< <  

February 1, 2015

  > >

View Readings
Similar Reflections

my people, vol. 28, issue 2

My People


Pope Francis (credit: InterMirifica.net)

Suffering Can Lead To Wisdom Of Heart

The World Day of the Sick is celebrated each year on February 11, the feast of our Lady of Lourdes. Pope Francis' Message for the Day, dated December 3, 2014, follows:

"... On this, the twenty-third World Day of the Sick, begun by Saint John Paul II, I turn to all of you who are burdened by illness and are united in various ways to the flesh of the suffering Christ, as well as to you, professionals and volunteers in the field of health care.

"This year's theme invites us to reflect on a phrase from the Book of Job: 'I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame' (Job 29:15). I would like to consider this phrase from the perspective of 'sapientia cordis' - the wisdom of the heart.

"1. This 'wisdom' is no theoretical, abstract knowledge, the product of reasoning. Rather, it is, as Saint James describes it in his Letter, 'pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity' (3:17). It is a way of seeing things infused by the Holy Spirit in the minds and the hearts of those who are sensitive to the sufferings of their brothers and sisters and who can see in them the image of God. So let us take up the prayer of the Psalmist: 'Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom' (Ps 90:12). This 'sapientia cordis,' which is a gift of God, is a compendium of the fruits of the World Day of the Sick.

"2. Wisdom of the heart means serving our brothers and sisters. Job's words: 'I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame,' point to the service which this just man, who enjoyed a certain authority and a position of importance amongst the elders of his city, offered to those in need. His moral grandeur found expression in the help he gave to the poor who sought his help and in his care for orphans and widows (Job 29:12-13).

"Today too, how many Christians show, not by their words but by lives rooted in a genuine faith, that they are 'eyes to the blind' and 'feet to the lame!' They are close to the sick in need of constant care and help in washing, dressing, and eating. This service, especially when it is protracted, can become tiring and burdensome. It is relatively easy to help someone for a few days but it is difficult to look after a person for months or even years, in some cases when he or she is no longer capable of expressing gratitude. And yet, what a great path of sanctification this is! In those difficult moments we can rely in a special way on the closeness of the Lord, and we become a special means of support for the Church's mission.

"3. Wisdom of the heart means being with our brothers and sisters. Time spent with the sick is holy time. It is a way of praising God who conforms us to the image of His Son, who 'came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many' (Mt 20:28). Jesus Himself said: 'I am among you as one who serves' (Lk 22:27).

O Mary, Seat of Wisdom, intercede as our Mother for all the sick and for those who care of them! grant that, through our service of our suffering neighbors, and through the experience of suffering itself, we may receive and cultivate true wisdom of heart.

"With lively faith let us ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the grace to appreciate the value of our often unspoken willingness to spend time with these sisters and brothers who, thanks to our closeness and affection, feel more loved and comforted. How great a lie, on the other hand, lurks behind certain phrases which so insist on the importance of 'quality of life' that they make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!

"4. Wisdom of the heart means going forth from ourselves towards our brothers and sisters. Occasionally our world forgets the special value of time spent at the bedside of the sick, since we are in such a rush; caught up as we are in a frenzy of doing, of producing, we forget about giving ourselves freely, taking care of others, being responsible for others. Behind this attitude there is often a lukewarm faith which has forgotten the Lord's words: 'You did it unto Me' (Mt 25:40).

"For this reason, I would like once again to stress 'the absolute priority of "going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters" as one of the two great commandments which ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God's completely free gift' (Evangelii Gaudium, 179). The missionary nature of the Church is the wellspring of an 'effective charity and a compassion which understands, assists, and promotes' (ibid).

"5. Wisdom of the heart means showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters while not judging them. Charity takes time. Time to care for the sick and time to visit them. Time to be at their side like Job's friends: 'And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great' (Job 2:13). Yet Job's friends harbored a judgement against him: they thought that Job's misfortune was a punishment from God for his sins. True charity is a sharing which does not judge, which does not demand the conversion of others; it is free of that false humility which, deep down, seeks praise and is self-satisfied about whatever good it does.

