We've All Been There



We've all been there...

A day goes by (maybe more) and we forget to pray.

Not a word, not even a thought.

So, what do we do? 


We start again.

We build a routine of prayer.

We don't forget to eat. We don't forget to sleep. 


We can't forget to pray.

Talk to him. Notice him. Simply glance in his direction. Just pray.

Last minute spirituality

Plans are made. The menu is set. The gifts are under the tree. 

Christmas is almost here.


But what about today? It is still Advent, after all. How are you spiritually preparing, today, for the birth of Our Lord?


Why start spiritually preparing now? I dropped the ball the other 3 1/2 weeks.


It's OK. It's the Year of Mercy. God doesn't give up on you. You can't give up on him.


How do you suggest I spiritually prepare for Christmas in 24 hours?


Here's a 3 step plan. Pick one or do both. (Perhaps come up with something on your own. Just do something.)


1. Make one small sacrifice, today. Yes, Advent is a penetential season. If you didn't get around to 'giving something up' or making a good confession, there's still time. One day. Go.


2. Pray a family Rosary. I suggest the Joyful Mysteries.

3. Call a family member or friend who is alone. It might be the only gift they receive this Christmas.

From my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas!

The Conversation Went Like This...


Person A: You mean I can be a saint?

Me: Yep.

Person A: But I'm not Mother Teresa.


Me: You're right.


Person A: No, I can't be Mother Teresa.

Me: I know.

Person A: I don't have the time to start a religious order that now exceeds 600 communities in over 120 countries. That's what saints do. I got mouths to feed, a spouse to take care of, garage sales to shop, and a work project due Thursday. How can I be a saint?

Me: "Give God permission."

VS.



God is not in competition with us.


Neither should we be in competition with each other.

Three Words You Should Repeat Everyday



Christ did not just come to share in our brightest moments. He also came to share in our brokenness.

A good friend reminded me and my listeners of that over the radio the other morning. Let it be a reminder for you, too.

Just keep praying.

Just A Simple Thank You

Every week, thousands of you read this. Amidst the chaos at home (my son is literally driving his monster truck on the wall as I write this) and the busy-ness at work, you choose to read what little I offer in regards to our faith.

For that, all I can say is thank you.

Thanks for your time, emails, and prayers.

Most of all, though, thanks for doing the hard work of striving for sanctity. Even if it doesn't look the way you think it should, your life is a major part in God's divine plan. And people like me need to see that in action.

So, keep focused. And never give up on God.

That's it?



It was my wife's turn to pray before dinner.

She looked at my son as he bowed his head (I know, he was really just looking at his food) and she began to pray...

"God, help us. Mother Mary, watch over us. Angles and saints, pray for us."

"That's it?" Joseph asked?

Yes, Joseph, that's it.

Start today

The poor widow in last Sunday's Gospel gave, "from her poverty," all that she had.

Perhaps you're not at that level of giving yet (neither am I).

But we can give something.

Maybe it's an extra $10 per month to your parish (which would be an extra $120 per year / $1,200 over the next ten years).

Or maybe you donate an hour of your time each month to the local food pantry (12 hours per year / 120 hours over the next ten years).

It doesn't have to be much. It just has to be something.

Start somewhere.

Start anywhere. 

Start today.

What gratitude does

Thank your wife, today, for how hard she works.

Thank your son for mowing the lawn. 

Thank your husband for letting the dog out before work.

Thank your co-worker for starting the coffee.

Thank God for the gift of Wednesday.

Heart-felt gratitude encourages others. It lets them know they are loved, acknowledged, appreciated, even if what they are doing is routine.

Most of all, gratitude expands our hearts in the way of God.

Chesterton said it best, "the best kind of giving is thanksgiving."

A prayer that will change your day

I pray this prayer every morning (yes, most of the time it's over the radio, but I still pray it). I want you to pray it, too.

It's called a morning offering and it goes like this:

"God, our Father, we offer you our day. We offer you all our thoughts, words, joys and sufferings, in union with the Heart of Jesus. Holy Spirit be our guide and strength today so that we may witness to your love. Mary, mother of Jesus and the Church, pray for us! Amen."

Pray this prayer as often as you remember. It really will change you.

What no one tells us about love

Look at the Crucifix the next time you're in a Catholic Church. 

Really look at it. 

I can assure you that didn't feel good. And yet, it was the single greatest act of love the world has ever known.

Love always involves feelings. They're just not always good feelings.

