Tag Archives: catholic

First-string players wanted…with integrity

Decency in athletics

Thierfelder, a member of Legatus’ Charlotte Chapter, is hoping to lift up the examples of true sportsmanship and highlight the potential of sports to be a force for good and positive human development through the new Sports Virtue Institute at Belmont Abbey College.

The goal of the Sports Virtue Institute, which is in its fledgling stages, will be to attract, gather, and encourage athletes, coaches, and administrators who want to compete at the highest levels, but in a manner that upholds their integrity and that uses sport as a vehicle to hone personal virtue.

“Everybody wants world-class performance. Everybody enjoys watching it because ultimately, I believe, it raises us up and has us contemplate God,” said Thierfelder, the author of Less Than a Minute to Go: The Secret to World-Class Performance in Sport, Business and Everyday Life.

Thierfelder, who received his masters and doctoral degrees in sports psychology from Boston University, draws on his lifelong experience in sports. He was a medalist at the 1981 U.S. Track & Field Indoor National Championships who qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team but withdrew from competition because of injury.

Sports, mainly because of the billions of dollars they generate in revenue, tend today to be seen through a utilitarian lens of wins and losses. The cynic will argue that developing character sounds noble, but that it’s ultimately pointless if a Division I college athletic program or professional sports franchise fails to win championships.

Thierfelder argues that that view offers a false dichotomy between world-class performance on the field and competing in an ethical way that champions human dignity.

Training ground for life

“In sports, winning and losing matters,” Thierfelder said. “Here’s the issue — How do you win? In other words, is sport properly directed? And the big question someone can ask is — Can you win? Can you perform at a higher level as a world-class athlete, living a life of virtue, or living a life of vice? Which one will actually enable you to perform at the highest level?”

While noting that athletes who cheat and indulge in vices are often successful, Thierfelder believes they would compete at a higher level — and be happier while doing it — if they cultivated a life of virtue.

“On the whole, you would see a dramatic improvement not only in the performance, but in the lives, in the happiness of those competing, and those watching,” Thierfelder said.

Sport has long been seen as a training ground for life. U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur believed athletic competition taught competitors the importance of winning, and that those lessons would translate to the battlefield. MacArthur said, “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory.”

Writing in the first century, St. Paul made several references to running the good race, shadowboxing, athletic training, and the importance of Christians competing for an eternal crown instead of an athlete’s laurel crown.

The ancient philosophers Cicero, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle also had plenty to say about the links between sports and the virtuous life, said Thierfelder, who regularly asks people at Belmont Abbey College to memorize a lengthy quote from Pope Pius XII’s “Sport at the Service of the Spirit” statement in 1945.

“Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor,” said Pius XII, who added that “sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man.”

Distinguishing sportsmanship and virtue

 The Sports Virtue Institute will host lectures, events, and an annual conference. Thierfelder said the institute will also have a website with social media links, a blog, articles, and essays from coaches and athletes from around the country.

The values espoused in the Sports Virtue Institute have already helped to shape Belmont Abbey College’s athletic program and the Conference Carolinas that the college competes in. Thierfelder said that the conference’s tagline promotes “champions in body, mind, and spirit.”

Every year, the Conference Carolinas also gives an award for sportsmanship and virtue. When he arrived at Belmont Abbey College 15 years ago, Thierfelder said very few student-athletes wanted that award. Today, Thierfelders said it’s the most competitive award in the conference.

“Yes, we still want to be national champions if we can be national champions,” Thierfelder said. “But we also want all the other virtues that go with that.”


BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Catholicism – the greatest service in Truth

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that the greatest service that we can offer our neighbor is to know the truth, to speak the truth. This passage is parallel to that of Plato which said that the worst thing we could have in our souls is a lie about what is. It sometimes seems that those who help the poor and sick are given the highest priority in the Gospels. Few dispute that service to the poor is a good of the highest order. But suppose that we ask: “What is the greatest service that a medical doctor can do for us?” The first answer is: “To know what medicine is and how to apply it where it belongs.”

It is a good thing to give a cup of drinking water to a thirsty man, but only if we are sure that the water is not polluted. It is a still greater thing to design, plan, and put into operation a fresh water system that serves many cities and many purposes, including the quenching of thirst. For example, the ancient Romans were famous for their vision of making fresh water available, and so began the widespread institutionalization of the aqueduct system (some of which is still functioning) and the care of entire populaces. In other words, the greatest service is truth, not only the truths of “know how,” but the truth of things, including human things. From this supposition, all other services flow.

…Catholicism and Intelligence is based on two premises. First, what is peculiar or distinct about Catholicism is this: what the faith holds is intrinsically intelligible even if not always understood by given persons. And second, intelligence has its own structure or form that is rooted in the principle of contradiction – “Nothing can be and not be at the same time in the same way.” “Intelligences” or understandings that maintain that everything is true even if contradictory cannot stand. It follows that we live in a world in which some things are true, even though some valid point may be found in everything that is not true. This seeing what is true within error is why the major function of the human mind is to distinguish what is true from what is not true, what is right from what is not right, what can be held from what cannot be held. To respect the mind is to respect what is.

…We need to know what we think as well as what happens when we carry out what we think. Our dignity depends on our affirming the relation between what we know and intend to do and what we carry out into the world, and what happens as a result.

Excerpt from Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., from the Introduction, “The Greatest Service,” of his latest book Catholicism and Intelligence (Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2017), pp. xvii-xviii. www.stpaulcenter.com/emmaus-road-publishing

FR. JAMES V. SCHALL, S.J. is an American Jesuit Catholic priest who is one of the most prolific Catholic writers today. Author of over 30 books, he was professor at Georgetown University for 35 years. Among his recent books are The Mind That Is Catholic, The Modern Age, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading, Reasonable Pleasures, and Docilitas: On Teaching and Being Taught.

The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. ~ 2 Thessalonians 2: 9-11

Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: “It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2467

Hybrid homeschooling

When homeschooling emerged in the ‘60s and ‘70s among a largely conservative counterculture, it was actually outlawed in some states. By the early 1990s, however, every state had legalized it and participation now reaches into every sector of the population.

Many Catholics began to take up homeschooling in response to some parochial schools becoming more secular, unaffordable, or unavailable. In turn, options grew with online and correspondence Catholic schools and cooperative classes (co-ops) where groups come together for resources and specialized teaching expertise for a few classes.

