Tag Archives: prayer

‘Desert’ retreat rallies men closer to Christ

San Diego Legate Owen Mossy thought he was signing up for an extended study of the book of Exodus when he agreed in January to take part in Exodus 90.

Little did he know that the invitation he received from fellow Legate Mike Sweeney meant that for 90 days, he would be making a daily holy hour and abstaining from alcohol, sweets, eating between meals, TV, and hot showers, plus limiting his Internet usage to essential tasks.

Out-of-this-era encounter

To his credit, the 46-yearold father of six kept his commitment even after learning what was involved. He now says it has changed his life. Before beginning the regimen of intensive prayer and fasting designed for men, Mossy had been going to Mass only on Sundays – sometimes skipping if circumstances seemed to interfere – and to Confession only once a year on a silent retreat. Since embarking on Exodus 90, Mossy has become a daily Mass-goer and, 60 days into the program, had been to Confession three times.

Designed by a priest, Exodus 90 was begun in 2013 for seminarians who, having grown up in a sin dominated society, were seeking greater personal freedom. The 90 days are based on the book of Exodus, which recounts the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land, and during that time, participants enter a desert experience. The program since has been expanded to include bishops, priests, and laymen, thousands of whom have completed the 90-day endurance test after learning about it through friends, dioceses, apostolates, and Catholic leaders.

Inspired by his brother-in-law, a Catholic convert who insisted Exodus 90 was “the coolest thing he’d ever done in his life,” Sweeney sent invitations to members of the Catholic men’s formation group he and fellow Legate Byrnes Lambert lead. When Sweeney learned of his brother-in-law’s plans to repeat Exodus 90, he said, “I felt the Holy Spirit say, ‘Mike, you’ve got to do it and rally your spiritual brothers with you.’”

Eight of the 15 men in the group – five of them Legatus members – agreed to the challenge. “I’ve done silent retreats and Lenten fasts,” Sweeney said. “I’ve been on men’s retreats, men’s conferences, and fly-fishing men’s Bible retreats, and this is the greatest spiritual exercise I’ve ever been a part of.”

Lambert said Exodus 90’s time-tested practices of Christian asceticism have awakened in him a minute-to-minute awareness of Christ’s presence in his daily walk. “I desire Christ more. I need Him more when the comfort is pulled away.”

He added, “The world considers comfort a cardinal virtue and tells us that discomfort or pain is an evil that we must fight to eradicate. As Christian disciples and Legates, we know that the world is wrong here since discomfort is a key part of the cross. Because of Exodus 90, I now see the necessity of intentionally adding some discomfort to my day as an offering to Jesus to unite me to His sacrifice on the cross.”

More available to Christ

James Baxter, Exodus 90 executive director, said the program offers any Catholic man of good will a formation experience that will profoundly impact his life. Many of the participants find it to be just that. “People come up to us afterward and say, ‘You promised me this and you were right. I am a freer man, more available to Jesus Christ.’”

But Atlanta Legate Ryan Foley, who has made Exodus 90 twice and has worked with Baxter to promote it, said the experience is more than about achieving freedom from personal attachments. “This is a powerful moment to become a man of prayer for others, but specifically for the Church.” Foley has used Exodus 90 as an opportunity to offer his time of fasting and intensified prayer for the intentions of friends and others.

Although every man’s journey is different, a common benefit participants cite is that of gaining time by giving up TV and unnecessary Internet usage. For example, Rich Cronin, a member of Legatus’s Genesis Chapter, has noticed that he has more quality time with his wife, Connie. Because they are not watching TV in the evenings, they may read a book together or listen to music. They also have added a Friday date night to give Connie a break from having to cook meatless meals on one of the two fasting days.

Sweeney said the absence of TV viewing also has given him more time with his wife, Shara, and their five children, opening up opportunities to draw and color with his daughters or play catch with his sons. “There’s definitely more time every day and week with family and that’s been the greatest blessing.”

New “fraternity” brothers

Likewise, Erik Jorgensen, who is in an Exodus 90 “fraternity” that includes Mossy, Sweeney, and Lambert, said the biggest benefit for him has been the ability to focus on more important things such as undistracted time with his family and quality meditation and prayer during the day. “Even the little things like not listening to the radio in the car have led to much more time over the course of the day spent in conversation with God. I’ve come to realize how much our modern media inserts itself into the free moments of the day that are now spent in silence and reflection. It has had a huge impact on what I’m thinking about during waking hours.”

Those who take up the Exodus 90 challenge say they also benefit from the requirement that they complete the regimen as part of such a fraternity that meets weekly.

