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Deacon-structing Love : The Family

The last two weeks we’ve been looking at love (part 1 and part 2). Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love neighbour (Matthew 22:36-40). He also said we have to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Last week we looked at seven qualities of love. Today let’s begin by looking at some myths about love.

First myth: Love is a feeling.

Love is not a feeling. Loving someone should feel good, but what you feel is not love. If love was a feeling, Jesus would not have hung on the Cross out of love; I can guarantee you that didn’t feel good.

Instead, love is a choice. Love is an act of your will. We choose to love. That is why Jesus can command us to love our enemies. When we love someone we do something for them. That is why I always ask couples who are preparing for Marriage what they mean when they say, “I love you.” Usually we mean, “I feel good when I am with you” or “you make me feel so good” or “I love the feeling I have when I’m with you.” That’s not “I love you,” that’s “I love me”!

When we say “I love you” it should mean: “I am going to put your needs before mine every time, all the time, no matter what.” That’s love. Love is “doing.”

That’s why, in some ways, the best way to understand love is by looking at the love of a parent.

Parents who love their children do so intentionally (that’s why the theme of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia is “Love is Our Mission”). There is a purpose to their love. When we parent, our job is to work ourselves out of a job. We want our children to grow up and be healthy, holy adults (who don’t need parents). That’s why so many experts will say that our children are not our friends. I can be friendly with my kids, but my kids are not my friends – especially when they are young. As adults, by all mean, be friends with your kids (you worked yourself out of a job, remember?) but when they are young, you are not their friend; you are the parent. Your job is not to make your children happy; your job is to make them healthy and holy.

Sometimes (more often than not) that means using what we call “tough love”. It means letting them learn real consequences. It means letting them experience hurt and disappointment. It means challenging them and disciplining them. It means giving them clear structures and boundaries (I’ll write about this some time). Love is attentive; love takes risks; love risks independence; risks commitment and risks confrontation. Love risks pain.

As we celebrate the World Meeting of Families, let’s reflect on what love means in terms of the family. Families love each other because they make sacrifices for each other. Families always look out for each others’ needs. Families care for each others’ health and well-being. Families pray together, eat meals together, celebrate together, and create rituals and memories together (I’m a big believer in taking the whole family, especially when the kids are little grocery shopping; tantrums and all. That’s how you teach your kids to be family). And remember the three phrases that Pope Francis always says families should never forget: please, thank you and I’m sorry.

Last night Pope Francis spoke to families gathered at a Prayer Vigil in Philadelphia. His prepared speech (before he put it aside in order to speak from the heart) said:

Let us help one another to make it possible to “stake everything on love”. Let us help one another at times of difficulty and lighten each other’s burdens.  Let us support one another.  Let us be families which are a support for other families.

Perfect families do not exist.  This must not discourage us.  Quite the opposite.  Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is “forged” by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences.  Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows.  Love can flourish in men and women who try not to make conflict the last word, but rather a new opportunity.  An opportunity to seek help, an opportunity to question how we need to improve, an opportunity to discover the God who is with us and never abandons us.  This is a great legacy that we can give to our children, a very good lesson: we make mistakes, yes; we have problems, yes.  But we know that that is not really what counts.  We know that mistakes, problems and conflicts are an opportunity to draw closer to others, to draw closer to God.

And don’t forget that the foundation for the family is Marriage. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). Wives, love your husbands the same way. Doing so will be the best gift you will give your children. In fact, you can’t adequately love your children if you don’t first love your spouse as Christ loves the Church.

Parents, nothing you do in life will be as important as how you parent your children. At the end of your life it won’t matter that you had a big house, or how many vacations to Disney you went to, or how much time you spent at work so you could afford the house and the vacation; what will matter is how you were a parent to your kids. What will matter is how you were a husband or wife to your spouse.

Indeed, the family is a school of love.

Write to me. (pedro@saltandlighttv.org) and tell me what has worked best in your family so we can share it with everyone, and come back next time and before we look at other myths about love, let’s look at three things we must never forget about love.

DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

Deacon-structing Marriage part 5: Total love

Last week we learned that God not only created Marriage, but He has a design for Marriage. This was the plan from the beginning. When the Book of Genesis says that God created humans male and female in his likeness and image and then he blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:26-28), he is, in effect creating Marriage. It is in that fruitful and total union that can only exist between one man and one woman that we come closest to being an image of God.

In Marriage, according to God’s design, we come closest to being an image of God because it is in that fruitful and total union that we come closest to loving another person the way God loves us.

So of course the next logical question is, “how does God love us?”

We could spend the next couple of months studying Scripture, doing research, praying and reflecting on our own experience to try to figure out how God loves us, but the work has already been done. So let me save you the time.

There are four qualities to the way God loves us…

  • First, God loves us freely. God’s love is a gift. It’s free. There’s nothing you can do to earn it; there’s nothing you can do to not have it. You can’t buy it. If you don’t want it, too bad; you have it. And all love is free. If it’s not free, it’s not love. Especially married love has to be free. When couples get married in the Catholic Church they make three promises. The first one is that they’ve come freely and without reserve.
  • Second, God loves us faithfully. This is all over Scripture: God’s faithfulness is everlasting. God’s love is faithful, no matter what. You will always have his love. And again, all love has to be faithful. If it’s not faithful, it’s not love. If it has conditions, it’s not love. And faithfulness means forever. Need I say that especially married love needs to be faithful? The second promise married couples make when marrying in the Catholic Church is that they will honour each other for the rest of their lives: Faithful.
  • Third, God loves us fruitfully. This means that it always bears good fruit; it always leads to good things. God’s love makes us better. Furthermore, God’s love is creative. And all love needs to make us better. If love does not bear good fruit, it’s not love. Love makes us feel better, makes us grow and makes us love more. It is always fruitful (which is why sometimes it’s painful). Married love needs to be fruitful. And the fullest expression of that fruitfulness in married love is that it is procreative. The third promise that a couple will make when marrying in the Catholic Church is that they are open to children.

So God’s love is free, faithful and fruitful and all types of love have to be free, faithful and fruitful.

But there is a fourth quality to the love that God has for us that is not necessary for other types of love, except Marriage. That is that God’s love is total.

God loves us totally. God gives each one of us his total love. He gives himself totally to each one of us. That type of love is not required in any kind of love (in fact it’s not appropriate in other forms of love) except in Marriage.

A husband has to pour himself out totally into his wife, all of himself: emotionally, spiritually, and sexually; his body, his dreams, his fears, his baggage, his fertility, his pain… totally, and his wife has to receive him totally – warts and all. In turn, she gives herself totally to her husband: emotionally, spiritually, sexually, her fertility, her dreams, fears, and pain; all her past… everything, and her husband receives her completely and totally. That is what it means to become one flesh.

God loves us freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally and that is the kind of love that needs to exist in a Marriage, which is why we can say that in Marriage, we come closest to loving another person, the way God loves us: freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally.

What do you think? How hard is it to live this kind of love in your Marriage? Write to me. And come back next week to learn how to make loving this way in Marriage possible.

Photo credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring

DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

Deacon-structing Marriage Part 4: From the Beginning

Thanks to Colleen Dulle who reached out to me via Twitter and shared this video that was made by the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri. Great idea to celebrate marriage! (Maybe Noel in his Weekly Round-up could dig up some other videos people have made about Marriage.)

My weekly round-up has been that in the last two weeks, I’ve preached at two marriages. As a Deacon, I don’t get to officiate marriages very often – mostly, deacons do ‘mixed marriages’, that is when a Catholic is marrying a non-Catholic, because in these cases, more often than not, there is no Mass. When two Catholics marry, chances are that the Marriage Rite will take place in the context of the Mass and when this is the case, the presider of the Mass (which, of course, has to be a priest) has to be the presider over the Marriage Rite. Since my ordination in 2012 I’ve presided over 4 marriages, but have had the chance to preach at several others.

Three of the most common Wedding readings are Genesis 2.18-24 (“Therefore a man shall leave his mother and father and cling to his wife and the two will become one flesh”); 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8 (love is patient, love is kind, etc.) and Matthew 5:13-16 (Jesus talking about divorce and re-instating that the two become one flesh).

I love that word, “cling”. It reminds me of “cling-wrap.” You know the plastic saran wrap that sticks to everything? That’s how a couple has to cling to each other. That’s what it means to be one flesh.

And I love that Jesus doesn’t come up with this out of the blue. He says that “from the beginning it was so….” and then he quotes the passage from, literally, the “beginning”: Genesis 2.

When planning a wedding or deciding to get married, no one ever thinks what God’s plan for their marriage is. But this is a very good question to ask yourselves before you get married: What is God’s plan for Marriage? What is God’s plan for our Marriage? God has a very specific plan for Marriage in general. This is what I’ve been talking about for the last couple of weeks (read part 1, part 2 and part 3).

God has created and designed Marriage. Marriage is not something the Church invented or that randomly evolved out of our need to socially constrict our impulse to procreate. It is not a patriarchal imposition nor is it something that people do because it’s instinct. God planned it. God created it. God designed it.

From the beginning.

God creates the universe. He separates light from darkness, waters from the dry land. He populates the skies with planets and stars and populates the waters and land with plants and animals. Then on the sixth day he creates human beings.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 New Revised Standard Version)

The first thing God does after He creates human beings is He creates Marriage. In fact, as He is creating human beings, He is creating Marriage: In his image and likeness, He created them, male and female. Then He blessed them and said, “be fruitful and multiply.”

God makes us male and female, with the desire for union and fruitfulness because it is in that union that we become an image of God.

Let me rephrase that: It is in the fruitful and total union that can only take place between one man and one woman that we come closest to being an image of God.

This doesn’t mean that we have to be married in order to be an image of God, but in the total and fruitful union that can only take place between one man and one woman we come closest to being the image and likeness of God, because it is in that kind of union (which we call Marriage) that we come closest to loving another person the way God loves us.

If that doesn’t make your head spin, I don’t know what will. This is what God designed from the beginning.

Let me know your thoughts and come back next week and find out how God loves us.

DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

The Strong Arm of the Church: The Knights of Columbus

A household name for many, the Knights of Columbus have grown into the world’s largest lay Catholic organization. But, surprisingly, there’s still a lot of mystery that surrounds these noble men. In light of the upcoming Supreme Convention, we thought you might want to find out why the Knights remain the ‘Strong Arm of the Church’.

Don’t forget to tune in for Salt + Light’s live coverage of this year’s 133rd Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus.

Family Living in God’s Country

Photo by Creekgeek via Flickr Under Creative Commons

Photo by Creekgeek via Flickr Under Creative Commons


Cheridan Sanders chats with Andrea Lefebvre mother of 5, about Yukon-living, open-door hospitality and the call to live as a lay missionary.

It takes a special kind of person to venture out and live in the Yukon. With an average temperature of -22 degrees celsius in the winter months and a population of less than 40 000 in the whole territory ( that’s less than many small cities further South) the Great Canadian North, for many, is about as close as it gets to living to ‘God’s Country’.

I’d heard of families living in Canada’s North as lay missionaries for years. The idea of it, intrigued me. I’d never really thought of missionaries as being regular families.

My own experience had always been of religious or priests as missionaries. But of course, like all baptized Christians, families are called to go forth into missionary territories, to the North, to the South or right where they are, to proclaim the Good News.

The Holy Family Apostolate is quite new, it was started in 2008 when Bishop Gary Gordon (at the time Bishop of Whitehorse) had the vision of families living in and being present to communities in the North.

The apostolate started out with just five families who gathered at Madonna House in Vancouver where they began a process of discernment and reflecting on the ‘Little Mandate’.

In light of the upcoming World Meeting of Families and the particular challenges that families face today, I caught up with Andrea Lefebvre, mother of 5 to chat about Yukon-living, open-door hospitality and the call to live out her vocation in everyday life.



You’re originally from B.C. –  Tell us about surviving a Yukon winter. How do you deal with the isolation and the long periods of literal darkness?

A good parka and wool socks do a lot for the cold. I’m certainly more tired in the winter with the long periods of darkness but I am blessed to have small children. Their needs are the same no matter whether I’m in BC or here. I have to get up early, make breakfast, get everyone dressed and who knows what might happen next. Whitehorse is a nice sized city and I haven’t found it isolating. There is a great community of people up here.

Did you ever imagine yourself as a missionary?

