Join Us: Novena for Persecuted Christians


By Katie Morroni

With all that’s going on around the world, especially with regard to the bleeding body of Christ in Iraq, there is a temptation to think there’s nothing we can do. I know I feel helpless in this particular battle so far from my home, no matter how close I try to hold it in my heart.

As Tom Palanza Jr. pondered in his recent post, “what can a Christian in this situation do, and what can a fellow Christian (or fellow human) do for another in this situation?” (Follow this link to read his entire reflection on these important questions.)

One critical thing we can do is pray.

In my prayer life, I usually need some structure, else I wind up caught in my own little world of what I need — essentially asking the Lord to bend his will to mine, instead of the other way around. Praying frequent novenas is one way I’ve found to keep prayer centered, but not self-centered.

A friend recently turned me on to, and I’m writing today to invite you all to join in a novena for religious freedom they are leading this Friday, August 1st. You simply sign up for their email list, and they will email you a prayer each morning during the novena. I like these emails as a little reminder to pause. For more details on the novena, including a call for a Day of Solidarity for All Persecuted Christians on Friday, follow this link.

(After the novena is finished, they typically wait a short period of time and then start up another. You can unsubscribe before that time, or see if the next one may speak to your heart. I’m new to the list, so this will be just my second; their last pick was a novena to St. Anne, which I found beautiful and inspiring. Here’s a link to that novena, if you’re interested in praying it in the future.)

If joining the email list doesn’t work for you, you can of course still begin a novena of your own this Friday, and still join us in praying for this important cause.

What do you say? Are you in? Post a comment below to let us know, or connect with the CatholicHow community on Facebook or Twitter.


Formed and Reformed: Four Years


By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

Setting up the Roman Missal this morning for the Memorial of Saint Ignatius, I realized that the 31st of July bore special meaning in my life.  Since it was only 6:18 am and there was only a single cup of coffee to my name, it took me a few second to find the significance.

On July 31, 2010, just four years earlier, in the same church, I professed vows as a Capuchin Franciscan.  At the same, the profession was temporary in nature: for a year.  Two renewals followed, and then in May of 2013, final vows.

I mentioned this during my homily, quipping: “I can’t believe it’s already been four years.  And, I can’t believe it’s *only* been four years.”

Continue reading Formed and Reformed: Four Years

Ignatius of Loyola: the Soldier, the Partier, the Saint


By Matt Keppel

To say that this guy has been important to my life may be the understatement of the century! If you’re not familiar with this 16th century Spaniard, I suggest that you take some time to seek out his writings. Indeed, few others have ever lived to inspire and touch the lives of as many as Iñigo (Ignatius) Lopez of Loyola.

Nations have risen and fallen, monarchies have evolved into democracies, we have even pushed the boundaries of science as a result of Ignatius’s band of Black Robes. Heck, even the new king of Spain is a product of Jesuit education, not to mention our own Pope Francis. So what made this guy so important?

As far as saints go, we could probably divide them up into Paul and Stephen categories: those who screwed up and repented (Paul) and those who lived wholly virtuous lives (Stephen). Ignatius dwells in the Paul category; in fact, he is probably the one waving the flag! His youth was marked by his love of the life in the Spanish royal courts. He trained to be a knight and was not stranger to a party. As a knight Ignatius lived for honor and pride, so much so that rumor has it he may have killed a man in a duel after a disagreement. His holiness, however, is not measured by how far he fell, but by his dedicated climb to be with God.

Continue reading Ignatius of Loyola: the Soldier, the Partier, the Saint

Vanishing Heroes


By Matt Keppel

In a world of social media, reality TV, and 24-hour news I believe that we have a difficult time finding figures to look up to, those people that were once deemed “heroic.” Instead of the traditional hero, we have “personalities,” people who seem larger than life and act like it too. These are the individuals who party all the time, manage to find their way to the field the next day, somehow are able to start the game, lather, rinse and repeat. The ability for someone to do that certainly seems superhuman to me. (I, for one, am susceptible to the dreaded two-day hangover so you can understand my amazement.) These figures are with dramatic flaws who care little for those who see them as role models. It is a tragic disregard for the place of authority that sports and media figures have. There was once a better way, and I believe we can get there again.

I feel blessed to have grown up in St. Louis for many reasons (it’s really a great place), but one of them certainly is because of the St. Louis Cardinals.  I do not love the organization for their prowess as a baseball club.  Rather, it is because of the man who shaped the organization. Few sports franchises can point to a single person who changed their trajectory in such a positive and lasting way: the Yankees have George Herman “Babe” Ruth; the Canadiens have Jean Beliveau; the Cardinals have Stan “The Man” Musial.

Continue reading Vanishing Heroes

An Easy Yoke? A Light Burden? – Suffering as a Christian


By Tom Palanza, Jr.

I do not watch the news.  My brother and father, in particular, are always incredibly frustrated with me whenever they start talking about current events that I have no knowledge of.  I am, therefore, usually late learning about what is going on in the world that is not immediate to me.  This was the case with the Christian persecution going on in Iraq.  It wasn’t until last Thursday when I read “The Worst Thing We’ve Read all Day” post that I learned about what was happening.  After reading that post and then praying Thursday’s Office of Readings, I thought it uncanny how many connections the two had with each other.