Jorgensen said he hadn’t realized how much inspiration and support he would draw from the group. “That’s been critical to staying in it. You’re never alone in the process. The value of the fraternity cannot be understated. You learn to cherish the time spent sharing your experiences, your highs and lows, and challenging each other to drive on.”

Jorgensen’s fraternity meets every Friday for Mass and then spends about an hour afterward discussing the week and what lies ahead. Members also get and give regular updates on how they are doing through a group text.

Sweeney said for him, the fraternity has been the easiest part of the Exodus 90 regimen.

“It just is so natural to come together once a week and look your brothers in the eye and share your victories and encourage one another through the times we stumbled. It’s beautiful.”

Cronin said when he first heard about Exodus 90 at the SEEK 2019 conference in January, he thought it would be good to do, but he knew he didn’t want to go it alone. A few weeks later, a fellow parishioner at St. Joan of Arc in Toledo, Ohio, invited him to make Exodus 90. “The next thing I knew, I was part of a group.”

Strength-training, clearing obstacles

Before beginning Exodus 90, Cronin had never done any intensive fasting and acknowledges he wasn’t very good at it. Now, he said, by fasting every Wednesday and Friday using the Church’s guidelines for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, he has learned to deal better with his hunger pangs. “In the past, what I would do is always try to satisfy those hungers, feeding them with junk.” Through Exodus 90, he said, he has learned to overcome his hunger pangs, adding, “After a while, they kind of go away.”

Cronin said the program also includes an exercise regimen that has been good for him because he was out of shape after going through cancer treatment last year. “When I first started, I couldn’t run a quarter mile. My weight was only 160 pounds, but physically, my body was just racked. Now, I’m running four to five miles several times a week.”

Asked why Legates should make Exodus 90, Cronin said, “I think no matter who we are, everyone’s got addictions and this program teaches you how to deal with any addiction you have and even your obsessions that are not good. With any addiction or obsession, you’re putting something in front of God. This whole thing is designed to say that God is number one in everything we do and if something is hindering us from putting him number one, we’re going to face that in these 90 days.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff write

Imploring Our Mother’s healing touch – and mediation

Nancy Foytik of Reedsville, WI, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, and it had metastasized into both lungs. Doctors gave her a grim prognosis. After one round of chemotherapy, Foytik and her family decided to visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in the town of Champion, not far from Green Bay, in 2012.

“We didn’t have any hope. We went there for guidance,” she wept while telling her story on NBC’s Today last year. Yet after praying to the Virgin Mary there, “We just knew when I walked out of the chapel that day I was going to be cured… I can’t explain it other than that. I didn’t hear the words, but I felt them, that said ‘you’re going to be okay.’”

Surgeons removed a softball-sized tumor from her colon and smaller tumors from her right lung. When they performed a third surgery, they found the tumors in her left lung had disappeared. Foytik has been cancer-free ever since.

“I was an active Catholic,” she said. “I prayed, but I never prayed to Mary as much as I did to God. Mary was just the one I needed to go to at that time.”

What makes a miracle?

Foytik said she and her family never used the word “miracle” to describe her experience. Many Catholics, however, claim that their healings — whether physical, emotional, or spiritual — occurred through Mary’s intercession.

Often these healings are associated with Marian pilgrimage sites such as Our Lady of Good Help, the only Church-approved apparition site in the United States. Healings and conversions have been reported from there dating nearly to the time the Virgin Mary first appeared to young Adele Brise in 1859.

Perhaps the best-known of these shrines is Our Lady of Lourdes in France, where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858, one year prior to the Wisconsin apparition. Although more than 7,000 healings have been claimed at Lourdes, the Church has officially recognized just 70 of them. That’s largely because such miracles, like the miraculous healings investigated in causes for canonization, undergo painstaking scrutiny to ensure there is no natural explanation.

“For a cure to be considered a true miracle at Lourdes or at the Consulta Romana in the Vatican’s examination of intercessory miracles to be used for sainthood causes, it must pass the very old and strict ‘Lambertini criteria’ named for Prospero Lambertini, an Italian cardinal who later became Pope Benedict XIV, who was born in 1675,” explained Michael O’Neill, author of the 2015 book Exploring the Miraculous and host of “The Miracle Hunter” program on Relevant Radio. “The healing must be of a serious condition not liable to go away on its own, instantaneous, complete, and lasting — normally at least 10 years.

“Most difficult of all in our modern age,” he added, “there can be no medical treatment that relates to the cure.”

In 2018, the Church officially recognized the 70th miracle of healing to have taken place at Lourdes. It involved Sister Bernadette Moriau, a French nun who visited there in 2008. For 28 years she had suffered spinal complications that caused disabilities requiring use of a wheelchair. She regularly took prescription morphine to ease her pain.