The movement continues to grow among Catholics for a number of reasons including: growing disparity with the culture, the influence of Catholics in the public eye who homeschool, and positive reports such as the 2017 survey by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University finding homeschoolers are four times more likely to enter seminaries than those educated in Catholic institutions.

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that from 1999 to 2012, the number of homeschooled children more than doubled, from 850,000 to 1.8 million. According to EdChoice’s 2017 Schooling in America survey, about three percent of students are homeschooled, but some seven percent of families say that they would if they could.

Burgeoning options

As resources multiply it is becoming easier for families to make the commitment. A growing trend that lightens the burden for parents and increases opportunities for students is to take a hybrid approach, mixing homeschool with outside classes. Many public and Catholic schools that once shunned homeschoolers now allow part-time enrollment and participation in extracurricular activities for homeschoolers. It has also become popular for high schoolers to take college classes that also satisfy high school graduation requirements.

Actual hybrid schools — both secular and religious, which alternate school days between home and school — have also come onto the scene. For instance, the Regina Caeli Catholic schools — centered around the great-books and classic-texts approach — operate in 12 cities and 11 states, with an enrollment of about 1,100 children. Children learn at home three days a week and attend class wearing uniforms on the other two.

Adapting to children’s needs

“We homeschool because it’s the opportunity for a daily infusion of our cultural Catholicity that is important to us,” says Carolyn Smith, mother of nine children ages 23 to 5 in her 13th year of homeschooling. Her husband, Michael, is a senior network engineer who works on contracts for the federal government. They live a couple of miles outside of Mason, New Hampshire, a small rural community.

“We keep them home to school them but don’t hide them,” Carolyn said. “They are part of the community.” Their children use correspondence studies before high school and have participated in co-op classes. Thus far, the three older boys have chosen to attend Catholic high school full-time, but the two oldest girls stayed home, taking college classes during their junior and senior year, enabling them to enter Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia as sophomores.

There are four more still at home including one daughter with special needs. “Mary is just doing readiness with her Downs Syndrome,” Carolyn said. “She is non-verbal, but our lifestyle is tailored to help her; that’s why we have a horse and animals. Homeschooling affords us the ability to help her thrive in this environment.”

Daughter Sarah, finished her first year at Christendom and is returning as a junior this fall. Her sister Racheal graduated there last spring and is now enrolled in an accelerated nursing program. “I liked being with friends and socializing at co-op classes like music theory and Gregorian chant choir,” Sarah explained. “I took an algebra co-op class because it was a subject I needed more help in.” She also played softball at a local public school from seventh through eleventh grade.

Shannon Marie Federoff and her husband Matt are in their 22nd year of homeschooling “with 13 more to go,” according to her. They have 11 children ages 26 to 5 and also live on a hobby farm in Vail, Arizona. The family actually built their own 2,100-square-foot “straw bale” house with 14-foot ceilings and lofts for sleeping. Both Shannon and Matt were once public-school teachers and Matt now works as the chief information officer for the school district.

Shannon explained that they wanted a classical Catholic education for their children and to create a strong family culture. In addition to co-op classes, Shannon said that since they live in a conservative area and know who the good teachers are, once the children reach sophomore year, they supplement home education with math, science, and Spanish classes at the public high school. The children have also been involved in a number of outside activities such as ballet, 4-H, sports, drama, Trail Life, youth group, and altar servers.

Shannon’s daughter Isabel, 18, is heading off to Franciscan University as a sophomore this fall after mixing homeschool, public school, and college classes. “I really enjoyed going to school —I’m pretty social — but I was glad I didn’t have to go for the whole day,” she said. “I liked leaving early and the freedom of doing things at my own pace.” Isabel explained that she has dyslexia so that using audio books at home made English literature classes easier for her.

A family tradition

Deacon Mike and Gina McKeown of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota have homeschooled for 23 years. Their six children range in age from 34 to 17, and two married daughters are now homeschooling their own families. Another daughter, Sr. Mary Elia, is a Carmelite cloistered nun, and the fourth is starting her second year in college.

Once their children became juniors in high school, they enrolled with the Minnesota Department of Education Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), a program that allows 11th and 12th graders to earn college credit online or on campus at no cost whatsoever. Three of them took full-time classes at the college while two took classes online.

Cole, who just received his doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, said he took classes online to make time to play sports with the public school. He and his wife Teresa, who homeschooled through eighth grade then attended Catholic school, became new parents last February and plan to continue the family tradition of homeschooling.

Kyle, the youngest McKeown, took religion and music classes at the Catholic high school last year and will do so again this year. He is also enrolled in shop classes with the public school since he plans to go into construction.

“A lot of times parents have apprehensions about being able to handle teaching their children,” Mike said. “There are a lot of resources out there. We did research, talked with people, and took a hodge-podge approach, not using just one particular program.”

Changing Dynamics

Schooling typically evolves within families, tailored to individual needs and interests and changing family life. When James and Noreen Peliska moved from Naples, Florida to Bismarck where James took a job at the University of Mary as professor of biology and director of the pre-med program, four of their six children were already out of the home.

“Every year we set priorities for each child,” Noreen said. “Every kid is different, and dynamics change. I loved it when everyone was home and there were so many options to focus on the things they loved.” For instance, homeschooling enabled one son to dedicate many hours to music and get accepted at a prestigious music school, while another son who excelled at running in high school and college enrolled full-time there.

When they moved to Bismarck, Rose during her senior year chose to take full-time college classes that also satisfied high school requirements. Their youngest son, Edmund, took two classes at the Catholic high school and enjoyed it so much he is enrolled full time as a sophomore this year.

After 17 years, however, Noreen is still not quite done with schooling. She just started her studies in the radiologic technician program at the University of Mary.


PATTI MAGUIRE ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

Entrust kids to schools teaching ultimate Truth, moral law

Parents, as the first educators of their child and participating in the selection of an institution of higher education, are faced with challenges that perhaps their own parents had not faced: Will their teenager embrace the truths of the Church after their college experience? Historically, if a young person selected a Catholic college parents felt confident they would be supporting an educational experience supportive of Church teaching. Current anecdotal evidence suggests this may not always remain the case. Numerous mandates interfere with Catholic higher education’s unique role in preparing graduates to respond to the escalating moral questions of the day. These mandates may be from regulatory agencies, policies concerning academic freedom, legal claims labeling natural moral law as intolerant and discriminatory, and most impactfully, the demands of politically correct cultural relativism.

