Deacon Corner, September 29 2019

Over the past month:  Summer came to an end, school went back in session, college football kicked off (no pun intended), and Fall officially started.  Amid all of this busyness, our volunteer catechists at both parishes prepared for another year of teaching our parish children their Catholic faith.

This year we expect almost 100 students attending religious education/faith formation classes each Sunday between our two parishes.  Give or take for holidays and spring break, there are about 25 Sundays available for classes.   That’s about 30 total hours of instruction over the year for our children to learn their faith, assuming no classes are missed and everyone shows up on time.   Essentially, we have a lot of students with precious little class time to teach them what they need to know.

It takes more than classroom time to form our children’s faith.  It takes family time during the week, and that’s not easy with everything going on around us.  I remember those years when Kimberly and I struggled to balance work, school, sports, scouts, visiting grandparents, and having fun as a family.  Getting our children off to CCD classes each Sunday between their early morning paper route and 11 am Mass was always a challenge.  Sometimes we grumbled about it, and sometimes we failed.  Although I’m glad we don’t have to go through that phase of parenting anymore, I often wish we would have tried harder to make more time at home to teach our children their faith.

Our Catechism says parents have the first responsibility to educate their children.  That includes more than just dropping them off for class on Sunday morning.  It means teaching the faith at home, too.  It means praying together as a family – before and after meals, at night, the Act of Contrition, the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, the rosary, to heal those hurting, and bless those who need it to name a few.  Prayer and faith must openly be part of the family’s daily routine and decision making.

For our parish religious education/faith formation parish programs to work, our children must experience all of us – parents, relatives, friends, and parishioners alike – engaged in our faith by outwardly living a life devoted to Christ through our words and examples.  They must see us as truly faithful to the virtues of patience, temperance, charity, humility, diligence, kindness, and chastity.  Not in a showy way, but in a way they can relate to.

As classes begin next Sunday, may we always be mindful of our responsibility to teach the children of our parishes about God and our great Catholic faith.   As parents, that means taking time at home to learn our faith together.  For the rest of us, it means doing whatever we can to support our parents and volunteer catechists.  For they have a daunting task, and neither of them can do it alone.

Deacon John


Deacon’s Corner, September 22 2019

Last Sunday, Kimberly and I went to Mass at St. Columbkille in Omaha while visiting to celebrate our youngest grandson’s birthday.  We could have easily decided not to go to Mass.  It was hot and humid. We were tired, had another big day planned with the family, and most of them didn’t want to go.  But, we did.

Just walking into the church brought a sense of calm and peace.  Our Catholic brothers and sisters were welcoming.  The liturgy was empowering, the music was uplifting, the priest was heartwarming, and the deacon preached a great message about not judging and inviting people to experience Jesus.  (By the way, he is one of fifteen deacons at St. Columbkille.  That’s a lot of deacons!) We left the church after Mass feeling spiritually fed and part of a universal faith family.  Everyone there had the common bond of giving thanks to God and sharing His presence through the Eucharist.

So, why do we go to Mass, anyway?  We go for our spiritual benefit and worship together as a faith community.  We go to Mass to stand together and share in our mission as witnesses for Christ in the world while openly professing and celebrating our Catholic faith. We go to Mass to share in the wonder of God’s love and be transformed by the Spirit of holiness.  When that happens, we go forth to spread the Good News that there is something greater in l the life to come.  But we cannot experience this feeling if we only go to Mass simply because we always have, because it is our Sunday “obligation,” or someone told us we had to, or we feel guilty if we don’t.

In his book, Rediscovering Catholicism, Matthew Kelly writes that we have lost our sense of wonder about the Mass.  He says we are “so unaware of the mystery and the privilege [of the Mass] that we can hardly wait to get out of church.”   Kelly tells us that if we truly believe Christ is present in the Eucharist, then the power unleashed within us through receiving the Eucharist is “unfathomable.”   He says the only way to undergo this spiritual transformation at Mass is to rediscover the wonder of the Mass – the same wonder those First Christians discovered celebrating Jesus’ presence among them when He said, ‘Do this in memory of me.’

Our Catechism reminds us that God’s overall plan is to draw us closer to Him so we can share in His life.  God calls us to seek Him, to know and love Him, and to be in unity with His family.  That is why we go to Mass – not because we have to, but so we can join together and be one with God.

Deacon John


Deacon’s Corner, September 8 2019


We are finally at the last reason to consider why God is real from the book The God Answers.  Reason No. 5 of five is Personal Experience.”  For doubters, this is the hardest one to accept.  They think the idea of talking to God is absurd.  The author of the book shares his personal experience with God.  I’ve shared mine with you before, and it was so powerful I would like to share it again.  It happened with my dear friend, Mr. Bob, who is now home with the Lord.

