Releasing the Holy Spirit – My Sermon

I’ve had the honor this summer of working with veterans at a VA hospital in Pittsburgh. Here is a video of a sermon I recently gave to the veterans at a healing service that we held last Sunday. Thanks to all who offered prayers for this event!

My Interview at Radio Maria

Radio-MariaI recently had the pleasure to be interviewed by Kathie Duggan for her show “Sacred Treasures” for Radio Maria U.S. Feeling called to be vulnerable in order to express how much the Lord has done in my life, and — through the work of His grace and mercy — hoping to inspire others who may have similar struggles in their lives, or that of their families, I felt inspired to open up about issues like addiction, family struggles, and the paths toward healing and a priestly vocation, which I am currently pursuing as a seminarian. Please click here to listen to the interview.

St. John Vianney and St. John Paul II: Brothers of the Priesthood

Ever wonder where Saint John Paul II picked up that beautiful gesture of kissing the jpIIground when arriving in a new country? He actually learned it from a famous French saint.

“It was a gesture I had learned from Saint John Mary Vianney,” John Paul II recalled in Gift and Mystery, a personal work recollecting important influences and moments that led John Paul II to pursue his priestly vocation as a young man.

Saint John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, whose memorial is celebrated today, had a great influence on the priesthood of John Paul II, from as early as his seminary years. John Paul II wrote how, as a young priest studying for his doctorate in Rome, he was able to travel to France and “spend some time in Ars.” He would never forget this experience and it would guide him as a priest with great graces and memories.

JohnVianney“With great emotion I visited the little old church where Saint John Vianney heard confessions, taught catechism, and gave his homilies. It was an unforgettable experience for me. From my seminary years I had been impressed with the figure of the Curé of Ars, especially after reading his biography by Monsignor Trochu. Saint John Mary Vianney astonishes us because in him we can see the power of grace working through human limitations.

“It was his heroic service in the confessional which particularly struck me. That humble priest, who would hear confessions more than ten hours a day, eating little and sleeping only a few hours, was able, at a difficult moment in history, to inspire a kind of spiritual revolution in France, and not only there. Thousands of people passed through Ars and knelt at his confessional. Against the background of attacks on the Church and the clergy in the nineteenth century, his witness was truly revolutionary.

“My encounter with this saintly figure confirmed me in the conviction that a priest fulfills an essential part of his mission through the confessional—by voluntarily ‘making himself a prisoner of the confessional.’ Many times, as I heard confessions in my first parish at Niegowic and then in Cracow, my thoughts would turn to this unforgettable experience.”

— Saint John Paul II, Gift and Mystery: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of My Priestly  Ordination

City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to Kraków

As World Youth Day 2016 approaches in Krakow, Poland, I would like to recommend City of Saintsa couple of works that really capture the beauty and rich Catholic heritage of the medieval Polish city, where I lived for a couple of years as a child. First, a great book has been written called City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Krakow by George Weigel, Carrie Gress, and Stephen Weigel. The book provides not only a rich history of the Catholic heritage of Krakow, and its influence on Saint John Paul II, but also provides vivid photographs of sacred sites from the city, providing a beautiful pictorial tour.

I also wanted to recommend this Youtube video series by Sister Gaudia Skass, who is a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow, the same community that the Polish mystic and saint Faustina Kowalska, who received visions of Jesus in the 1930’s, belonged to. Here is a link to the American province of the community, in case anyone may be discerning a vocation to religious life – please check out the sisters! Below is the series of eleven short videos of Sister Gaudia sharing some of the sacred heritage of the Divine Mercy Center in Krakow, a landmark of Polish Catholicism:

Princeton, Yale & Columbia-educated Psychiatrist who assists in Exorcisms

The title of this blog post itself speaks to a certain cultural bias that I am trying to counter: the notion that well educated people cannot believe in something like demonic possession and exorcisms. This is one of the great tragedies of modern society and even of — I regret to say — many circles of contemporary Catholic culture: there has been such a lost sense of the spiritual realm — of the supernatural and paranormal — that many do not believe in the devil or his actions anymore—this, alongside skepticism about miracles and healings—works of God which I, and many, have had the privilege of encountering in various ministries and life events.

exorcism riteI was so glad to see, therefore, that the Washington Post published a great article by Richard Gallagher, a psychiatrist and professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College. The article is titled “As a Psychiatrist I Diagnose Mental Illness. And, Sometimes, Demonic Possession.” Dr. Gallagher has had the opportunity to assist Catholic exorcists in discerning the difference between mental illness and possession. He acknowledges that most cases are, in fact, connected to mental illness but that some present evidence that speaks to something more, something that medical science cannot fully explain.