How God thinks

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, said God always thinks with mercy.

So let me ask you, do you believe God desires to forgive you for anything you've ever done? Do you believe if you were the only person to have ever walked this earth Jesus would still have walked ten football fields with a tree on his back to be crucified...for you? Do you believe God wants nothing more than to spend both now and eternity with you?

Sure, you've heard all about God's mercy and love before. Perhaps, maybe hearing about it has gotten a little stale.

The good news is we were not made to simply hear about God's mercy and love - we were made to experience his mercy and his love.

A daily, scheduled and disciplined encounter with The Lord Jesus in prayer is where we begin.

Holiness 101

In his homily just ten days ago at the World Meeting of Families Pope Francis said that, "like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures."

For many of us, that's hard to understand.

See, we've convinced ourselves that in order to be holy we have to start a religious community that expands to 600 communities in over 120 countries. You know, like Mother Teresa.

Or, we think that holiness is only for people who "work" for the Church - like my parish priest, or the pope.

But holiness is for me and you, too. And it begins and ends with the little gestures of our day.

So, today, try and be patient with the co-worker who annoys you the most. Invite your wife on a 20 minute walk to talk about her day. Call a friend who's lonely. Lead your family in a short prayer before bed.

Then, repeat.

Yeah, what he said

Have you ever tried to say something, but you just can't find the words? Then, your listening to someone talk and they say exactly what you were trying to say...only, better.

Pope Francis spoke for all of us last week when he said the following words - words that many of us have struggled to proclaim:

"All that is good, all that is true, all that is beautiful brings us to God. Because God is good, God is beautiful, God is the truth."
 
Yeah, what he said.

Francis and you

Pope Francis' heavily anticipated trip to America is well underway. And the worldis listening.

Me? Well, I can't get enough. I'll read every word he has to say. I'll pray with his words, too. I'll pray that my heart may be open to the continual invitation he's given me to abandon my life to Jesus.

What about you? Are you listening? Are you praying? 

The successor to St. Peter is speaking - let him speak to you.

It's not too late

What made the saints holy wasn't their ability to fly (St. Joseph of Cuperintino), or bilocate (St. Padre Pio). It wasn't the miracles God worked through them or the visions they saw.

What made the saints holy was their humble faithfulness to the mission God had for them.

What's the mission God has for you?

It's not too late to ask.

Today

Everyday, people we know are struggling. People close to us. People we love.

It's easy to get so caught up in our own lives that we forget about others.

That has to change. For you and for me.

If you can make one persons day a little easier, today, who would it be?

Make it happen.

It's already happening

I've seen it. It's already happening. In marriages like yours all around the world...

Couples are making time to pray.

They pray aloud. They pray in silence. They pray in Church. They pray in bed. But they pray, together.

And you and your spouse can pray together, too. You can change your marriage. You can change your life.

Just, pray.

Now and then

It's not about knowing all the answers. Rather, it's about knowing the One with all the answers.

Get to know Jesus through daily prayer.

The rest comes later.

Why we were made

We were not made to just get through the day. Nor were we made to simply make it to next week.

As Saint John Paul II said, "We were made for greater things!"

We were made for friendship with God - both in this life and in the next.

How's your friendship with God going?

The time I froze on the radio

Last week on the radio I interviewed a religious sister who walked with Mother Teresa for 27 years.

She spoke quietly, sharing stories of her longtime friend who she had known as "Mother." 

It was fascinating to hear Sister speak first hand about this woman I've read about for so long.

And then, just as I was getting comfortable with the interview, Sister said something that made me go speechless. I don't remember what question preceded it (and it really doesn't matter), but I'll never forget the way I felt.

Sister said that she believed Mother Teresa was in the room with us right now.

I froze, hid the goosebumps on my arms, and tried to think of what to say next.

Sister's words slowly started to make sense. Mother Teresa once said she would spend her heaven on earth doing good, dispelling darkness, and making God loved.

But in the room right now?


I remember making some joke that since Mother Teresa is in the room we should get her on the air (that joke gave me a few extra moments to pick my jaw up from the floor), but my heart was racing.


Mother Teresa became real to me in that moment. More real than any book I've ever read.


And that's the way it's supposed to be.


The saints are not mythological figures in stained glass windows. The saints are friends, mentors and prayer warriors who walk with us in whatever comes our way.