Catholic higher education has a unique role that extends beyond the education of the next generation. During Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 address to Catholic educators in the United States, he indicated how education plays a unique role in shaping a society respectful of natural moral law based on ultimate truths: “The Church’s primary mission of evangelization, in which educational institutions play a crucial role, is consonant with a nation’s fundamental aspiration to develop a society truly worthy of the human person’s dignity. … The Church’s mission, in fact, involves her in humanity’s struggle to arrive at truth. In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths. Drawing upon divine wisdom, she sheds light on the foundation of human morality and ethics, and reminds all groups in society that it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis.” [Benedict XVI, Address to Catholic Educators (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, April 17, 2008).]

The most effective method of fulfilling this mission is by preparing graduates capable of shaping a society that respects natural moral law. However, society has become hostile, not only to the ultimate truths of natural moral law, but also to those who espouse them. Catholic colleges may find it financially and socially expedient to deemphasize such a mission. In so doing, students may be cheated of an education in ultimate truths consistent with reason, vital to the holistic development of the human person. The question remains: What is a parent, in assisting a college-seeking child, to do?

There are indicators of a Catholic institution’s willingness to fulfill its unique role. These include: the nature of institutional sponsorship; the composition of the institution’s board of directors and their membership in organizations which publicly advocate for positions inconsistent with Church teaching; the public positions taken by board members, the administration, and the faculty; the sources of institutional funding; the nature and number of mandated core courses in religious studies and philosophy; and the institution’s collaborative relationships with other agencies in meeting the educational needs of students. One very telling indicator is how the institution describes itself and its mission in promotional materials. Is its mission defined solely in terms of secular goals or in terms of the foundational goal of enabling students to discern ultimate truths consistent with natural moral law? Perhaps, most importantly, does the institution identify itself as Catholic, or merely as value or faith-based?

Catholic institutions of higher education have remained critical to the scientific, socio-cultural, and moral development of this nation. If parents, with their college-seeking children, are comfortable with what they have learned when assessing these parameters, they have a basis for entrusting the next generation to Catholic higher education.


DR. MARIE HILLIARD, MS, MA, JCL, PH.D., RN, is Senior Fellow at The National Catholic Bioethics Center. She has an extensive background in nursing, medical ethics, and public policy (former Director of the CT Catholic Conference). She is a canon lawyer, co-chairs the Ethics Committee of the Catholic Medical Association, is president of the National Association of Catholic Nurses USA, and is a Colonel (Ret.) in the U.S. Army Reserve, where she served as RN for over 20 years. Having published extensively, she has likewise won Catholic Press Association award recognition.

Real Catholic education yields a Truth-seeking thinker

I was a history major in college. One of my history professors loved to tell us that our job as students was to be our own historians. He meant we should not simply read a history book and then believe we understood the topic, without further exploration of what we had read. We should study other books on the same topic and compare what the different authors put forth as explanations. In short, we were to become informed, independent thinkers who made critical judgments of the ways facts were chronicled and evaluated. Just because something is in a book does not make it true. It may be true, or partially true, or totally false. It is up to each student/historian to exert the effort to discover what is reliable, accurate, and reasonable, against what is mere conjecture or outright falsehood.

The professor’s advice applies to more than just studying history. University students should realize that much of what they’ll be taught needs to be analyzed and considered in the light of other facts and approaches. They need to be aware that in many fields of knowledge there is enormous pressure to conform to one set of ideas that reflect the modern secularist outlook. That outlook rejects the notions of eternal truths and natural moral laws. Instead students are confronted with subjectivism. Robert Cardinal Sarah describes this problem in his book God or Nothing: “Subjectivism is one of the most significant traits of our time. Feelings and personal desires are the only norm. Often modern man regards traditional values as archaeological artifacts.” Thus a college student will be told that the reason he should agree with (or at least not criticize) a blatantly immoral lifestyle is that everyone gets to decide what is right or wrong for himself. Making a judgment that certain ways of thinking or acting are wrong and harmful is treated as a violent intellectual assault on someone else’s unquestionable right to do whatever he wants, free from any criticism or disapproval.

Cardinal Sarah continues: “Since the social revolution in the sixties and seventies, it has been common practice to pit individual liberty against authority. Within this context, even among the faithful, it may seem that personal experience becomes more important than the rules established by the Church. If the individual is the central point of reference, everyone can interpret the Church’s message in his own way, adapting it to his own ideas.”

To be a faithful Catholic, especially in today’s university setting, a student must be aware that being a truth-seeking thinker means treating Christ’s doctrine as the basis upon which to judge everything else. Going along with fashionable trends and drinking in politically correct relativism that admits no other way of thinking is a sure formula for drifting away from the Church’s teaching and demands of the Gospel. Going along to get along can easily lead one down the road to denying certain teachings of the Church in the illusory pursuit of showing love and respect to people who reject those teachings. True love and respect for others involves sharing with them the liberating truths of the Gospel as taught by the Church. If they refuse to hear you, you at least have made the effort to help them. They have had the perhaps unusual experience that someone out there does stand firm when the world wants him to be silent and capitulate to the coercive worldview of relativism.

My history professor was a wise man. Being your own historian is a good way to approach the rest of life. For the Catholic student, it means looking at everything we encounter with the mind of Christ and not caving into the demands of a relativistic spirit in which there is no truth, only opinions.


FATHER GERALD MURRAY is pastor of Holy Family Church, New York, NY. He holds a Doctorate in Canon Law from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and appears as commentator on religious topics on TV and radio, including EWTN, Fox News, Fox Business, MSNBC, NY1, Radio Maria, Relevant Radio, Fox News Radio, and the Voice of America. He writes a monthly column for The Catholic Thing website. He served in US Navy Reserve Chaplain Corps from 1994 to 2005.

Drawing Kids to the Glow of Catholicism

When Bishop Kevin Rhoades challenged teachers in Indiana’s Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese to think of ways to keep young people from leaving the Catholic faith, Legate Betsy Williams took it to heart – and prayer.