Here is a section from the Washington Post article:

I’m a man of science and a lover of history; after studying the classics at Princeton, I trained in psychiatry at Yale and in psychoanalysis at Columbia. That background is why a Catholic priest had asked my professional opinion, which I offered pro bono, about whether this woman was suffering from a mental disorder. This was at the height of the national panic about Satanism. (In a case that helped induce the hysteria, Virginia McMartin and others had recently been charged with alleged Satanic ritual abuse at a Los Angeles preschool; the charges were later dropped.) So I was inclined to skepticism.

But my subject’s behavior exceeded what I could explain with my training. She could tell some people their secret weaknesses, such as undue pride. She knew how individuals she’d never known had died, including my mother and her fatal case of ovarian cancer. Six people later vouched to me that, during her exorcisms, they heard her speaking multiple languages, including Latin, completely unfamiliar to her outside of her trances. This was not psychosis; it was what I can only describe as paranormal ability. I concluded that she was possessed. Much later, she permitted me to tell her story.

Reading Dr. Gallagher’s article it becomes clear that he is not a man looking to prove possession. He acknowledges two extremes – those who, through a rationalistic ideology, cannot acknowledge any form of possession and those who attribute possession to any case. Most Catholic exorcists are the biggest skeptics: they seek psychiatric expertise, and thus the work of people like Dr. Gallagher, to make sure that mental illness is not involved before even going through an exorcism.

This is an incredibly insightful article — a very rare topic to be published by a major secular paper like the Washington Post — that I recommend highly. The devil is real, demonic possession is real, as is the supernatural power of Christ through the rite of exorcism that defeats the enemy.

The Silence of the Birds: the Powerful Experiences of an Atheist Doctor and Notre Dame’s Basketball Team in Medjugorje


MedjugorjeApparition Hill

One of the most fascinating phenomena that people have experienced in Medjugorje is the silence of the birds, an occurrence that has been reported as transpiring at times when the visionaries have their apparitions. This occurrence has been reported by people as diverse as members of Notre Dame’s basketball team, including players who were not Catholic, and an atheist Italian neurophysiologist who scientifically examined the apparitions of the visionaries.

Dr. Marco Margnelli was an ardent atheist who used to travel to various locations trying to disprove claims of mystical phenomena—he traveled, for example, to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1987, trying to disprove the stigmata of Padre Pio. He came to Medjugorje in 1988, hoping to prove the experiences of the visionaries to be false, he admitted.


Dr. Marco Margnelli, Italian neurophysiologist

Author and journalist Randall Sullivan recorded the event in his book The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions. Dr. Margnelli experienced various occurrences in Medjugorje which rocked his beliefs. He met a woman who was miraculously healed of leukemia. He studied the apparitions of the visionaries and came to the conclusion that they do enter into a genuine state of ecstasy, even admitting: “we were certainly in the presence of an extraordinary phenomenon.”

What moved him most powerfully, however, was the behavior of the birds. Before the apparitions of the visionaries would begin in the rectory, there were thousands of birds outside chirping and cooing, being incredibly—at times, deafeningly—loud.

Until the moment when the apparitions would begin: the second that the visionaries would drop to their knees and go into ecstasy every bird outside would go completely silent.

That absolute silence of the birds haunted him, Dr. Margnelli admitted. A few weeks after returning to Italy from Medjugorje, Dr. Margnelli became a practicing Catholic.


Medjugorje visionaries in ecstasy during an apparition in the rectory of St. James Church

This fascinating phenomena has been witnessed by a number of pilgrims, including Notre Dame’s basketball team.


Digger Phelps, Notre Dame coach (1971-1991)

Deacon Brian Miller explained, at the 2016 Marian Conference at the University of Notre Dame last month, that one year in the ‘80s the Notre Dame basketball team was in Yugoslavia for a summer tour playing basketball. They made a side trip to Medjugorje. They made the trip under Coach Digger Phelps, who spent 20 years as head coach (1971-1991) of Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team and then many years as an ESPN broadcaster and analyst.

David Rivers, who was the star point guard on the team, and the 25th overall pick of the 1988 NBA draft, playing professionally for the Lakers and the Clippers, shared a testimony about the Medjugorje trip at Notre Dame’s library. Rivers, it is noteworthy, was not even Catholic.

David Rivers

David Rivers

“He said it was stunning,” Deacon Miller recalled. “There were all these birds

outside [in Medjugorje, as the apparitions were to begin].” At that time, the visionaries had their apparitions in the rectory of St. James Church, and during the day the basketball team was there, there were thousands of birds outside, making noise, “and then as soon as Our Lady came, boom, it was quiet, until she left,” Deacon Miller said, recollecting Rivers’ testimony.

Here is a video of both Deacon Brian Miller and I sharing these stories at the 2016 Marian Conference at the University of Notre Dame: