Financial Fear

By: Kevin Lowry

stock market crash

What a roller coaster ride. The market was up today. Or was that yesterday? It was down the day before that. Way down. Tomorrow, who knows?  The financial news these days is fraught with anxiety. Upheaval in the markets. Political gridlock. Rancorous debate.  Particularly when it comes to money, the uncertainty surrounding the future can be disconcerting, even paralyzing. A friend of mine sends me alarmist emails from various groups, peddling gold or other “safe” investments. In times of fear, there’s money to be made.  For many people who lived through 2008, there is also a new, strong, and visceral response to volatility. With the advent of defined contribution retirement plans, people who have spent years saving in their 401k plans saw their accounts rocked hard that year. I don’t even want to recall how dramatically my savings got hit. Worse, I have friends who refused to look at their account statements for years. Many who thought they were close to retirement weren’t anymore. In the face of radical financial uncertainty, as Catholics, how should we respond?  I don’t pretend to know what the future holds. Yet there are a couple principles we can hold onto in the midst of even the most extreme uncertainty: faith and prudence.


How many times are we told in Scripture to “be not afraid?” We know that we can’t serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). If our faith in money transcends our faith in God, look out. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 provides outstanding guidance. Let’s assume for the moment that most of us can be regarded as “rich” by historical standards.

Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.

So even when our financial lives hang in the balance, we know God remains in control. The markets, they say, are motivated by fear and greed. Our motivation must be far different: we’re called to act out of love, for God and others. Therefore, even if we are directly impacted when the market takes a dive, it can be a spiritual opportunity. Read the verses above again, slowly.

We Catholics have the ability to rise above financial fear and anxiety to the extent we place our faith in the Lord. This doesn’t mean that swings in the market don’t matter or don’t affect us, it means that our hope rests upon a solid foundation that is more important and enduring than money. In the end, we are stewards of wealth for the glory of God and the service of others.


The next principle is that of prudence. Our financial lives vary widely, and our decisions must be determined according to our individual circumstances. However, prudence is the right path especially when things get crazy. Consider the following scenarios:

Scenario: A friend of mine lost a substantial percentage of his retirement plan during the recent market turbulence, and panicked. He ended up making decisions to modify his investment portfolio and reduce market risk at exactly the wrong time. When the market improved, he lost out on upside potential. Unfortunately, he was in very good company, many individual investors did the same thing.

Prudent move: financial planning is sort of like disaster planning — it’s much better to be prepared before the disaster happens. Using a disciplined approach according to your age and state in life over the course of time is prudent, and generally yields better results. If you need a financial advisor, seek out a faithful and qualified individual, beginning locally at your parish. Then make sure you are purposeful about your goals and the associated risks in your retirement savings portfolio.

Scenario: Another friend has a high level of credit card debt. After taking a financial planning course recently, he lamented that he’s still paying for meals he ate over two years ago. When he lost his job, he ended up losing his house, too.

Prudent move: living beyond your means is always bad, but riskier still in today’s environment. Use every opportunity to reduce debt, build an emergency fund and budget your spending. Make sure your spending priorities are in line with your financial priorities — beginning with your tithe.

Scenario: I know one individual who is so scared about his financial predicament that he is immobilized with fear. Rather than putting together a plan, he has given up and spends in an attempt to make himself feel better. So far, it hasn’t worked!

Prudent move: if you’re in trouble, a plan and small steps towards written goals help provide hope. Most important, pray and have the humility to get help if you need it. The Lord can use even adverse circumstances for our benefit, and his glory.

Recall the parable of the rich fool Jesus relates in Luke 12:20-21. “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong? Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”  By exercising faith and prudence during these turbulent times, not only will we opt out of the emotional roller coaster and avoid the plight of the rich fool, we stand to gain eternal wealth beyond our wildest dreams. Talk about maximizing returns!  Do you know any examples of people who have done well exercising faith and prudence in their financial lives?  Note: For those interested in learning more about finances from a Catholic perspective, I like Phil Lenahan’s “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free.” My wife  and I are leading a study at our local parish this fall using the program.


By: Kevin Lowry

following duckies


Leadership. We hear the word everywhere these days. It seems like every time we turn around, another seminar, book or webcast is promising to help us become better leaders.  Leadership development opportunities abound, and for good reason. By learning the principles and examples of great leaders, we internalize important virtues and increase our positive influence on others.  Leadership is important. In fact, the leadership of Pope John Paul II is one of the reasons I became Catholic. I have studied the topic for years, even to the point where my MBA program concentration was “Applied Leadership” (whatever that means). I’m not sure that study actually made me a better leader, but it did help me to appreciate the value of good leadership in our lives and admire those who seem born to lead.  So imagine my surprise when my dad sent me a reflection he recently wrote on followership.