The connections started with the saint of the day, Sharbel Makhluf.  One thing I’ve noticed about my prayer is that the saint of the day, in a limited way, transports me to their region and time while I pray.  I imagine myself praying in a setting that the saint might have prayed in.  St. Makhluf, born in Lebanon, put my prayer setting in a place not very far from Iraq.

Continue reading An Easy Yoke? A Light Burden? – Suffering as a Christian

Sacrament of Initiation or Sacrament of Graduation

Christ the Teacher

By Javier Soegaard

One of the things we Confirmation teachers and directors lament is the “graduation” mentality that accompanies the current American practice of Confirmation. Wedged between the 8th grade and high school years, it is easy for our young people and their parents to consider this Sacrament a sort of moving-on from the doldrums of religious education into the blasé world of ambiguous religious practice. It certainly doesn’t help that the albs worn by our confirmands are tremendously reminiscent of academic garb.

Changing our vesting practices during the sacramental rite, however, will not bring us any closer to the solution. Nor will simply saying, “Hey guys and gals, this isn’t the end, this is just the beginning of your faith journey!”

Siiiigh.  I’d like to think Confirmation classes aren’t simply preparation for a Catechesis Quiz Show. Can you name the Seven such-and-such-es? Recite the Novena to so-and-so in English, Latin, and Klingon? Those are good things, but as a friend reminded me yesterday – they’re not necessarily mystagogical – they provide a stopping point rather than an invitation into the depth and mystery of faith. Continue reading Sacrament of Initiation or Sacrament of Graduation

Guest Opinion: Pro-Life? Support Paid Maternity Leave


By Michael Lewis, Guest Contributor

President Obama made a splash on June 23 when he took four working families out to lunch at Chipotle after announcing his support for some kind of paid maternity leave in the United States. In his statement, the president said that the U.S. is the only developed country that does not offer working women any sort of paid leave to give birth or spend time with a newborn. In fact, President Obama said, “many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth—that’s a pretty low bar.”

The President’s announcement of support received little media attention as he failed to back a concrete piece of legislation to back up his support for paid maternity leave. His political opponents—many of them champions of the pro-life movement—dismissed the idea as another unnecessary, expensive government program. Obama walks the walk on paid leave, however—White House employees receive six weeks paid leave to give birth, a policy instituted when the President took office in 2009. Perhaps the disinterested reaction is not a result of our lack of caring for new mothers, but a reflection of the low value American society places on having children.

It used to be men and women married at 20 or 21, the husband had a good job that paid well, and they bought a home and had babies. Such was the American dream when our parents were growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Dad worked to pay the bills and put food on the table, and Mom took care of the kids.

Now, however, many young people of prime childbearing age are pursuing advanced degrees and careers—and thereby delaying pregnancy—partly out of ambition and partly out of financial necessity. The widespread use of contraception makes it easy to remove the procreative aspect from sexual love, and many women are finding that when they get around to trying to conceive, their years (or decades) on the pill permanently altered their bodies, making conception difficult.

In addition, today’s economy makes it hard for families to survive on one income, and as the President said, taking time off to have a baby can be a financial burden for many middle class families. The Family Medical Leave Act provides employees with up to 12 weeks of medical leave, but for the vast majority of workers, this benefit is unpaid, and again, many cannot afford to lose three months of income. In contrast, countries such as Canada offer up to 17 weeks of leave, with compensation of 55% of wages up to 15 weeks. Sweden offers 480 days per child, at 80% of salary. Other nations such as Poland, Germany, France, Slovakia and other Eastern European countries offer varying levels of benefits for new parents, paid for by Social Security programs or national health funds.

Continue reading Guest Opinion: Pro-Life? Support Paid Maternity Leave

The Best Thing We’ve Read All Day: A Memorable Mass Experience


By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

From something published in January by Jared Dees, and sent to me recently be a parishioner: a question about how to re-fill the pews.

Or, in the words of the author:

In general, it seems to me, that it is an issue of two groups:

  1. the people who aren’t there and
  2. the people who are there.

We can focus on either one or the other in order to fix the problem. In other words, our two goals might be:

  1. Get more people to come to Mass on Sunday.

  2. Get more people to talk about Sunday Mass.

Read it all at

What We Have Here, Is a Failure to Communicate


By Matt Keppel

The Church of today is one that suffers from maladies spanning a spectrum of finances to scandal to empty pews; problems which cannot be addressed adequately short of a dissertation. Yet one problem which is harped on by pundits, parishioners, and anyone who has one eye on Rome is that of vocations. It is generally accepted as a Catholic’s calling to priesthood and/or religious life (gotta throw a bone to the editor). However, this term “vocation” means so much more than what we give it credit for.

If you ask most Catholics about their vocation, most will get this glassy look in their eye if as though you asked the most hallowed of all questions. The rest will have the fire of a thousand suns in their eyes, which is certainly caused by one or a number of ills. No matter who you ask, it is a topic that is sure to cause a reaction… but should it really? Or, are we actually failing to communicate?

Continue reading What We Have Here, Is a Failure to Communicate

The Worst Thing We’ve Read All Day: The Body of Christ (in Iraq) is Bleeding


From Vatican Radio:

“Where is the respect for the rights of Christians?” the Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad Shlemon Warduni asks Vatican Radio. “We have to ask the world: Why are you silent? Why do not you speak out? Do human rights exist, or not? And if they exist, where are they?  There are many, many cases that should arouse the conscience of the whole world: Where is Europe? Where is America?”

Read it all here.