Monthly Archives: October 2015


One of the phrases we've all heard is "come on in, the water is great!"  The phrase can be used in a variety of contexts, but in its most practical sense, it is meant to reassure the listener that the water in a pool, lake or the ocean is comfortable and won't be painfully cold if and when he or she decides to get it.  In my experience, however, most people are unwilling to accept the statement purely on faith and jump into the water, no matter how trustworthy the speaker (who is already in the water) may be.  Instead, it seems much safer to dip a toe into the water first to check out the temperature for ourselves.  Even then, many of us prefer to enter the water gradually rather than jump in.

This phrase came to mind recently as I was reading  St. John's Gospel.  In Chapter 21, St. John records an appearance of our Risen Lord in Galilee, at the Sea of Tiberias, to seven of the apostles, including Peter, John (the "disciple whom Jesus loved") and Thomas.  In the account, Peter decides to go fishing one night, accompanied by the six other apostles.  The fish weren't biting that night, and St. John tell us that the apostles "caught nothing."  (John 21:3).  As dawn broke, while the apostles were still in the boat, Jesus--whom they did not recognize yet--called to them from the shore asking if they had "caught anything to eat."  (John 21:4-5).  When they answer "no," Jesus tells them to cast their net over the right side of the boat, and upon so doing "they were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish."  (John 21:5-6).  The following verses are what really caught my attention:

"So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord.'  When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.  The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish."  (John 21:7-9).

Once Peter realized it was Jesus on the shore, he dove into the sea without hesitation in order to get to his (our) Lord.  St. John tell us that the boat was "only about a hundred yards" from the shore, but that certainly isn't an insignificant distance--just think of swimming the length of a football field.  Peter obviously had no concern about the distance or the temperature of the water.  At that moment, all he cared about was getting to Jesus as quickly as possible in order to be in His presence.

As I reflected on  these verses, I immediately thought of another instance from Sacred Scripture where Peter was in a boat and saw Jesus--the "walking on water" account from St. Matthew's Gospel.  There, the apostles were also in a boat without Jesus.  Later that night, the wind picked up and began to toss the boat about.  St. Matthew then tells us:

"During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea.  When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.  'It is a ghost,' they said, and they cried out in fear.  At once [Jesus] spoke to them, 'Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.'  Peter said to him in reply, 'Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.'  He said 'Come."  Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!'  Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'"  (Matthew 14:25-31)

Obviously, the circumstances surrounding this account are different from that of Peter jumping into the sea in St. John's Gospel.  But the similarities in the stories are significant enough to notice the stark difference in Peter's reactions.  Unlike in John 21, Peter here has great hesitation, first wanting confirmation that it is in fact Jesus he sees on the water.  Only upon Jesus saying "come" does Peter get out of the boat.  I can envision Peter slowly climbing over the edge of the boat at that point, hesitant to leap into the water or take that first step toward our Blessed Lord.  Even after being given the miraculous ability to walk on the water for a time, Peter was unable to set aside his doubts and fears and continue moving towards Jesus.  As He does with us so often, it was only Jesus reaching out his hand and catching Peter that saved him from sinking.

Most of my life, I've been the Peter from Matthew 14: scared, hesitant, unwilling to jump out of the boat to get to Jesus.  Even when He has told me "come on in, the water is great," I've preferred to keep one foot in the boat while testing the waters with the other.  It seems much safer to keep one foot in the boat (i.e. the world) and one foot in the water (i.e. the kingdom of God).  At times, I've put both feet in the water or even gradually waded in, only to succumb to my fear and doubt of what a life totally devoted to Christ would cost me, and crawled back into the boat completely.  But as Jesus tells us, "[n]o servant can serve two masters."  (Luke 16:13)  We either stay in the boat or dive in the water--there is no in between.

That is why we must jump completely out of the boat and into the sea for Christ as Peter did in John 21.   But what changed in Peter between Matthew 14 and John 21, and what does it that mean for us?  Remember, the account in Matthew 14 occurred during Jesus's earthly ministry, before His passion, death and resurrection.  Although Peter certainly had seen Jesus perform many miracles by that time and had been given the gift of faith to realize that Jesus was the eternal Son of God, he did not yet understand the fullness of Jesus's mission to conquer sin and death.  (See, e.g. Matthew 16:21-23).  By the time the events in John 21 unfold, however, Peter has already seen and experienced our risen Lord.  Indeed, the risen Jesus had breathed the Holy Spirit onto Peter and the other apostles, sending them forth "as the Father has sent me."  (John 20:21)

It is easy to identify with the Peter of Matthew 14.  Many of us have experienced Jesus in our lives in a variety of ways, maybe even through small miracles here and there.  But although we believe in Christ's divinity and proclaim Him as the Son of God, we might not fully understand or grasp what his death and resurrection mean for us.  Even when we hear Jesus say "come," the world tells us that diving in would be a foolish decision.