With a diverse background as missionary, entrepreneur, academic–and Presbyterian minister converted to the Catholic faith–Dad has long been in leadership roles.  Why focus on followership?  We have all seen countless examples, thankfully, of great leadership – the ultimate model being that of Jesus himself. His leadership focused on the service of others, hence the birth of “servant leadership.” It’s an approach that focuses leadership efforts on facilitating the success of the followers, for mutual benefit.  And yet, when we talk about developing leadership skills, we are often focused on becoming better leaders ourselves. The danger inherent in this approach is that, unlike Jesus, we have a proclivity to selfishness. All too often, we see examples of people striving to become better leaders only to use their leadership positions as means to advance their own careers or agendas. This misses the entire point (and opportunity) of good leadership.  So what about followership?

Followership is intrinsically other-centered, as is true leadership. To excel in followership, our task is to facilitate the success of the leader, to the mutual benefit of both leader and followers.  Note that both leadership and followership, properly understood, are aimed at helping people to be “good and faithful servants.” So how does this work in practical terms? Here are a couple examples from a context most of us can relate to: the workplace.  I have a friend who is a successful attorney. Jim respects his boss’s authority, works like crazy to make her successful, trusts her implicitly, and speaks positively about her even when she’s not around. He uses his gifts to help her succeed, and this is frequently reciprocated.

Another friend, Diane, demonstrates followership in a different context. She works in a nonprofit advocacy group that takes public positions on issues pertinent to its constituents. Diane instinctively defers to her boss even when they hold divergent perspectives. With tact and affirmation, she has learned to ask questions to draw out her boss’s thinking, often resulting in better solutions. Their skill sets are complementary, so, through Diane’s followership, she makes her boss more effective.  Why is good followership not practiced widely, and even used as a pejorative? Perhaps it’s our cultural tendency toward narcissism – many of us want to be leaders in all our relationships. When we’re not the leader, we’re quick to pass judgment, often imputing selfishness to their motives. If only we were leading, things would be better!

Yet, in life, we play both roles. Being a good leader is important, but so is being a good follower. The difference is that, while we’re trained extensively on leadership, we don’t pay nearly as much attention to followership – even though we tend to play the role of follower more frequently.  All of this may sound like so much navel-gazing, but ideas really matter in our daily lives.  We all know the price we pay for poor or misguided leadership. The last century was rife with high-profile examples – Hitler, Stalin and Mao, for starters. Unfortunately, there are also countless examples of bad leadership on a small scale. These negatively affect our governments, organizations and families. Think about the impact corrupt bureaucrats, dishonest executives and neglectful fathers often have on people over whom they have some measure of power.

It’s just as easy to come up with examples of parallel consequences, both large and small, for failures of followership.  Consider just one. As we all know, the devil is a master strategist. Over the past few hundred years, his “divide and conquer” approach to Christianity has visibly reduced the influence of the Church around the world. Jesus desired unity for his bride the Church and, through our sinfulness, we have let him down.  So here’s a question: what if Martin Luther (whose writings led to the Reformation) had embraced the notion of authentic followership? What if he had reacted differently to the very real abuses going on in the Church at the time (that , striving to preserve the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ and trusting our Lord to bring about good from the situation? Might we have avoided the pain and division of the reformation and its aftershocks, and at the same time effected real and needed change within the Church?

The foundation of good followership is trust – not in our imperfect leaders, but in Jesus himself.  “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).  So go ahead and attend that leadership seminar. Read the book. Take in the webinar. Just don’t forget that we also need to work on becoming better followers. When our boss (or our bishop) succeeds, we do too.

You’re Talented! Encouraging Others

By: Kevin Lowry


My oldest son Christian was born with a gift for fixing stuff. Anything, really. So while he lived at home, he was our home improvement guru, plumber, and handyman. Even more important, he inherited the computer gene from my Dad — a gene that completely skipped me. When the wireless network went down, or we experienced various and sundry computer problems, Christian was our go-to guy.  So that’s a good thing, right? Christian contributed to the family’s needs, learned a bunch of valuable skills in the process, and gained some personal satisfaction through having his talents appreciated by the rest of us.

Then he moved out.

After he left, we struggled. Christian received many phone calls, pleading with him to fix the latest computer glitch. His talents shone through with greater intensity than ever as we recognized how integral he had been to our daily lives. Not only did we miss him, we were bereft of our fixit guy.  In the workplace, we often find that the same thing happens when a colleague leaves the organization. Sometimes, we appreciate people most after they leave.  One of the drivers of organizational achievement is simple: effective teamwork. It’s matching shared purpose with diverse talents. Regardless of whether you’re a Fortune 100 global enterprise, or a sole proprietor who outsources certain functions, teams are capable of doing great things. Teams of people. People who like to be appreciated.

So here’s the challenge: next chance you get, express appreciation for someone else on your team. Pay her a sincere compliment, send him a short note of encouragement, buy him a cup of coffee, whatever. Don’t wait until they leave the organization to let them know you appreciate their efforts. This actually accomplishes multiple purposes — it increases employee retention, builds teamwork, and meets the very human needs to belong, and feel valued. A timely compliment can have a powerful impact on our co-workers — and our relationships. From a spiritual perspective, it also recognizes God-given gifts being put to good use, and affirms the individual’s value and dignity as a person.

