“Hillsong – Let Hope Rise” in Theaters this Friday

Please check out the release of Hillsong – Let Hope Rise, a movie hitting theaters this Friday on one of the most popular Christian bands in the world. Here is the trailer and also an interview with a couple band members, including lead singer Taya Smith.

Thank You, Jesus & Mary – Graduation

I am incredibly grateful to have (officially) received my Ph.D. this past Saturday from the School of Theology & Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America. Below are a couple of pictures from the graduation with friars from my community and with Fr. Regis J. Armstrong, a Capuchin Franciscan who is one of the most eminent scholars of Franciscan studies in the world, one of the major translators of the early works of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi.

Thank you to all who have offered their prayers and support throughout the years for my doctoral studies, especially during the difficult time of dissertation writing. Thank you, foremost, to beloved Jesus and Mary, for the gift of being able to receive a doctorate and, God-willing, for the opportunity to teach one day at the university-level. God is good, and I am overwhelmingly grateful for how good He has been to me.

Graduation

With friars from my community

GraduationFrRegis

With Franciscan scholar, Fr. Regis J. Armstrong, OFM Cap.

 

“Nutella” Billionaire’s Devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes

“Ferrero’s policies are bound up with the fervent Catholicism of its owner. He has a special devotion to the Madonna of Lourdes . . . executives say he visits her shrine at least once a year and that every Ferrero plant and office in the world has a statue of the Madonna.” – The Guardian

The Italian entrepreneur and billionaire Michelle Ferrero, who had a net worth ofnutellaferrero.0.0 26.7 billion dollars, and was considered the richest man in Italy, attributed much of his success to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, particularly the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes.

As the Guardian explained, Ferrero visited the Lourdes shrine on pilgrimage each year and had a statue of Our Lady placed at every office and plant worldwide where his company resided. Furthermore, he often took his employees to the sacred shrine. According to Aleteia, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of his company, which bears his family name, Ferrero said: “The success of Ferrero we owe to Our Lady of Lourdes; without her we can do little.”

Moreover, according to published stories in both the Guardian and Aleteia, the Ferrero company’s chocolates, specifically the Ferrero “Rocher”—their shape and name—are said to be inspired by the rocky grotto of Lourdes, called the Rocher de Massabielle. Here is a fascinating comparison of images:

Ferrero Rocher

Ferrero Rocher, from candywarehouse.com

 

Rocher de Massabielle (Lourdes Grotto)

Ferrero died on Valentine’s Day last year, marking almost a year since his passage into eternity. Quite appropriately he passed away on a day when millions around the world would be indulging in his chocolates. Zelda Caldwell of Aleteia explains in her profile of Ferrero: “He was a man endowed with a strong faith who spent his life away from the spotlight and the tabloids. Each year he went on pilgrimage to Lourdes, taking his top manager. He also organized a visit to the French shrine for his employees.”

A Great Man of God: Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko

Here are two film trailers about the 20th century martyr, the Polish priest Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, who is a blessed today on the verge of canonization. He is someone who I have recently felt spiritually close to, sensing the intercession of this man of God in my life. Fr Jerzy was an inspirational young priest, a brother of the people, who was viciously murdered by agents of the Communist secret police in Poland in 1984 for standing up for truth when lives all around him were being oppressed. Fr. Jerzy, beloved servant of God, pray for us!

Robert F. Kennedy’s Prophetic Speech: No to Racial Hatred, No to Violence & Rioting

On this feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a prophet of peace, a Franciscan priest, and martyr who gave his life for another prisoner in Auschwitz, I came across this moving video of Robert F. Kennedy, one of my favorite political figures.

In these times of racial tension, division, and violence that many parts of our country are experiencing, here is a call of unity: Bobby Kennedy announcing the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., to a stunned audience in Indianapolis; speaking from the heart, reminding the people that his own brother was killed by a white man, reminding the people that Martin Luther King was not about violence or hatred, but peace, reconciliation, and healing.