"Job's experience of suffering finds its genuine response only in the cross of Jesus, the supreme act of God's solidarity with us, completely free and abounding in mercy. This response of love to the drama of human pain, especially innocent suffering, remains for ever impressed on the body of the risen Christ; His glorious wounds are a scandal for faith but also the proof of faith (cf. Homily for the Canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II, April 27, 2014).

"Even when illness, loneliness, and inability make it hard for us to reach out to others, the experience of suffering can become a privileged means of transmitting grace and a source for gaining and growing in sapientia cordis. We come to understand how Job, at the end of his experience, could say to God: 'I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you' (42:5). People immersed in the mystery of suffering and pain, when they accept these in faith, can themselves become living witnesses of a faith capable of embracing suffering, even without being able to understand its full meaning.

"6. I entrust this World Day of the Sick to the maternal protection of Mary, who conceived and gave birth to Wisdom incarnate: Jesus Christ, our Lord.

"O Mary, Seat of Wisdom, intercede as our Mother for all the sick and for those who care for them! Grant that, through our service of our suffering neighbors, and through the experience of suffering itself, we may receive and cultivate true wisdom of heart!

"With this prayer for all of you, I impart my Apostolic Blessing."

No Longer Slaves, But Brothers And Sisters

The Annual World Day of Peace was celebrated on January 1. Pope Francis' Message for the Day, dated December 8, 2014, follows:

"1. At the beginning of this New Year, which we welcome as God's gracious gift to all humanity, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to every man and woman, to all the world's peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious leaders. In doing so, I pray for an end to wars, conflicts, and the great suffering caused by human agency, by epidemics past and present, and by the devastation wrought by natural disasters. I pray especially that, on the basis of our common calling to cooperate with God and all people of good will for the advancement of harmony and peace in the world, we may resist the temptation to act in a manner unworthy of our humanity.

"In my Message for Peace last year, I spoke of 'the desire for a full life which includes a longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced."[1] Since we are by nature relational beings, meant to find fulfilment through interpersonal relationships inspired by justice and love, it is fundamental for our human development that our dignity, freedom, and autonomy be acknowledged and respected. Tragically, the growing scourge of man's exploitation by man gravely damages the life of communion and our calling to forge interpersonal relations marked by respect, justice, and love. This abominable phenomenon, which leads to contempt for the fundamental rights of others and to the suppression of their freedom and dignity, takes many forms. I would like briefly to consider these, so that, in the light of God's word, we can consider all men and women 'no longer slaves, but brothers and sisters.'

Listening to God's plan for humanity

World Meeting Of Families Prayer

God and Father of us all, in Jesus, Your Son and our Savior, You have made us Your sons and daughters in the family of the Church.

May Your grace and love help our families in every part of the world be united to one another in fidelity to the Gospel.

May the example of the Holy Family, with the aid of Your Holy Spirit, guide all families, especially those most troubled, to be homes of communion and prayer and to always seek Your truth and live in Your love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us!

World Meeting of Families - Philadelphia 2015

"2. The theme I have chosen for this year's message is drawn from Saint Paul's letter to Philemon, in which the Apostle asks his co-worker to welcome Onesimus, formerly Philemon's slave, now a Christian and, therefore, according to Paul, worthy of being considered a brother. The Apostle of the Gentiles writes: 'Perhaps this is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother' (vv. 15-16). Onesimus became Philemon's brother when he became a Christian. Conversion to Christ, the beginning of a life lived Christian discipleship, thus constitutes a new birth (cf. 2 Cor 5:17; 1 Pet 1:3) which generates fraternity as the fundamental bond of family life and the basis of life in society.

"In the Book of Genesis (cf. 1:27-28), we read that God made man male and female, and blessed them so that they could increase and multiply. He made Adam and Eve parents who, in response to God's command to be fruitful and multiply, brought about the first fraternity, that of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel were brothers because they came forth from the same womb. Consequently they had the same origin, nature, and dignity as their parents, who were created in the image and likeness of God.

"But fraternity also embraces variety and differences between brothers and sisters, even though they are linked by birth and are of the same nature and dignity. As brothers and sisters, therefore, all people are in relation with others, from whom they differ, but with whom they share the same origin, nature, and dignity. In this way, fraternity constitutes the network of relations essential for the building of the human family created by God.