So how did things with Christian turn out? Well, he became an information technology professional. The family still struggles, but his talents, along with those of his long-time buddy and business partner Michael Aquilina, are responsible for the existence of this web site.

Striving For Balance

By: Kevin Lowry

happy coupie

My wife got run off the road today.

Some guy was in a big hurry and didn’t like the fact that Kathi had slowed down to merge onto the highway behind a school bus full of children. So he accelerated from behind her car, and drove up beside her, forcing her onto the berm. After almost causing multiple accidents, he weaved his way around further impediments in his road (OK, people in his road) and exited precisely five cars in front of her further down the highway. Unbelievable.  He was so focused on achieving his objective (whatever it was) that he risked untold carnage and mayhem. If things went badly, innocent people, including women and children, could have been hurt.

In thinking about this incident, I was struck by the thought that the same could be true if men develop a disordered dedication to work.  That sounds crazy, right? But how many of us struggle with work-family balance? And how many people do you know who are divorced, at least in part, because of ridiculous work schedules?  Kathi and I have struggled mightily in this area over the years. When we were young parents, I worked like crazy. My schedule at the CPA firm was insane, and our first three kids came along in two years and eight months flat. On top of it all, Kathi had premature labor with our third child, and was on strict bedrest for the last four months of the pregnancy. After our daughter was born, it became apparent that the work-family balance thing wasn’t working, especially as I headed into tax season. That was the first time we hit a wall. I don’t recall her exact words, but Kathi said something like, “It’s either the job or me.”

I chose her, and changed jobs.

Now, I’m crazy about my wife. Always have been. But it probably didn’t feel like it to her. I just wasn’t spending enough time at home to meet my responsibilities as her husband. So I’m glad I chose her. Through her, I also chose our kids.  Fast forward a few years. Once again, I was working like a maniac. We were up to six kids, with Kathi expecting our seventh. But there were medical problems. This time, we weren’t sure the child would make it past birth, and beyond that, the diagnosis was grim. It seemed like life was spinning out of control. Another decision point.

I chose her (and the baby) again, and changed jobs.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The changes we made took time, the process was messy, and we struggled with uncertainty, conflict, and self-doubt. We prayed fervently, discussed possible solutions, and consulted with trusted priests, family members and friends. Changing jobs isn’t always the right answer. But in over twenty years of marriage, with children (now eight of them), a house, a mortgage, and a career that has caused plenty of bumps and bruises, here are a few thoughts on that elusive notion of balance from a male perspective:

  1. Put your priorities in order. Here’s my list, for what it’s worth: God, my wife, our children, my career, and everything else. Yes, my wife is more important to me than my kids. Not that they’re unimportant, rather she is super-important. Marriage is a vocation, and a sacrament. The best way to be a true leader in the family is to model virtue, to serve, and to pray like crazy. We need to imitate Christ in our lives. Some days I do better than others, and you probably do too, but we can never give up. Now here’s the challenge: our daily routine needs to reflect our priorities.
  2. Only do God’s will. We always have time to do God’s will. If there isn’t enough time in the day, consistently, there are things on our to-do list that shouldn’t be there. Are we spending more time on social media than talking with our spouse? If you’re trying to find things to put aside, ask yourself what you would give up if your wife or child were extremely ill. Don’t wait until it actually happens. By the way, our seventh child David’s story ended pretty well.
  3. Work things out with your wife. If you’re called to run for President, you’re going to be putting in lots of hours. Make sure your wife is completely on board. That shared sense of calling is awfully important — it doesn’t make things easier, but if you’re on the same page about what God wants from you as a couple, that shared purpose will help you through the rough spots.
  4. Live beneath your means. This is incredibly important. Kathi and I got out of balance early due to our implicit expectations of a certain lifestyle. This led us to take on debt and place a disordered emphasis on outward appearances. It’s a trap, avoid it like the plague.
  5. Work like crazy when you’re at work. Don’t indulge in frivolous discussions about sports or workplace intrigue. Get your work done, do your absolute best and go home. Schedule a date with your wife each week, put kids’ events on your calendar, and treat your family as even more important than your most important client or even your boss.
  6. Protect your marriage. Guys are visual creatures, so never buy into the “I can look at the menu as long as I eat at home” mentality. Guard your eyes. Maintain emotional distance from women who are not your spouse. Treat them with honor, like you would want other men to treat your wife in the workplace. Speak positively about your own wife. NEVER complain about her, especially to other women.
  7. Stop and ask for directions. When you have trouble balancing, ask your wife for her advice — and her prayers. She probably knows you better than anyone else, and might have insight that would help you make things work. Just like we don’t usually stop to ask for directions when we’re lost, we also don’t ask for advice from our wives nearly enough.
  8. Love your wife. This sounds trite, but if we treasure our wives properly when we’re at home, there would be a whole lot less consternation when we do need to work extra hours (for short periods of time, not as a lifestyle). Remember why we fell in love. Think about her many good qualities. Pray for her. Offer up small sacrifices for her. Think of what an honor it is to be received, with all our weaknesses, as a husband.
  9. Facilitate one on one time. Make sure you set aside time just for your wife, without distractions. Kathi and I used to make time for getaways — perhaps a weekend every three months, and a week at least once a year. I’m talking about just the two of you, without kids. Family vacation is another week, and of course kids need “me and my dad time” too.
  10. Don’t bring work home. Speaking of distractions, don’t bring work home with you if at all possible. I’ve not always succeeded here, but it’s important — particularly in this wired age — to turn off the cell phone, back away from the computer, and engage with our families.

