Final Gift

Jesus-laid-to-restWhen Jesus is laid to rest, it is in a tomb provided for him…not one purchased or prepared for him. Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body and placed Jesus in a new tomb. This was a huge gift for the disciples who followed and loved Jesus.

Burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy. I used to wonder about this because it is of course the natural thing to do. But is it?

When I worked in a pediatric hospital, I fell in love with Johnny, a two year old with cancer. In the mornings he would be at the elevator waiting for my arrival. He followed me around trying to help in whatever way he could.

So, when he died, I really wanted to attend his funeral. I watched for the death notice in the paper but it wasn’t there. I called the funeral home and they said they weren’t ready yet. Over a month went by and I was confounded.

Then someone told me that when people are too poor for the funeral, some funeral homes just store the body until the family can come up with the money. I was shocked. It never occurred to me that if a family is struggling with house payments, food, hospital bills, and several other children, it makes perfect sense that they would not have money for a funeral.

And yet, Johnny’s mom wanted a funeral and couldn’t reconcile him being buried without one. That is, however, exactly what happened in the end.

In this day and age it’s difficult to imagine that, like Jesus, there is a need for someone to step up to the challenge of providing a final resting place for the deceased. Many cemeteries have plots or sections specifically for those whose families are unable to pay for the burial.

Some mortuaries also make provisions for those unable to pay. It is important for us to remember, however that this isn’t always the case. There are still people like Johnny waiting for his funeral and families grieving not only the loss of their loved one but also their inability to honor the deceased with a funeral or cemetery plot. I am grateful there are some people out there aware of these needs but I wonder what my role could be.  

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Many of us have had friends or family members die. I believe that even with lingering deaths, it is difficult to absorb what has happened. Our psyches click in to soften the pain which makes it a bit more tolerable. But still….

body-of-Jesus-removed-from-the-cross.jpgHere was Mary, she had carried this child, nursed him, watched him grow and mature. She witnessed him as he ministered, met him as he carried the cross and remained with him as he died. But then they handed him down to her...dead.

Even being with someone when they die, it is still a different thing when you see this body is now only the remains of your loved one. Something is absolutely missing and can’t ever return. This takes a lot to really comprehend.

And this is why wakes are so very important to the grieving process. In the past our relatives knew this. They kept the bodies in their homes or in the funeral homes so people could not only come to comfort us but also to see for themselves that the person was really dead. Seeing is believing.

When Emily was ten she lost two grandmothers in one month. They both died suddenly. When the first one died, she was told that Grandma K died but not about the wake and funeral. To Emily, this well-loved grandmother and babysitter was gone and she couldn’t comprehend where she went. When her other grandmother died, not only was she told about the death but was also able to attend the wake and funeral. Later she called me and said, “I’m really upset and can’t stop crying but it’s OK. When Grandma K died, she just disappeared and I didn’t know what happened to her. Now, because I was able to say goodbye to Grandma Rose, it hurts, but at least I understand. This feels so much better than the first time.”

In this day when we don’t really want to face death at all and we try to skip the wake thinking it’s unnecessary, let us remember that wakes have a serious purpose. They are meant to help us not only to grasp our loss but to also openly grieve. They also allow others to grieve their loss and to help us know we are not alone.

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Topics: sorrowful-mysteries, death, lent

Death and Life


We grew up with no religion in our home, so I was surprised to find a child’s prayer book on the dining room table.

As I looked through the book, I found a series of pictures with the story telling about this man I never even heard of who loved us so much that he suffered and died for us. I was so sad to hear about this that I cried and cried and promised never to do anything bad again to cause him pain. At the same time, however, I found comfort in knowing that someone loved me that much.

That Jesus died for us is difficult to comprehend. He was innocent. He came to bring us closer to the Father and to the kingdom of heaven. He came to save us from ourselves. We understand this, and yet we also know that down through the ages, many good men have died heroic deaths.

What makes Jesus different is that besides dying for us … he also rose for us. Had he not risen, he might have had a place in history, but would we really know of his mission? Would we know that he died for us? Would we really have access to his life, actions, and teachings?

Because he died and rose, we are able to take refuge in his love and grace. He came to lead us to the Father, and it was worth dying to teach us that the Kingdom of God is within us, that our sins are forgiven, and that we are to follow his example.