In reality, however, we have much more in common with the Peter in John 21.  Jesus has risen!  This is a reality as true today as it was for Peter then.  Further, the Holy Spirit has come and is present, working in our lives if only we let Him.  Indeed, the fullness and glory of Christ's passion, death and resurrection has been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit and maintained throughout the ages by the Church that Christ founded.

So staying in the boat simply won't do.   Dipping a toe into the water every now and then won't do.  Even sitting on the edge of the boat with both feet in the water won't do.  No!  Only by diving into the sea to get to Jesus will we reach Him and obtain the graces and true joy He has waiting for us.  Still, the waters may get rough; tribulations, temptations, sufferings will no doubt come.  But we must stay vigilant, for as Fulton Sheen once said: "No one can ever expect to be without trials or crosses, for these are the very condition of victory and incorporation with Him."

These words from Peter's first epistle seem appropriate to end with:

"Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet you believe in him; you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Come on in, the water is great!





From time to time during prayer, I try to meditate and reflect on Christ's Passion.  Sometimes this is as simple as staring at a crucifix for several minutes.  Other times I try to focus and reflect on specific events during His Passion, like the scourging at the pillar or the nailing to the cross (Praying the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary lets you meditate on them all!).  No matter how I do it though, the point is to remind me what immense suffering Jesus willingly endured for my salvation.  In the hustle and bustle of everyday life with its constant demands and distractions, it's so easy to forget what Christ has done for us.  Engaging in this reflection, even if just for a few seconds, also acts as a great remedy for self-pity.  It's hard to feel sorry for oneself while looking at a crucifix.


Recently, I found myself reflecting on the crowning with thorns--the Roman soldiers mockery of Jesus by placing a crown of thorns on his head prior to leading him off to be crucified.  Three of the four Gospels record this event (all but Luke), and all three are almost identical in the details.  Here is St. Matthew's account:

"Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him.  They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.  Weaving a crown of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand.  And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying 'Hail King of the Jews!'  They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head.  And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him."  (Matthew 27:27-30)

It is interesting to note that although the soldiers removed the military cloak and dressed him back in his own clothes, St. Matthew never tells us that the soldiers removed the crown of thorns from Jesus's head.  St. Mark and St. Matthew are equally silent as to the crown of thorns being removed.  In fact, St. John tells us specifically that Jesus still was "wearing the crown of thorns" when he was brought back out before Pilate and the crowd.  (John 19:5)  Given these accounts, its reasonable to believe that the crown of thorns remained on Jesus's head from that point forward until his death on the cross.  Indeed, most Christian art (paintings, sculptures, etc.) over the centuries depicts Christ wearing the crown of thorns as he hung on the cross.

I highlight this because--for me at least--it often is easy to overlook Jesus's physical suffering associated with the crown of thorns, especially when compared with the brutality of the scourging and the crucifixion itself.  Further, in my experience, it seems that many writers and bible commentators tend to focus on the Roman soldiers' intent to mock Jesus and his purported kingship with the crown of thorns as opposed to inflicting additional torture upon him.  To be sure, mockery and humiliation was the ultimate goal.  But the mocking nature of the crowning with thorns doesn't mean we can or should forget the precious blood that flowed from the wounds the crown of thorns opened up on Christ's head, nor the pain and suffering caused as a result.  Indeed, as discussed below, this recognition can help us grow in love and devotion to our Lord.

My epiphany (for lack of a better term) regarding Jesus's suffering from the crown of thorns came after a reading a book titled The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry by Frederick T. Zugibe, M.D. ("The Crucifixion") (  Dr. Zugibe was the chief medical examiner for Rockland County, New York for over 30 years (1969 - 2002), and one of the country's leading forensics pathologists (  In The Crucifixion, Dr. Zugibe set out to conduct a virtual autopsy on Christ from "across the centuries."  Relying on the Gospel accounts, the Shroud of Turin, and fifty-three (53) years worth of exhaustive research (including numerous experiments he conducted regarding the medical and scientific aspects of crucifixion on the body), Dr. Zugibe examines Christ's Passion step by step, explaining, in great detail, the physical and mental suffering our Lord experienced.  I highly recommend the book (especially for Lenten reading) if you are interested in gaining a deeper knowledge of what Jesus endured for us.