Here Bobby Kennedy urges people not to riot, calling for reconciliation between the races through the pain and suffering, understanding that more violence is not the answer to the violence that transpired. It is a moving testimony by a prophet for peace doing honor to another prophet of peace. It is a testimony that, right now, our country and culture, with all the confusion that has set in, needs to desperately hear and internalize.

Interestingly, the video emphasizes that at the news of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination many cities across the United States experienced riots that night — similar to our status quo — and yet Indianapolis, at the pleadings and peaceful urging of Robert F. Kennedy, remained peaceful.

Loving Religious Life

Dear Friends, peace & abundant blessings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and His beloved Mother Mary most Holy!!

Tomorrow marks one week since I’ve arrived in Pennsylvania to enter religious life as a
st-francis-of-assisi-praying postulant
with the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular. Last Saturday was my first day in religious life, and it’s been a fruitful transition. The Order traces its historical roots to penitents of the Middle Ages who sought holiness in daily life, even predating St. Francis of Assisi.

One of the things that I love about the transition is that, in the friary, one’s entire day is consecrated to the Lord with a continual orientation toward prayer. As a community, we do morning prayer, Mass, evening Adoration, and night prayer, praying the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day. But the community is both contemplative and active. Even during the first week chances at ministry (through the grace of sharing testimony) were present.

One day we arrived at a retreat house run by Franciscan sisters; in attendance were about 30-40 members of the Serra Club, a group that prays for religious vocations. Thus we were invited to individually go up before the group and share our vocation stories, testifying to the Lord’s presence in our lives. One of the treats of the experience included three young novices from the Franciscan sisters sharing their stories with us and then performing sacred music for us.

OurLady2One young novice played a beautiful rendition of “Ave Maria” on her violin; then the three novices combined on violin and piano to sing and play another Marian classic for us, “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman.” It was a stunning encounter with sacred feminine beauty, both in the young sisters who were performing and in Our Lady whose presence radiated through the immaculate purity of the angelic music that was dedicated to her.

I also had the chance to meet and speak with Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR, the holy man who did so much to transform Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and put it on the map as one of the best Catholic colleges in the world. Fr. Scanlan belongs to the order that I’m discerning with, and is currently a retired friar situated in a main house with his fellow elderly friars, men who have given their whole lives to serving God and His Kingdom.

We have dinner with them each Sunday, and what I noticed in speaking with these men is that they have absolutely no regrets about the choice they’ve made — for religious life — as, in the end, they know they lived the most meaningful existence one can, dedicated fully to the service of the Lord, dedicated completely to fulfilling one’s purpose, one’s call.

With my postulant brothers

With my postulant brothers

Religious life is fascinating. You have encounters which are nothing short of pure gift, gifts from God. It’s also practical, realistic, down-to-earth. We pray a lot but the guys also love playing sports after dinner — check out the fun our sisters have. We’re all different characters, a fraternity of brothers wanting to fight for the Kingdom of God and for the Queen of Heaven, giving our lives for the sacred; for that which counts.

Internally, there always are ups and downs as the devil is never happy when one begins the journey toward vocation. Spiritual attack comes. That’s why it’s so important to put on the armor of God as protection, to defeat the enemy through prayer, sacrifice, Scripture, confession, obedience and fasting. I haven’t used all of these weapons yet but know that they will be invaluable, essential in a life of spiritual warfare.

As I continue on this fresh and passionate journey, I ask for your continual prayers, friends, for myself and my fellow postulants. May God bless us and give us the wisdom and strength to discern, and always follow, His will, His holy call.

St. Francis & St. Clare pray for us!

Speaking Event

Friends, if you are in the Chicago area tomorrow (Tuesday, July 30), I will be speaking at Immaculate Conception parish, sharing my testimony about God’s transformative healing in my life, and about the path to discerning a priestly vocation; giving witness to the innumerable blessings that the Lord has given me through the intercession of Our Lady of Medjugorje. We will begin at 7:30 pm.