Maybe it's a saint who lived long ago. Or maybe, like Sister, it's someone you knew. Invite a saint into your spiritual life this week and ask them to make God more alive in your heart.

The purpose of obstacles

St. Therese of Lisieux suffered physically.

Blessed Mother Teresa suffered spiritually.

St. Teresa of Avila had to deal with...well...people.

All three of these women could have complained. They could have asked questions like, "why me?"

But they didn't.

Instead, they recognized the obstacles that stood in their way for what they are: launching points to holiness.

Now, it's your turn

My wife and I had lunch the other day with a couple of friends who are going through something more than we could ever imagine.
 
But we didn't take them out to lunch because we felt bad for them. Nor did we take them out to lunch to "do a good deed."

We took them to lunch because we wanted to learn from them--learn from their doubts, learn from their fears, learn from their simple and heroic faith in our God who won't let them go.

Now, it's your turn.

Who in your life can you learn from this week?

Words you wouldn't expect to hear

Are there days when you feel distant from God? Yeah, me too.

But we're not alone.

Mother Teresa faced spiritual darkness for 40 years and did not shy from telling others of her struggle:

"I am told God lives in me - and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. I want God with all the power of my soul - and yet between us there is terrible separation."

In spite of her spiritual struggle, Mother Teresa did God's work anyway.

Mother Teresa did God's work because she loved him more than she loved good feelings.

And we must love God like that, too.

Ask yourself this one question

Every morning, when you wake up, ask yourself this one question...

Will I make time to pray today?

Then, answer.

Commitment is the first step to action.

A helpful guide to thinking differently

The Christian doesn't say:

"I wish I had more time, more money, more opportunities."

Rather, the Christian says:

"I will be a better manager of my time, more generous with my money, and more thankful to God for the opportunities he's given me."

Just as St. John Paul II reminded us: It's not about having more. It's about being more.

When you argue with your spouse

If we argue with our spouse in front of our kids and grandkids, do we make sure to apologize and ask for forgiveness also in front of our kids and grandkids?

Witnessing the humility and forgiveness of a mother and father (or grandmother and grandfather) might just be the best example of God's love and mercy they will ever see.

And they won't forget it.

The birth of our daughter

It's with great joy that we announce the birth of our daughter, Gianna Luce Leonetti. She was born Wednesday, June 24th at 7:40am weighing 7lb and 2oz.

Gianna was born with a loud cry - much like that of her patron, St. John the Baptist, whose feast we celebrated yesterday.

As Catholics, we share in each other's sufferings. We also share in each other's joy.

Below is a picture of our joy.

Please join us in the short prayer of thanksgiving (below) and know of our prayers for each one of you reading this now. Thank you for your love.




Jesus, thank you. Thank you for the gift of life and the community of love. Amen!

You don't have to say a lot

Our parish church is where we spend our lives, day after day, week after week, year after year. It's where we go for life-changing celebrations and daily reassurances. More than anything, though, it's where we go to meet Jesus, fully present in the Eucharist.
 
This week, when approaching the altar to receive Our Lord, speak to him from your heart. Do your best not to be consumed with distraction (that's the hard part), and remember to thank him for this greatest of gifts when you return to your pew.

You don't have to say a lot––just be sincere.

God and Lego's

My two-year-old son's Lego creation fell apart the other day. Needless to say, he wasn't happy. And if there's anything I've learned as a father, it's this: when two-year-olds aren't happy, they cry.

"Fix it, daddy!" he cried.

And I did. (Save your applause.)

Have you ever been having a little trouble and thought, "God has more important things to worry about than this"? Yeah, I used to think that as well.

Then we had a son.

I love my son so much that I'll drop everything to fix his Lego castles. And I don't grumble. I'm happy to help.

God is big enough for your seemingly small pleas. He cares for you as you care for your own.

Today, give God the little things - he can help.

Even if

Where there is no forgiveness in your family, put forgiveness.

Even if no one understands.

Even if someone tries to talk you out of it.

Even if it hurts.

Try this

The next time you're at dinner with your family, after you serve the food, take a moment and look everyone in the eye. Then, tell them how grateful you are to have them in your life.

Yes, it will probably be a little awkward. Perhaps even more so because there's still some hostility from an argument the night before, but it's important and they need to know.

Then, that evening in your prayer, thank God.

Why we pray

We do not pray to change God's mind. Nor do we pray to convince him of what's best for our lives.(He already knows.)

We pray to close the gap – the gap between my imperfect wants and his perfect will.