I certainly have always been in love with God enough to do so. In my younger years I wanted to do great things for God but as I grew in my faith I realized I had to grow with the gifts he had already given me. So I stopped looking elsewhere and tried to embrace my family more. In the midst of that I met my husband, with whom we shared a common love of family life. About two years into marriage, the Holy Family Apostolate began from the vision of Bishop Gary Gordon, who at the time was the Bishop of the Diocese of Whitehorse. He had a vision of families living their vocation and being a presence in the communities in which they reside. Bishop Gary asked Madonna House, which has been a strong presence in Whitehorse for over 60 years now with many years of experience in lay formation, to guide the HFA in its formation. My husband and I are very different in the way we draw closer to God, with the HFA we grow together as a couple and as a family. The Holy Family Apostolate is just what we needed to nurture our growing faith as a family.


It’s not a common thing to see big families anymore, how do people usually respond when they see you and your wolf pack?

Any number of ways; from positive to dirty looks. There is one woman in town that is in her seventies. When she sees me with all my children, her eyes light up and she loves to tell me about her seven children and all her grandchildren. Some people make all kind of strange comments and this took some getting used to. Like “you’re brave,” “you know how to stop that problem,” “you’re busy” or the most common one is “you’ve got your hands full”. I was quite surprised by the number of comments that I got from strangers when I was pregnant with my third and fourth child. I hadn’t realized that there was so much cultural pressure related to family size. I’ve also come up with my own one liners. To most comments I just say something positive like “It’s great!” To the comment “you’re busy,” I usually say… “Everyone is busy; I’m just busy raising children.”

You spend a lot of time at Mary House, tell us about why you feel it matters and how it has impacted your life.

Mary House has been like my extended family in the Yukon. At first I went there because that is where Bishop Gary directed us to go. They always welcomed me and were gracious to me, my children, or anyone else I brought over. I like to joke to them that they can’t get rid of me and they always say they’d never try.

With time, I have come to really love the writings of Catherine Doherty and I have such a respect and love for the lay consecrated that I have met from Madonna House. They are good people grounded in God living a disciplined life of faith and service. They have taught me how to live more simply and to serve others more simply.


Tell me about the “Little Mandate.”

The Little Mandate” is what Madonna House follows in their spirituality and it is also what we are following as the Holy Family Apostolate. It really covers the depth and breadth of our faith. When we gather for the Holy Family Apostolate we have a written reflection that is based on one line from the “Little Mandate.” With all the information out there these days, it is helpful to have a simple focus.

Tell me what inspires you most about being a lay missionary.

Being a lay missionary seemed to shift my thinking as an ordinary Catholic. Instead of thinking about what the Church is doing for me, I instead turned the thinking more into what I need to do to serve our Church and others. I also identify more closely with the church and its strengths and weaknesses.

You’ve mentioned that you love to welcome people into your home, why is an open door so important to you?

I have felt this is what I am called to. In the vocation of family life, we have a gift of having a community already and a home. So it is in our vocation that we must share this gift and be generous to anyone who may visit.  We like to keep our guest bed clean and ready for whoever might need it.


Give us two qualities that you feel embody Yukoner’s and tell us why they are so important in the North?

Resourceful and adventurous.

Resourcefulness is important because in urban centres you can have anything you want but in more remote or rural places you learn to work with what you have. Whitehorse has most of everything anyone really needs but being more resourceful is helpful. When meeting some of the older Yukoners, I am amazed at how much I could learn from them; they are incredibly resourceful. One man in particular hunts, traps and grows most of his own food. He always plants some extra broccoli and cabbage for me every year and when he gives them to me they are planted in cut out milk cartons. I just love that he uses whatever he has rather than buying something like pots. Having moved up here, my husband has taken up hunting and I’ve had to figure out how to cook Moose, Caribou and Bison.

Everyone up here just seems to be adventurous; this is why it isn’t so isolating. Even when it’s minus 30C, we’ll see other parents attending events with their children as well.

We featured the Marian Centre in Edmonton, Alberta for The Church Alive series. Watch that story here.

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.


Deacon-structing life

This is a reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, year B. The readings are Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15 and Mark 5:21-43.

God did not make death. That’s what I kept thinking last Saturday. You see, I was in Poland and last Saturday I had the chance to spend the day at Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camps. All I kept thinking was, “God did not make death.” But there was a lot of death at Auschwitz.