After receiving a blessing for the sick at the shrine, Sister Moriau felt a warm, relaxing surge of well-being throughout her body. “I returned to my room and there, a voice told me to ‘take off your braces,’” she later recalled.

Not only could she move, but she immediately was able to walk away from her wheelchair, leg braces, and painkillers — and felt so good she took a three-mile walk the next day

As with many credible healing claims at the shrine, Sister Moriau’s case was referred to the International Medical Committee of Lourdes. Their painstaking research found no scientific explanation. After approval from the bishop of Sister Moriau’s home diocese, the healing received official recognition. It was the first miracle declared there since 2013.

 To Jesus through Mary

Healings are also commonly reported at sites of alleged apparitions that lack official sanction, including Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herezegovina, where Mary is said to been appearing to visionaries since 1981.

In 1999, Artie Boyle of Hingham, MA, was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. Not long after undergoing surgery to remove his diseased kidney, Boyle was told the cancer had metastasized aggressively to his lungs. “Renal cell carcinoma was definitely going to kill me,” he writes in his book, Six Months to Live.

The following year, Boyle traveled to Medjugorje with two close friends. There on Cross Mountain, rosary in hand, he felt an intense pain in his lung. Convinced he had been healed, he called his wife and asked her to make an appointment for a CT scan before his scheduled surgery to remove one of his diseased lungs. Upon returning home, the scan revealed his cancer was gone. Not only that, he and his friends had each experienced profound spiritual healings in Medjugorje.

 “The graces received, the prayers answered, and the miracles witnessed are vivid proof to us of [Mary’s] intervention and of the generous response of her Son,” writes Boyle, now a development officer for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Sometimes the apparent healings do not happen by way of pilgrimage, but when Mary answers prayers of intercessions — or simply touches someone’s spirit out of the blue.

Leo de Bondt was raised a Protestant in the Netherlands. At 25, he married into the Catholic Church, but he lost all faith in God after his three-year-old daughter died of leukemia in 1972.

Fifteen years later, he saw a photo depicting Our Lady of the Miracle, a painting in the Basilica of St. Andrea delle Fratte in Rome. It depicts a 19th-century apparition of Mary to a virulently anti- Catholic Jewish man which brought about his immediate conversion. De Bondt was deeply moved by the image and the story behind it.

“It was from that moment that my life changed completely,” he remembered. The Virgin Mary “brought me back to Christ. It was she who called this man who had lived as an atheist for 15 years. I became Catholic again, but this time as I had never been, while discovering the wonder of the Catholic faith.”

De Bondt, who has founded a website dedicated to spreading devotion to the Blessed Mother, says of his reversion to Catholicism: “I hated the Church until Mary called me.”

Power of the Rosary

Catholic evangelist and author Kathleen Beckman tells of how Mary’s intercession turned her son’s life around.

The younger of her two boys was going through a rough time. “I could see the spirit of the world trying to pull him away from our family and take him into a dark world,” Beckman related in a blog post. She began to pray the rosary daily “for our son to be delivered away from all the bad influences and temptations that were pulling him down. I prayed the Glorious Mysteries because I was interceding for my son’s resurrection.”

She continued for a year with no visible results. When her older son returned home from study in Europe, however, things changed unexpectedly. The big brother assessed the situation, wrote his troubled sibling a long and affirming letter, and read it to him. The transformation in the younger son was dramatic and immediate.

“At the end of that day, our son was healed and delivered,” said Beckman. “It was the power of a brother’s love that overcame the power of evil that had a grip on our son…. [But] I have no doubt my son’s healing and deliverance was the fruit of the one-year novena of the Holy Rosary.”

Mark Miravalle, the Saint John Paul II Chair of Mariology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, believes Mary always stands ready to strengthen and heal us.

“Where there is suffering and sickness, there is the Mother, hovering in wait to mediate graces of consolation, healing, and courage, all in conformity to the perfect and generous will of the Heavenly Father,” Miravalle said. “She waits only for our fiat in faith, to be freely welcomed into our homes, into our hearts … to bring to each one of us extraordinary healing graces of the Crucified Christ.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila

Dan Burke and Connie Rossini
EWTN Publishing, 138 pages 

With his 2002 apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, St. John Paul II wished to revitalize rosary devotion for our generation and proposed the new Mysteries of Light; St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th- century mystic, taught much about how to pray the rosary effectively and to avoid distraction. This book draws from both saints to guide readers in praying the rosary contemplatively, where we “place every moment of our lives before the throne of God” and recognize “the mystery of the Incarnation at work within us.” Scriptural meditations and reflections for each mystery and a guide to using both vocal and mental prayer will further renew the reader’s experience of praying the rosary. St. John Paul II would be pleased.

