her patron saint.

Just outside of the church is a monument by Bernini. Reportedly, he did not like a wealthy Roman that lived just outside of the church. Bernini situated the monument, which is of an elephant, so that this was that gentleman's view each time he left his home.

One thing I did learned in Rome; do not get on the bad side of the local artists:)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Back from Rome

We just had a wonderful trip to Rome, Italy this past week. It was beyond my expectations. I will post later on some of our experiences.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Auxiliary Bishop

The archdiocese of Atlanta is getting an Auxiliary Bishop next week. Monsignor Luis Zarama will become the second auxiliary in archdiocesan history. Our last auxiliary was the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin (archbishop of Chicago). A native of Columbia, Bishop-elect Zarama will bring much needed help to Archbishop Gregory. You can find our more about him here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

M.Mitchell: Stained Glass, Ste Mere Eglise
Catholic Church, Normandy
, France

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Difficult Week

Where do I start? Monday morning, we got news that one of our priests with cancer (we have two) has become inoperable. As a result, he was scheduled to travel to his home in Argentina to be with his family. What resulted was a flurry of e-mails and ended with ~1,000 parishioners lining both sides of the driveway to see him off to the airport. The crowd grew so large that his car had to go up and down several sections of the parking lot to see everyone. Of course those at the beginning of the procession ran to a place where they could see him again. The crowd was several "people deep" when his car finally left the parking lot. It was both a beautiful and tragic scene.

While waiting for Father's car, we got word that
  1. Our priest in residence, Fr Leo, had just lost his battle with diabetes (one of our priests was seen leaving the the parking lot in a hurry, which was not easy with the crowd); and
  2. A dear friend's wife had taken a dramatic turn in her battle with cancer and was not expected to live much longer.
For many in the crowd, it was just too much bad news at one time.

As soon as we left the church, my wife and I went to see our friend's at the rehab center. She was lying in her bed; her eyes were open but she was not responsive and had labored breathing. Her husband, sat in a chair next to her, holding her hand and making sure she did not drop her rosary. The fatigue and hurt in his face was almost more than I could take. Their two daughters were there as well.

When we walked in, he looked up to me and one of the first things he said was "So you really want to be a Deacon?" knowing that this would be one of my ministries. He then spoke about their trip to Rome, Italy last month and how she did not deserve to suffer the way she had over the last few years. After about half an hour of visiting with the family, we left so that they could keep vigil as a family. She passed away at 11:00 last night.

It is hard to describe my feelings about all of this. It makes all of our personal difficulties seem irrelevant. And there is a need for someone to be there for people who are suffering. I pray for the strength and wisdom to help, what little I can, those who need that someone.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Formation Classes Begin Again

We begin the second semester of formation classes this Saturday. I am really looking forward to seeing my brothers in formation as well as my teachers. This semester we have:

Patristics (Church Fathers)
Scripture Prophets
Moral Theology

The only change from last semester is our Liturgy class.

I will also be taking a Pastoral Care Class at St Josephs Hospital in Sandy Springs, Georgia which will meet every week for 10 weeks. This class is to prepare us for visits to the sick and dying. That class will really be where the "rubber meets the road".

That, on top of a trip to Rome to see the ordination of a friend to the transitional diaconate, will make this a very busy autumn.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Nativity of Mary

Alte Pinakothek, Munich, St Ursele, Koln, Germany

Today we celebrate the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As usual in Church celebrations, this feast comes exactly nine months since the Feast of the Immaculate conception (December 8th). There is a great meditation of this event here.

This also seems like good time to pray the Litany of St Mary, which can be found here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

High Mountain Lakes - M.Mitchell

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It is not by faith that you will come to know [God] but by love; not by mere conviction, but by action.

St Gregory the Great

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

JustFaith Ministries

This weekend, my parish is hosting a workshop put on by JustFaith Ministries. Their mission statement is:

JustFaith Ministries aspires to enable people of faith to develop a passion for justice, to express this passion in concrete acts of social ministry, and to expand the work of social ministry in their faith communities. JustFaith Ministries creates and supports faith formation processes and resources that emphasize the Gospel message of peace and justice, Church social teaching and the intersection of spirituality and action.