Between 1940 and 1945, some 1.2 million men, women and children were brought to the extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau in Poland. Of these, 90% were killed and of those who were killed, about 90% were Jews. People would be brought to Auschwitz in box cars (for cattle). When they arrived, they would be forced off the trains and separated by gender: men to one side and women to the other. Then they would be separated again: those who were deemed suitable for work and those not suitable for work. If you were found not suitable for work, you would be sent directly to the gas chamber. 75% of the people who arrived in Auschwitz never stayed there; they went straight from the train into the gas chamber. Among them, a Jewish woman converted to Catholicism by the name of Edith Stein and her sister Rosa. Edith Stein was a Carmelite Sister and is now known as St. Teresa Benedicta of Cross.

Of the 25% who were found suitable for work, the average stay was 3 months. The number one cause of death (besides gassing) was starvation. I don’t have to tell you the cruelty, horror and inhumanity that went on at Auschwitz and other camps. I don’t need to tell you all the horrible inhumanity and suffering that still goes on every day right here in our streets, but also in the Middle East because of ISIS and in Uganda because of Joseph Kony, and also in so many other places because of human cruelty.

Because of sin. God is not the author of death nor he delights in death.

There was a lot of death at Auschwitz, but God did not make death. That is why Jesus consistently fought against sickness and death. I used to think that it’s not possible that Jesus healed everyone he met. We only hear those stories in the Gospels, but Jesus didn’t heal everyone. I don’t think that anymore. We only hear stories of people being healed in the Gospels because Jesus healed everyone! Everyone who comes to Jesus and touches the hem of his garment or pleads to him for their sick child receives a healing. Everyone who meets Jesus is healed. But it’s not always easy to see the healing and not everyone gets healed physically. That’s because God in his wisdom and awesome majesty is working to get us to Heaven. This life is but a rest stop; we are but pilgrims on a journey. God is healing us so that we can have eternal life. We believe that death is a consequence of sin, but our Faith also teaches that death is a solution to sin – because once we die to this life and we are finally home with the Father, we will sin no more. That’s our faith.

But still, walking through Auschwitz last Saturday, it was hard not to question faith. Nazi extermination camps didn’t just kill 6 million Jews; they also killed some 7 million non-Jews, including almost two million Polish Catholics, some three million Soviet Prisoners of war; over 1 million Gipsies, 200,000 people with disabilities and thousands of people from other ethnic and religious minorities including thousands of Catholic priests and religious. What’s worse is that for many, places like Auschwitz killed God, because it killed faith. Walking through Auschwitz last Saturday, it was hard not to wonder where God was.

God did not make death. God is the God who takes on our suffering. Where was God at Auschwitz? He was on the train, herded like cattle. He was there holding the hand of a little girl as they were taken into the extermination chamber. Where was God? He was on the Cross. God did not make death. God is the God who takes our sickness and our death. He dies so that death can be no more. St. Paul tells us that death has no victory (1 Cor 15:55) and that the last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Cor 15:26). Well, the battle has been won. Death is no more. Jesus Christ has destroyed death. #LoveWins

God is not the author of death. God is the author of life. God is present in every moment of life. Where was God at Auschwitz? He was there in the small act of kindness; the encouraging smile; the strengthening word. He was there in that small piece of smuggled dried bread so that someone could eat. God was present in every heroic act of love, the least of which was the final act of St. Maximilian Kolbe who offered to take the place of a man, a stranger, condemned to death by starvation so he could have the opportunity to one day go home and be with his wife and children. St. Maximilian Kolbe gave his life and that man did survive to go home to be with his wife and children.

God is not the author of death. God is the author of life and we too are called to be authors of life. In everything we do and say, we must always give life. We go to Mass to receive the Author of Life in the Eucharist so we can go out there and give life to others. At the end of the day when you do your Examen, ask yourself two questions: “Who did I give life to today?” and “How did I give life today?” We are called to give life in everything we say and do; St. Paul tells the Corinthians that if they can, they should support the Church in Jerusalem (1 Cor 8). That’s a way to give life. Last week Pope Francis released an encyclical, Laudato Si, on the care of our common home; it’s about caring for creation. It’s about giving life. It’s not just about trees and whales or protecting lakes and the ozone layer, although that is important. Laudato Si is about respecting all creation.

This week’s episode of Creation is titled Respect. If our call to care for the environment begins with a sense of wonder (as we learned in Episode 1) and humans have a special place in the created world (as we learned in episode 2), what does it mean to “respect” creation? I’d like you to watch episode 3, but I will give you a hint: Respect means recognizing the inherent dignity of all creation. That means that when we respect, we give life. [Watch Creation: Respect, this Tuesday, June 30th at 8:30pm ET.)