When analyzing the crowning with thorns in The Crucifixion, Dr. Zugibe discusses a neurological condition known as trigeminal neuralgia caused by stimulation or irritation of the two major nerve branches located on the top and sides of the head.  If these nerves are irritated--by, for example, punctures from sharp objects--individuals experience facial pain described by patients as "knifelike stabs," "electric shocks," or "jabs with a red-hot poker."  Once this irritation has occurred, even "[l]ight touches, facial movements, chewing, talking, or drafts of air across the face can precipitate an attack."  Quoting the leading researcher regarding trigeminal neuralgia and its treatment, Dr. Zugibe explains that the condition "is said to be the worst pain that man is heir to.  It is devastating pain that is just unbearable in its several forms."

Turning back to the Gospel account of the crowning, Dr. Zugibe explains the physical effect it would have had on Jesus.  No summary I could give would be adequate, so here is the entire explanation:

"It is important to note that the crown was made by interweaving (plaiting) the thorn twigs into the shape of a cap.  This placed a large number of thorns in contact with the entire top of the head, including the front, back, and sides.  The blows from the reed across Jesus's face or against the thorns would have directly irritated the nerves or activated trigger zones along the lip, side of the nose, or face, bringing on severe pains resembling a hot poker or electric shock.  The pain would have lancinated across the sides of His face or deep into His ears.  Bleeding would have resulted from penetrating small blood vessels.  The pain may have stopped almost abruptly, only to recur [at] the slightest movement of the jaws or even from a wisp of wind.  The traumatic shock from the brutal scourging would have been further enhanced by the paroxysmal pains across the face.  Exacerbations and remissions of throbbing bolts of pain would have occurred all the way to Calvary and during the crucifixion, activated by the movement of walking, falling, and twisting; from the pressure of the thorns against the cross; and from the many shoves and blows by the soldiers."

Simply horrific.


As he did with the whole of his Passion, Jesus willingly accepted his crown of thorns (and the excruciating pain that came as a result) on our behalf.  But why?  Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen explains that "[a]s the scourging was the reparation for the sins of the flesh, so the crowning with thorns was the atonement for the sins of the mind – for the atheists who wish there were no God, for the doubters whose evil lives becloud their thinking, for the egotists, centered on themselves." (The Fifteen Mysteries)   Jesus wore the crown of thorns because of our pride, plain and simple.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, pride is "the greatest sin in man," "the beginning of all sin," and "Man's first sin."  (Summa Theologiae II-II 161, 6-7; 163, 1)  He further tells us that "[t]he root of pride is found to consist in man not being in some way subject to God and His Rule."  (II-II, 162, 5)   Simplifying St. Thomas's words, Peter Kreeft boils it down to this: "'Thy' will be done is the essential prayer of the saint; 'my will be done' is the essential prayer of the sinner." (Practical Theology)

Looking at my life, far too often has my pride caused me to put on my own crown and ignore Christ's crown of thorns.  This pride has taken many forms over the years, both big and small.  So many times when I've been in the valley of darkness, God's will was the farthest thing from my mind.  Even when I could muster up the strength to say the Lord's prayer (the "Our Father"), "thy will be done" was nothing more than words.  Deep down, I thought my will was better than God's.  Yet the reality is that the crown of my pride is heavy, weighing me down into an abyss of misery.  It prevents me from loving Jesus Christ and doing his will through keeping his commandments.  (John 14:21)

But thanks to God's grace and mercy, I can remove my crown of selfish pride, put on Christ's crown of glory, and become a royal heir thanks to His precious blood that flowed from the crown of thorns.     Sacred Scripture assures us of this:

  •  "Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him."  (James 1:12)
  • I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.  From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance."  (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
  • "Run so as to win.  Every athlete exercises discipline in every way.  They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.
  • "[The Lord] redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with mercy and compassion."  (Psalms 103:4)

So now, whenever I feel my pride creeping in, I remember Jesus's crown of thorns and what he endured to overcome that pride.  Simply recognizing when our will crosses with God's will is a great victory.  It is in fighting these small battles, day by day, that allows us to take baby steps toward holiness.  For true "[f]reedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought."  (St. Pope John Paul II).

God bless







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One of the many great things about being a new Catholic is getting to know the saints.  Those heroic men and women, who through their lives of obedience and uncompromising love for God, give us a blueprint for becoming holy and growing in our faith and love for Jesus Christ.  The witness of the saints' lives--as well as their writings--contain vast treasures just waiting to be discovered.