"Tragically, between the first creation recounted in the Book of Genesis and the new birth in Christ whereby believers become brothers and sisters of the 'first-born among many brethren' (Rom 8:29), there is the negative reality of sin, which often disrupts human fraternity and constantly disfigures the beauty and nobility of our being brothers and sisters in the one human family. It was not only that Cain could not stand Abel; he killed him out of envy and, in so doing, committed the first fratricide. 'Cain's murder of Abel bears tragic witness to his radical rejection of their vocation to be brothers. Their story (cf. Gen 4:1-16) brings out the difficult task to which all men and women are called, to live as one, each taking care of the other.'[2]

"This was also the case with Noah and his children (cf. Gen 9:18-27). Ham's disrespect for his father Noah drove Noah to curse his insolent son and to bless the others, those who honored him. This created an inequality between brothers born of the same womb.

"In the account of the origins of the human family, the sin of estrangement from God, from the father figure and from the brother, becomes an expression of the refusal of communion. It gives rise to a culture of enslavement (cf. Gen 9:25-27), with all its consequences extending from generation to generation: rejection of others, their mistreatment, violations of their dignity and fundamental rights, and institutionalized inequality. Hence, the need for constant conversion to the Covenant, fulfilled by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, in the confidence that 'where sin increased, grace abounded all the more through Jesus Christ' (Rom 5:20-21). Christ, the beloved Son (cf. Mt 3:17), came to reveal the Father's love for humanity. Whoever hears the Gospel and responds to the call to conversion becomes Jesus' 'brother, sister, and mother' (Mt 12:50), and thus an adopted son of his Father (cf. Eph 1:5).

"One does not become a Christian, a child of the Father and a brother or sister in Christ, as the result of an authoritative divine decree, without the exercise of personal freedom: in a word, without being freely converted to Christ. Becoming a child of God is necessarily linked to conversion: 'Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit' (Acts 2:38). All those who responded in faith and with their lives to Peter's preaching entered into the fraternity of the first Christian community (cf. 1 Pet 2:17; Acts 1:15-16, 6:3, 15:23): Jews and Greeks, slaves and free (cf. 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:28). Differing origins and social status did not diminish anyone's dignity or exclude anyone from belonging to the People of God. The Christian community is thus a place of communion lived in the love shared among brothers and sisters (cf. Rom 12:10; 1 Thess 4:9; Heb 13:1; 1 Pet 1:22; 2 Pet 1:7).

"All of this shows how the Good News of Jesus Christ, in whom God makes 'all things new' (Rev 21:5),[3] is also capable of redeeming human relationships, including those between slaves and masters, by shedding light on what both have in common: adoptive sonship and the bond of brotherhood in Christ. Jesus Himself said to His disciples: 'No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you' (Jn 15:15).

The many faces of slavery yesterday and today

"3. From time immemorial, different societies have known the phenomenon of man's subjugation by man. There have been periods of human history in which the institution of slavery was generally accepted and regulated by law. This legislation dictated who was born free and who was born into slavery, as well as the conditions whereby a freeborn person could lose his or her freedom or regain it. In other words, the law itself admitted that some people were able or required to be considered the property of other people, at their free disposition. A slave could be bought and sold, given away or acquired, as if he or she were a commercial product.

"Today, as the result of a growth in our awareness, slavery, seen as a crime against humanity,[4] has been formally abolished throughout the world. The right of each person not to be kept in a state of slavery or servitude has been recognized in international law as inviolable.

Yet, even though the international community has adopted numerous agreements aimed at ending slavery in all its forms, and has launched various strategies to combat this phenomenon, millions of people today - children, women, and men of all ages - are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery.

"I think of the many men and women laborers, including minors, subjugated in different sectors, whether formally or informally, in domestic or agricultural workplaces, or in the manufacturing or mining industry; whether in countries where labor regulations fail to comply with international norms and minimum standards, or, equally illegally, in countries which lack legal protection for workers' rights.