Order: Amazon

For the Love of Gracie

Gracie Ann, not quite two years old, was not well.

Seizures had become more frequent for little Gracie, but she had suffered particularly severe seizures on two consecutive nights and was spiking another fever. She had been home just four days after another hospital stay as she recovered from a stubborn respiratory infection. Her mother, Kerry, administered her emergency medications and gave her a cooling bath.

By morning, the fever had returned, and Gracie was lethargic and acting strangely. Alarmed, Kerry phoned her husband, Jeremy, to come home from work. When he saw Gracie’s labored breathing, they called 911.

“I sat in the ambulance with her as the medics tried to get a line in her,” Kerry recalled. “They had to leave fast, so I gave her the last kiss I would ever give her. That was the last time I saw my sweet angel alive.” Kerry, immune-compromised since her double-lung transplant, could not accompany her daughter to the hospital.

Jeremy rode the ambulance as the EMTs stopped by a fire station and then an emergency room seeking help in getting Gracie’s IV started. Then there was a long, stressful transfer via ambulance to a children’s hospital. Jeremy kept Kerry updated by phone and text message as both prayed fervently.

En route, the situation turned grave, and CPR was initiated. After 24 minutes of chest compressions in the hospital, Gracie Ann was declared dead.

Unable to phone Kerry, Jeremy sent a brief text: “Heaven just acquired an angel.”

Gracie Ann’s death on February 9 of this year was part of a long journey of faith and perseverance for Jeremy and Kerry Lustig of Keller, Texas, Legates of the Fort Worth Chapter. Their story dates to Kerry’s childhood.

Kerry was born with cystic fibrosis, a terminal lung disease, and was not expected to live long. “My parents were told to simply take me home and love me,” she recalled. But her devoutly Catholic mother and father were determined she would survive.

“My parents knew I was fragile, so they prayed a lot and raised me like any other child, staying on top of my appointments, daily meds, and daily therapies,” Kerry explained.

After Kerry and Jeremy fell in love during college and began talking about marriage, Kerry told him about her condition. “I knew that my CF would be a cross that both he and I would have to bear,” she said. It was no obstacle for Jeremy; he soon proposed marriage, and they were wed after graduation in 1997.

Since CF affects fertility, the Lustigs started having children while Jeremy was in dental school. Madison, Savannah and Nicholas were born uneventfully in two-year intervals, but nine years passed before Isaac came along in early 2014.

Because CF is a progressive disease, Kerry had grown sicker over the years. A month after Isaac’s birth, her health took a turn for the worse. She suffered respiratory arrest, was hospitalized, and was placed on a ventilator. Returning home, she struggled to stay well.

In February 2016, in her 30th week of a very difficult pregnancy, Kerry was in the hospital for outpatient lung treatments when she coughed and broke a major vessel in her lung — a life-threatening condition — and was admitted. The next morning, Gracie Ann was delivered via emergency C-section. But Gracie had been deprived of oxygen for several minutes and sustained brain damage, triggering the seizures that would later plague her. Given the situation, Jeremy baptized Gracie in the NICU.

Neither Kerry nor Gracie was expected to survive.

The Lustig family was in full crisis mode. Jeremy’s orthodontics partner managed the practice so he could devote full attention to his wife and infant daughter, dividing his time between the ICU and NICU. Jeremy’s mother moved from Utah to Texas to care for the other four children.

“My father came and went while having to work, but my mom was here indefinitely or until we were self-sufficient,” Jeremy said. During those first three months, Jeremy never left the hospital. “The kids came to the hospital a couple times a week so we could see them,” he said. “They would bring me clean clothes and take dirty ones home. It was very hard on them.”

Many supported the family in faith. “We had so many prayer warriors storming heaven for both Gracie Ann and me,” Kerry said. A prayer network developed out of text messages Jeremy began sending to family and close friends. “As word got out, there was a large influx of people texting me — asking for updates, expressing concern, and offering prayer for Kerry, Gracie, and our family,” Jeremy said. “The list of people in this text thread grew to a few hundred in almost no time.”

Gracie Ann, just 3-1/2 pounds at birth, was touch-and-go at first but “surpassed all reasonable expectations,” Jeremy said. Her survival turned into a roller coaster ride as she suffered bleeding on the brain and fought repeated infections. Kerry also had a rough time: under heavy sedation, she required breathing support for her damaged lungs, had internal bleeding, and required multiple surgeries. Thrice she had to be resuscitated.