Begin anew, today.

We can't forget this

If you've ever attended one of my missions, you know how I begin. "By the time you walk out of this Church tonight, you will have the answer to the world's most pressing question, namely, 'What is the meaning of life?'" 

I repeat that another time (or two) for effect, but really, there's no need. Most everyone wants to know what I'm going to say.

But I say nothing new - nothing we already haven't heard in those pews before.

Making our way through the Bible that first evening, we find ourselves at the foot of the cross, and there, we re-discover the answer. The answer the world desperately wants to know:

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matt. 16:24)

We can't forget this...

The meaning of life is to give ourselves away, to die to ourselves and follow Jesus.

This is not merely a clever saying. Jesus did not give us other options. This is our purpose. This is our life.

I want you to promise God something

Every day we encounter dozens of people who are struggling. 

Whether it's a struggle in their marriage, a struggle with their son, a struggle with their finances, or a struggle forgiving themselves, people are hurting.
 
However, what I've come to realize over the years is the real problem isn't that we struggle. The real problem is that many are struggling, alone.

As Catholics we can't sit on the sidelines anymore.

Therefore, I want you to promise God something...

This week, promise him you'll reach out to a friend or family member who you know is hurting and in need of help. Perhaps you can't offer them an answer. But you can offer them the consolation of knowing they no longer have to struggle alone. 

How can I better serve God

Start by asking yourself two questions:

1. What's gifts has God given me?

2. What does the world need?

When those match, you have your answer.

3 ways to deeper prayer

1. Give God the time of day when you're most alive. Perhaps it's right after breakfast, during a break at work, or just after you get home. You choose. Just stick with it, every day.

2. Begin by reading from the Bible, or from the life of a saint, or another spiritual reading book.  (It doesn't have to be long.) Perhaps you begin with a decade of the rosary or an Our Father or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Whatever you do, read or pray it slowly and converse with God along the way.

3. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you! God wants nothing more than for us to encounter him more deeply. All we have to do is ask! Repeat the words, "Holy Spirit, help me to pray." Then, let God take care of the rest.

Where are you?

It's easy to think that I'll "become holy" when I retire, get married, find a job, graduate college, or stop suffering.

But God wants our hearts, now.

Your present circumstance might just be exactly the way God wants to draw you closer to him.

Why this Sunday is important

On April 30th 2000, St. John Paul II made a surprise announcement. He officially declared that, throughout the whole Church, the Second Sunday of Easter be called 'Divine Mercy Sunday.'

It's no coincidence St. John Paul II's declaration came during his homily for the canonization Mass of Saint Faustina Kowalska, who, throughout her life, received messages from Jesus, commissioning her to spread devotion to his mercy throughout all the world.

This Sunday, bring to Our Lord any brokenness in your life, or the life of your family, and ask for his healing. Then, trust him - trust God with everything you have, and know how much he loves you.

These next few days

The Easter Triduum - beginning the evening of Holy Thursday and concluding the evening of Easter Sunday - is the holiest (and shortest) liturgical season on the Church's calendar.

Therefore, we can't allow ourselves to simply let these few days go by without embracing the meaning and message of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Plug in to your parish life these next few days and let it help you along the way.

Our Lady, Undoer of Knots

One of my favorite titles for Mary is "Our Lady, Undoer of Knots."

The root of this devotion dates all the way back to the second century, where SaintIrenaeus wrote: "The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith."

The first Eve was a virgin, created immaculate, who was the Mother of all the living. But when confronted with the decision between life and death, Eve chose death, thus tying a knot in God's plan.

The New Eve (Mary), Immaculate and ever Virgin, loosened Eve's knot with her obedience to God, saying, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38).

But it doesn't stop there...

Through her prayers, Mary wants to loosen the knots in our lives, too.

On this Solemnity of the Annunciation - Mary's 'yes' to God - give her those knots, and ask her for her prayers.

The first step

Being honest about where we are in our relationship with Jesus is the first step to growing in our relationship with Jesus.

Take a *spiritual* inventory this Lent. 

Then, ask God to help you with the rest.

Benedict and me

Years ago, when I visited Rome, I was able to attend Vespers in St. Peters Basilica with Pope Benedict XVI.

And I sat in the very front row.

As I watched Benedict process down the aisle and make a right turn at the front, I quickly realized he was going to walk right by me. So, I did what anyone else would do––I took out my camera.