"I think also of the living conditions of many migrants who, in their dramatic odyssey, experience hunger, are deprived of freedom, robbed of their possessions, or undergo physical and sexual abuse. In a particular way, I think of those among them who, upon arriving at their destination after a gruelling journey marked by fear and insecurity, are detained in at times inhumane conditions. I think of those among them, who for different social, political, and economic reasons, are forced to live clandestinely. My thoughts also turn to those who, in order to remain within the law, agree to disgraceful living and working conditions, especially in those cases where the laws of a nation create or permit a structural dependency of migrant workers on their employers, as, for example, when the legality of their residency is made dependent on their labor contract. Yes, I am thinking of 'slave labor.'

"I think also of persons forced into prostitution, many of whom are minors, as well as male and female sex slaves. I think of women forced into marriage, those sold for arranged marriages and those bequeathed to relatives of their deceased husbands, without any right to give or withhold their consent.

"Nor can I fail to think of all those persons, minors and adults alike, who are made objects of trafficking for the sale of organs, for recruitment as soldiers, for begging, for illegal activities such as the production and sale of narcotics, or for disguised forms of cross-border adoption.

"Finally, I think of all those kidnapped and held captive by terrorist groups, subjected to their purposes as combatants, or, above all in the case of young girls and women, to be used as sex slaves. Many of these disappear, while others are sold several times over, tortured, mutilated, or killed.

Some deeper causes of slavery

"4. Today, as in the past, slavery is rooted in a notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as an object. Whenever sin corrupts the human heart and distances us from our Creator and our neighbors, the latter are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects. Whether by coercion or deception, or by physical or psychological duress, human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold, and reduced to being the property of others. They are treated as means to an end.

"Alongside this deeper cause - the rejection of another person's humanity - there are other causes which help to explain contemporary forms of slavery. Among these, I think in the first place of poverty, underdevelopment and exclusion, especially when combined with a lack of access to education or scarce, even non-existent, employment opportunities. Not infrequently, the victims of human trafficking and slavery are people who look for a way out of a situation of extreme poverty; taken in by false promises of employment, they often end up in the hands of criminal networks which organize human trafficking. These networks are skilled in using modern means of communication as a way of luring young men and women in various parts of the world.

"Another cause of slavery is corruption on the part of people willing to do anything for financial gain. Slave labor and human trafficking often require the complicity of intermediaries, be they law enforcement personnel, state officials, or civil and military institutions. 'This occurs when money, and not the human person, is at the center of an economic system. Yes, the person, made in the image of God and charged with dominion over all creation, must be at the center of every social or economic system. When the person is replaced by mammon, a subversion of values occurs.'[5]

"Further causes of slavery include armed conflicts, violence, criminal activity, and terrorism. Many people are kidnapped in order to be sold, enlisted as combatants, or sexually exploited, while others are forced to emigrate, leaving everything behind: their country, home, property, and even members of their family. They are driven to seek an alternative to these terrible conditions even at the risk of their personal dignity and their very lives; they risk being drawn into that vicious circle which makes them prey to misery, corruption, and their baneful consequences.

A shared commitment to ending slavery

"5. Often, when considering the reality of human trafficking, illegal trafficking of migrants and other acknowledged or unacknowledged forms of slavery, one has the impression that they occur within a context of general indifference.

"Sadly, this is largely true. Yet I would like to mention the enormous and often silent efforts which have been made for many years by religious congregations, especially women's congregations, to provide support to victims. These institutes work in very difficult situations, dominated at times by violence, as they work to break the invisible chains binding victims to traffickers and exploiters. Those chains are made up of a series of links, each composed of clever psychological ploys which make the victims dependent on their exploiters. This is accomplished by blackmail and threats made against them and their loved ones, but also by concrete acts such as the confiscation of their identity documents and physical violence. The activity of religious congregations is carried out in three main areas: in offering assistance to victims, in working for their psychological and educational rehabilitation, and in efforts to reintegrate them into the society where they live or from which they have come.

"This immense task, which calls for courage, patience, and perseverance, deserves the appreciation of the whole Church and society. Yet, of itself, it is not sufficient to end the scourge of the exploitation of human persons. There is also need for a threefold commitment on the institutional level: to prevention, to victim protection and to the legal prosecution of perpetrators. Moreover, since criminal organizations employ global networks to achieve their goals, efforts to eliminate this phenomenon also demand a common and, indeed, a global effort on the part of various sectors of society.