I am looking forward to this event because now more than ever, we need to work toward a better understanding of peace and justice for all and how we can turn this knowledge into action.

You can find out more about JustFaith Ministries here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Permanent Diaconate

On the occasion of the feast of St Lawrence, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes (the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy) sent a letter to permanent deacons. The letter emphasizes the role of the permanent deacon in the Church. The letter is reproduced here on Zenit

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Recovering Our Past

Sparta Catholic Cemetery - photo by R. Egan

Over the last couple of years, I have had the privilege to work with a dedicated group of men and women on the restoration of a Catholic Cemetery in rural northeastern Georgia. The property, located about 2 hours east of Atlanta, also included a small chapel.

Dating from 1869, this was one of the first Catholic communities in this part of Georgia. The site was abandoned in the 19th century and for the most part forgotten. However, once its presence became known, a concerted effort was made to investigate the site and its history. Today, the land is cleared and a cross now adorns each of the grave sites.

For Catholic Georgians, this is a special place. It marks the beginning of the Catholic presence in north Georgia and being a Catholic in the deep south was not always an easy existence. Even as late as the 1960s and 70s, being Catholic in the south had a stigma associated with it, which affected ones ability to join clubs or participate in government. Today, the Archdiocese of Atlanta has become one of the most vibrant Catholic communities in the United States.

But it all started with a few families who chose to make their home in this area and bring their faith with them. It is fitting that they should not be forgotten.

Monday, August 10, 2009

St Lawrence of Rome

The Trial of St Lawrence: Vatican Museum

Today is the feast day of St Lawrence of Rome. He was martyred in August 258 three days after Pope Sixtus II. He was a deacon of the Church and was responsible for the treasury as well as the care of the poor. He was arrested, placed on trial and condemned to death. Legend has it that he was placed on a gridiron and burned over a fire. Emperor Constantine built a Church over his grave which is now one of the great Basilicas in Rome. Over the years, relics of St Stephen and St Justin Martyr were brought to the church as well.

As a candidate in the diaconate, St Lawrence is certainly one of the saints to model ones life after. He defended his church and was commited to the care of the poor.


You called Saint Lawrence to serve you by love
and crowned his life with glorious martyrdom.
Help us to be like him in loving you and doing your work.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Friday, August 7, 2009


John Paul II

" Do not be afraid to be Saints"

I read this quote from John Paul II this morning and it really struck a cord. Not because I do not believe this to be true because I do. We are all called to do Gods will and join him in heaven. It struck a cord because sometimes that statement can lead to the ultimate test of faith.

This morning the Church celebrates the feast day of St Pope Sixtus II and his companions (four deacons). These men were martyred during the Christian persecution by Emperor Valerian in August 258. They were arrested while celebrating the Mass in a private Christian cemetery. After a short trial that same day, they were lead back to the cemetery and be-headed.

"Do not be afraid to be Saints".

You can find out more about Sixtus II and the persecutions here.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Feast of St Ignatius of Loyola

Peter Paul Rubens

Today is the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, who was the founder of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. One of his enduring contributions to the Church are his spiritual exercises, which in their original form consisted of a 4-week or 30-day retreat. Today, the Jesuits and others provide retreats to experience the spiritual exercises over a weekend.

Last weekend, I did just that. I was attracted to the fact that these are silent retreats ( you are not allowed to talk) from beginning to end (except at Mass). I wanted the time to relax and have the opportunity to think without distractions. It was a wonderful experience. I come home with a focus that I had not had in ages and a feeling that I am headed in the right direction.

Do yourself a favor, take the time to experience on of these retreats. You will come home refreshed with a better understanding of yourself and the world around you.

This evening, however, I plan on seeing the movie "The Mission". A story about the Jesuits in South America during the age of discovery. I saw it many years ago and I remember it as a beautifully filmed yet tragic story about the European conquest of the New World. If you have not seen it, check it out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hospice and Forgiveness

Two days ago I got a call from my cousin who told me that his mother, my Aunt Carole, was being transported to a hospice facility in McDonough, Georgia. I had not known she was sick (cancer), which should be a surprise to most anyone except that there had been a family "falling out" many years ago (that's another story). He told me to pass the news along to my siblings and my mother; there was no mention of my father. Of course my Aunt Carole is my father's baby sister.

