Video of President, First Lady Paying Respect to Justice Scalia

Here is footage of the president and first lady paying their final respects to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court this past Friday. A day later the funeral was celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception with Justice Scalia’s son, Fr. Paul Scalia, being the main celebrant. Here is a link to the moving eulogy that Fr. Paul delivered at the funeral.

(Lenten Reflection) Unusual Joy


Pier Giorgio climbing (1)

Blessed Pier Giorgio mountain climbing

As a Catholic in the Western world, I like my faith as I do my summer blockbusters: fast, loud, and explosive. My first true encounter with a Saint of the Church—in an undergraduate religion class— felt something like being at the movies (just without the eight dollar bucket of popcorn). St. Francis of Assisi—a person about whom I had once known nothing—captured my secular imagination like Mel Gibson’s William Wallace or Russel Crowe’s Maximus. Here was a man who gave up everything to serve not nobility, but God; here was a knight for Heaven’s cause, stripping himself of worldly splendor and past transgressions to kneel at the foot of the cross! Hollywood wishes it could write that script. I certainly did not understand at the time that I, in the recesses of my soul, desired to live like Francis. Nor would I have predicted that I, only a few years later, would be attempting to do just that.

But existence, like any good movie, consists of more than action sequences and high-drama. If I’ve learned one funny thing about religious life it’s that it can sometimes look uncannily like “regular life.” Yes, as a friar I strive every day for conversion—to pray, to deny myself, and to live a supernatural life according to the Gospel message—but there still comes a time at the end of the day when I have to take out the trash. With every visit to the Blessed Sacrament, there’s a Costco trip to be made or a toilet to be scrubbed. I assume that such mundane tasks did not spare even Padre Pio. For a Franciscan, life is not all “kissing lepers and talking to wolves.” This reality begs a necessary question. As Christians, what do we do when we’re not converting sinners, making disciples of all nations, or doing all those things that we read about in Butler’s Lives of the Saints? Is it reasonable that we be expected to bear witness to the Risen Christ when we work forty hour weeks and then deal with seemingly endless troubles in our off-time? How can we become holy when our own lives often seem so…normal?

Fortunately, our God never fails to inspire us. While all saints were certainly normal people like you and I, some feel just a little bit more “human” than others. Enter Pier Giorgio Frassati, the devout young Italian who turned our traditional view of sanctity on its head.

Pier Giorgio pulling a kegI was first introduced to Blessed Pier Giorgio when I was a novice friar. As I scanned a display shelf in a Catholic bookstore, one of my classmates held a relatively thin paperback up to my face. “You’ve got to read about this guy!” he said. “You’ll love him.” I looked at the book’s cover: teal with a black and white image of a man snow-shoeing across an unforgiving landscape. Below the books title, the subtext read “Daredevil Athlete, Roguish Prankster, Unrelenting Activist, Unexpected Mystic.”

I grabbed the book from my brother. “Woah, how have I not heard of him before?” I asked rhetorically. Without even reading a page, I knew I was about to enter into the world of a real wild-man: a Catholic Jeremiah Johnson, if you will. The book’s pages, however, painted the picture of a much different character—one who, in many ways, was much more heroic than his photograph suggested, yet at the same time, as familiar as a lifelong friend.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was the son of a wealthy, agnostic politician who ran a prominent liberal newspaper. Despite his father’s wishes that he, too, work in the publishing business, Pier Giorgio entered university studies with the intent of working with and evangelizing low-income miners. Throughout his short life, he fought for social justice as a member of Catholic Party, organized outdoor excursions with friends, and was committed to his vows as a Third Order Dominican. But above all else, Pier Giorgio was authentically, radically Catholic. His faith was the driving force behind his every action, whether feeding the hungry after school, being obedient to his parents, or climbing a mountain. His faith was the reason that, when he came to die, the poor no less than the great came to pay their respects by the thousands.

In a world rife with relativism, atheism, and profound negativity, many often wonder why anyone would decide to follow Christ. After all, why allow superstition to limit pleasure and happiness? Why follow the “rules” of religion? Perhaps there is no better time than the Lenten season to follow in the footsteps of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and bring the joy of Christ into the normalcy of life. How can we do this? All it takes is faith—a mindfulness of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. Pier Giorgio once said, “You ask me whether I am in good spirits. How could I not be so? As long as Faith gives me strength I will always be joyful!”