This list is certainly not exhaustive. There are lots of ways to improve, and we need to fight this battle every day. With God’s grace, and plenty of determination, it’s also one we can win.  Our family is more important than our career. Let’s do our best to act like it.  Oh — and let’s drive safely too!

Are You Goal Oriented?

By: Kevin Lowry

teamwork 2

Have you ever been so focused on achieving your goals that you’ve run people over in the process?  I sure have. In today’s workplaces, it’s more important than ever to meet our goals, and we’re under lots of pressure to be productive and efficient. Unfortunately, this can cause plenty of interpersonal problems, since we all act differently when we’re under pressure.  Here’s one illustration of what not to do. A friend of mine became very unpopular at work by being so focused on achieving her own goals that she treated co-workers as distractions! Unfortunately, this story didn’t end well. She completed her own tasks efficiently, but couldn’t understand why the rest of the team resented her. The situation caused so much turmoil in her department that she ended up leaving the company.

So how do we avoid this pitfall and its various permutations? Particularly for people of faith, how can we achieve legitimate goals — and love one another like Christ loves us?  One of the cool aspects of being Catholic is having so many tremendous role models, past and present. When it comes to achieving goals and valuing people, one of the best examples I can think of is Blessed John Paul II.  Andreas Widmer, a Swiss Guard during the pontificate of John Paul II, wrote an outstanding book entitled The Pope & the CEO in which he describes an astonishing interaction with the Pope. Andreas was a young man at the time, spending his first Christmas away from home. On Christmas Eve, as the Pope went about his duties (achieving goals), he noticed that Andreas was new and immediately recognized Andreas’ sadness. The Pope took just a few seconds to speak with Andreas, precious seconds that Andreas recalls vividly years later. Here’s how Andreas describes the incident in the book:

“That was all I needed. Someone had noticed my pain, someone had cared, and that someone was the Pope himself. In that moment, I felt comforted. Now, looking back, I feel amazed. Here was the leader of a billion Catholics, at the height of some of his fiercest battles, occupied with the most overwhelming and impossible problems of the century, yet he was still sensitive enough to perceive the emotions of a twenty-year-old guard whose sole job was to blend into the background as he passed.”

This story (along with many others in the book) has inspired — and convicted — me ever since the first time I read it. I tend to be… ahem… a little on the preoccupied side, sort of like an absent-minded professor minus the Ph.D. Think about the goals of Blessed John Paul II. They were enormous goals! Can you imagine the impact of someone with such goals taking an interest in you personally? Even for a few seconds?  Yet on a lesser scale, this is what we’re called to do. Achieving goals is important. At the same time, people are the primary goal of our lives. Serving people, honoring people, sometimes just noticing people. And getting our work done! For some of us, the balancing act doesn’t really come naturally. But we need to do our best.

Our work serves legitimate human needs, and by treating others as precious to God, no matter who they are, we honor our Lord. Let’s pray for one another, and do our best today to remember Blessed John Paul II’s example. Let’s take a few precious seconds today as we go about achieving our goals and reflect the love of Christ to someone else. After all, serving people is the goal of our work.

5 Reasons to Speak Positively about your Spouse at Work

By: Kevin Lowry


“Sorry, I can’t do it tonight. The old ball and chain gets ticked off if I’m out late.”  How many times have we heard derogatory comments like this about spouses in the workplace? Even worse, snide remarks can give way to all-out whining: “My husband is such a jerk sometimes” or “My wife completely lost interest in me after we began having kids.”  Sacramental marriage should be in a different league than this, but we all live in a culture that hasn’t done the greatest job honoring the institution. In reality, we also know that even the strongest sacramental marriages sometimes go through serious challenges.

So what’s a good Catholic spouse to do?

Well, brace yourself for some good news. There are things we can do to honor our spouses in the workplace, and not be swayed by the cultural winds that sometime blow all around us. How about this one: always speak positively about your spouse at work. Why? Here are five reasons — and they just scratch the surface.