After the call, I went to see my father. He was not aware of the move to hospice but he mentioned that she had undergone chemotherapy treatment for the past few years, which of course was news to me. I urged him to go see his sister "now". God bless him, he got in his car and made the drive to Jackson, Georgia to see his sister. After his visit, he called on his cell phone and talked for over 30 minutes about the visit (my previous "long" phone conversation with my father was ~2 minutes [he does not like phones]). As it turns out, the trip became an opportunity for a brother and sister to make peace.

This morning, I made the trip with my siblings and my mother. My Aunt Carole has lost 100 lbs and looks much older than her 72 years, but she was still as sharp as a tack and a joy to behold. We talked about family, history and travel. We told stories and we laughed. Every so often she had to move because of the pain, but she never complained. She talks of death as a transition and looks forward to her future life with anticipation. Her positive outlook is a joy and an inspiration.

On the journey home, I thought about why we wait until the last minute to let go of past injury in order to enjoy what little time we have together? There was joy and a deep wisdom in that hospital bed and I had missed out on that relationship for reasons that did not involve me.

I plan to make a pilgrimage to the hospice to see my Aunt as often as I can. I am looking forward to it being just the two of us. I look forward to learning as much as I can about life, love and forgiveness.

As they say, we should live today like we knew it was our last. Can you imagine how beautiful this world could be?

Friday, July 24, 2009


I am off to a retreat this weekend at the Ignatius House in Atlanta. The title of the retreat is "A Friendship Like No Other". I am really looking forward to it.

It is funny how little things in our lives try to distract us from these opportunities to stop and listen to God. Just this week I have had an invitation to a party with my high school graduation class and the opportunity to see people I have not seen in 30 years; and a request to hang out with friends to watch the deciding stage of the Tour De France (to those who do not know me, bicycle racing is one of my passions). A few years ago, I may have opted to miss the retreat and attend these fun events.

Now, I cannot imagine being any other place.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Enjoying the Summer and Our Seminarians

Not much to post since I have been out of formation classes for a while.

However, the diaconate community (those in formation and those ordained) hosted a meal for the seminarians in the Archdiocese of Atlanta this week. What a wonderful sight to see. Dozens of young men at various stages of formation as priests. I am aware that there is a decrease in vocations across the country but something special is going on in North Georgia. IMHO, its not due to any particular attitude or inclination towards the Church as I have heard some suggest. These young men are coming from backgrounds as varied as one can imagine. They come from very traditional backgrounds to men who grew up with the Life Teen movement. They come from places as varied as Vietnam and Central America, but a majority are homegrown Georgians. One young man at the dinner had only been in the program for two days.

In North Georgia, there is a place where one can see all of these varied groups represented at one time. That one place is the Eucharistic Congress. It is a beautiful setting to see the wonderful tapestry that is our Catholic faith. Could this be the power that is the source of our vocations?

I like to think so.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

John the Baptist

St John the Baptist
Leonardo DaVinci

Today is the feast day for the Nativity of St John the Baptist and we are now at the half way point to Christmas. The Church placed this celebration on this day, not because there is hard evidence for his day of birth, but for symbolic reasons. John the Baptist said in the Gospel of John (Jn 3:30)
"No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said (that) I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease."
Jesus must increase and John must decrease.

This day also coincides closely with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Our days will begin to be shorter. Our days, like John, will decrease until we encounter the Word made flesh, Jesus.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Last Class of the Semester

Tomorrow will be the last class of this semester! That means:

Mass at 8:00 am

Turning in three papers on:

Marian Dogmas
The Nature of Grace
General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours

One exam on Moral Theology (that will be a bear since it covers the entire semester).

Then it will be a summer focused on continuing my Spanish lessons. I may throw in a little trip to the beach, fishing, golf and riding the bike.

Oh, I guess I will need to go to work as well.