In the quiet of her adoration hours before the Blessed Sacrament, an idea began to take shape: Immerse students in the beauty of the Catholic faith, giving them an emotional connection to the truths they learn.

New program emphasizes Catholic beauty

Last month when classes began, Williams’ idea debuted as the Light for the World program at St. Anthony de Padua School in South Bend. The program consists of houses, or small faith communities, within the school, and monthly retreats that focus on a saint and a virtue he or she exemplified.

The houses, which will be named for various saints, will have activities throughout the year to foster a sense of community. During the monthly retreat, each house will rotate among four stations, spending 30 minutes at a time in adoration, listening to a talk by a priest, working on a service project, and singing and learning about the Mass.

“Catholic schools do an amazing job of teaching the truth and this is so very important,” said Williams, who previously taught preschool and first and second grades at St. Anthony. “. . . That doesn’t need to change, but what needs to be added is leading [students] to the truth through beauty.”

Legate John Tippmann, Sr., who is helping Light for the World get started through a grant from his Mary Cross Tippmann Foundation, agreed. “I have seen what the problem is and it is that we know we’re losing children, Catholic children, at an alarming rate. They just lose interest in their faith.”

Keeping the faith – through love for Christ

Tippmann said when he grew up, it was far more likely that students attending Catholic schools would graduate with a love for their faith that sustained them the rest of their lives. Today, he said, according to a recent Gallup poll, only 25 percent of young people between the ages of 21 and 29 attend Mass weekly. And, according to a talk given in March at the University of Notre Dame by Katherine Angulo, associate director for youth ministry in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, 6 in 10 young Catholics celebrate their First Communion, but only a third go on to receive Confirmation. Angulo also said the median age people stop identifying as Catholic is 13 and one of the main reasons youth are leaving the Church is that they have no emotional connection to the faith.

“We want to teach them to love the faith instead of just learning the rules and regulations of it,” Tippmann said. When Williams presented Light for the World to several members of his foundation’s board, Tippmann said it resonated with his own experience of the faith handed down to him by his mother, for whom the foundation is named. “It seemed like this would help teachers to do a better job of teaching the Catholic faith and love for it.”

The foundation agreed to fund the first two years of the program at St. Anthony at a cost of $23,000 a year, which covers expenses and part of the salary for an additional teacher. If the program takes off, the foundation may continue to fund it or possibly support expanding it to other schools.

Kids ask to go to church

Williams, who will be the teacher directing the program as the school’s Catholic identity representative, drew on her classroom experiences to develop Light for the World. More than two years ago, she began taking her firstgraders into the parish church on Fridays to pray a rosary for their pastor, Fr. Robert Garrow, and for Bishop Rhoades. “They absolutely loved this time in church and in the silence,” she said. “They would beg to go during the week.” In talking with the students, Williams learned that they felt happy and peaceful during the Friday visits. “‘That’s the peace of Jesus,’ I told them. They were hooked and couldn’t get enough.” Next, Williams formed an adoration club so that all students in the school could have the same experience of being alone with Jesus in the quiet of the church. Twice a month for an hour after school, students in the club would meet to pray the rosary, sing and sit quietly.

Adoration will be a key element of the monthly retreats because, Williams said, she wants students to have an opportunity to unplug and listen to what God may be calling them to do with the gifts they have been given and to develop a lifelong habit of taking their concerns to Him.

Williams hopes through Light for the World to show students and their families the treasure they have in their faith – a treasure often left behind by putting travel, sports, and other distractions ahead of attending Mass. “So many kids and families are dropping away and abandoning our greatest gift for the pull of the world.”

As a means of reaching out to families, all the talks given by priests during the monthly retreats will be recorded and available to view online. Family members of students also will be invited to attend the retreats.

Service to others – mitigates focus on self

Williams developed the service aspect of the program to counteract the culture’s focus on self and to show students the beauty of loving, serving, and sacrificing for others. Each house will establish a relationship with a charity during the year and spend part of each retreat day doing something for that charity. For example, a house that has chosen a homeless shelter might make lunches for shelter residents.

The singing element of the retreats is designed to teach students that they are joining with all the angels and saints in bringing glory to God every time they go to Mass. Williams’ hope is that by teaching the students to sing beautiful songs for school and Sunday Masses, families who have been away from church or don’t attend will hear something that makes them want to return.

Strong family support is key

Although she has a background in education, Williams said the best preparation she received for creating Light for the World came from her parents, who gave her a strong, positive example of living the faith. Her father, Brian Miller, has been a deacon at St. Anthony de Padua for the last 45 years and helped her form the adoration club. “He’s given his whole life to our faith.”

Light for the World is not a curriculum, but will complement religious instruction in the classroom, Williams said. In addition to offering experiences that will convey the beauty of the faith, the program will provide suggested activities students can do with their families.

Bishop Rhoades, who approved the program, said its strength is the movement from beauty to goodness and then to truth it provides through exposing the children to the lives of the saints, prayer and retreat days, and priests and religious sisters. “It will be a very purposeful program, seeking to give the children a rich and joyful experience of learning to live the Gospel.”

He added that in visiting Williams’ first-grade classroom, he has already observed the effectiveness of her approach. The bishop said he also has seen how it involves parents who are often moved by the religious observance of their children. “I know of one parent who even became Catholic because the devotion of her daughter led her to learn about the Catholic faith. Parent involvement in this program is a real strength and necessity for the Catholic mission of the school.”

Narrow road’ to Christ is countercultural

Williams said she was confirmed in her discernment of the program by hearing Bishop Rhoades talk during his Chrism Mass homily during Holy Week this year about spreading the aroma of Christ in a world where there is so much stench, an idea he said he took from Pope Francis.

“It really hit home,” Williams said. “. . . It immediately made me think of what I was working on – to teach little ones and their families that everything the world is showing them, that they see in media, the Internet, on Facebook, is so countercultural to what we know as Catholics. I kept thinking of St. John Paul II and how he said don’t be afraid to be a saint, don’t be afraid to go against what the world is showing you . . . It’s scary to go against what everyone else is telling you is right, but if you do that, you’ll be a light for the world.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Heroes in Uniform

Anyone who raises his right hand, vows to defend the U.S. Constitution, and wears the country’s uniform knows in the back of his mind he may be called to make the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation.