"States must ensure that their own legislation truly respects the dignity of the human person in the areas of migration, employment, adoption, the movement of businesses offshore, and the sale of items produced by slave labor. There is a need for just laws which are centered on the human person, uphold fundamental rights, and restore those rights when they have been violated. Such laws should also provide for the rehabilitation of victims, ensure their personal safety, and include effective means of enforcement which leave no room for corruption or impunity. The role of women in society must also be recognized, not least through initiatives in the sectors of culture and social communications.

"Intergovernmental organizations, in keeping with the principle of subsidiarity, are called to coordinate initiatives for combating the transnational networks of organized crime which oversee the trafficking of persons and the illegal trafficking of migrants. Cooperation is clearly needed at a number of levels, involving national and international institutions, agencies of civil society, and the world of finance.

"Businesses[6] have a duty to ensure dignified working conditions and adequate salaries for their employees, but they must also be vigilant that forms of subjugation or human trafficking do not find their way into the distribution chain. Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers. Every person ought to have the awareness that 'purchasing is always a moral - and not simply an economic - act.'[7]

"Organizations in civil society, for their part, have the task of awakening consciences and promoting whatever steps are necessary for combating and uprooting the culture of enslavement.

"In recent years, the Holy See, attentive to the pain of the victims of trafficking and the voice of the religious congregations which assist them on their path to freedom, has increased its appeals to the international community for cooperation and collaboration between different agencies in putting an end to this scourge.[8] Meetings have also been organized to draw attention to the phenomenon of human trafficking and to facilitate cooperation between various agencies, including experts from the universities and international organizations, police forces from migrants' countries of origin, transit, or destination, and representatives of ecclesial groups which work with victims. It is my hope that these efforts will continue to expand in years to come.

Globalizing fraternity, not slavery or indifference

"6. In her 'proclamation of the truth of Christ's love in society,'[9] the Church constantly engages in charitable activities inspired by the truth of the human person. She is charged with showing to all the path to conversion, which enables us to change the way we see our neighbors, to recognize in every other person a brother or sister in our human family, and to acknowledge his or her intrinsic dignity in truth and freedom. This can be clearly seen from the story of Josephine Bakhita, the saint originally from the Darfur region in Sudan who was kidnapped by slave-traffickers and sold to brutal masters when she was nine years old. Subsequently - as a result of painful experiences - she became a 'free daughter of God' thanks to her faith, lived in religious consecration and in service to others, especially the most lowly and helpless. This saint, who lived at the turn of the twentieth century, is even today an exemplary witness of hope[10] for the many victims of slavery; she can support the efforts of all those committed to fighting against this 'open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ.' [11]

"In the light of all this, I invite everyone, in accordance with his or her specific role and responsibilities, to practice acts of fraternity towards those kept in a state of enslavement. Let us ask ourselves, as individuals and as communities, whether we feel challenged when, in our daily lives, we meet or deal with persons who could be victims of human trafficking, or when we are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others. Some of us, out of indifference, or financial reasons, or because we are caught up in our daily concerns, close our eyes to this. Others, however, decide to do something about it, to join civic associations or to practice small, everyday gestures - which have so much merit! - such as offering a kind word, a greeting, or a smile. These cost us nothing but they can offer hope, open doors, and change the life of another person who lives clandestinely; they can also change our own lives with respect to this reality.

"We ought to recognize that we are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself. For this reason I urgently appeal to all men and women of good will, and all those near or far, including the highest levels of civil institutions, who witness the scourge of contemporary slavery, not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity. Instead, may we have the courage to touch the suffering flesh of Christ,[12] revealed in the faces of those countless persons whom he calls 'the least of these my brethren' (Mt 25:40, 45).

"We know that God will ask each of us: What did you do for your brother? (cf. Gen 4:9-10). The globalization of indifference, which today burdens the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters, requires all of us to forge a new worldwide solidarity and fraternity capable of giving them new hope and helping them to advance with courage amid the problems of our time and the new horizons which they disclose and which God places in our hands.