It will be a busy summer.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Copyright 2007 M. Mitchell


The process of discernment is an ongoing process for those in formation to become Catholic Deacons. However, the biggest surprise for me has been the level of this discernment. We all continue to discern if God is truly calling us to this ministry, but there are other calls you receive; and with those calls, there are choices that must be made.

This happened to me recently.

We all have been given many opportunities to serve in a variety of ways; from volunteering at the Eucharistic Congress to assisting in our local churches. The ones that are most special are those that allow us to spend time with our brothers in formation since our time together is almost always in the context of classes. Each year we have an opportunity to travel to Jamaica to assist the Missionaries of the Poor in Kingston, Jamaica. I was looking forward to the trip since it would have given me an opportunity to see some of my friends who live in Jamaica and spend quality time with some of my brothers in formation.

But something was pulling at me; it was not what I was supposed to be doing. I began to remember a conversation I had with Deacon Joe Reynolds concerning my vocation. Deacon Joe was one of the most kind men I had ever met and was my mentor. The one thing he stressed to me that day was that 50% of our parish spoke Spanish and therefore I needed to make it a priority to learn the language before ordination. Deacon Joe died the next day. I had tried to pick up the language (Rosetta Stone) but it never became a priority. I now feel it never became a priority because this would be something I must do alone.

I chose not go to Jamaica and focus my time and money on learning Spanish. When I finally made the decision, I felt at peace. Although this path will be taken by myself, I am confident it will open doors I never knew were possible.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"When God confides a special office to someone, He commits Himself to provide the helps and graces that person needs in order to accomplish well the task entrusted to him."
Thomas a Kempis - The Imitation of Christ

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Photo: Ben Delaney

Madonna del Ghisallo Chapel

In 1949, Pope Pius XII named the Madonna of Ghisallo as the patron saint of cyclists. Since that time, the local chapel in Italy has become a destination for Catholics cyclist. You can read more about it here. I have carried a Madonna del Ghisallo medal in my bicycle's seat pouch for many years.


Since I have been in formation to become a deacon, I have attempted to maintain some of the activities that I enjoyed before beginning this process; especially riding my bicycle. However, I have become more and more aware that I do not belong in the groups I used to ride with on a regular basis. The conversations, and the priorities of the people is something that I no longer relate too. There is a part of me that says I must continue and use this as an opportunity to serve those who may be in need (not financially since most cyclist are quite affluent, but spiritually). However, I find that people begin to put up walls once they learn what I am doing. I end up being quite alone on a ride with 30+ people.

I am not surprised, just disappointed.

Lord give me the strength to pick up your cross and follow you.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Feast Day of Justin Martyr

Today we celebrate the feast day of Justin Martyr. One of the early eastern Church Fathers (martyred in ~150 ad), he is a great source of information for defending the beliefs of the Church. A great example is his defense of the Eucharist and its meaning. Below is a portion of one of his writings on the subject:

"For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh." (1st Apology of St Justin Martyr)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pentecost. The great celebration of the Holy Spirit's encounter with the Apostles and the beginning of the Church. It is a time of wonder and sadness for me. A time of wonder because this is Gods gift for mankind until the return of our Lord and Savior. It is a time of sadness because this marks the end of the great celebration of Easter and we return to ordinary time.

So all I can do is offer a prayer:

Holy Spirit, powerful Consoler, sacred Bond of the Father and the Son, Hope of the afflicted, descend into my heart and establish in it your loving dominion. Enkindle in my tepid soul the fire of your Love so that I may be wholly subject to you. We believe that when you dwell in us, you also prepare a dwelling for the Father and the Son. Deign, therefore, to come to me, Consoler of abandoned souls, and Protector of the needy. Help the afflicted, strengthen the weak, and support the wavering. Come and purify me. Let no evil desire take possession of me. You love the humble and resist the proud. Come to me, glory of the living, and hope of the dying. Lead me by your grace that I may always be pleasing to you. Amen.

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Institution of the Eucharist
, JOOS van Wassenhove,
from Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino

I came across this unique imagery concerning the Feast of the Ascension, which we will be celebrating this weekend. The painting above is of Jesus' initiating the first Eucharist. Through Jesus' ascension into heaven, he now returns to us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, each time we celebrate the Mass. He had to leave us to give us this gift, so that He could be with us always.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I love this quote:

"Not 100 in the United States hate the Roman Catholic Church, but millions hate what they mistakenly think the Roman Catholic Church is."

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

The level of misunderstanding of the Catholic Church, to me, is mindbogglingly. Being raised a protestant, the harsh judgment on the Catholic Church and what they "thought" it stood for was pervasive. Even today, the level of judgment on the Church is harsh, especially in the secular media.

My prayer is that people will look objectively at the Church and what it truly is. If they did, I believe that they would come to appreciate and love it as much as I do.

Thanks to McNamara's Blog for bringing this quote of Bishop Sheen's to my attention.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The nuns habit

I read a great story at the Deacons Bench this morning about a return to nuns wearing habits. It is truly a witness to their faith that is inspiring. When we see a nun, it reminds all of us of our connection to the spiritual world around us. And not surprisingly, people tend to be more civilized when a nun is present (less profanity, people are kinder to one another, etc). You can read more at this link.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bougeureau, 1880

Psalm 131

LORD, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty. I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.

Rather, I have stilled my soul, hushed it like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother's lap, so is my soul within me.

Israel, hope in the LORD, now and forever.

Since I began praying the Liturgy of the Hours, this has become one of my favorite psalms. It reminds me to be humble in all things and focus on the little things in life. To be at peace with God and enjoy the comfort of His presence.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

NEWS: Vatican is rejecting Obama's Proposed appointments to the Holy See.

The Washington Times is reporting that the Vatican is rejecting President Obama's appointments to the Vatican. The primary reason appears to be the candidates views on abortion.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holy Week

The most important week on the Church's calender is now upon us. Each year I try to dig deeper into the mystery and significance of this week. In many ways it is to hard to comprehend. In this short week Jesus transformed the ritual sacrifice that the Jewish faith had been commanded to complete since the Exodus, he fulfilled the promise of Genesis 3:15; he took on the sins of mankind for all time and gave himself up to God as an acceptable sacrifice; he took an image of death, suffering and humility and made it into the tree of life; He conquered death and gave mankind a pathway to salvation and eternal life. And this list just scratches the surface.

I could go on and on about the significance of this short week and it troubles me how so many people forget this opportunity for reflection and getting closer to God. In our Catholic communities, many of us have been preparing since Ash Wednesday, but many Catholics and some of our Christian brothers do not take advantage of this opportunity.

I will pray this week for all Christians to encounter the risen Lord this week and for the unity of all Christians in the world.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Annunciation

John William Waterhouse: The Annunciation - 1914

Today is the celebration of the Annunciation of Mary. This event, which celebrates the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she will give birth to Jesus. The timing of this celebration is another reason why I love my Catholic faith. Today is exactly nine (9) months before Christmas. This tradition of reminding us, during the year, of important events in human terms makes the reality of the event so real. This celebration is also a reminder of two important facts. First, that for God all things are possible and second, Mary's "yes" changed the world.

I have spoken to many protestants who discount Mary's active participation in this event, and suggest the incarnation would have occurred anyway. However, this proposition discounts "free will". Mary had to accept the words of the angel in order for the event to take place. That is one of the many reasons we Catholics venerate Mary as we do. She is a role model for all of us. We must all say "yes".

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This will be a difficult day. The Holy Spirit family is burying a graduate from the class of 2007. He was the only son of two wonderful people. I cannot image the grief that they are feeling right now.

May Charles rest in peace and I pray that the Lord give me an inner ear to provide whatever support I can to those I encounter today.

Monday, March 9, 2009

We had confirmation at St Thomas the Apostle yesterday and a total of 65 young adults came into full communion with the Church. The Archbishop, as usual, did a great job and engaged each of the confirmadi during the service. Many of them were quite nervous because he does ask questions.

I love these services because we come together as a community and at St Thomas, we have a very diverse community - Black, White, Asian, African, Central American, South American, European and just plain old Americans (I include the Canadians in this category). When I see this gathering, I really believe that we are seeing what Heaven will be like and that our local Church represents that diversity. It makes me very proud.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

CANCER: These dreaded words pierce the hearts of people on a daily basis. The shock is more profound because we think that this happens to other people.