There, within inches of me he slowly walked smiling to the crowd. Then, as if I had asked him, he looked directly into my camera.

It froze. The camera completely froze.

I learned a valuable lesson that day...

I had the opportunity to look directly into the Pope's eyes as he looked back at me. But I didn't. Instead, I chose to look through a lens.

This Lent, put the lens down when you look at God. Whatever distances you, move it aside. And spend time with him, looking him in the eye.

What commitment does

Commitment removes the excuses that get in the way of our prayer.

"I was too busy," doesn't jibe with commitment.

"I'm too tired," doesn't work either.

Make a commitment to pray––at the same time, in the same place––everyday.

Try not to let anything get in the way.

And start today.

The strangest thing

I left my wallet in a coffee shop the other day. There were dozens of people there when I left and I just knew, the moment I turned around in my car, it would be gone.

But the strangest thing happened - when I walked back in, my wallet was sitting exactly where I left it.

Why is it so easy to assume the worst in people?

I think it's easy because it's lazy.

When we assume the worst in them, we leave ourselves no room to learn and grow.

Perhaps, this Lent, rather than resenting your spouse the next time their short with you, take a moment - breathe - and ask what's really bothering them. (You might even be surprised to find out it isn't you.)

Or, how about that person at work who's always in a bad mood? Rather than talking behind their back, find out something simple that gives them joy, and surprise them with it.

It doesn't mean everything's going to go your way. But it can serve as a gentle reminder of how God is with us.

"The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in Mercy." Psalm 145:8

What's the plan?

Our spiritual lives do not come together on their own. We have to make a plan and stick with it.

Failure to plan is planning to fail.

PS - It's not too late to make a plan for Lent. Matthew Kelly's Best Lent Ever program can help.

So, you want to be a saint?

We know the desire to be a saint pleases God. But we also know he wants more than our desire.

God wants our hearts.

The saints help us see what that looks like.

This Lent, study the life of St. Pio or Bl. Mother Teresa. Consider praying with the journal of St. John XXIIIWho could forget the classics from St. Augustine and St. Therese of Lisieux?

Reading their words and understanding their lives will help us grow in our walk with God.

Happy reading!

Know this

There is never a moment where God is not dreaming to make you a saint - never a moment where he does not long to hear your voice.

You must know this.

God thinks of you constantly. Constantly!

Make time to think of him today, too.

Whisper, in the silence of your heart, the simple prayer from St. Bernadette Soubirous below.

Then, look to the people closest to you and remind them to do the same.


"My Jesus, fill my heart with so much love that one day it will break just to be with you. My Jesus, you know I have placed you as a seal on my heart. Remain there always." 
(St. Bernadette Soubirous)

Something better

There's a big difference between knowing about God and actually knowing God.

I can tell you my wife, Teresa, likes good coffee, loathes asparagus, and is a loving spouse. But that doesn't mean you know her.

It's important to know that God is love (1 John 4:8). It's also important to know that His majesty is equal to His mercy (Sirach 2:18).

It's more important to know His love and experience His mercy.

PS - Dr. Peter Kreeft's Prayer For Beginners can help you with that.

The difference early makes

There's never been a time I've regretted getting to Mass early. There's plenty of times, however, I've regretted being late.

Whipping the car out of the driveway, driving through yellow-ish lights, parking where we're not supposed to park, and scurrying in as Father's making the sign of the cross won't help us pray.

Arriving at Mass ten minutes early, on the other hand, can take you from a place of stress, to a place of rest.

How it all began

Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity work in over 600 facilities in over 130 countries with over 4,500 sisters.

Her dream to help the poor began with a yes.

Then, well, God took care of the rest.

Sound familiar?

There'll be a lot of excuses to not make time for prayer today.

Excuses like: I have too much work to catch up on or I don't feel like it.

Make time for prayer anyway.

Looking for a *spiritual* resolution?

Would it surprise you to know that (statistically speaking) most of us won't keep our New Year's resolution(s)? I think one of the reasons we have a hard time keeping them is we're not specific enough when making them.

This is especially important in our *spiritual* resolutions.

(Don't just "pray more" in 2015)
Pray for 20 minutes every morning at 6:30 AM.

(Don't just "read more" in 2015)
Read a spiritual book every month. Start with this one.

(Don't just "go to confession more" in 2015)
Schedule confession once a month with a priest you trust.

(Don't just "go to daily Mass more" in 2015)
Go to noon Mass every Wednesday during your lunch break.