  1. Complaining about your spouse lacks class. Oh, maybe it’s fashionable to gripe and assume an attitude of superiority over your spouse. But does that make it right, and does it really make you happy? Probably not. Besides, if your spouse is such an idiot, what does that say about you, the person who made sacred vows to him or her?
  2. How you speak can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Have you ever noticed how good spouses make each other winners, and bad spouses make each other losers? Words matter. Speaking with honor is part of acting with honor — even when your spouse isn’t around.
  3. It protects your marriage. Even when things are rough at home, airing your grievances at work is the wrong venue. Co-workers who complain about their spouses open up an avenue for support from other co-workers, including those of the opposite sex. This can progress to inappropriate emotional intimacy, and worse.
  4. It’s good for your career. Many of the virtues that make for a faithful spouse also make for a great employee or co-worker. Besides, getting in the habit of speaking positively about others (including your spouse) behind their backs helps build a better culture for everyone in your workplace.
  5. It’s good for your coworkers. We are affected, for better or worse, by the attitudes and behaviors of our co-workers. Demonstrating charity and understanding towards our spouse might just inspire others to do the same.

We can’t single-handedly change the state of marriage in the world, but we can do our best to honor our own marriage vows — and our spouse. Speaking positively about our spouse in the workplace is a great way to improve our marriage, our workplace, and our walk with Christ.

Praying to Hear God

By: Fr. Moe Larochelle


But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.(Mt.13:16)

I have often been amused by the fact that, while most people believe praying is a good and wholesome thing; if you say, “I actually  hear  God when I pray,” people think you are crazy! But Scripture tells us that indeed, God does want to speak to us. Luke 12:12 assures us that we will be taught by God Himself through the Holy Spirit,  “for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.”

John 14:21 promises that God will surely reveal Himself to us,

“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”  In Amos 3:7 we are told,  “God does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.”

Now you may be tempted to object saying, “I am no prophet.” But I would object saying that any baptized person is a prophet. In our baptismal ritual, at the anointing with the Sacred Chrism, the person is anointed “priest,  prophet  and king.” I dare say that we are card carrying prophets by baptism. It is sad to say that we may not be aware of, nor do we use this God-given gift. But do not despair; in prayer we can use this wonderful gift.

This marvelous gift becomes apparent to us as we desire to hear God and come to know Him. As we come to know God, we will recognize that he has some marvelous ways of speaking to us. Knowing God in prayer  sensi ­tizes  us to the many ways God can communicate. True, he most obviously communicates to us through Sacred Scripture and our Church Teaching. Yet, when one begins to pray, we realize that God is not limited to the constraints of language, but in other ways, He can give us little personal messages throughout the day.

I remember, as a child that our family would have guests for dinner. If any of us kids were not well behaved at the dinner table, we got  that look  from mom or dad. No words were spoken nor were they necessary because, based on past interaction with mom and dad, we knew very well what  that look  meant. Indeed, I am amazed by the way Mothers can interpret the meaning of their babies crying. I am more amazed that people can actually  hear  their pets! I have even seen people carry on a conversation with dogs and cats! Of course, anyone who has had a long standing relationship with their dog can understand this. So, why would it be so strange to presume that might understand our pets more than we understand our God?

Hearing-aids tuned to God’s voice

I suggested that we all have a prophetic gift for  hearing  God. However, we may require some tools,  or “hearing-aids” in developing the art of hearing Him in prayer.

In order to cultivate this gift of  hearing  God (prophesy), we must realize that He is not limited to communicating in American English with a New England accent. As we come to know Him personally through invested time in prayer, we become more sensitive to the intuitive way He speaks to us. It is almost like learning “Windows” computer software. Once we learn “Word,” we have an instinct or intuition about how to use other software applications and the “icons” literally speak to us. One could say that our Christian software manual for hearing God is the Bible. In these pages of Sacred Scripture, we grasp the fundamentals of knowing God so as to be more tuned into hearing His word.

I often suggest that people begin reading Scripture with the Gospel of Mark. Read a chapter each day. Try not to “figure out what it means,” there are bible studies for that. Rather, see the text as a window which lets us view  Jesus  in a  personal way. Soon we come  to  know  His preferences  and feelings and gain a foundation  for intuitively understanding of His Word. Indeed, knowing someone can make a huge difference in communication. An example of this might be seen in a married couple; after a short time, they discover that the word “fine,” stated in a certain tone really means, “I disagree, but have it your way, and later you will realize the consequences!” Let’s just say that after getting to know each other better, lots of couples do come to understand the relationship between “fine” and “consequences.”

Each week, in our parish bulletin the daily Mass readings are published. In daily prayer, after taking some time to offer praise, our heart and mind will open to God’s word. Then we can read the passages of the day and  hear  God. I personally do this each day. I also keep a journal and write notes about my thoughts on the passage I read. The action of writing helps me focus and minimizes distractions. The journaling often becomes the “stuff” of my homily for the Mass. Sometimes when I write in my journal I even begin writing as if God were dictating. I begin, “Dear Moe…” and let my pen “fly.” I am often amazed by what can materialize on the page.

Pray and you will be amazed!  “The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will  show him greater works than these, so that you will be amazed” (Jn.5:20).

And God said… “Can you hear me now?”