Pier Giorgio laughing

Blessed Pier Giorgio Prayer Card

On one occasion, I found a prayer card of Blessed Pier Giorgio sitting atop a counter in our friary basement. When no one claimed it, I happily snatched it and placed it proudly upon my bedroom desk. I looked at the image—an extremely jovial Pier Giorgio among a group of friends—and thought about the faith that inspired that joy. What incredible faith, to live a normal life elated by the simple hope of God’s love! I mailed the card to a friend, hoping that the simple example of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati would inspire him as it did me. Briefly, I worried that since there were a few men depicted on the holy card, my friend might not know which one was Pier Giorgio. Then I looked again at the image, at that face radiant with supernatural life, and understood that he would be impossible to miss. Shouldn’t we, too, be impossible to miss?

Lent offers us an opportunity to renew this faith through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In the weeks leading up to the Resurrection of our Lord, let us look to the example of Blessed Pier Giorgio and all the Saints. Let our prayer be for the constant presence of the Holy Spirit within us. Let our fasting be from negativity, from idleness, and from all that keeps us from loving as a Christian is called to love. And let our almsgiving be the profound mercy of God offered to all who need it, from our family members to strangers on the street. Let us show the world that we are truly joyful! And our joy is unusual, as it comes not from the pleasures of the world, but from the supernatural power of Christ. The power that transforms you will be the same power that transforms all whom you meet.

Remember, not every life is meant to be a summer blockbuster; but it should be a great film nonetheless. A blessed Lent to you all!


Brother Zachary Burns, T.O.R., is a simply professed friar with the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. He blogs at This Too Shall Pass.

Justice Scalia’s Catholicism: on Pope Francis, Miracles, the Holy Mass, the Eucharist, Marian Apparitions, and the Devil – Remembering a Man of Faith


by Brother Daniel Maria Klimek, T.O.R.

The sad news of the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia affords479px-Antonin_Scalia_official_SCOTUS_portrait_crop reflection on his deeply rooted Catholic faith and spirituality. Justice Scalia was a devout Catholic who regularly attended the Latin Mass, who believed in the resurrection of Christ, miracles, Marian apparitions, the devil, heaven and hell, and was a supporter of Pope Francis’ evangelistic vision for the Church.

“Justice Scalia actively encouraged fidelity to the Church’s traditional values,” writes Scalia biographer Joan Biskupic. “A few of his clerks who were Catholic said the justice took a strong interest in commitment. He wanted to make sure they observed Ash Wednesday and all holy days and followed Catholic teaching. One of his greatest sources of pride, he said, was that all nine of his children attended regular Sunday Mass.” One of those nine children is today a Catholic priest, Fr. Paul Scalia of the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia.

Justice Scalia on Pope Francis

When in 2013 Justice Scalia was asked what he thinks of Pope Francis, Scalia replied: “He’s the Vicar of Christ. He’s the chief. I don’t run down the pope.”

Jennifer Senior of New York Magazine, who was conducting the interview, pushed Scalia on the matter, emphasizing that Pope Francis said that the Church should focus less on divisive issues like abortion and homosexuality and give more attention to caring for the poor. Scalia replied:

“I think he’s absolutely right. I think the church ought to be more evangelistic. . . .
But he [Pope Francis] hasn’t backed off the view of the church on those issues. He’s just saying, ‘Don’t spend all our time talking about that stuff. Talk about Jesus Christ and evangelize.’ I think there’s no indication whatever that he’s changing doctrinally.”

Scalia continued: “I spent my junior year in Switzerland. On the way back home, I spent some time in England, and I remember going to Hyde Park Corner. And there was a Roman Catholic priest in his collar, standing on a soapbox, preaching the Catholic faith and being heckled by a group. And I thought, My goodness. I thought that was admirable. I have often bemoaned the fact that the Catholic Church has sort of lost that evangelistic spirit. And if this pope brings it back, all the better.”