[1] No. 1.

[2] Message for the 2014 World Day of Peace, 2.

[3] Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 11.

[4] Cf. Address to Delegates of the International Association of Penal Law, 23 October 2014: L'Osservatore Romano, 24 October 2014, p. 4.

[5] Address to Participants in the World Meeting of Popular Movements, 28 October 2014: L'Osservatore Romano, 29 October 2014, p. 7.

[6] Cf. PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE, Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection, 2013.

[7] BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 66.

[8] Cf. Message to Mr Guy Ryder, Director General of the International Labour Organization, on the occasion of the 103rd Session of the ILO, 22 May 2014: L'Osservatore Romano, 29 May 2014, p. 7.

[9] BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 5.

[10] "Through the knowledge of this hope she was 'redeemed', no longer a slave, but a free child of God. She understood what Paul meant when he reminded the Ephesians that previously they were without hope and without God in the world - without hope because without God" (BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, 3).

[11] Address to Participants in the Second International Conference on Combating Human Trafficking: Church and Law Enforcement in Partnership, 10 April 2014: L'Osservatore Romano, 11 April 2014, p. 7; cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 270.

[12] Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 24 and 270.

Don't Feel Bad

by Leiann Spontaneo

The good God does not need years to accomplish His work of love in a soul; one ray from His Heart can, in an instant, make His flower bloom for eternity.

- St.Therese of Lisieux

I may be a Roman Catholic but I consider myself a "student" of Joyce Meyer Ministries. I have learned a very valuable lesson from her. Joyce Meyer often teaches that if you feel bad about yourself to do something nice for someone else! Maybe you should try! I did it!

For instance, I am a lay associate of Priests For Life. I even write for this newspaper. My roommates are always fed good meals ... etc...

Are you feeling yucky today?

1.Why not volunteer for a cause close to your heart?

2.Donate a care package to a crisis pregnancy center.

3.Give a home cooked meal to a shut-in.

4.Do you know someone who likes to read? Give a book.

5.Go through your closet and donate clothes you do not need.

6.Donate groceries.

7.Make sure Holy Communion is taken to those who cannot attend Mass.

8.Babysit for free.

9.Mow someone's lawn/shovel their snow.

10.Can you fill in the blank? __________________

This may not be a top-notch thoroughly researched article, but it is a subject that is close to, my heart. Can you imagine if every person did something nice for someone else, every single day??? Exactly ... 2015 has begun. Let's make it a good one.

Book Presents Life's Greatest Lessons

by Michael Halm

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr gave parishioners in Cincinnati a Christmas present of the book, Life's Greatest Lesson by Allen B. Hunt. He must have thought it worthwhile. Its prologue rather grandly describes it as "the cure for selfishness, for anxiety, for sluggishness, and even for anger." Sarah Anne Carter at GoodReads says she was handed the book as she left Christmas Eve Mass, also a gift from her archbishop.

"I honestly thought it would be a cheesy religious story with an overemphasis on some point of religious life I was pleasantly surprised," she wrote, describing it as "a good, modern-day parable ... a story that captures your attention and teaches you a lesson along the way."

It is more than just the coming-of-age story of Lavish Grace's ten-year-old grandson Christopher. These are obviously allegorical names like Bunyan's Christian. Mercifully unlike Bunyan's classic it is only 154 pages. Fr. Frank Cascia and Christopher's wife Rita, immediately brings to mind St. Rita of Cascia, the patroness of the impossible, and Lake Bobola the martyr St. Andrew Bobola. Hunt says, however, that "while the names and details have all been changed, most of the stories are true."

Hunt's story can be found in his book, Confessions of a Mega-Church Pastor: How I Discovered the Hidden Treasures of the Catholic Church. After 15 years he converted to Catholicism, very likely thanks to the prayers of the dominican sisters at Monastery of Our Lady of Grace in North Guilford, Connecticut, where he lectured in 1992.

In his Confessions there are some very similar life lessons, "When you suffer, you are being conformed to the image of Jesus. When you pray, you are being made holy in the image of Jesus. When you quietly serve a person in need, you are being shaped into the image of Jesus," and "When you generously give, your heart is being remade into the image of Jesus, our Lord and Savior."