Three months later, mother and child were released to go home. Kerry’s lungs were in such bad shape that she was placed on a waiting list for a transplant. “I was really physically struggling,” Kerry remembered. “Before the lung call, I was unable to walk and was on oxygen 24/7. I couldn’t be a mom physically and couldn’t do anything for myself.”

In October 2016, a donor was found and Kerry underwent a double-lung transplant. She faced a long recovery and a lifelong regimen of anti-rejection drugs. By that time, however, Gracie was having seizures. Around her first birthday, she required a feeding tube. During one ER visit, Gracie went into cardiac arrest and was revived. Her seizures became more frequent and severe.

Throughout all these challenges, the Lustigs’ Catholic faith remained strong.

“Jeremy and I have always known and still continue to believe that all our crosses are intended to glorify God, and they have,” Kerry said. “I never lost my faith but held onto it as tightly as I could, for God revealed to me that he alone was the reason I was alive.”

Gracie’s health declined with time. “As the seizures took a toll on her little brain, she began to lose functionality that she had gained against all odds,” Jeremy said. A respiratory infection stretching into early 2018 landed her in the hospital again. Four days after her discharge, Gracie was gone.

“When Gracie Ann passed away, a part of me died. I will always feel an emptiness,” said Kerry. “But Jesus is a gentle Father, and He carries me through my sorrows each day…. We praised Him in the most painful hour when she died, and we continue to praise Him as we must live our lives without her.”

Difficult and painful as Gracie’s death was, the Lustigs believe it drew their family closer together.

“We are stronger in faith today and more in love than ever,” Kerry affirmed. “Our family has benefitted so greatly from this cross.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Take 5 minutes daily for an Ignatian Examen

Since How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard came out, I have occasionally been asked which of the “forty tips for faithful college students” is the most important. If someone were to pick one and do it, which one should it be? I’ve always answered, “Go to Mass, every Sunday at least and on weekdays if you can.” I have been fortunate working at The Catholic University of America for the last year because there are ten Masses a day on campus that I can choose from. However, for some students and young professionals, it simply isn’t an option. In this case, my advice changes a bit: if you can devote five minutes of your day to prayer (which you can), the Ignatian Examen is a great place to start.

“The examen” was given to us by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus (a.k.a. the Jesuits) in the 16th century. Ignatius was a worldly and self-satisfied soldier before his conversion. Saint Paul just needed to be knocked off his horse to find his faith, but Saint Ignatius was struck by a cannonball. In his long convalescence, Ignatius read the lives of the saints and fell in love with the stories of their virtue and bravery. Ignatius’ charism reflects both the discipline of his military background and the docility he gained from his injury and recovery. Ignatian spirituality has become one of the most versatile and enduring forms of prayer in the Church, and the examen is its foundation.

Everyone does it a little differently, but the basics of the examen are straightforward. It begins with an invocation, asking God for an awareness of His presence and for His guidance. This is imperative. I used to really struggle to do a nightly examination of conscience because I was asking, “Okay, where did I mess up today?” It was something I avoided doing because I didn’t want to go to bed thinking about all of the mistakes I had made. The good news is that I was doing it wrong: that’s not the Ignatian examen.

The examen will sometimes highlight areas for improvement, but it’s really not about what you’re doing. It’s about what God is doing in your life. When you look back on your day with the examen, it’s less like an athlete reviewing game footage and more like sitting by a pond and observing where ripples emerge on its surface. It requires trust that God will show you what you need to look at.

I ask one very simple question in this process: “God, where are you today?” Sometimes I’ll find that it was in an encouragement I received from a friend that day. Sometimes it’s the peace I feel in that moment, often while walking my dog. Other times, it’s the sense that I could have done something more — some small courtesy I could have offered a stranger but did not because I was in a rush. For the blessings, I offer thanks; for the mistakes, I ask pardon. And finally, I try to carry a better awareness of God in my life forward to the next day.

All of this, when done with the right mindset, is edifying. It helps us see where God is at work, where we may have overlooked him, and prepares us to see Him there the next time. And finally, it gives us hope and consolation. The Ignatian Examen shows us that God is always with us, always ready to forgive us, always wanting to bless us. In the bustle of everyday life, whether as a student, professional, or parent, it is helpful to bear that in mind.

 

AURORA GRIFFIN, a featured speaker at the 2018 Legatus Summit, attended Harvard University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in classics in 2014. There she served as president of the Catholic Student Association. She was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, where she earned a graduate degree in theology. She has been working at The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. for the last year and will be matriculating to the Stanford Graduate School of Business this fall.