Justice Scalia on Heaven, Hell, and the Devil

When asked by New York Magazine whether he believes in heaven and hell, Justice Scalia replied, “Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?” Later in the interview, Scalia explained: “I even believe in the Devil.” Scalia would emphasize that the Devil is a real person and that it is standard Catholic doctrine to believe in him.

When asked how is the Devil working in the world today, Scalia stressed that the evil one is leading people to unbelief. “What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.”

In Search of a Reverent Mass: “Really, we’ve always traveled some distance.”

Joan Biskupic, in her biography American Original: the Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, explains that throughout their lives Scalia and his family traveled considerable distances to attend reverently celebrated Masses. The family often encountered priests whose homilies denigrated the sacred mysteries and teachings of the Catholic faith. And Antonin Scalia, even before becoming a Supreme Court justice, was not shy in confronting such priests.

“We have always traveled long distances to go to a church that we thought had a really reverent Mass, the kind of church that when you go in, it is quiet—not that kind of church where it is like a community hall and everybody is talking,” Justice Scalia explained in an interview. “We used to travel in Chicago . . . [At first] we went to the church that was closest . . . in Hyde Park. I remember the last straw there. And it was around Christmas time and they had some smart-ass young Jesuit who said the Mass and gave the sermon, and said, ‘Of course, we know that all of this about the manger and all . . . is fanciful.”

Biskupic explains: “Scalia, who was then a professor at the University of Chicago, was furious that a priest would denigrate the story of Jesus Christ’s birth in a stable. The remark cast doubt on the depiction of Mary laying Jesus in a manger, a story from St. Luke’s Gospel that Scalia and his wife, Maureen, taught their children.”

Justice Scalia would confront the priest about it and explain to him that he would not stand for such teaching, his family leaving that church for one with a more reverent presiding.

“So we used to go downtown [in Chicago] to a little Church near the Merchandise Mart,” Scalia continued, “a little church run by an Italian order, the Servites, and they had a very devout Mass. I did the same in Charlottesville. We had to go to that university church. They had some crazy Dominicans. After one sermon when it was relativist morality, I went up to the priest afterward and I said, ‘What is this stuff?’ And he said, ‘Well you know, the teaching of the church changes.’ . . . So I was out of there . . . Really we’ve always traveled some distance.” (Biskupic, 186).

“In the 1970’s, when he worked for Presidents Nixon and Ford, Scalia often drove his family over from their northern Virginia home to St. Matthew’s [Cathedral in downtown Washington, D.C.]. In those years American Catholicism was veering away from solemn organ music toward folksier guitar masses. But St. Matthew’s still offered the Latin Mass, and Scalia sought it out. The extra hour of driving to a just-right church became part of the routine of the Scalia children’s upbringing. When the family lived in Chicago and Charlottesville, too, Scalia looked for a church with a high Mass and the reverence he desired.”

“My father views the Catholic faith today as an inheritor of a cultural heritage, the great art, the music, the Latin tradition,” said Scalia’s eldest son, Eugene. “To him it’s Bach and Beethoven versus guitar Mass. I don’t think for him it’s a conservative thing, or right-wing thing. He wants the tradition.” (Biskupic, 185-186)

Justice Scalia on Marian Apparitions, the Supernatural, the Eucharist, and the Rosary

Six years ago in 2010 Justice Scalia spoke to members of the St. Thomas More Society who honored Scalia with their “Man for All Seasons Award,” given to members of the legal profession who embody the ideals of St. Thomas More, the Catholic martyr who was killed for standing with the pope and his Catholic faith against King Henry VIII during the 16th century.

During his talk, which took place in the Westin Hotel in Annapolis following the 52nd annual Red Mass, Scalia listed a core set of Christian beliefs that are greeted with disbelief and derision by the worldly-wise: dogmas such as Christ’s divinity, resurrection, and Virgin birth.

“Surely those who adhere to all or most of these traditional Christian beliefs are regarded in the educated circles that you and I travel in as, well, simple-minded,” Scalia explained. He referenced a story in the Washington Post that described Christian fundamentalists as “poorly educated and easily led.”

“The same attitude applies, of course, to traditional Catholics,” Scalia continued, “who do such positively peasant-like things as saying the rosary, kneeling in adoration before the Eucharist, going on pilgrimages to Lourdes or Medjugorje and – worst of all – following indiscriminately, rather than in smorgasbord fashion, the teachings of the pope.”

Scalia argued that Christians should embrace the ridicule of the world and be not afraid to be fools for Christ.

The emphasis that Justice Scalia placed on traditional Catholic devotions like the Rosary, pilgrimages to Marian apparition shrines, kneeling before the Eucharist, and obedience to the Pope, were an often-repeated emphasis in his speeches on faith.

Biskupic explains that in “a speech to a Kinghts of Columbus Council in Baton Rouge, he praised, according to the local paper, The Advocate, ‘traditional Catholics’ who say the Rosary, go on pilgrimages, kneel during the Eucharist, and ‘follow religiously the teaching of the Pope.'”

Biskupic quotes Leo Leonard, a Washington lawyer and friend of Scalia’s, who beautifully described the late Supreme Court justice’s faith:

“He is very much committed to the magisterial traditions of the Church. He believes those traditions have a purpose and meaning. You’ll hear the justice complain about church architecture and liturgies that are too modernistic. At first blush, you might just think he’s a rigid Catholic. In reality that’s not true. You come to realize that those traditions, that architecture, that music, the incense, all of those things are there to deliver up a sense of piety, reverence for the person attending Mass. What those outward manifestations allow him to do is to focus on faith and achieve a level of spirituality.”



Lent: Experience Transformation

TransformationDear Friends, as Ash Wednesday is upon us and the sacred season of Lent begins, it is important to remember that Lent is not just about renunciation but also transformation. Lenten fasting can be proactive, helping us to grow in virtue by fasting from negativity, gossip, sloth, spiritual laziness, unhealthy addictions, in order to become disciplined, prayerful, positive-minded, active, God-loving people for the transformation of our lives in Christ; sharing in His Resurrection by rising at the end of this time as new men and women of God, empowered and strengthened for deeper, more meaningful, lives that can touch and help transform other lives.

Here are two programs by two of Catholicism’s greatest evangelists — Matthew Kelly and Scott Hahn — that can help us transform our lives (through deeper conversion in Christ) this Lent.


Matthew Kelly is helping to facilitate the process of transformation for countless Catholic’s through a program called “Best Lent Ever.” I encourage all readers to sign up for this free program, as I will be doing. Here is a description of the program from the Facebook page of the Dynamic Catholic Institute:

“Best Lent Ever is built around encountering Jesus—and yourself—in a deeply personal way, and developing (or nourishing) a habit of daily prayer. Based on Matthew Kelly’s new bestseller Rediscover Jesus, the free email program leads to a transformative Lent and everyday life.

“Beginning Ash Wednesday and continuing through the 40 days of Lent, participants will receive daily inspirational emails with short videos from Matthew, a New York Times bestselling author, and one of our incredible Dynamic Catholic Team members.

“These brief, personal reflections will give you simple ways to bring Jesus into your everyday life.

“So, will it really be your best Lent ever? That is entirely up to you. Sign up today and commit to doing something life changing this Lent.” Please sign up here!


Part of transforming our lives includes, as St. Paul says, expanding our minds, growing in our knowledge of faith. Here is another special program, hosted by Scott Hahn, available this Lent: the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology will be offering free access to a new Bible series called The Bible and the Virgin Mary starting Ash WednesdayHere is a trailer of the program:

It is a rare opportunity to get this program for free. Please click here to register for the program. On their Web site the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology explains:

“Over the course of 12 lessons, beginning on Ash Wednesday, this study presents the participant an opportunity for growth in knowledge of Scripture and devotion to Our Lady.

“As part of St. Paul Center’s mission, we want to share this study with as many people as possible. Please tell your friends and share this resource. . . . New lessons will be posted each week and will be available for two weeks after the post date. Keep an eye out for a new email each week announcing that the new lesson is available. . . . We look forward to growing with you.”

It is true that Lent is a time of penance and fasting, as we partake in 40 days of abstinence and unite ourselves to the Passion of Christ Jesus, Our Savior and Redeemer. Traditional fasting from certain foods is always fruitful when united with prayer as an offering of sacrificial love to the Lord, and needs to be a part of our Lent. Furthermore, as these helpful series’ by the Dynamic Catholic Institute and the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology emphasize, the point is not only renunciation but also growth and transformation that should, through God’s grace and our response, happen during Lent, but also extend beyond it.