Giving respect means giving life. It means defending and protecting all human life from conception to natural death. It means defending and protecting marriage and family. It means working for social justice and for the dignity of all workers; for the poor and those in the peripheries. We are called to work for life because God is the God of life.

God did not make death. Everything that comes from God is life. There is a song by Christian singer/songwriter Laura Story called Blessings. In it she sings:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home.

This is not our home because there is death in this life and we belong with God who did not make death. Our home is with God, the Author of Life.

Photo credit: The main gate at the former German Nazi death camp of Auschwitz II (Birkenau). Michel Zacharz AKA Grippenn[1] – Own work.

pedro_edit_edit_editEvery week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm


We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?

Deacon-structing Holiness


The problem with holiness is that we don’t think it’s for us.

We believe that we are made for Heaven. We believe that God wants us to go to Heaven, but how many of us would say that we belong in Heaven? How many of us would say that we are going to Heaven? Sure, we don’t want to presume, but some would not even think that they will be in Heaven.

How many of you would say that you are holy? In fact, more likely, we are to say that “I am no saint!”

But we if we are created for Heaven, then we are created for holiness – for sainthood.

But it doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by the Grace of God. Even St. Paul had to cooperate with that divine intervention he received. He had to accept it and he then had to nurture the seeds that were planted. He didn’t go from persecutor to saint overnight. In fact, I would argue that even after his conversion he had to have many smaller conversions – gradual conversions. Even after he had been on a mission for years, he probably still struggled with temptation and sin. (Ever wonder what the little spat with John Mark in Acts 13:13 that led to Paul’s separation from Barnabas in Acts 15:37 was? Paul was probably difficult to work with. He struggled.) We all do – yes, even Saints.

St. Paul tells the Romans that what “I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Rom 7:15). That sounds an awful lot like me most of the time. He also tells the Corinthians that he struggles with a “thorn in his flesh” (2 Cor 12:7). We may think that this is something nice and safe that Saints have, like blindness or the stigmata or visions of the devil. But what if St. Paul’s “thorn” was that he struggled with lust, insecurity, pride or anger? That sounds an awful lot like me.

Recently I was at a gathering and part of the activity was a sort of “examination” or Church trivia. We were randomly asked questions of our Faith: “How many Sacraments are there? Can you name the Sacraments? Can you name the Precepts of the Church? Can you name the seven Capital Sins? What are the Four Marks of the Church? What are the 10 Commandments? What are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit? How about the Fruists of the Holy Spirit? All the people who were present called themselves practicing Catholics, but most could not answer these simple questions.

How many of us could answer these questions? Do you know how many Books there in the Bible? How many Gospels? What are St. Paul’s Letters? Do you know your saints? Do  you know about St. Gianna Molla or Pier Giorgio Frassati? Do you know about Venerable Satoko Kitahara (Mary of Ant Town), Venerable Matt Talbot or Venerable Pierre Toussaint? Do you know who Louis and Zelie Martin are? Do you know who Archbishop Romero is and that he was beatified last week?

Or for the more advanced, could you name a couple Church Encyclicals? Can you name some Vatican II documents?

At another event (the day before, actually) I was asked what we could do to bring others into the Church. That’s a good question considering Jesus says in Matthew 28: 16-20 that we must “go and make disciples of all nations.” Pope Francis keeps reminding us to be “missionary disciples.” Good question. Let me get to my answer, but first…

Finally, today I met a parishioner at our local coffee shop.  He introduced me to his wife who said she had not been to Mass in a while. She explained that she had some issues with the Church. I listened to her – I tried to meet her where she is. I validated her and invited her to come to Mass when she was ready. I don’t know if that is the right approach, but I think this is what Pope Francis means when he speaks about “graduality” (more on that another time, if you are interested).

These three situations made me think greatly about how we get to Heaven.

Here’s what I thought: holiness attracts. Let’s work on our holiness. What does that mean? It means “work on getting to Heaven.” We have one goal – let’s get there.

How do we get there? We get there together; this is not a personal journey, but a journey as Church. Part of the journey is personal, but we don’t get to Heaven alone.