As a priest, I am often asked, “How did you get the ‘calling’?” My answer is usually something like, “That’s a long story.” But the short version is; I never heard a voice, I did not hear rushing winds or peals of thunder. In reality the calling came through a collection of persons and events that God used to  gently guide me and lead me on. Prayer was the “cell phone” that I used to hear His voice in all these events.

As prayer increases our sensitivity to God’s word, we are able to hear Him in many ways. It may happen at Mass as we find ourselves minding our own business, very comfortable in our pew; when suddenly Father begins to say something that makes us wonder if he was told exactly what we needed to hear! Perhaps we have been awestruck by a certain prayer that really spoke to our heart as it was read. I have known God to speak through priests, parents, and even, yes, children! If we are open and honest with Him, His voice will get through to us.

When I first began feeling the “calling”, I asked a priest what I had to do to become a priest. He said that I had to have a college degree. I told him that my high school grades were terrible, (barely 2.0) and I never took SAT’s. He said, “If God wants you to be a priest, he will get you into a college.” So I told God, “If you want me to be a priest, you have to get me into a college.” Then I applied to one school and to my surprise, the Dean of Admissions at St.  Anselm’s said I was accepted for studies. This barely “C” student received a BA after four years which left little doubt in  my mind what God was saying!

“OK, I am ready to hear, but how do I know if it is really God speaking to me?” I propose four pillars of discernment for testing what you are hearing.  Scripture and Church teaching are the two primary pillars. What we hear in prayer should not contradict Scripture. As Scripture is God’s Word, He would not make private statements to us that conflict with His definitive Word. We may also take care to guide our understanding of Scripture according to the Church teaching. Since The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, God would not speak contrary to Himself as revealed in Church Teaching. Therefore, adding The Catechism of the Church to our personal library may be very helpful in discerning God’s voice in prayer. It has a marvelous index and is very useful in giving clear knowledge and insight for direct answers and guidance.

A more personal pillar is the consistency between God’s Word and our life history. It is not likely that God would tell us something that is inconsistent with a vocational calling. If prayer brings us to question our vocation, or seems to upset our conscience, it should be carefully discussed with a confessor or a trusted person whom we know is well rooted in the faith.

Finally, the sacrament of reconciliation is an excellent pillar of discernment. For as our personal relationship with Christ grows and we become more intimate with Him, we become more conscious about Truth. We see more clearly the truth about God and about ourselves. Sorting out the truth from the lies often requires the help of a good confessor who is used by God our Loving Father provide us with His voice of healing, mercy and forgiveness.

Once a very humble person told me, “Father, I am so  thick  that God could never get through to me. I don’t think I should bother trying to hear Him.” No doubt, this is an objection to which many could relate. To answer it, I refer to Numbers 22:22-35. It is a story about how God used a donkey to prophesy. The crux of the passage is simply; If God can speak through an ass… He can surly get through to YOU! Indeed, no matter how thick and stubborn we believe we are, He will get through to any person who is prayerfully honest and open His will.


Credit to Fr. Moe Larochelle of Catholic Exchange.

Start Praying Lectio Divino

By: Fr. Ed Broom


Pope Benedict XVI encourages us to go deeper in our prayer life  by using a classical methodLectio Divina.    The retired  Pontiff strongly exhorted followers of Christ to utilize the Word of God as fertile ground for delving into the depths of prayer.

Our intention in this short article is to offer the steps the Holy Father suggests and a touch more to motivate us to never tire in growing in our union with God through a deeper prayer life.  Prayer has no limits given that prayer is union with an eternal and infinite God!    Here are the steps…..

A.)    Lectio–  Take in your hands the text you have chosen to meditate upon and then read it. However, before reading invite the Holy Spirit, known as the Interior Master, to help you in prayer. Then the prayer of the young Samuel can be yours:  “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.”   What a privilege you have–that God now wants to speak to your heart!

B.)    Meditatio–  Now we want to apply the use of our memory and understanding to understand what God is trying to say to us though this text. Rejoice in the fact that God right now has a special message He wants to communicate to you through this reading and meditation! Be open to God; think and pray. Be bold enough to ask the Lord: “Lord God, exactly what is the message you want to communicate to my heart and life right now?”    The Holy Spirit hears you and will respond!

C.)    Contemplatio-—  Now utilize another mental faculty that God has endowed you with and that is the use of your IMAGINATION!      We all have an imagination–maybe a very vivid imagination. However, the imagination is like a two-edged sword; it can be used for good or for evil. For evil, as a married person, it could happen day-dreaming about a past girl-friend, thereby committing adultery of the mind, leading to adultery of the heart. The imagination used for good might be to imagine walking side by side with the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23/John 10) and contemplating the loving gaze of the Good Shepherd peering into your eyes, hearing His gentle and reassuring voice, and experiencing His strong but loving embrace around your weary shoulder. In sum, our imagination must be trained for the  pursuit of good.