So, as we contemplate the crucifixion and death of Jesus, may we be open to taking in the whole picture. We have been given so much more through the depth of his love than we could ever imagine but may we spend our days pondering and growing in his kind of love.

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Topics: jesus, lent, The Sorrowful Mysteries

Lenten Family Retreat in Baltimore Hits a Home Run!

Last weekend I was in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC and had the pleasure of visiting a parish named St. Nicholas in Laurel, MD. I was invited to give a Lenten Family Retreat based on the 5 Sorrowful Mysteries titled “A Journey with Mary and Jesus.” During this retreat, we looked at how we live these Mysteries in our everyday lives.

plastic_egg_activity_during_retreat.jpgDuring one of our activities, the families gathered into a large circle. We reflected on each Mystery and discussed them first as a family, then as a large group. After each family shared their comments, they placed a colorful plastic egg in one of the bowls in the middle of the circle that represented the Rosary. Together, as a community of faith, we learned about the Rosary, the prayers, and the Mysteries.

Once the presentation was completed, we prayed the Rosary with the children leading the prayers. The retreat, as with all of our work here at Family Rosary, is inspired by our founder, Servant of God Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. whose life’s mission was to encourage family prayer and reminded the world that the family that prays together stays together.

Upon returning to the office I received an email from the Director of Evangelization stating that the retreat had “hit a home run” with the families. I found myself chuckling inside because the Boston Red Sox were playing the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore and, knowing I am a baseball fan from Boston, many asked why was I was flying back on Monday and not staying to attend the game.

That home run comment also got me thinking about Lent and wondering if we’ve adequately prepared for the upcoming Easter Celebration …

What home runs can we hit as we get ready to celebrate Easter?

Have we prepared ourselves to truly step up to the plate and hit a home run as we rejoice with our Risen Savior in less than 2 weeks?

How you are preparing yourself to step up to the plate?

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Topics: family-prayer, rosary, sorrowful-mysteries, lent


The other day I was sitting with an elderly patient in a nursing home. She had just been turned by the nurses but still, she couldn’t get comfortable. She tried to move on her own but just couldn’t.

It reminded me of years ago when I woke up from my appendectomy before the anesthesia had worn off. I knew I was awake but I couldn’t move any part of my body. I was crying out with all my might, “help me” but no one could hear me. When the nurse came in to check on me, she wasn’t even aware that I was awake since I couldn’t open my eyes. It was a horrible experience. This only lasted at most a half hour but I began to think of quadriplegics, stroke patients, the comatose, ALS patients and others.

How dreadful it must feel to have your body betray you; to be totally dependent on others in every way. Jesus_nailed_to_the_crossThis is what comes to me when I ponder Jesus being nailed to the cross. He was no longer able to even scratch his nose or wipe the sweat out of his eyes so he could see. He was totally dependent on the mercy of others, and as we know, they were not very merciful.

Those in this situation are at the mercy of caregivers. Most of them offer support and do what they can to make their patients as comfortable and capable of doing what they are able to do for themselves. Others never really intended to be caregivers and though they love the person they are caring for, it is terribly difficult. Still others are getting paid to work in the only job they could find and in their own frustration, are not able to be thoughtful or compassionate.

Today I am praying for those in the same position as Jesus. May they know they are not alone even though on many levels they must feel that they are.

And I’m praying for all the caregivers in the world. Regardless of how they came to be, they are still in a better physical state than the one for whom they care. May they be filled with compassion and understanding, express it in their love and care, and know they are offering a service God has given them the grace to do.

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Topics: illness, sorrowful-mysteries, lent

Please Join Us in Prayer

Holy-Cross-Family-Ministries-sites-prayer-schedule.jpgIf it's April, we must be praying for Bangladesh!

As you may know, the Holy Cross Family Ministries in 17 countries encourage families to pray the Rosary  together. So each month we ask everyone to join us in praying especially for one or more of these countries, and specifically for those who carry on or benefit from our ministry within them.

I have been privileged to visit all of these countries and to perceive Servant of God Father Peyton's  message being delivered so clearly within very different cultures.

Sometimes it is through a night procession and Rosary by candlelight. Sometimes it's a huge rally. At other times it may be in the context of a parish mission or a Mass with lay folk dancing in thanksgiving after Communion, or it may be in the quiet of the home. Sometimes it's through the radio or television or internet in languages I cannot understand. I can, however, sense the love with which the message is given and for that I am very grateful.