The unique nature of military service fosters a special camaraderie among brothers and sisters in arms that can never be replicated in civilian life.

Many Legates have served in their nation’s military with distinguished careers and have completed several combat tours. A few recently shared their military experiences with Legatus Magazine.

Sudden call to duty

Larry Merington remembers being in a business meeting in early 1991 when his secretary, her face pale-white, knocked on the door and told him he needed to take a phone call.

Merington, then a young fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, picked up the Pentagon official’s call who notified him that he was being summoned to active duty, and would report to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield (later called Desert Storm).

A few weeks later, Merington was dropping bombs on Iraqi military targets.

“It’s a very serious thing to know that you control life and death,” said Merington, 63, the president of Legatus’ New Orleans Chapter.

Merington retired as a colonel from the Air Force Reserve in 2007 following a 30-year career in which he spent about five years in active duty for combat tours in the Middle East and the Balkans.

Today, Merington is a CEO and a married father of one child.

He has been a member of Legatus for 10 years, and is part of a tight-knit fraternity of fighter pilots who have served their country in some very dangerous settings.

“There is no such individual as a warfighter who thinks war is the solution,” said Merington, who embodies the reluctant warrior ethos of the U.S. military.

Merington completed 50 combat missions over Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, where he flew the A-10 Thunderbolt, affectionately known among ground troops as the tank-killing “Warthog.” He was tasked with destroying Iraqi armor and scud missiles.

A few days after the war ended, Merington and some of his comrades drove into Kuwait City to survey the bombing damage when a Kuwaiti man drove up, got out, walked over to Merington and fell to his knees in tears. Through his sobs, the man said, “Thank you.”

“I told him, ‘This is what we do. We are a liberator, not an occupier. We’re not a conquering force. We’re happy to give your country back to you,’” Merington said.

Merington later flew combat air patrols over Bosnia in the 1990s and served as a wing commander in Afghanistan and the Middle East after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He helped to destroy Taliban forces and was part of the early hunt for Osama bin Laden.

About 10 years ago, he was offered a promotion to brigadier general but turned it down to spend time with family. He is now dedicated full-time to his civilian career, but every now and then, Merington will encounter something that brings his military memories rushing back.

“I wish I could take that feeling, bottle it in some kind of elixer, and inject it into those in my company so they could fully understand what it’s like to really trust someone with your life,” Merington said.

Civilian law to war combat

Walter Zink was the rare Army general who knew firsthand what it was like to be an enlisted private in an infantry line company.

Zink, a member of Legatus’ Lincoln Chapter, was about 21 when he enlisted in the Nebraska Army National Guard. He became an infantry rifleman, a “grunt” in a mechanized infantry brigade.

“My uncle was in the Army. My parents didn’t have military experience, but were always involved in community service,” Zink said. “I guess I always felt that service was part and parcel of our family ethic, and part of the responsibility that goes with citizenship.”

Zink, 70, subsequently became an officer. He retired in 2008 as a two-star major general after almost 40 years in the military. Toward the end of his career, Zink spent considerable time on active duty — about 40 weeks a year — as a commanding general in charge of training combat units that were deploying to Iraq.

In 2004, Zink was also mobilized to Iraq, where he was stationed in Baghdad and oversaw training and the preparation of combat units for their tours in the country.

Deploying to a war zone is stressful for active duty personnel, but being called up to war creates significant upheaval for citizen-soldiers who have full-time civilian careers and families they see every day.

“I was fortunate in that I was practicing in a civilian law firm where we had 30 lawyers and they could take up the slack on matters I was handling,” said Zink, who retired from his legal career in 2011.

“It was a stressful time. You have to wind some things down, and coordinate your civilian employment activities while taking care of your military responsibilities,” said Zink, who added that his wife of 47 years, Carol, was his “hero” in how she managed the homefront.

Zink said his Catholic faith “grounded” him in the basic principles of right and wrong, and helped him to have a moral center as he discharged his duties toward his military superiors and subordinates. His faith also provided comfort in difficult circumstances.

“When you’re in a combat zone, you never know what’s going to happen,” Zink said. “Having my faith assured me that if something happened to me, there was a life hereafter, and as long as I was trying to follow God’s course, that was the best that I could do.”

There is never a convenient time to be mobilized, and deployment to an overseas combat zone is nerve-wracking, but Zink emphasized that he is proud and has no regret of his active-duty time.

“It was one of the great opportunities of my life to be able to serve with our men and women in uniform,” Zink said. “To see us all participate in a cause bigger than ourselves, in that sense, I very much value my military service and the service of others.”

Dream of the Marines

U.S. Marine Col. James Herrera wanted to join what he calls the world’s finest fighting force back when he was in grammar school.

“It was a calling,” said Herrera, 52, a member of Legatus’ San Juan Capistrano Chapter in Orange County, California.

Herrera’s 35-year career in the Marines has recently reached its end. Readying for retirement this past June, he’d been looking forward to post-military life.

“It’s always bittersweet, but I’ve been preparing for this for a couple of years,” said Herrera, who is chairman of a local independent Catholic school and volunteers in several ministries.

Herrera was about five when he immigrated with his parents to the United States from Ecuador. Because he was 17 when he enlisted, his parents had to sign off on the paperwork. They agreed, on the condition that he would get his college degree and become an officer.

“I loved the Marines. I loved what I was doing, and I figured the better way of serving was to become an officer,” said Herrera, who was a sergeant when he received his commission. Having been an enlisted man helped the troops better relate to and trust him.

“Marines accept you a little bit quicker. They see that you’ve walked in their shoes, so there’s that initial rapport that’s already embedded,” Herrera said. “Having gone through boot camp, I was a machine gunner in the infantry, and I shared a lot of the same hardships, which helps out a bit.”

Herrera served in Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom as a company and brigade commander, leading the I Marine Expeditionary Force from 2012 to 2015. He was involved in counterterrorism operations, was a military trainer and instructor at the National Intelligence School, and served in several high-level national defense and intelligence roles.

A devout Catholic, Herrera sees the Marines’ ethos as being similar to the virtues of the spiritual life — mainly fortitude, humility, integrity, work, detachment, and compassion.