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

The modern, migrant tomato – from a dysfunctional family

Tomatoes are among those tormented vegetables (or fruits?) of the garden patch. Like many family lines, the tomato comes from a distinguished, albeit, dysfunctional one. Originating in the lower Andes (part of present-day Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia), the tomato was held in little esteem. Small and perishable, it was not a food easily cultivated for storage like potatoes, beans, squash, and maize. By the time Christopher Columbus arrived upon the shores of America, the tomato had made its way to Mexico, but stopped short of crossing the border into southwest North America.

To its credit, the tomato had the distinction of being among the 15 most valuable crops – such as sweet potato, pumpkin, avocado, and cocoa – to depart the New World for the Old, according to Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov. This unprecedented swapping of plants and animals was dubbed the ‘Columbian Exchange’ by historian Alfred W. Crosby, Jr., who went on to say that these foods “made the most valuable single addition to the food-producing plants of the Old World since the beginnings of agriculture.” The Italians embraced tomatoes with gusto despite the warnings of naturalist Pierandrea Mattioli, referring to it as an “unhealthy apple.” Still, can you imagine Italian cuisine today without tomatoes?

The tomato infiltrated Spain, France, Poland, and beyond, yet North Americans were skeptical of this member of the deadly nightshade family. They were a further menace to Puritan society when rumors circulated that the tomato was an aphrodisiac! How noble was the first man who took a stand on its behalf. According to James Trager, it was Colonel Robert Gibbon in 1840 who stood on the courthouse steps in Salem, New Jersey to eat a raw tomato. Death was surely imminent, yet he lived! It was not until after World War I that the tomato gained status as a worthy component of the dinner table.

Seemingly prone to controversy and discord, there was also the business of classifying the tomato. According to Waverley Root, in 1893 the Supreme Court “ruled that because it was used like a vegetable it must be considered one for the purposes of trade.” So legally, tomatoes are vegetables, while botanically they are fruits.

One might compare this mixed-up botanical debacle with the present-day, hot-button issue of a “Columbian Exchange” of peoples from many countries and across many borders. Genealogical and ancestral lineage aside, we love our homegrown tomatoes, just as we love our extended families in Christ. We must pray to the Lord as we discern the immigration debate. May we each have the courage of Colonel Gibbon, who ate the “forbidden fruit,” to amicably resolve the immigration issue while loving all neighbors as ourselves.

CHEF JOHN D. FOLSE is an entrepreneur with interests ranging from restaurant development to food manufacturing, catering to culinary education. A cradle-Catholic, he supports many Catholic organizations including the Sister Dulce Ministry at Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, LA. This month’s featured recipe is from his recent cookbook, Can You Dig It: Louisiana’s Authoritative Collection of Vegetable Cookery.

MICHAELA YORK is vice president of communications for John Folse & Company.

Creole Tomato-Basil Pie • yield: 6-8 servings • prep time: 2 hours

4–5 medium Creole tomatoes
½ cup torn basil leaves, divided
1 (9-inch) pre-baked pie shell
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese, divided
½ cup olive oil, divided
½ cup julienned andouille sausage, divided
1 cup crawfish tails, divided
½ cup grated Cheddar cheese, divided
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1 small Bermuda onion, peeled, sliced and divided
1 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Core tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch slices. Drain approx. 1 hour on paper towels to remove excess liquid. Set tomatoes aside. In bottom of pie shell, layer ¼ cup Monterey Jack cheese; then top with sliced tomatoes. Brush tomatoes with olive oil, then sprinkle with basil, andouille, crawfish tails, Cheddar and Parmesan along with ¼ cup Monterey Jack. Season to taste with salt and pepper then add 2–3 slices Bermuda onion. Continue with tomato slices and repeat layers 2–3 times or until pie is filled. Sprinkle top generously with bread crumbs along with any remaining cheeses and basil. Bake 1–1½ hours or until cheese is melted and bread crumbs are well browned. Remove from oven. Allow pie to cool slightly before serving. If desired, place finished pie in refrigerator and serve cold or freeze for later use.

Love like Christ’s warms guests at the table

I’ll admit, the popular image of The Sacred Heart of Jesus didn’t always inspire me. My grandmother had it pinned on her wall. Jesus was shown with His hair parted in the middle, head slightly tilted, looking very concerned like an “active listening” counselor. He also had an exposed heart crowned with thorns, pierced, with a little flame on top. It was puzzling to me at the time.

Fr. Leo Patalinghug

I appreciate how the Sacred Heart image focuses on Jesus’ heart, because it shows His passion and desire for people to know His love in order to share in it. And I can easily see in my mind’s eye that Jesus frequently sat at a table eating with sinners. Not only is the Feast of the Sacred Heart celebrated this year on June 8, but it is commemorated on the first Friday of each month. In asking Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in His apparitions to her in the late 1600s to help institute the Feast as well as the first-Friday devotions to His Sacred Heart, Christ is really revealing the great “fire” in His heart representing his ever-burning unquenchable love for us, and His desire to be loved in return. In the Gospels, He likewise revealed this love when He met people at the table.