If you have discovered the beauty of the Rosary and the depth of its meaning, then please do not kRosary-celebration2-Bangladesheep it to yourself or just your family. Pray for those of other cultures who struggle to perceive God's presence with them as they bear their daily crosses. Help them to see more than the Sorrowful Mysteries; help them look beyond to the Joyful, the Luminous and the Glorious Mysteries as well!

We especially remember the United States in prayer every September, and we who live here certainly need it!


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Topics: father-peyton, rosary-prayer, a world at prayer is a world at peace

Carguemos nuestra cruz...



Sólo hay una salida para los sufrimientos…pasando por ellos. Dios nunca te dará más de lo que puedas cargar. ¿Como Dios le ayudado con su cruz?

There is only one way out of suffering ... through it. God will never give you more than you can carry. How has God helped you carry your cross?

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Topics: lent, The Sorrowful Mysteries, Life struggles

Being Stripped

When Jesus was stripped of his garments it was surmised and intended that he was being stripped of his honor and integrity thus calling into question all he had done and said.

By his humiliation it was to be assumed he had no power and all those who had been assisted, healed, and taught by him would, in their confusion, begin to doubt their own conversions and deeper understanding about the kingdom of God.

How many of us have been stripped of our job, our ministry or our position in life? Though others may or may not doubt all our efforts and determination to make a difference, we doubt ourselves. We may watch from a distance as all that we had built up, comes down and is replaced by that which is foreign to us or so in opposition to what we felt we had accomplished that we suffer all the more.

This is especially true when we work in ministry (and I don’t necessarily mean for the church because many of us have seen an aspect of ministry to our work regardless of the fact that we were being paid). It is so difficult to accept our stripping and we plunge headlong into the darkness of depression. Others around us may try to reassure us, others may add to our doubts. It is a lonely road. We lose our incentive to reach out to serve again.

At this point it would be so helpful if we could remember that regardless of the stripping of Jesus who had so much more to lose than we ever could; those who knew him, who walked with him and heard his words, and saw his works lost nothing by this act of stripping. The good that Jesus had done, the hearts he had touched were affected too deeply and their lives were too changed too much for them to doubt. They knew that Jesus had made a real difference in their lives, regardless of anything that was alleged now.

This is true for us as well. Though some may doubt our efforts and we may doubt ourselves, those whom we have touched will be forever changed and that really is all that matters.

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Topics: loss, lent, The Sorrowful Mysteries

Gracious Receptivity

Simon-helps-Jesus-carry-the-cross_2A number of years ago my boss was diagnosed with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Now John was quite a gregarious man. He had visitors to his office all day every day; all kinds of people: faculty, students, staff members, local musicians, and friends. These visits actually enhanced his job and made him and his reputation grow.

The strange thing was that once he was diagnosed, and even before he showed any signs of the disease, his visitors began slowing down so that by the time his symptoms manifested, hardly anyone was coming at all.

Then a peculiar thing happened. He began receiving visits from people who had never been all that interested in John before this. They came regularly and became a brand new support system for him. He always grieved the loss of his “friends” but was genuinely grateful for his new supporters.

When Jesus was on his way to Calvary, you would think that one or the other of the apostles would be there to support and help him with the cross. No, none of them broke through the crowd to be of assistance. Here it was Simon of Cyrene, basically a person unknown and a foreigner. (Mk 15:20 – 22)

How did this affect Jesus, perhaps the same way as John; he was just grateful someone was there for him.

We must remember in our darkest hours that those we love most may not have it in them to assist us. That doesn’t mean they don’t love or care for us, only that something within prevents them from assisting us in our need; it might be their own fears (as if our situation might be contagious), or their inability to communicate their love on that level of intimacy. Whatever their reason, it is not only important to accept them in their inadequacy but also not to decide that they “really don’t care” because they are not there.

So often others do step in whom we would never have guessed. We may be shocked by their care and kindness. If we are lost in the pain of what and who should be with us, we will never realize the gift of who is there for us.

May God be forever praised that there are such “fall back” people in this world. And may they always be received graciously for that may be the only remuneration they ever receive or need.