“As Marines, we have a lot of pride, which can be a double-edged sword. You need humility,” Herrera said. “My faith tells me that yes, you can be proud of what you do, but make sure you do it for the right reason, for the greater glory of God and for His people.”

As he transitions to civilian life, Herrera eagerly anticipates future opportunities, including the possibility of joining another local board of directors.

“I’ll see what else the Lord puts in front of me.”

Former Air Force Chaplain tends dupage ‘soldiers’

Monsignor James Burnett wore two hats as a Catholic priest and an active-duty U.S. Air Force chaplain.

“Sometimes they’re in conflict, like when you have to go out into the field rather than stay behind and hear confessions,” said Monsignor Burnett, 72, who retired as a U.S. Air Force major in 2000.

During his 20-year Air Force career, Monsignor Burnett counseled and provided moral support for military personnel and their families. He celebrated Mass in the field, heard confessions from fighter pilots, and helped military couples re-adjust to each other after long separations from deployments.

“You’re ministering at all times, trying to address the needs of those on base, whether they were there as dependents or whether they were flying off to God-knows-where for God-knows-how-long,” said Monsignor Burnett, current chaplain of Legatus’ DuPage County Chapter in Illinois.

A priest of the Diocese of Davenport in Iowa, he was a young priest in a rural parish in the late 1970s when he met an Air Force airman at a friend’s house. The next morning, the airman gave him a tour of a nearby Air Force installation, and showed him the base chapel.

Monsignor Burnett said he had a desire “to see the world,” and after “a lot of thought and prayer,” he asked his bishop for permission to be a full-time military chaplain. His bishop agreed, and Monsignor Burnett was on his way to receiving an officer’s commission and his first assignment at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia.

After a year of asking God whether he had done the right thing, Monsignor Burnett said he found his calling as an Air Force chaplain.

“I was there to help people, those in uniform and their families,” he said.

Legates who have served in the armed forces speak of how crucial military chaplains are there.

“The men and women are looking for guidance on right and wrong. They’re often wondering if they’re doing the right thing and asking if they’re violating their conscience or God’s laws when they’re called to go into combat,” said Walter Zink, a retired Nebraska Army National Guard major general and member of Legatus’ Lincoln Chapter.

“The role of the chaplain in combat is phenomenal. Masses in combat are some of the most touching and moving liturgies you’ll see,” said Larry Merington, a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve fighter pilot and president of Legatus’ New Orleans Chapter.

Monsignor Burnett was stationed stateside and in Europe. He was deployed to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for a four-month joint task force mission, and for a year-long remote tour in Greenland, where he said “you had to look south to see the Northern Lights.”

“It was literally on top of the world,” he said. After he retired from the Air Force, Monsignor Burnett became the chief of the chaplaincy service at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Chicago for 16 years, where he oversaw 10 chaplains, and realized that attention to detail and the organizational skills he honed in the military were quite important.

Today, Monsignor Burnett is retired from that role as well. He now lives in Darien, Illinois, and helps out in four parishes by celebrating Mass, presiding over funerals, and doing marriage counseling.

“Every day is different,” he said. “Ministering in the moment is what it comes down to.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Wartime Saints – Soldiers for Cause of Christ

“Those who are sworn to serve their country in the Armed Forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace.” (CCC 2310) A number of the early saints of the Church are called “Military Saints” or “Soldier Saints” because they were members of the Roman Army, many of whom converted to Christianity during the intense persecutions of the Church during the first three centuries.  Other saints throughout Church history also participated in the military or armed rebel units in just conflict during their lifetimes.

Here are just a few of them


St. Sebastian is one of the early soldier-saints. Hailing from modern-day southern France, Sebastian was a Christian who joined the Roman Army in AD 283 in order to provide comfort and assistance to persecuted Christians.

He was an excellent soldier, and in time he was appointed to serve in the Praetorian Guard as a bodyguard to the emperor Diocletian, who sought to purge the army of Christians and later initiated the most brutal phase of persecutions against the Church.

Not only did Sebastian minister to the imprisoned, he also converted visitors and some government officials to the Christian faith. When this was revealed, Diocletian sentenced him to death. Soldiers tied him to a tree, shot him full of arrows, and left him for dead. A Christian woman discovered him and nursed him back to health.

Having regained vitality, in 288 Sebastian stalked Diocletian and confronted him in public, upbraiding him about his persecutions. Shocked that Sebastian was alive, Diocletian had him beaten to death and cast into the sewers.

A patron saint of soldiers, St. Sebastian is depicted in art tied to a tree and riddled with arrows.


The armies of Islam conquered much of the Iberian Peninsula in the eighth century, and Christian armies fought to take back territory almost immediately. By the time Ferdinand III was crowned king of Castile in the 13th century, significant gains had been made, but the Moors still held al-Andalus, a considerable swath of what is now southern Spain.

Between 1234 and 1248, Ferdinand and his armies conquered much of al-Andalus, reclaiming the regions of Cordova, Murcia, Jaen, and finally Seville. When the badly outnumbered Christians captured a well-fortified Seville after a 16-month battle, the Moor general said, “None but a saint could, with such a small force, have made himself master of so strong and well-manned a place.” The Moors would not be driven from Granada, their last stronghold in Spain, until 1492.

A Third Order Franciscan devoted to the Virgin Mary, Ferdinand prayed and fasted in preparation for war. He was a just ruler who often pardoned those who had opposed him. Before his death in 1252, he received the sacraments and reportedly received a heavenly vision.

St. Ferdinand was canonized by Pope Clement X in 1671.


What most people know about St. Joan of Arc is that she had visions, she led France into battle, and she was burned at the stake. And all that would be true.

The young mystic received visions from St. Margaret of Antioch, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and Michael the Archangel telling her to help the true king of France reclaim his throne from England, which in the early 15th century controlled most of modern-day France through an alliance with Burgundy during the Hundred Years’ War.

Before his death in 1422, Charles VI disinherited his own son and named Henry V of England heir to the French throne. In 1429, at age 17, Joan visited the rightful king, Charles VII, convinced him of her visions, passed an inquiry into her fidelity, and was given armor, sword, and horse to lead the Armagnac army in defending the besieged city of Orleans. Joan never killed anyone but carried a banner that read “Jesus, Mary.” The Armagnacs triumphed at Orleans.