This news has now been heard by a dear friend, mentor and spiritual director. He is a man of great energy and insight. I knew something was up because he missed my institution as a Reader and when he said Mass on Ash Wednesday. He was not himself and it was clear his heart was pointed inward. At Mass on Sunday, he announced to the laity that he had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. There was a collective sigh in the room. After Mass, many people stayed in the church in silent prayer.

This Lent will have a new meaning. To learn more about empathy and how to minister to those around you who your need prayers and support. Especially those who we have leaned on in the past. Its time to return the favor.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


We had a fascinating class in Patristics yesterday (and we did not talk about the Church Fathers). Fr John brought in two Icons from his Church (St Johns Malachite) in Atlanta. The entire discussion was on the History of Icons, and the Liturgy of the Icon. Some interesting facts include:

  1. The first Icon was made by Christ during his passion (image on Veronica's cloth);
  2. Veronica's name means "true image"
  3. Icons are not painted but written (tells a story);
  4. All aspects of an Icon has meaning (colors, etc.)
  5. Red represents divinity, blue humanity,
  6. The Virgin is never alone in an Icon (she always points to Christ)
  7. Christ is always spelling his name with his right hand and hold scripture with the other.
Today is an important day in the eastern churches because today they remember the heresy against Icons (Iconoclasm) in the 6th Century lead by Emperor Leo III.

There are many artists who draw icon type figures but they are not true Icons. For example, in an Icon Christ is always dressed in a red tunic and a blue cover (Jesus' nature is divine and He put on humanity). Icons of the Virgin are the opposite with blue tunic and red cover (Her human nature, which became divine).

You can find out more here:

Friday, February 27, 2009

It's Friday and it is Lent!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Mardi Gras

It is Mardi Gras Day and I am sitting in my office avoiding work. Lent begins tomorrow and that period of preparation for Easter. I think I am blessed because this evening, my class brothers and I will be instituded as Readers in the Catholic Church by the Archbishop. I cannot think of a better way to begin the Lenten season. We also get to enjoy the traditional pancakes for supper.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Retreat and Polycarp

We had a good retreat today. The retreat was given by Fr Tim Hepburn who is the Chaplain at Georgia Tech. Primarily, it was preparation for Lent as well as a reflection on the importance of the proclamation of the Word at Mass.

This coming Monday is the Feast Day of St Polycarp. I have always admired him since he was the first Bishop of Smyrna (a great town in Georgia) and a follower of St John the Apostle (author of my favorite Gospel). He died a martyr at the age of 86 (burned alive). The stories of the Church Martyrs has always humbled me. To willingly die for your faith is a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit and their sacrifice was critical in the growth of the Church. You can read more about him here.

I have talked to many of many Protestant friends about the Catholic devotion to saints. Many say they do not believe in the Communion of Saints; that is until that learn what it is. Saints are those people that the Church has declared to be in heaven (it is a very difficult process). Obviously, most Protestants believe there are people in heaven. We Catholics see these people as role models; someone to look up too. We also believe that in heaven, our petitions on earth can be heard. We do not pray to saints; we ask them to pray for us, which is no different than asking a friend to pray for you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Well it turns out that Papa Ratzi did meet with Speaker of the House Pelosi and word has it he reiterated the Churches position on the sanctity of life. More details at this link.

Mardi Gras is approaching fast and unfortunately we will not be making a trip to Fairhope this year for the annual Mardi Gras celebration. We have a formation retreat this weekend followed by Institution of Reader on Tuesday (Mardi Gras day).

When I tell friends we attend Mardi Gras most years, they are surprised. They have images of New Orleans, drunken behavior and women doing almost anything to get beads thrown to them. This is unfortunate because that image is not what happens along the Gulf Coast of the United States and most natives to the area would not step foot in New Orleans because it is invaded by tourist looking to behave badly.

Almost anywhere else on the Gulf Coast, Mardi Gras is enthusiatically celebrated in both large and small towns. It is an opportunity to come together as a community and have a party before the beginning of Lent. These parades and parties are very family friendly places to be, where the children take center stage to catch beads and marvel at the beautiful floats.

I have enjoyed it because it is a time to come together with friends we have not seen in a year but also a time reflect on the Lenten Season that approaches. There is a time and a season for everything and this time is for all of us to prepare for the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. That time is not just for giving up something we enjoy, but a time to come to a deeper understanding of what really happened on Good Friday and why Easter morning changed the world forever.

So I will miss being at the Mardi Gras parades this weekend and the Ball on Monday. As they say, we have bigger fish to fry this week-end.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I came across this text and wanted to save it.

I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its leaves are a little yellow, its tone mellower, its colours richer, and it is tinged a little with sorrow and a premonition of death. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor of the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and is content. From a knowledge of those limitations and its richness of experience emerges a symphony of colours, richer than all, its green speaking of life and strength, its orange speaking of golden content and its purple of resignation and death.

Lin Yutang - 1936

Sunday, February 15, 2009

We had a good day yesterday in class. However, we got some bad news. One of our classmates decided to take a leave of absence to continue the discernment process. That makes three since this time last year.

This entire process is one of discernment. Many deacons I know say it was not until the day of ordination that they were sure this was the correct path. I have been very involved in my parish but the questions is - do I need to be a Deacon to do what God is calling me to do? As I decided two years ago, I will take this one day at a time. However, I know this is where I need to be right now.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The word on the street is that New York may have a new Archbishop soon. How does that affect me or our Archdiocese, well our own Archbishop Wilton Gregory is on the short list for the position. He has all of the tools necessary for the position and as the past President of the USCCB, he handled the priest abuse scandal with grace and humility. I am torn about this possibility out of selfishness, I want him to stay in Atlanta; but it is a great honor and he would serve the Archdiocese of New York well. For more information you can go to this link. News from New York

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The daffodils are blooming in Smyrna (however, this photo was taken at a convent in Belgium many years ago [I guess I am lazy]). I always find it a nice reminder in the winter that spring is just around the corner and the beginning of new life. The weekend also begins another year of formation classes. This year we have Patristics, Scripture Prophets, Moral Theology, Grace, Mariology and Liturgy (Mass). I have not seen my class brothers for quite a while and it will be nice to see them and their wives again.

I am certainly looking forward to the new year of classes. This will be the first full year of the revised schedule and I know a lot of work has gone into the new curriculum. They are really attempting to prepare us for the future.

In two weeks my class will be instituted as Reader in the Church. A Reader is a minor order in the Catholic Church and is a stepping stone to major orders. In my case, that major order would be as a Deacon. This role as Reader will allow me to read from the old and new Testament (excluding the Gospel reading) during Mass.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Spent the weekend in Tonganoxie, Kansas at the 50th wedding anniversary of my wife's aunt and uncle. It is nice to see that reaching such a milestone is still celebrated in portions of this country. And with Karen and I just reaching 23 years, I am more amazed by this important day. I pray that Joe and Carol have many more years together.

We also went to Mass at the local parish. Fr Mark gave one of the best homilies I have heard in a very long time and his joy with life made my heart sing.

OnSaturday the Archdiocese of Atlanta ordained new Permanent Deacons. I was not able to attend for obvious reasons, but was with them in spirit. It makes me reflect on my own call to this ministry and where I will be three years from now. Only God knows.

Friday, February 6, 2009

This is the first post of this blog. My intention for this blog is to have a format to reflect on my formation to the Permanent Diaconate in the Catholic Church, as well as incorporate news stories or information I find useful and/or inspirational. Although I doubt anyone will read this blog, I hope that it represents an on-line diary of how I develop over the next few years.

Currently I will be beginning my second full year as a candidate in my formation as a Deacon. Overall it is a 6 year process. The first two years are all about applications, interviews, and a discernment period (called aspirancy). If all goes well, the aspirants are accepted to candidacy, which is the official acceptance into the program. The following four years consists of intensive training in the four areas of formation. These areas include human, spiritual, pastoral and intellectual. I hope to speak more on these subjects as time goes on.