Mr. Bob’s life was a struggle. He had his health issues.  He lived with his daughter.  His dad was hit and killed by a car when he was 7.  Mr. Bob survived the Great Depression and World War 2.  His marriage and business failed.  His children left the church.  At 90 years old, his heart was bad and he walked with a cane.  Despite all his setbacks, Mr. Bob was a faithful Catholic who loved the Lord.  He enjoyed life and considered me a son.

Mr. Bob and I were praying together one afternoon in the chapel at a men’s retreat.  He sensed I was troubled and asked me what was wrong.  He knew I was studying to be a deacon.  I told him I was scared.  How could I ever do what God would ask of me?  Could I visit people in prison and the hospital?  Could I feel the pain of the poor and the helpless?  Could I preach the Gospel, provide comfort at funerals, and pray with families as their loved one was dying?  Was this really what God wanted me to do?  And what if I failed?  After listening to me, Mr. Bob gently leaned over until our faces were only a few inches apart.  His face was wrinkled.  He looked worn and tired.  His hair was grey and thinning, and his beard needed a trim.

Then something glorious happened.  Mr. Bob’s face became perfect and dazzling, glowing with awe and tranquility.  I knew just then that everything would be OK.  Then, it struck me – I was face-to-face with GOD!  In a gentle but reassuring voice, Mr. Bob said, “You can put all those fears aside.  You’re going to make a hell of a deacon!”  He put his arm around my shoulder. I was at peace and not afraid any more.  Then, as quick as it began, it was over.  Mr. Bob looked at me with his wrinkled face, grey and thinning hair, his beard still needing a trim and said, “Now, let’s go get dinner.”

Some people believe I saw God.  Others politely say, “Now that’s a nice story,” and walk away.  Still others tell me it only happened because I wanted to believe it did.  Maybe so.  But I do know that my experience with Mr. Bob, and others like it, are enough evidence to convince me there is a God, and God wants to have a relationship with me.  He wants to have one with you, too.

The Bible says everyone can experience God if they sincerely look for Him: “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you”. (Matthew 7:7). Some people really want to believe in God.  They want assurance they are not alone in this universe.  Others have an equally strong desire NOT to believe in God.  The thought of an all-powerful Creator cramps their style.  Admittedly, the five reasons for why God is real are not a slam-dunk case, but they do present some strong evidence to His existence.  For me, it takes more faith to believe there is no God than believe there is.  What about you?  Is God Real?

Deacon John


Deacon Corner, September 1 2019

Originally for this week I was going to wrap up the five reasons why God is real from the book, “The God Answers”.   But while praying during Holy Hour in Adoration last Tuesday, I began reflecting on the life of St. Monica.  It was her Feast Day, and the Lord moved me to write about her this week instead.

St. Monica (322-387 A.D.) was raised in a Christian home in North Africa. Early in life she struggled with alcoholism, sneaking wine from the family cellar, before being caught and overcoming the habit. She was given in marriage to an ill-tempered and adulterous pagan Roman official. She suffered greatly because of her husband and unkind mother-in-law who she lived with.  Monica prayed hard for their conversion for many years.  Her patience and kindness became a source of encouragement for other women in similar situations.  Monica gave birth to three children, and was deeply saddened that her husband would not allow them to be baptized. Her oldest son, Augustine, caused her the most pain.

Augustine became very involved with groups who spread heresies about the Church.  He was intrigued with worldly attractions, lust for women, and pagan philosophies.  Monica was distressed to learn that her son was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him.  Despite the great anxiety and pain he caused her, Monica never stopped praying for him.

Eventually, through her persistence in prayer and good example, Monica’s husband converted to Christianity shortly before his death.  Augustine experienced a profound conversion.  He was baptized, and lived the rest of his life in holiness, prayer, and penance.  Augustine became a priest, bishop, theologian, writer, and the founder of a religious order of priests. Augustine was declared a Saint and Doctor of the Church.  He is considered one of the most influential saints and theologians to have ever lived.  His writings are widely read to this very day.  As for St. Monica, everything we know of her heroic virtue is from the writings of her son.

As parents, it’s hard to watch our children wander away from the Church and live a wayward lifestyle.  St. Monica is a model of patience for parents.   Her long years of prayer, coupled with a strong, well-disciplined character, finally led to the conversion of her hot-tempered husband, her cantankerous mother-in-law and her brilliant but wayward son.  May she be an example for us to never give up.  St. Monica is the patron saint of home makers, difficult marriages, alcoholism, abuse victims, victims of adultery, widows, and parents facing family difficulties.  Her feast day is August 27th.