Over the next 15 months, Joan led the army to victory after victory, clearing the way to Reims so that Charles VII could be crowned there at Notre Dame Cathedral. She was wounded at Paris and later captured by the Burgundians in May 1430 near Compeign, sold to the English, and put on a church trial conducted by the corrupt Bishop Pierre Cauchon, who was loyal to England. Found guilty of heresy, she was executed in 1431.

Twenty-three years later, Joan was retried and acquitted. She was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV. She is a patroness of soldiers and of France.


St. Ignatius of Loyola was all about war, glory, and heroism in his youth. He fought bravely for years before a cannonball shattered his leg while he fought for Spain against France during the siege of Pamplona in 1521. He recuperated at a hospital in Loyola, where he was given a life of Christ and other spiritual works as reading material.

That inspired him to do severe penance, practice asceticism, and give up his military pursuits — the last being a foregone conclusion since his injuries left him with a pronounced limp. Visiting the Benedictine monastery at Montserrat, he left his sword at the altar and became a mendicant, devoting himself to prayer and begging for food. For months he lived in a cave and wrote the foundation of what would become his Spiritual Exercises.

Eventually he attended the university in Paris, where he gathered six companions. Together they would take vows and form a community that would one day become the Society of Jesus. The order won papal approval in 1540. Because they pledge to take orders from the pope, the Jesuits are sometimes called “God’s soldiers” or “God’s marines.”

St. Ignatius was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XVI.


The Cristero War took place in Mexico between 1926 and 1929. The Mexican government under President Plutarco Elías Calles enacted broad anti-Catholic, anti-clerical policies, and after a period of peaceful resistance and diplomatic efforts by Catholics to end the repression, the situation turned violent.

José Sánchez del Rio was a teen when he joined the Cristero rebels. “Do not let me lose the opportunity to gain heaven so easily and so soon,” he told his mother as he begged to go.

José was made flagbearer for his unit. In February 1928, a rebel general’s horse was killed in battle, so José immediately gave the general his own horse so he could ride to safety. José was soon captured.

As he awaited execution, José prayed, sang hymns, and wrote to his mother. He was tortured — soldiers ripped off the soles of his feet and made him walk to the town cemetery, screaming in pain — and was urged to renounce his faith. But José continued to shout “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long Live Christ the King!”) as they stabbed him and shot him to death. He was not yet 15 years old.

Pope Francis canonized St. José Sánchez del Rio in 2016.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Catholic Football Players Mirror Each Other – On and Off the Field

Michigan Alumni Chris Godfrey and Elvis Grbac share Rose Bowl and Super Bowl Past, and are now Catholic Inspirational Speakers

Despite playing in different decades, Chris Godfrey and Elvis Grbac share a lot in common. Godfrey, an offensive guard, went to three Rose Bowls in the late 1970s with the University of Michigan Wolverines, while Grbac, a quarterback, went to three Rose Bowls with Michigan in the early 90s. Godfrey later won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in 1986, and Grbac won a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers in 1994.

These similarities are striking enough, but there are more important ones. Both Godfrey and Grbac are practicing Catholic husbands and fathers who engage in public speaking for their faith. Godfrey specializes in presentations on virtuous, pro-life living for young people, while Grbac specializes in men’s ministry.

Automatic connection

Because of the role that athletics plays in the lives of men in general and young people in particular, Godfrey and Grbac have been wellreceived by audiences. Godfrey explained that “Sports provide an automatic connection for men—to the point that no other introduction is needed. If someone knows you won a Super Bowl, they’re likely to listen to what you have to say about things that have no relation to football at all.”

Grbac has found the same to be true in his life, saying that “Every man would love to be able to play a sport professionally. Those paid to play are admired and thought to have valuable things to say. It’s up to us to actually have a message that is worth listening to.” After his playing days ended in 1988, Godfrey earned a law degree from the University of Notre Dame. An unexpected proponent for this course of action was none other than Mother Teresa. The “Saint of the Gutters” encouraged Godfrey to pursue holiness through law. This pursuit was made easier for him by professors such as the late Charles Rice, known for his defense of the natural law in books such as 50 Questions on the Natural Law: What Is It and Why Do We Need It?

Godfrey: ‘God is key to happiness’

“I loved the work Professor Rice did,” Godfrey explained. “The fact that we can know, from reason alone, that certain things are right, while others are wrong, is a fascinating and liberating thing. I loved studying the works of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Augustine, and others on morality. Anyone willing to learn about what makes for a good life and genuine happiness can certainly do so.”

Godfrey, a father of six, still lives in South Bend and is the founder of Life Athletes, a pro-life organization whose mission is to inspire young people to live virtuously. He teaches that the key to happiness is good relationships — beginning with God. Once that all-important one is properly established, every other relationship can fall into its proper place.

Despite his numerous projects with Life Athletes, Godfrey relies on his work as an estate planner to pay to the bills. “At Godfrey Law Offices,” he explained, “we offer a unique planning process that ensures that our clients’ plans work as they expect them to work, which means smoothly and with their instructions being followed by the family,” says Godfrey.

Godfrey advises a local “successful aging group” and recently became the vice president of the South Bend chapter of the Thomas More Society. His influence reaches both the young and old, and even people in between. “The Sandwich Generation to which I belong has both young and old for which to care—along with the ongoing task of managing our own affairs. This is a tall order, but it is also an opportunity to grow in holiness. Our office helps by providing appropriate professional assistance nationwide,” said Godfrey.

Faith journey led to deaconate

Elvis Grbac has reached many people as well, and only expects that influence to expand as he nears his deaconal ordination for the Diocese of Cleveland. The former quarterback experienced a lot of success while playing for Michigan and continued that success in the NFL. After winning the Super Bowl in his second season with the 49ers, he went to the Pro Bowl while playing for the Kanas City Chiefs.

Despite never completely abandoning his Catholic faith during his playing career, Grbac did see the need to make a deeper commitment to his baptismal promises. He said, “I was like many young people who, when they first venture out in the world, start to think maybe some of the Commandments are just suggestions. Temptations abound, especially for athletes, and I did fall prey to some of them.”

Part of Grbac’s message to men is that sin is about self and the short term, while virtue is about God and the long term. While sin often wears an appearance of happiness despite containing misery, virtue often has the opposite configuration. A big part of becoming virtuous is getting past appearances and seeing things for what they really are in light of death, judgment, hell, and heaven.