 

The table is the place where Jesus shared His Sacred Heart in exchange for the heart of the tax collector, prostitute, foreigner, and the hard-hearted. His heart was utterly visible and understandable with His disciples in the Upper Room, and at the Sea of Galilee when he asked Peter, “Do you love me?” “Feed my sheep!”

Jesus’ sacred, shepherding heart is the reason why I started www.PlatingGrace.com, www. TheTableFoundation.com, and especially my new effort, a podcast called, “Shoot the Shiitake with Father Leo.” As an “audio cast,” I do more listening to my guests – people of all different backgrounds – including the type of people Jesus would meet at His table (i.e., sinners and those far from God’s love).

Because of the Sacred Heart, I endeavor to engage this divided world, creating true dialogue and opportunities for conversation and hopefully conversion. While I can’t give everyone the Eucharist, I can represent the Presence of Jesus with my own heart, as I try to unite through listening, sharing, and feeding people who are hungering for the love of Jesus in their lives.

The pious image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is one that may not be readily understood by everyone, but if we receive the Eucharist, then we are called to become the image of Jesus’ Sacred Heart to others. What does that look like for you? I hope the image becomes more clear to you at your next dinner gathering — with family, friends, your “enemies,” strangers, and foreigners, sinners and saints alike.

FR. LEO E. PATALINGHUG, Catholic priest, chef, TV & radio host, best-selling author, renowned conference speaker & corporate presenter, founder of GraceBeforeMeals.com.

LEARN MORE:
gracebeforemeals.com

Shiitake Mushroom Cream Pasta

1 pound of linguine or spaghetti, boiled al dente
1/2 pound of shiitake mushrooms, brushed clean and
sliced thinly
1 anchovy filet
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, minced
2-3 Tbsp. of fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup of white wine
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups heavy cream

1 tsp. of black pepper
1-2 tsp. of grated parmesan cheese per serving
2 tsp. of salt

Cook pasta al dente, reserving 1 cup of starchy pasta water. In large sauce pan, melt butter and add anchovy filet, mashing with fork into smaller flecks. Add shallot, garlic, parsley and sauté until shallots soften and are translucent. Add mushrooms and sauce for 1 minute. Add white wine and cook until reduced by half. Add whipping cream and cook over low heat. Add sauce to pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Add the starchy water, a few tablespoons at a time, and mix the pasta into sauce until desired consistency. Serve with more minced parsley and grated parmesan cheese.

Decorous disciples transcend food Pharisees

Dieters often ask, “With all the cooking shows and eating excursions, how do you stay healthy?” I jokingly respond, ”As a priest, I wear black clothes. It’s very slimming!”

Fr. Leo Patalinghug

Though I could stand to lose a few pounds, I don’t give in to diet fads, whether a pill or plan to get skinny quick. Getting healthy, like developing faith, has no quick fixes – it’s a daily determination, a lifetime of disciplined choices.

Secondly, while I’m happy for those who’ve experienced dramatic weight loss, I recognize certain methods guilt people into unhealthy attitudes.

When it comes to food choices, guilt should never be the motivating factor because it can preclude a person from authentic enjoyment of what God has provided. Rather, the Catholic answer is discipline and moderation.

Discipline, rooted in the Greek word “discipulos,” means “student.” The more we become food disciples — in learning about food — the healthier our diets become without resorting to “going on a diet.” I’m not talking about scrupulous calorie-counting, but a better understanding of how foods are prepared, the effect they have on genetic makeup, moderating eating, understanding portion control, and learning how to boost flavor.

I was recently asked to cook and present a thesis on “theology of food” and our “Grace Before Meals” movement before a group of diners. Preceding the dinner event, the host contacted my organization to inform us someone was on a strict low-carb-no-sugar-no-red-meatno-fat-diet. I appreciated the information because I want to prepare something everyone can enjoy, and I relish culinary challenges. What I later discovered annoyed me. The person had no food allergies, no religious restrictions, and no medical reason to avoid certain foods. This person was healthy, quite thin, and perfectly able to tolerate all the foods I would prepare. The reason for the “strict diet” was partially for eating healthy, but more of vanity and pride – to look good for a family member’s wedding in a few months. Seriously?! Sigh

Diets have become a debilitating cult for some. Jesus gives us a humble approach when he says, “Eat what is set before you” (Luke 10:8). It’s Jesus’ way of making his disciples more approachable and effective. If the disciples judged people because of diet, they would have limited their ability to develop authentic relationships with those they were called to serve, either as dinner guests or spiritual shepherds.