May we pray this week… St. Monica, for the sake of my children, please teach me to persist in faithful prayer as you did for your son’s sake.  Inspire me to behave in ways that will gently bring my children closer to Christ.  Pray for me, and for my children, that we may acquire heaven, joining with you, there, in offering constant and thankful praise to God.  Amen  

Deacon John

PS – Next week, we will finish “Is God Real?” with Reason No. 5 – Personal Experience.


Deacon Corner, August 25 2019

Deacon’s Corner

One of the best reasons that God exists is the life of Jesus Christ.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve been addressing the five reasons God is real from the book, “The God Answers”.   Last week was Part 1 of Reason No. 4 – Did Jesus really die?  Jesus wasn’t the first person to die on a cross.  Nor would He be the last.  By the time of Christ, the Romans had crucified over 30,000 men in Palestine alone.   They were so good at using crucifixion as a form of execution that people never had any doubt the victim was actually dead.  Jesus was dead, and everyone knew it.  This week, Reason No. 4, Part 2 – He is alive!

After Jesus was buried and his tomb ordered sealed by Pontius Pilate, his disciples were so scared and in shock they hid so the same thing didn’t happen to them.  When the first reports of Jesus’ resurrection came in, the disciples refused to believe he was alive.  They checked the tomb and found it empty.  But what did that prove?  Did someone steal Jesus’ body and claim he rose from the dead?   To answer that question, consider this…

The penalty for breaking a Roman governor’s seal was crucifixion upside down.  Who would have the courage or motivation to do this?  Even if they did, the huge stone (weighing about 2 tons) covering the tomb opening would have to be rolled uphill to open the entrance.  Who would have the strength and numbers to do this?  Opening the tomb would have taken time and tools and would be difficult to do in secret.  The squad of Roman guards at the tomb were trained to hold their ground against an entire battalion.  Who could have overpowered them?

At least 6 people looked in the tomb on the First Easter Sunday morning and found it empty:  Mary Magdalene; Mary the Mother of James; Salome; Joanna; Peter; and John. They found the burial cloths undisturbed lying in the form of a body, slightly caved in and empty, except for the face cloth which was folded up separately by itself.  How did this happen? Surely, someone stealing Jesus body would not take the time to neatly arrange the tomb before leaving.

Jesus made a number of appearances over the 40-day period after His death.  He walked with two disciples the road to Emmaus.  He appeared to the remainder of the Twelve Disciples, Thomas absent; then later to all of them with Thomas present.  Jesus appeared to seven disciples on the Sea of Galilee, and again to over five hundred people at the same time. He also appeared to James.  Finally, Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus – the man who became the Apostle Paul.

The disciples who saw Jesus were convinced, beyond any doubt, that he had risen from the dead.  They experienced something life-changing as the numbers of believers grew from a few dozen to hundreds and thousands over a very short period of time.  Today, there are about 2.3 billion Christians in the world, meaning 1 out of every 3 people is Christian. How would a stolen body have this kind of effect on people 2000 years later – including you and me?

Of the original 12 Apostles, Judas hanged himself believing he caused Jesus’ death.  John died in Roman exile on an island off the coast of modern day Turkey.  The other 10, as well as Paul, were beheaded, crucified, flayed, burned, stoned, or stabbed – all put to death because they saw Jesus alive and proclaimed He was God.  What can explain this?  As the Roman centurion watched Jesus die on the cross said “Truly, this man was the Son of God!”  Jesus is God.  God is real. Next week, Reason No. 5 – Personal Experience.

Deacon John


Deacon’s Corner, August 18 2019

Is God real?  So far, I’ve covered three of the five reasons from the book “The God Answers” providing some very compelling arguments that God is real:  the Universe, the Creator, and our Sense of Morality.  Reason No. 4 is “Jesus.”  There is so much to write about Reason No. 4 that I’m going to cover it in two parts.  This week:  Jesus, Part 1 – Did he really die?

Scripture, and official secular records at the time, tell us a man named Jesus from Nazareth was executed by crucifixion while Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea.  His crime was declaring himself the King of the Jews.  The Romans were masters at the art of crucifixion.  They perfected crucifixion as a brutal, humiliating, form of execution designed to discourage others from committing the same crime.  First, Jesus was flogged 39 times leaving him near death with his flesh in ribbons and internal organs exposed.  The executioners fashioned a crown from long, very sharp thorns and pressed into the top of his head.  They tied a 110-pound crossbar to his shoulders and forced him to walk through the streets of Jerusalem to the crucifixion site outside the city gates.  On the way, he was so weak that a man was forced to carry the crossbar for him.  Jesus was then nailed to a cross, stood upright, and left to die as people mocked and jeered him.  A Roman executioner declared Jesus dead after piercing his heart with a lance.  Roman executioners knew how to do their job very well.  If they didn’t, they would suffer the same fate.