So enamored of heaven is Grbac that he has become keenly aware, in his preparatory studies for the diaconate, of the soul’s process of becoming one with God. There are many terms for this, such as “deification,” “theosis,” or “divinization” (quite distinct from the sin of divination). This process is summarized in 2 Peter 1:3-4 when the first pope wrote of God desiring us to “become partakers of the divine nature.”

Grbac: ‘We borrow every bit of goodness from God’

“I love to talk about, not just conversion from sin, but the process of becoming one with God through the sacraments, prayer, and virtuous actions,” Grbac stated. “We are made sons and daughters of God through Baptism, and the divine transformation is supposed to continue throughout our lives. There’s no such thing as goodness apart from God; we have to ‘borrow’ every bit from Him, and, in the ultimate analysis, He will only be pleased with what comes from Him. Our physical appearance, career achievements or social status will do us no good at judgment. The only thing that will matter is how well we have lived out God’s plan for us.”

The youngest of Grbac’s three children—his only daughter—is set to start at Northwestern University in the fall, so he will have more time to travel the country to speak at men’s conferences, Knights of Columbus councils, Legatus chapters, and more. He wants audiences to know that “despite any failure or success in this world, we are made to spend eternity with God forever. Super Bowl victory or not, every Catholic can be victorious where it really matters.”

On August 11, Godfrey and Grbac will each have an hour with Barbara McGuigan on The Good Fight, an EWTN radio show.

Catholic men in pro sports, with a tie to Michigan

Cradle Catholic Ken Kal is the Detroit Red Wings announcer and former announcer for Michigan hockey team

John Beilein is the head basketball coach at Michigan and had Mass available for players every day of the week during the NCAA playoffs

Pete Burak is a former basketball player at Michigan and currently heads the young adult apostolate at Renewal Ministries

Jim Harbaugh is a former quarterback at Michigan and the current head football coach. He visited the Vatican in 2017 with his players.

TRENT BEATTIE is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

Ambassador for Christ now U.S. emissary to Portugal

When he and his wife Mary first fell in love with Portugal – during their first visit to Fatima in 2014 – former Portland Legate George Glass couldn’t fathom being named as America’s top U.S. diplomat there.

Glass had worked on President Trump’s 2016 election campaign, as well as on his Catholic Advisory Board. “During that process, there comes a time when they ask if you are interested in serving in the new administration,” says Glass, 57, who served several presidential campaigns over decades, and always declined such opportunities for family and work reasons. “This time the timing was perfect. Our youngest had graduated from college, and I was ready to take on a new challenge.”

Behind-the-scenes reality

Though Glass was elated at Mr. Trump’s incredible invitation, it entailed difficult changes. For starters, he was asked to temporarily disengage from his current business associations (including Legatus) during the vetting process, and for the four-year duration of his post. Likewise, he and Mary knew that they may not see their immediate family – three grown sons and a new granddaughter – for months, even years, on end.

He describes the “pack out” that the government did to move them deftly overseas.

“A group of six to eight people come to your house and begin in one corner, and pack and move every single item out in two days. If you have garbage under the sink, that is packed and moved with the rest. I couldn’t find Mary, and then came upon her standing in the driveway crying as the trucks drove off. That was the moment we knew we wouldn’t be seeing our family for quite a while.

Previously, Glass was owner and managing partner of MGG Development LLC, a commercial enterprise that purchases and operates apartment complexes and rental homes. He was also founder, president, and vice chairman of Pacific Crest Securities (1990-2014). He likewise served as a trustee for the Oregon Health Sciences University and for the University of Oregon.

“But this was the role I could now see myself in, because both Mary and I felt so strongly attached to this country and its people,” says Glass, who was promptly confirmed by the Senate last July, and has been in his new post in Lisbon since last August.

Glass is both the representative of the president to the Portuguese government, and the head of the U.S. diplomatic mission to Portugal, which maintains a combined staff of almost 200 employees from both countries. His first priority is to ensure the safety and security of American citizens in Portugal and beyond. He also partners with the Portuguese to promote America’s economic prosperity and friendship with their people. “It’s a 24/7 job, but I love it,” Glass says.

First Catholic ambassador in years

As the country’s first Catholic U.S. ambassador in years, Glass says his faith certainly played a role in why he sought the post. “It was during our initial trip to Fatima that we fell in love with the people, their culture and values,” he says. “The 2014 year was very difficult economically for Portugal, and as we travelled around we witnessed an incredible sense of community, work ethic, and resiliency that the Portuguese and Americans share. We knew then we’d come back – we just didn’t know it would be in this role. And I am honored to have been chosen by the president to fulfill it.”

Portugal, which is roughly 80 percent Catholic, “is a place where there is a wonderful ‘toast’ to Catholicism,” says Glass. “Their religion is a fundamental background to all that they do, and they enjoy expressing their beliefs openly.” Fatima permanently changed the way he and his wife looked at the Catholic faith, and he describes it as “a place where miracles occur. The power of the Virgin Mary – working together with God – is simply unsurpassed.” This past spring, they attended Fatima’s celebration of its 100th year, and Mary Glass visits Fatima at least twice monthly, about an hour from their Lisbon residence.

Faith and politics mix

“This past May, we joined in the open street procession in celebration of Santo Cristo dos Milagres (Miracles),” says Glass. The four-and-a- half-hour procession before tens of thousands of spectators – an event that’s been a tradition in Ponta Delgada for over 300 years – was incredibly moving and faith-affirming for them both. “

We processed for hours on a carpet of flowers, with a bodyguard on each side, and were the only ambassador-couple doing it,” Glass recalls. “As ambassador here, my personal and professional life is constantly intertwined with my Catholic faith. It is important to be able to share in that faith which helps me understand and connect with the Portuguese people and their history.”

When it comes to being Catholic, outside of Rome “I don’t know how it could get any better,” Glass says of his experience in Portugal. “When I arrived and handed my credentials to the president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, he asked if I was a believer in Fatima. When I answered ‘Of course, Mary Ambassador for Christ now U.S. emissary to Portugal and I say a rosary to her every day,’ he said that made me as much Portuguese as he was. I tell everyone that Portugal is one foot closer to heaven than almost anywhere on earth.”

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.