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Topics: illness, lent, The Sorrowful Mysteries

The Annunciation: A Feast Reminding us that God is Love

"Today humanity needs to know and above all to live this fundamental reality: God is love and the encounter with Him is the only response to the restlessness of the human heart," wrote Pope Benedict XVI in 2008. What we celebrate in the Annunciation is the concrete proof and realization of this love.

            "God so loved the World that He gave His only Son ..." (John 3:16)

            "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us …" (John 1:14)

THIS IS GOOD NEWS. This is what we need to know in our hearts NOW.

Nine months (i.e., the normal time that a pregnancy lasts) before Christmas we celebrate the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel announces the good news of the birth of the Lord to the young maiden, Mary.


One of the most beloved portrayals of the Annunciation by Blessed Fra Angelico

In the early centuries of the Church, this feast was also called the Incarnation, which means when God became man and took on our flesh ( John 1:14 and Philippians 2:5 – 11 .) Both of these titles highlight central truths that we celebrate today.

    The Incarnation:

As the Incarnation we contemplate "this fundamental reality", that God loves us so much that He has become one of us and has joined Himself to us to raise us up, so we can become one with Him! This is what we are born for!

     The Annunciation:

As the Annunciation, we contemplate the relationship: between God and the Blessed Virgin - and in her, our own relationship with God. The Scriptures present Mary as the Woman of Faith and the Mother of the New Creation. She is OUR Mother. As Mother, the New Eve, she says YES for all of us.

The Lord waited for Mary's YES. He couldn't do this without her. He waits for our YES, too, to be born in our hearts and lives.

A beautiful way to imitate Mary’s yes and to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation with your family is to pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary together.


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Topics: mary, feast-day, joyful mysteries

Drive-Thru Prayer: Balancing Family Prayer and a Busy Schedule

Drive-thru-prayer.jpegOh boy! I sure have experience with this!

One thing I really would love to do every night is to have dinner around the table with my family, but often the daily chores and commitments prevent this from happening. I have found myself picking up supper at a drive thru and praying Grace in the car on the way to or from a late sports practice or other event. There are days when prayer is the last thing I remember on a very long hectic day.

Although I have to say that, for me, Sunday Mass is actually when I feel most connected with my family through prayer. I sometimes wonder if I am the only one experiencing the challenges of praying together as family and balancing a full schedule.

How do you pray as a family? What are the challenges you face in making prayer somehow the center in your family? Feel free to share! We would love to hear from you.

Do you have a hectic schedule too? Here are some ideas for praying as family during Lent or anytime of the year:

  1. Weekly Prayers for the Family
  2. Sign up for Prayer of the Day sent directly to you in an email or text. 
  3. The Family That Prays Together Stays Together. Check out this video on the origins of this mantra. 
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Topics: Difficulties with Family Prayer, Praying while driving

Women along the Way

There are very few women mentioned in the whole of the Old Testament. Here on the way of the cross, however, Jesus meets several women.

Jesus-meets-Mary-on-way-to-cross.jpg_1The first one, of course is his mother. When Mary approaches him, there are no words. She is as united to him as a mother can be. Their hearts understand each other without words. Jesus knows she shares his pain in a deep and abiding way. Her compassion comes from the heart and is shared with presence.

Veronica, sees his pain but she also sees his need. She runs toward him to wipe his face, to assist him on his way … offering a kind and human touch in contradiction to all the aggressive and tormenting ways he has been touched during the previous night. She offers her service without thinking of the ramifications to herself. Jesus blesses her for her care by sanctifying the very veil with which she has wiped his face.

When Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, he can see they are filled with sympathy. The thing about sympathy is that it is not really a matter of union or service. It’s a sense of observation and entails a distance. We might be very sad that something awful is happening to another but at the same time, we are not sharing that pain in our own experience. We would help if we could but we are not sure we can. There is a sense of feeling sorry for another and yet in our deepest hearts, we are glad it is not happening to us. These are the only people Jesus is recorded as speaking to along the way. He warned them that if this could happen to him, know that it could happen to them. He was telling them the sense of separation was really not helpful for him or for them.

When I ponder the difference between compassion, service, and sympathy, I know that I approach different people with one of these different aspects. There is no healthy way I could possibly meet everyone suffering along my way in life with compassion or even service. But I must know that I’m just as vulnerable as the next person. I must try to understand and support those who are suffering and pray that God is able to fill up what is lacking in my own heart so that the other may know His love and care.