Jesus’ mother and close friends watched him die.  His body was taken down and wrapped with over 100 pounds of cloth and placed in a burial chamber, a tomb, carved out of rock.  A stone weighing about two tons was rolled across the tomb opening.  Pilate ordered the tomb sealed, and stationed guards by it, to prevent anyone from stealing the body.  The seal was made from clay packs and stamped with Pilate’s official signet ring.  Anyone caught breaking this seal would have been sentenced to death.  Before the sealing the tomb, the guards would have checked to make sure the body of Jesus was in there.

Did Jesus of Nazareth really die?  He was killed by an elite Roman execution squad who were well trained in doing their job.  He was buried in accordance with Jewish custom.  The Roman governor took precautions to ensure no one disturbed his grave.  All of this happened in front of many witnesses.  Yes, we know that Jesus of Nazareth was, in fact, dead.

Is Jesus God?  Is God real?  More to follow next week with Reason No. 4 – Jesus, Part 2 – He is alive!

Deacon John


Deacon’s Corner, August 11 2019

Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve been writing about the five compelling reasons that God is real from the book “The God Answers.”   So far we covered two – The Universe and The Creator.  The universe did not just come into existence by chance.  It’s big and beautiful, and all of its parts work together very well.  Everywhere you look, the universe is saturated with a beauty that reflects the Creator Himself – God.  This week, Reason No. 3 – Our Sense of Morality.

Morals are the standards we set to determine right from wrong.  They define acceptable behavior in a particular situation.  Values are how well we follow our morals.  Morals are the “what” we should do.  Values are the “how” we do it.  For example, in this statement – “I’m going to tell the truth by being honest” –  telling the truth is a moral (the “what”).  Honesty is the value (the “how”).  Everyone has morals.  Not everyone has values to obey them fully.  Having moral standards that are higher than our ability to keep them points towards a Moral Standard-Giver.  The Moral Standard-Giver is someone, or something, that sets off an alarm in our head to say “don’t do that!” even though we do it anyway.

Let’s take a look at our conscience.   I can’t tell you how many times I opened my mouth and my conscience said “don’t say it!” but I said it anyway.  I know what the right thing is, even though I don’t always do it.  Where does that sense of “right” come from?  This is the third reason to believe in God:  every human being has an innate moral standard that is higher than who they are.  Where did this standard come from?  Since it is impossible to invent or create something that is greater than we are (remember Reason No.1 and 2?), there is only one reasonable answer:  there is a Moral Standard-Giver who put this standard in us.  And that Moral Standard-Giver is God.

If you want some homework, look up paragraphs 1776 and 1777 in our Catechism and see what is says about your conscience.  (Here’s a hint: my conscience is more than my inner struggle to determine right from wrong.  When I listen to my conscience, I’m talking with God.)

Our sense of morality is given to us from God.  God IS real.  What do YOU think?  Next week, Reason Number 4 – Jesus.

Deacon John


Deacon Corner, August 4 2018

Is God real?  Last week, I began sharing five very compelling reasons for God’s existence from the book “The God Answers.”  The first reason, The Universe, is a powerful pointer to the existence of God.  It’s big and beautiful, and all of its parts work together very well.  Everything in it was created by something else and depends on something else.  The cause of all this must be something uncreated, eternal, and self-sufficient.  The only being that could fit such a description is God.  This week, Reason No. 2 – The Creator.

Everything created – houses, clothes, automobiles, artwork, music, you name it – tells you a lot about whoever created it.  That’s the gist of the second reason for the existence of God – every design reflects its designer.  The beauty and complexity of the universe point not only to a God, but hint at what God must be like.  Chart the path of the stars, measure the decay rate of an atom, examine the laws of physics.  Everything in the universe is well-ordered, precise and complex.  Stare up to the night sky, walk along a beach at sunset, put a snowflake under a microscope.  Everywhere you look, our world is saturated with beauty.  These are pointers not only to a Creator, but also to the nature of the Creator – ingenious, beautiful, and detailed.