D.)    Oracio-—  Now we have arrived at the very heart of the essence and purpose of  Lectio Divina  and prayer itself–oracio, meaning prayer. When the mind or imagination sparks an idea that descends to the heart, it is time to open up in prayer. This means, now open up your heart and talk to the Lord in the most simple, trusting and intimate way.  Our Lord is a great God, but He is never too busy for us and always ready and willing to listen to us whenever we decide to talk to Him.    This conversation with the Lord can be a few minutes, a half an hour, an hour– whatever length the good Lord inspires in the depths of your heart.

E.)    Accio-—  Authentic prayer must be brought into the reality of our lives.    The woman Doctor of prayer, Saint Teresa of Avila, made this acute observation. The acid test to prove that prayer is indeed authentic is by the manifestation of how prayer has affected our lives. Jesus Himself reminds us that we can tell the tree by its fruits. A good tree will bring forth good fruit; a bad tree will bring forth  bad fruit.    A person who is truly praying with sincerity, honesty, rectitude of intention, and love for God will bring forth fruits or virtues in his/her life.    From the tree of his life will blossom and flourish the following: faith, hope, love, humility, purity, meekness, patience, obedience, self-control, mortification, and fortitude. Our Lady is our example at all times. In the Annunciation we contemplate Mary in prayer as a contemplative. In the Visitation, after Mary finishes her prayer, she hurries to bring the fruits of her prayer in service to her cousin Elizabeth! May Our Lady’s example motivate us to be  “Contemplatives in action.”  

F.)      Transformacio–  Indeed if our Lection Divina is true, authentic, the “Real-thing” then there will be a gradual transformation in our daily lives! There is a saying: “Tell me with whom you associate and I will tell you  who you are.” Another one of those timely proverbs of the past hammers it home:  “Birds of the flock stick together.”  Our aim should be to implement the words of the great Apostle Saint Paul:“It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”    This is the ultimate goal of Lectio Divina and all authentic prayer– the imitation of Jesus Christ, the following in His footsteps, and the transformation into His very essence and being.

What are you waiting for? Why not start today your own Lectio Divina! Choose your text, read, meditate, contemplate, pray, live out and allow God, through the working of the Holy Spirit, to transform you into the saint that God has made you to be!

Credit to Fr. Ed Broom of Catholic Exchange


Marriage After Baby: Simcha Fisher Interviews Dr. Greg

Simcha Fisher, blogger extraordinaire and author of The Sinners Guide to Natural Family Planning is working on a piece for Our Sunday Visitor Newsmagazine on the marital changes that occur once a baby arrives on the scene.  She emailed to ask for an interview.  By happy coincidence, Lisa and I just turned in our upcoming book, Then Comes Baby:  The Catholic Guide to Surviving & Thriving in the First 3 Years of Parenthood to Ave Maria Press.   Between that and the things we had already written on the topic  in Parenting with Grace:  The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids,  I had lots to say.

I’ll link the OSV article when I comes out, but in the meantime, Simcha and OSV kindly granted me permission to post our full interview here. Enjoy!

Simcha:  I’m guessing that at least some of the martial troubles you counsel people for arise after the birth of a baby. What are some of the most common problems or complaints that you hear – from men, and from women? 

Dr. Greg:  Many women complain about feeling exhausted and unsupported.   A lot of women feel pressure–whether that’s self-generated or actually put on them by their spouse or others–to get back to looking and feeling like they did before they were pregnant asap and that there’s something wrong with them if they can’t manage to get their body, house, and mood in shape after the first month.  Obviously, that ‘s a mistake.  It can take a year or more to feel normal after pregnancy and delivery, but husbands, and often the women, themselves, don’t appreciate how hard it really is to get your ducks back in a row after a baby and how normal it is to feel and be out-of sorts for months afterward.

For their part, many husbands feel lonely. Post-partum depression is surprisingly common in men.  Part of it has to do with tiredness, the disruption in schedule, and the feeling of being torn between wanting to be home with wife and baby and having to be at work, combined with a little jealousy that mom gets to stay home.  Those latter feelings often feed the “So, what did YOU do today?” questions that contribute to the wife’s feelings of inadequacy.  Some husbands also struggle with the feeling of being displaced or replaced.  It can be hard to go from having a wife take care of you to suddenly having to take care of yourself, your wife  and your baby.  That can be a steep learning curve.

Simcha:  Is it normal for a couple’s relationship to change after a baby is born? What are some of the good changes they can expect to see, and how can they nourish these good fruits? 

Dr. Greg: It is. But whether those changes are good or bad tend to depend on how intentional the couple is about managing those changes. Lisa and I discuss this extensively in our forthcoming book, Then Comes Baby:  Surviving and Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenthood  (Ave Maria Press–Nov 2014) as well as in Parenting with Grace.     Couples who talk openly about their needs, are creative about how they meet those needs and forgiving about the challenges they face in attending to each other tend to do better than couples who keep their concerns to themselves, are rigid about their expectations, and resentful when things don’t work out as planned.