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Topics: mary, lent, The Sorrowful Mysteries


Jesus falls while carrying the cross

So many times we see expectations in a negative light. There are excessive expectations we put on ourselves at times that we could never meet. There are also unreasonable expectations we place on others based on our perceptions of what they are capable of or would be most helpful to ourselves. But sometimes these expectations enable us to rise to an occasion which seems almost beyond our strength.

But sometimes these expectations enable us to rise to an occasion which seems almost beyond our strength.

I think of the three falls of Jesus. He is exhausted, battered and bruised, surely dehydrated and most assuredly weak to the point of death. It is more than understandable that he would fall under the weight of the cross. What is unreasonable is that the soldiers would expect him to get up and carry on. They had a job to perform and Jesus wasn’t going to mess it up. Jesus met their expectations, the expectations of the crowd, and most clearly his own expectations of himself.

When my dad was on his deathbed, he was so weak he could hardly talk to us. We understood this and remained with him with no expectations. Then an old friend of his arrived in his room. He hadn’t seen this man for quite a while. Suddenly, my dad was able to rise up in bed and chat with him. He knew his friend would expect to see his former self and to the best of his ability he rose to the occasion. My family was amazed and delighted to see this spark of life in him and we reveled in it. But as his friend left his room, Dad slipped down in his bed and slept for the next several hours. He had indeed met the expectations of his friend and we were the better for it….but it was at such a cost.

So it was with Jesus.

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Topics: inspiration, lent, The Sorrowful Mysteries

A Time for Renewal of Family Prayer

A few months ago a survey came out from the Vatican to all dioceses in the United States in preparation for the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family asking the faithful to think and pray about the pastoral needs of the family. The bishops conducted this survey to meet the needs of their people. Some worked in committees, others with the priests and others in a variety of forums.

This synod is coming in a very important time in the history of the church, society and within families. Families are fragmented, divided, in pain, in financial crisis and many other forms. Families are struggling to remain in healthy relationships with all members. In these struggles, families are finding it hard to pray together. As our founder, Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. so strongly believed, the family that prays together stays together.

What better time than the present, during this Lenten Season, to take a moment and pray a Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be or perhaps an entire Rosary with your family asking God to guide, strengthen and enrich your family life. More ideas for families

Dr-Greg-PopcakDr. Greg Popcak, director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, is a well-known author on issues relating to family life and hosts a radio show entitled More2Life with his wife Lisa. Dr. Popcak offers valuable insights into the state of the Catholic family in this day and age. Visit Dr. Popcak’s blog to read about his responses to the survey on the needs of the family.

I leave you with these insights hoping that they will give you tools to enrich your family life.

How does your family pray together? What family traditions do you have for the Lenten season?


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Topics: vatican, family-prayer, lent



When Dr. Elisabeth Küblar-Ross wrote her book, On Death and Dying, she basically transformed our understanding of the dying process.

From her research, she identified five stages which the dying normally move through on their way to acceptance. It isn't as if individuals go through the stages of denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance one after the other but rather, we bounce around from one stage to the next until we come to a certain deep awareness of our deaths and losses. We are then able to tend to those things which need to be tended to before we move on.

As we recognize Jesus accepting His cross, we know from reading the Gospels that He also went through some of these stages. He knew that He would have to suffer and die. We see Him going away to pray and we see Him in the garden asking if this cup could pass over Him. Then He was able to accept his cross.

We go through these same stages many times in our lives because death and loss are intrinsic to life. It may be that we are not able to get into the college we wanted, or a relationship falls apart. We may lose a job, or a home, or someone close to us dies. It may be realizing that the children have grown up, are now on their own and we have to move along with our own lives.

It is important that we can recognize our losses and absorb the pain of those transitions so we can move on to acceptance. If we resist the reality, continue to grieve and become identified only by this loss, we are not able to move on to the next phase of our lives. This is not easy. It comes through our own method of fasting and prayer but it helps to begin to integrate the loss into our lives, realize the gift we had before our loss and to realize, that that person, or facet of our lives will never really be gone ... they or it will always be part of our memories, a stepping stone to our future and the wealth of our spirits.

As we see Jesus accepting the cross, may we seek to accept our crosses and move through our own painful journeys toward resurrection.


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Topics: sorrowful-mysteries, inspiration, lent

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