Food disciples are also food missionaries, willing to venture beyond their comfort zones. Food disciples are NOT diet nazis. Instead, they possess diet knowledge and social decorum. They know an occasional, modest piece of chocolate cake, a little wine, two strips of crispy bacon at Sunday brunch, and even a mouthful of natural carbs are not mortal sins!

Relax, celebrate delicious foods on occasion, practice moderation, and avoid being a food Pharisee.

As Catholics, we must maintain healthy bodies as temples for the Holy Spirit, by becoming disciples about everything we put into our mouths and disciplined about what comes out of it. In Matthew 15:11 Jesus says, “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”

A sincere food disciple puts Jesus’ culinaryinfluenced-teaching into practice, especially in today’s diet-demoting world that now shuns the daily carbs of The Daily Bread.

FR. LEO E. PATALINGHUG, Catholic priest, chef, TV & radio host, best-selling author, renowned conference speaker & corporate presenter, founder of GraceBeforeMeals.com.

LEARN MORE:
gracebeforemeals.com

Tantalizing Sweet Potatoes — A Healthy Side

1 sweet potato or yam, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch thick discs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. paprika 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. Combine in a large bowl the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon and paprika and whisk together. Add the sweet potatoes and mix ingredients to cover all sides of the potato. Layer potato discs onto sheet pan, spacing apart evenly. Place sheet pan in oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender & slightly charred. Serve as healthy starchy side dish.

A tool of the New Evangelization: An olive branch at dinner

A priest, atheist, anarchist and satanist walk into a restaurant. Sounds like the start of a bad joke? But it was real. I was the priest.

Fr. Leo Patalinghug

On a recent food and faith pilgrimage, as I was leading a tour of a basilica, three men from Sweden started following along. At the end of the tour, they politely asked me questions about the Catholic faith. Since time was limited and I’m always interested in evangelization, I simply invited them to dinner. Fortunately, food and drink lubricated our conversation as I learned about their very diverse and controversial backgrounds.

This dinner gave me another opportunity to extend an olive branch — not as a sign of agreement, but as a way to make peace. Jesus ate with sinners and encouraged us to dine with our enemies and those who can’t pay us back.

Effective evangelizers know that mealtime is the perfect opportunity, par excellence. This situation was no different. Dinners communicate desire for communion, and they form us as servants. Dinners demonstrate love. Therefore, I go out of my way to eat with people who wouldn’t be considered good Catholics — or even believers. I let them know that God loves them enough that he wants to eat with them through his sacred ministers. At dinner, we become better “disciples” — a Greek word meaning “student.” Dinners help us to become disciplined listeners.

In this unique dinner, in between bites of porcini pasta, I learned how these men had been fed a healthy dose of confusion and bold-faced lies. I was hopeful that their questions implied they were still seeking the truth. Their self-imposed titles of “atheist,” “anarchist,” or even a “satanist” were definitely subject to interpretation. I chose to see each as a “child of God” with potential for great conversion and sanctity! I don’t claim to be smarter than them, but I realized that all of my prayer and study paid off. I sparred with their flawed logic, posed questions making them rethink their own positions, and even convinced them that Jesus was a man worth following — even if they questioned His Lordship.

It turned out to be a great dinner. No joke! There was no immediate “conversion,” except in me. I realized that I needed more practice to imitate Jesus who won over many by his dinner conversation skills. He did it by extending an olive branch to those who feel far from God’s love. He tells us to bear good fruit, especially in our love for one another. We’re called to evangelize. If you don’t know where to start, consider extending an olive branch and serving really good food!

FR. LEO E. PATALINGHUG, priest member of Voluntas Dei Secular Institute, is a best-selling author, speaker, radio and TV host, awardwinning cook, director of the Grace Before Meals movement, and founding chairman of The Table Foundation.

LEARN MORE:
gracebeforemeals.com

 

Porcini Pasta

1 lb tagliatelle (or other noodle pasta), cooked al dente
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup dried mixed (or dried porcini) mushrooms soaked in 2 cups of hot water
1 cup fresh porcini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2-3 tsp fresh parsley, finely minced
2-3 tbs white wine
1 tbs butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook pasta according to instructions and set aside. Remove hydrated mushrooms from hot water. Reserve mushroom water. Chop mushrooms into small pieces. In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil. Add dried mushrooms and fresh sliced mushrooms to hot oil. Add garlic, 1 cup mushroom water and white wine. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta, remaining mushroom water and butter. Add fresh parsley. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated and pasta is fully heated. Serve immediately. Add parmesan cheese, if desired.