Over the past several weeks, I've been reading St. Josemaria Escriva--a wonderful twentieth century saint from Spain.  A biography or summary of his life would take up the entirety of this post, so here are two links ( and that contain a plethora of information about St. Josemaria.  Of his writings, St. Josemaria is perhaps best known for three books: "The Way," "Furrow" and "The Forge."  I've been reading and reflecting on The Way most recently.

As point of reference, The Way is broken down into individually numbered paragraphs, each containing short, concise thoughts and words of wisdom from Josemaria on a variety of topics, all regarding life in Jesus Christ.  His prologue summarizes the point of this style better than I can:

"Read these counsels slowly.  Pause to meditate on these thoughts.  They are things that I whisper in your ear--confiding them--as a friend, as a brother, as a father.  And they are being heard by God.  I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of Love."

I have no doubt that I will return to many of St. Josemaria's "counsels" throughout the life of this blog, but one in particular jumped out at me so much that, after some prayer and reflection, I knew it would be the topic for my first post.  It is a term (or idea) that I had never heard used before reading it in The Way:  Holy Shamelessness!

So what is it?  Something that every Christian should have.  Indeed, St. Josemaria describes holy shamelessness as a characteristic within "the plane of sanctity our Lord asks of us."  (¶ 387)  Simply stated, "[i]f you have holy shamelessness, you won't be bothered of what people have said or what they will say."  (¶391)  As such, it is "characteristic of the life of [a] child[]," who "doesn't worry about anything" and "makes no effort to hide his weakness . . . even though everyone is watching him."  (¶389)  Thus, a Christian with holy shamelessness should "[l]augh at ridicule.  Scorn whatever may be said. [And] see and feel God in yourself and in your surroundings."  (¶ 390)  Although St. Josemaria doesn't touch on it directly in The Way, it seems clear to me that holy shamelessness should compel us as Christians to live our faith visibly and publicly so that all those we come into contact with can see the joy and true happiness that an encounter with Christ brings.

Reading St. Josemaria's words though, it didn't take long for me to realize that for most of my life, I've had anything but holy shamelessness.  In fact, I've usually had just the opposite--I'll call it "worldly bashfulness" (purely my term, not St. Josemaria's).  Far too often--both in my youth and as an adult--I've been embarrassed to visibly live my faith in a way that made Christ's role in my life evident.  For example, several years ago, I had a co-worker (who is now a close friend and brother in Christ) tell me that he assumed I was an atheist because of certain language I used in emails  Sadly, none of my other actions or words (or lack thereof) while in his presence had given him any impression that I was a Christian.

But why?  Because I was too worried about what people might say or think of me if I wore my faith in Christ on my sleeve.  I was consumed with worldly bashfulness instead of holy shamelessness.  I was more concerned with people thinking I was weird, a "Jesus freak," "bible thumper," "one of those people," . . . the list could go on and on.  Instead of laughing at ridicule, I was more worried about being ridiculed.  Being cool and being liked took precedence over proclaiming the truth of the eternal Son of God.  Perhaps you can recall similar instances from your own life.

Of course, the idea of holy shamelessness--not being ashamed of God--is firmly rooted in Sacred Scripture and the words of our Lord himself:

  •  "And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me."  (Luke 7:23)
  • "No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lamp stand so that those who enter may see the light."  (Luke 8:16)
  • "Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."  (Luke 9:26)
  • "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters."  (Luke 11:23)
  • "Nevertheless, many, even among the authorities, believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they did not acknowledge it openly in order not be be expelled from the synagogue.  For they preferred human praise to the glory of God.  (John 12:42-43)
  • "In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast in what pertains to God."  (Romans 15:17)
  • "Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord."  (1 Corinthians 1:31)

I could list many more passages, but the point is clear--we should aspire to have holy shamelessness because our Lord demands it!  The popular secular notion (even believed by some Christians) that faith is a private affair that should be kept mostly to oneself is simply unbiblical.  Indeed, being too bashful to acknowledge Jesus, concealing the light of our lamps, preferring human praise all are incompatible with a living out the love of Christ .  Yet all too often we do just that, succumbing to worldly bashfulness so that we don't stand out from the crowd.

Perhaps this will help put things in perspective.  Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge sports fan--football, basketball, baseball, you name it.  I root for my teams with reckless abandon.  Fan, of course, is short for fanatic.  Tune into any football game on Saturday or Sundays in the Fall and you will see thousands of fanatics crammed into stadiums.  Most of these fanatics scream at the top of their lungs continuously for 2-3 hours trying to influence the outcome of a game that will have no real impact on their lives.  Many of these fanatics paint their faces and/or bodies is various ways to support their team.  All of these fanatics, however, have one thing in common: they are not "bothered by the thought of what people have said or what they will say" (¶ 391) about their fanatic behavior.  They are shameless about being fanatics.