Tracey Axnick wrote, "I was a big fan of Allen Hunt's radio show here on WSB radio in Atlanta (and rarely miss the show!). Most talk radio is about politics ("right and left"), but Allen's show was about morals ("right and wrong"). His radio show was always fascinating, frequently moving, and right on the money. This is the first of his books that I've read. The story line is simple, sweet, and meaningful. I look forward to reading his other books as well."

D. Anstrey wrote, "I loved this book. Great message and engrossing story. I am buying copies for every member of my family and will certainly include it in our study group."

Don Womick wrote, "I just finished reading this book by Dr. Hunt, and it is simply amazing, as in, I needed to read this book at this time in my life ... that kind of amazing. I won't give the plot away, except to say that the book is a parable about learning how to give. If you are concerned that you could be doing better in your stewardship, read it and then pass it on."

Billo Breen simply wrote, "Great, inspiring little book."

Although Luke Paul DelVecchio wrote, "I'm a huge Matthew Kelly fan. And I love Dynamic Catholic," he found the book hard to follow because of the nesting of the narrative of the ten-year-old narrator. He does, however, "give the author credit for attempting to convey this message through characters in a story" and thinks "this is such an important message."

The book is aimed at those like the adult Christopher Grace of the postscript, prompted to remember the forgotten wisdom of his grandparents. It is an attempt to re-evangelize as three popes now have been encouraging Catholics to do.

Some of the other books featured in the 2014 Dynamic Catholic Parish book Program are Allen Hunt's Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody and Nine Words on Galatians, Matthew Kelly's Rediscovering Catholicism, The Seven Pillars of Catholic Spirituality and Becoming the Best Version of Yourself, and John R. Wood's Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Mission.

Their growing list of books also include both old, Finding True Happiness by Fulton J. Sheen, and new, The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis and Pope Francis: A Living Legacy by James Campbell. Their CDs include "Five Things Women Need to Know About Men," "What's Weighing You Down" by Allen Hunt, and "The Best Way to Live" and "My Spiritual Journey" by Matthew Kelly.

They also offer the DVDs, "What Science Says About God" by the Magi Center and the music CDs, "Rediscover" and "A Collection of Christmas Songs" by Elliot Morris, and "Hold My Hand" by George Mower.

Dynamic Catholic promotes these books, DVDs, and CDs because the founders noticed in 2008 that only one percent of Catholics read a Catholic book, while the average Evangelical-Christian read four. Over the past five years they have changed that providing more than four thousand parishes and five million Catholics with such books. The program has the advantage that it can fit into anyone's busy schedule. Books can be passed on, especially to those not at Christmas Mass, changing lives exponentially.

The goal of Dynamic Catholic is impressively stated as: to "invite and inspire people of all ages to rediscover Catholicism; re-engage disengaged Catholics and increase the overall level of engagement among Catholics; develop the most dynamic and engaging Catholic learning systems to educate Catholics about the modern relevance and timeless genius of Catholicism; equip modern Catholics to live their faith in this every-changing world; give Catholics a reason to feel good about being Catholic again; energize Catholics to participate more fully in their faith and in their lives; ignite a desire for continuous learning and best practices among all Catholics."

Prison To Praise

Finding Life On Death Row

by Lee Samuel Capers

(Editor's note: Mr. Capers writes from California. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)

"Capers!! Roll it up for transfer!!" said the voice on the intercom of the deputy.

It was less than 48 hours since a jury of my peers came back with the ultimate punishment; death by lethal injection. I was still in shock. I thought to myself, "This can't be real!!" Though I am a four time loser, the verdict was way out, just unfair! The end of my life was about to begin.

I arrived here at San Quentin on September 27, 2006. It was a beautiful sunny day. The bay waters sparkled and the sky was clear and blue. The prison, built over 100 years ago stood dark and menacing. I said to myself, "How could such an ugly place be located in such a beautiful location?" Stepping off of the bus I took one last look at the blue sky and said farewell to life I had once knew. No more walks on the beach. No more bar-b-ques in the park. To make matters worse, I was 12 hours away from Los Angeles, my home. I was placed in a holding tank in receiving and given three sack lunches, my property, and state blues. Nobody could look me in the eye. I was a condemned prisoner. Officers as well as my fellow prisoners did everything to avoid me. I found that due to my condemned status, I was considered one of the most dangerous convicts in the state, a label I later learned to hate.