It’s incredibly important for couples to establish rituals for connecting across work, play, talk and prayer, before baby comes on the scene so that they are used to relating on those levels. Then, once the baby arrives, they need to talk openly and regularly about how those rituals need to continue evolving so they can maintain those connections.  Couples who haven’t established regular ways to connect across those four levels before the baby is born often feel like they are struggling to find ways to stay in touch with each other.  By contrast, couples who did a good job connecting before the baby comes on the scene but don’t talk about the ways those rituals of connection need to evolve post baby can become resentful that their world has been overturned and doubt that things will ever be good between them again.

Simcha: What are some of the most common mistakes or bad habits that couples can get into after a baby is born, and how can they correct them?

Dr. Greg:  Research seems to suggest that the biggest predictor of post-baby marital happiness is how dad responds.  In a lot of couples, the wife is the relationship caretaker in the early years of the marriage.  She plans the dates, suggests that they take time to talk, or pray or do some project together.  When baby comes on the scene, she becomes pre-occupied–rightly–with her new role.  If dad steps into the relationship caretaker role, doing his best to attend to his wife as well as she is attending to the baby, then the couple tends to grow closer with each child. He feels effective. She feels cared for.  Everyone feels close.

On the other hand, if dad keeps waiting around for mom to resume the relationship caretaker role and resenting her when she doesn’t, the couple will grow further apart with each child.

Simcha: What are some signs that couples are experiencing something worse than just normal growing pains? If things are really bad, how should they seek help?

Dr. Greg:  Studies indicate that couples tend to wait 4-6 years from the onset of a problem before they actually seek help.  My suggestion is that if you’ve tried to talk through things on your own and you aren’t being successful, getting help early is always better than waiting.  That said, a good sign that you need to seek professional assistance is that you aren’t happy, haven’t been happy for awhile, but are trying to tell yourself that’s “normal.”  Stress is certainly normal post-baby as is busy-ness, but marital and life distress and dissatisfaction isn’t.  At the point where you feel frustrated in your own efforts to get your needs met or connect as a couple, it’s time to seek new resources.

 Simcha: I assume you mostly work with Catholic couples. Is the strength of a couple’s faith a good predictor for how well they can work through their problems? This sounds like a softball question – like, “yes yes, of course when we are faithful, we will find life’s burdens light” – but I’m really curious, because I know that a strong religious faith doesn’t always translate easily or directly into good emotional health or strong relationships. 

Dr. Greg: You’re right.  In fact, many faithful couples who have more rigid role expectations may struggle more with birth than other couples.  If you tend to be of the mindset the God made men to do X and women to do Y and never the twain shall meet, you may tend to fail to be there for each other, take on too much for yourself, and make excuses for behavior that would be otherwise inexcusable.

Faith tends to be helpful when it is expressed, not as “rules to live by” but rather as “a call to be generous and understanding regarding each other’s needs.”  Babies have a way of stretching your comfort zones.  If your faith helps you deal with that and respond accordingly, both your faith and relationships will become healthier as you grow as a person.  But if your faith is mainly about having hard and fast rules to live by, you might not adapt as well to the unpredictability that comes with post-baby life.

Simcha: If you could give one piece of advice to a Catholic couple about to give birth to their first child, what would it be? Specifically for the father, specifically for the mother, and for the couple together?

Dr. Greg:  Other than read, Then Comes Baby?   😉  Mom should ease up on herself.   Don’t try to be anything other than what she is or the experience of being anything other than what it is.  Ask for help when you need it.  Be honest about needs and struggles and let the relationship with baby develop over time.  Be patient with yourself and the rest of your world.  It will all settle down.  I promise.

Dads need to step in and to be as present to mom as she is being to the baby.  But in addition to trying to come up with your own ideas to make her feel human again, make sure to ask what she needs.   She might feel a whole lot more loved if you consistently give her 10 minutes a lone in the bathroom than if you try to take her away from the baby for a date night.  The more you take care of mom, the more she feels truly attended to the more energy she will have left to return the favor. 

Couples should be patient with all the changes and look for little ways to connect instead of holding out for big things (dates, sex).  Concentrate on creating small moments of connection.  Find little ways to work, play, talk, and pray together.  You’ve built this life together, instead of running away from it to connect, use it!  

Yeah! The Summer Issue of Tender Tidings E-Magazine is Out!

Check out this terrific (and free!) Catholic parenting e-magazine from More2Life Radio contributor, Kim Cameron-Smith!  It’s chock full of practical, inspiring and interesting ideas to make your 

Summer more grace-filled and enjoyable!  Check it out!  Oh, and my Q&A column starts on page 25 if you want to skip to the extra good bits 😉

Seriously, Kim does a great job and Tender Tidings is a real treasure!  Go forth and be inspired!

In this issue:

  • FAMILY GAMES (playing our favorite childhood games with our kids, how real parents play games with their kids, and why play is so important for children)
  • A new Q & A column from Dr. Greg tackling some tough parenting questions
  • Marcia shares a stunning, unique idea for creating a prayer path outside for your family
  • What’s a strong marriage?  Do you have one?
  • Letting go of control in our parenting
  • Hydrating summer drinks

Here’s the flipbook.  If you would prefer the PDF, you can download one from the flipbook.