I use this example not to belittle sports fans (of whom I am one of the biggest), but to illustrate the dichotomy.  We are afraid to talk about God, to make any public pronouncement of faith for fear of ridicule or offense.  But when it comes to something as trivial as a children's game played by adults, we will go to almost any lengths to make our fanaticism known.  Think about that for a second and imagine a world where we converted only a tiny fraction of that shamelessness into holy shamelessness--to proclaim Christ crucified and raised from the dead in our everyday lives.

So let us be fans for Jesus Christ!  As the great philosopher and theologian Peter Kreeft says, "what the world calls fanaticism, the saints call fidelity."  The good news is that each and every day God presents us with opportunities to grow in holy shamelessness.  It doesn't have to be anything large or grandiose.  Start small.  For "[h]e who is faithful in very little things is faithful also in much."  (¶ 243; cf. Luke 19:17)  For example, pray before meals in public; incorporate phrases like "God bless" and "have a blessed day" into your everyday greetings and salutations; talk openly about all the ways God has blessed your life and how thankful you are for Him.  Most importantly, let the joy of Christ show on your face!  Jesus has conquered sin and death through his precious blood.  What better news is there than that?!  Any maybe, just maybe, somebody will notice one of these small gestures of holy shamelessness and ask about the reason for your joy.

God bless and have a great weekend!

In Christ,






I know what you probably are thinking (with a great deal of sarcasm): "Oh great, another Catholic/Christian blog!"  I don't blame you.   Over the past few weeks, months, and even years, I've asked myself: what could I possibly offer to the blogosphere that hasn't or isn't already being done by awesome people of faith, most of whom certainly are better writers than I am?  Yet despite this doubt, I've felt a calling from the earliest days of my journey to Catholicism to start a blog on faith and life in Jesus Christ.

Still, my hesitation in moving forward with this blog was twofold: (1) Would I be doing it for the right reasons (i.e. for God's glory and not my own); and 2. Would I be able to offer thoughts and reflections helpful to other Christian's on their faith journeys?   After lots of prayer and discernment -- and at long last, finally entering the Church -- I believe God has given me the answer to the first question.  With respect to the second question, however, the jury is still out (and will remain out for quite some time, I imagine).  Nevertheless, it has become clear to me that it will be better to have tried and failed, than to never had tried at all.

So what is my goal for this blog?  It's simple, really - to help others (and help myself) become a little holier each day.  For as Jesus commands us, "Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."  (Matthew 5:48).  This certainly is no easy task, and it is only through God's grace and Christ's blood shed on the Cross that we have any hope of attaining this ultimate goal.  But we have to cooperate with His grace.  I hope to speak to people similar to myself who, for  a significant portion of their lives, have been unable or unwilling to cooperate fully with God's grace and commit to living entirely for Jesus Christ.  Given that stated goal, my writings may speak more directly to those at a similar stage of life -- those with some years and significant life experiences behind them (It's called "forty something faith" for a reason!).  Further, some of my posts may speak more directly to men, but I don't intend this blog to be exclusively a Catholic men's site.  (There are many excellent sites devoted to that purpose.  I highly recommend http://www.thosecatholicmen.com and  Most importantly, although my writing certainly will have a Catholic focus, I hope to speak to all Christians -- Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox alike -- who are seeking God and desire to have a deeper relationship with Him.

Let me end with this.

I'm just an average, middle-aged guy.  Father, husband, son, friend . . . but most importantly, a sinner and disciple of Jesus Christ.  Throughout the coming weeks and months, I hope to share a little more about my faith journey, but in most respects, my journey is just beginning.  By starting this blog, I'm not holding myself out has having some kind of superior knowledge of the interior life, or that I have attained some heightened level of spirituality that deems me qualified to show others the way.  To the contrary, I'm in need of God's love and mercy as much, and probably more, as anyone.  My prayer is that -- being faithful to the Church's teachings -- I can, in some small way, help others on their faith journey to avoid (or at least recognize) the pitfalls and darkness that have plagued me for so long.  For as the great St. Augustine said, "You have made us for yourself [O Lord], and our heart is restless until in rests in You."  I pray that reading this blog will help lead your heart to rest completely in Him.  I know it will for me.

May God bless you each and every day, and thank you for checking out my humble blog!  Look for my first official substantive post early next week!

In Christ,