As I waited to be processed in, dinner was served. My favorite to this very day, pizza. I sat and started out at the lower yard. A goose waddled up and just looked at me. "What are you looking at?" I asked. The goose stared at me with indifference and waddled away looking for a free meal. I began to think about my family, my friends. My heart ached for them. I missed being at home. Everything I had I took for granted. Life had all of a sudden become complicated.

I was taken to the adjustment center, screened by mental health and medical and sent to my cell with my bedroll, plastic spoon, and fish kit. My property came later. As the door slammed behind me, I sat on the bunk. That is where I remained until early the next morning. I had never felt so alone in my life. The environment I now had to adapt to was hostile, cold, and dangerous. I am a former gang member better known as a dropout and that placed a big target on my back. I thought about crying out to God but rather than praying I worked out daily. One of the C.O.'s told a cat who wanted to talk to a chaplain that God didn't exist here. I honestly believed it. I remained in the A.C. for nine months. In July of 2007, I was cleared by the administration and sent to East Block. That is when things began to change.

I met my wife while on the row through a pen pail site. On January 5, 2010, we married. She was an awesome woman. Strong, smart, and funny. No woman had ever made me feel the way she did. I found my grove and began running with a crowd I thought had my back. I began getting high on crystal and doing things contrary to the rules. I went to the hole over and over again. I tried practicing Islambut it did not last because I love eating pork. (Being half Somoan, pork was always in my diet.) I became reckless and began to take my marriage for granted. The whole time the Lord was calling me. But I ignored Him. I didn't want to be viewed as a "Holy Roller" by the people around me. The ripping and running finally came to an end when I went back to the hole in 2012. I found my so-called homies had betrayed me. My way of life was putting a strain on my marriage. My life felt out of control. "I" felt out of control. I wanted to stop what I was doing but I felt I couldn't.

One night as I was watching TV, the Catholic Chaplain Father Williams came by to introduce himself for he was new. I said hello and really paid no attention to him. Then a few days later he came by again just to say hello. Honestly, I began to resent his little visits. After awhile I began to get used to him stopping by. I started to talk to him regularly to a point to where I began to look forward to talking to him. In a world full of vicious, fake "haters" Father Williams was as real as one can get. Not long after his little cell front visits, I decided to sign up to attend mass. I really enjoyed it. I felt so much peace during those times. See, Father Williams not only kept it real, but he didn't shove religion down our throats.

In the summer of 2013 I attempted suicide. I was sent to Marin General Hospital for a week and transfered to CMF Vacaville. A few weeks later Father Williams shows up. I asked what he was doing there and he said to see me. It's an hour drive between San Quentin and Vacaville. I had a new found respect for him. This servant of the most high God was devoted to his work. One thing was clear. He is a prime example of what love is, and Christ that lives in him.

On July 27, 2014, a year later my suicide attempt, I was baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church. Today I push forward to do right in the eyes of the Lord. Though I am no longer with my wife, life seems to have become a lot simpler. Philippians 4:13 says we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. I pray daily to the Lord, and the Blessed Virgin Mother for guidance.

Edge To Edge

Pray The News

Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.

  • We pray that we will be instruments of God's peace.
  • We pray for the victory of the civilization of love and life over the culture of death.
  • We pray for an end to violence, war, slavery, human trafficking, abortion, euthanasia, and all attacks on human life.
  • We pray for "wisdom of heart."
  • We pray for strength and consolation for the sick and suffering.
  • We pray for all those who care for the sick and suffering.
  • We pray that we would love God with all we have.
  • We pray that we will grow in fraternity and solaninity.
  • We pray for all prisoners to grow in relationship to God.
  • We pray this Lent will be a time of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, repentance, and ongoing conversion.
  • We pray for an end to terrorism.
  • We pray for an end to anti-Semitism.