A good example is the banana.  The banana fits in your hand, even better than a Pepsi can which was designed by humans to do so.  The banana is curved toward the face to make the whole eating experience easier and convenient.  It’s thoughtfully made with a non-slip surface, and comes with a time sensitive indicator on the outside to let you know it’s condition before you even open it.  Green means “keep going”, yellow means “ready to eat”, and brown means “you’re too late.”  The banana has a convenient “pull tab” on top just like the Pepsi can, and is full of bodybuilding calories which are easy for the stomach to digest.  The banana wrapper peels into four pieces and hangs perfectly over your hand.  Unlike the Pepsi can, the wrapper is bio-degradable and will, in time, enrich the soil it grew in.  If left uneaten, the banana is pre-programed to reproduce itself into a whole new fruit-bearing plant which makes it a virtually inexhaustible food-producing source.

Plato decided it was reasonable to believe in God based on “the order of the motion of the stars, and of all things under the dominion of the mind which ordered the universe.”  Sir Isaac Newton said, “When I look at the solar system, I see the earth at the right distance from the sun to receive the proper amounts of heat and light.  This did not happen by chance.”  In talking about God, the Bible says, “Your workmanship is marvelous!” (Psalm 139:14)  From looking at the design of the banana and the universe, there must be a God who is brilliant, creative, and thoughtful.  A Creator who loves to delight us though our wonder, curiosity, and senses!  What do YOU think?  Next week, Reason Number 3 – Our Sense of Morality.

Deacon John


Deacon Corner, July 28 2019

How you know God is real?  Many people don’t think there is an answer to this question.  I’m reading a book right now called “The God Answers” which provides five very compelling and practical reasons to why God is real.  Over the next few weeks, I would like to share those reasons here in my corner with you.  So, let’s get started.  Reason Number 1 – The Universe.

The universe itself is a powerful pointer to the existence of God.  It’s big and beautiful, and all of its parts work together very well.   The very existence of the universe raises the question:  “How did it get here?”  Because, think about it.  If nothing existed, would you have to explain that?  Of course not!  But the moment something exists, it raises the question, “How did this thing get here?”

The answer is obvious.  “It came from something else.”  Animals came from their parents, plants came from seeds, houses came from a builder, and cars come from factories.   Everything comes from something else.  Everything in the universe is contingent on something that came before it.  What’s more, everything is dependent on something else for its existence.  Humans depend on food to live.  Plants depend on the sun for photosynthesis.  The sun depends on gravity to keep it from breaking apart.  So, everything in the universe seems to be dependent on something else to exist.

The universe has not always existed.   Everything in it was created by something else and depends on something else.  The cause of all this must be something uncreated and independent or, in positive terms, something that is eternal and self-sufficient.  The only being that could fit such a description is God.  Even the 16th Century French philosopher and skeptic, Voltaire – who incidentally was an outspoken critic of Christianity and the Catholic Church – said “I shall always be convinced that a watchmaker proves a watch.  In the same way, the existence of the universe proves there is a God.”

God communicates to us through the universe.   Psalm 19 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands! (verse 1)”  Through the Universe, God says, “I am here.  I exist.  You can tell, because I made this place.”  How objective are you about weighing the evidence for and against God?  Reason Number 1, The Universe, shows me it takes more faith to believe there is no God than to believe there is.  How about you?  Next week, Reason Number 2 – The Creator.

Deacon John


Deacon’s Corner, July 21, 2019

St. Paul tells the Early Christians in the seaport city of Corinth, “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide you a way out, so that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).”   Since Adam and Eve, we have had trials and challenges in life.  Can’t God, the all-powerful Creator of the Universe, just make them never happen in the first place?  After all, Paul just said He will provide us a way out.

God’s purpose for our daily trials is to help us understand we cannot grow spiritually if we stay within our “safe zone”.  He uses our challenges, misfortunes, struggles, persecutions, and our sufferings to provide conditions that are right for us to grow into spiritual maturity.  Not by hardening our hearts.  But, opening our hearts to God so we learn our desires are only fulfilled when we totally surrender ourselves to Him.  Not finding happiness in a culture of self-satisfaction and lustfor more, but living a virtuous life as a disciple of Jesus.

St Paul provides us with the recipe for living a virtuous life so we can persevere in our trials.  Paul says we are to pursue rightness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness in everything we do.  He tells us to “compete well for the faith” and keep the commandments without stain, criticism, or blame (1 Timothy 6:11-14).  Doing so helps us avoid the trap of letting our trials become our downfall, and allows us to find “a way out” when we lose hope in the situation we are in.  By living a life of virtue and competing well for the faith, our struggles equip us to grow spiritually and become Jesus to others in a world that desperately needs Him.  When we can do that, our trials achieve God’s purposes for our good and the good of His Creation.

May we pray this week to seek the true strength that lies in self-surrendering love to find the way out of our trials. May we become true disciples of Jesus in every trial and a true source of strength to one another.

Deacon John