Catholic Priest will be Chaplain to Carolina Panthers at Super Bowl 50


Here’s a great story shared by Gretchen Filz about the Catholic priest — Father Joe Mulligan — who will be going with the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 50 this Sunday, making sure the Catholic players on the team have the gift of the Sunday Mass, and being their spiritual chaplain throughout the experience. Gretchen shared the story, as reported by Charlotte’s Catholic News Herald:

CHARLOTTE — Father Joe Mulligan, a warm-hearted, gregarious Irish priest with 40 years of ministering to people in the Diocese of Charlotte, is seldom at a loss for words. But a phone call one week ago left him speechless.

That phone call came from the Carolina Panthers’ director of Player Engagement, Mark Carrier, who told Father Joe that the Panthers’ Catholic players had chosen him to go to Super Bowl 50 as their chaplain. Carrier said, the players were inviting Father Joe to accompany them on their historic trip to the Big Game in Santa Clara, California, and would Father Joe like to go?

Father Mulligan replied, “It’s a good thing I’m sitting down. As a person that usually has a lot of things to say, I’m just filled with gratitude and overjoyed to be able to go.”

“That was as much as I could get out,” he recalls.

Click here to continue reading full story.

Powerful: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson on God & Prayer

Here is a great video of Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson talking about God and prayer, being Greek Orthodox Christians, and raising their children with prayer and the Church.

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are both members of the Greek Orthodox Church. Wilson has even written eloquently about the importance and beauty of Christian faith and ritual in her life. A few years ago she wrote a piece for the HuffingtonPost called “The Joys of Greek Easter,” in which Wilson shared:

“When we were kids, our parents would take us, and now as parents ourselves we take our children, to many of the Holy Week services including the Good Friday service where you mourn the death of Jesus by walking up to the Epitaphio, which represents the dead body of Christ, make your cross, kiss the Epitaphio, and marvel at how it was decorated with thousands of glorious flowers, rose petals and scents like incense.

Some very pious people will crawl under the Epitaphio. I have always been so moved to see this. There is no self- consciousness in this utter act of faith. There is no embarrassment to show symbolic sorrow at the death of our Saviour.”

Melissa Joan Hart Stars in “God’s Not Dead 2,” Talks about Faith & Prayer

We pray every night with the kids and at every meal. . . We go to church every Sunday. . . .I have a great life and I want to share that with people, and a lot of that, almost all of that, is my faith.” – Melissa Joan Hart

Actress Melissa Joan Hart, known for her roles in the popular TV series’ Clarissa Explains It All (1991-94), Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-2003), and Melissa & Joey (2010-15), is the star of the new Christian film God’s Not Dead 2, the sequel to the popular God’s Not DeadIn the video interview below Hart, who is a devout Christian, speaks about feeling called to star in the new film. “I felt very called to do this movie, really excited about it, and prayed a lot over it.”

In an interview with Paulette Cohn, Hart spoke about the importance of the Christian faith Melissa_Joan_Hart_2011and prayer for her and her family: “We pray every night with the kids and at every meal. . . We go to church every Sunday, and Mason [Hart’s son] goes to Sunday school while my husband and I are in the actual service. He is learning and coloring. He thinks he is having fun, but at the same time he is learning about Jesus, religion and prayer. Braydon, too, will start that in a couple of months. Mason also goes to a Christian pre-school, which I think is wonderful and helpful. They say a prayer before snack every day and do chapel once a week. I think it is nice. It puts him around a group that has the same beliefs as his family.”

In God’s Not Dead 2 Hart plays a teacher who is persecuted for responding to a student’s question by mentioning and quoting Jesus from the New Testament. In a video interview Hart speaks to the deeper reality that the film tries to convey in relation to the persecution that many Christians receive today. “I think this is a very relevant movie for right now, what’s going on in this country, in the world: a lot of Christians being persecuted… a lot of sacrificing the many for the one, and not taking into consideration what this country was founded on.”

Hart continued: “I think there is a struggle right now with religion, and in public it’s not easy to talk about, but hopefully this opens up some conversation.” God’s Not Dead 2 is set to come out in theaters April 1, 2016.