This is where we must stay connected to the Church. Sure you can have a personal relationship with Jesus by yourself. You may never need to go to Mass or be affiliated with any church – but it’s very hard. If you want to stay connected to Jesus, it’s much easier if we stay connected to His Body, the Church.

That means, learning about the Church. That means being able to know what the Precepts of the Church are. (BTW – anyone know?)

We must read Scripture. We must set time aside every day to pray. Pray every day at the same time, no matter what. Whether you feel like it or not, pray. Pray the Rosary, or listen to Praise and Worship music; go to Adoration or learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. No matter, as long as you pray. Heaven is about being united with God. It’s all about God. How can we be united with God if we don’t talk to Him? How can we be united to God in Heaven if we don’t nurture a relationship with Him now?

If you struggle with sin, pray. If you fall, and you will fall, pray, get up, pray, go to Confession and then pray some more. The next day when you fall again, pray some more and go to Confession again. If you never fall, go to Confession anyway. And pray.

Pray. No matter what, pray.

And of course, go to Mass. If the music is terrible and the homilies bad; go to Mass anyway. If you find it irreverent or too pious, go to Mass anyway. If you hate the organ music or miss the way things were when you were growing up, go to Mass anyway. If you don’t understand what the Church teaches about marriage or why women are not ordained, go to Mass anyway. Go to Mass. Receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Adore Him in the Eucharist.

And if you’re really serious about this, get a spiritual director. You don’t have to meet every week; sometimes once every 3 or 4 months is enough. If you are like me and you prefer your Spiritual Director to be a priest so he can also be your confessor, so be it. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter. Either way, seek spiritual direction. We all need direction when we are looking for the right road to Heaven.

After one of those gatherings last week, someone said to me that they would have watched Archbishop Romero’s beatification had she known about it. It’s true that the Church  (and those of us in Church communications) can do a better job at communicating, but today, in this day and age, there is no excuse for not being connected to the Church. There are so many resources available to us. Go to the Catholic bookstore and get yourself a book by St. Francis de Sales or St. Catherine of Siena. Go read St. Therese’s Little Way. If you prefer something more contemporary, read Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain. If you like reading, find something. If you like music, find music. There is so much out there that can help us connect with the Church. And did I mention prayer?

And then, as you “perfect” your journey, with joy and kindness, you will begin to share that Light with others. That’s how we will make disciples of all nations. That’s how we become missionary disciples. And that’s how we will get to Heaven, where we belong.

Write to me and tell me what you think.

Photo: Canonization of St. John Paul II – CNS/ Paul Haring

PedroGM1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

Bioethics Matters: Healthcare as Evangelization


Healthcare as Evangelization

Leo Walsh, CSB, STD

In The Windsor Star (Friday, November 14, 2014) there is a Letter to the Editor lauding the wonderful treatment the writer as patient received in the emergency department. Was this collective work of the healthcare workers an example of evangelization?

The New Evangelization is a phrase used exclusively of the missionary work of the Catholic Church. We, as Catholics, bring to non-Christians the news of God’s saving love made incarnate in His Son’s life, death and resurrection, and of the continuance of that love through the Holy Spirit. We bring the same message to non-practising Christians, so that they may return to a more active faith life. We evangelize our fellow Catholics who do not practise that they might find new life through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Finally, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we strive to deepen the love relationship between all of us and the God who loves us. This final work is actually the first step in the process. Without our having a living relationship with God through Jesus in the Holy Spirit our evangelizing is a work of hypocrisy and doomed to failure.

The above is undoubtedly true. If we were true to this vocation, we could sleep easily with a peaceful conscience. But is it enough?

For many, many years, we Catholics have cooperated with non-Catholics, adherents of many different faiths or none, in various works of mercy. These include efforts to bring justice to the poor, to try to ensure for them adequate food, clean water, decent housing, basic healthcare and education. We work together to banish corruption from governments, the judicial systems, police forces, and from institutions generally. We cooperate in seeking dignified treatment of the vulnerable at all stages of life. The list is long.

As we turn to the New Evangelization, this cooperation is seen by Catholics as a work of the Church required by its essential missionary nature, the work of various Catholic communities and institutions and of individual Catholics. Our cooperation with men and women of goodwill to bring about social justice is the Church evangelizing. Through our actions, we teach the Law of Christ, and we draw people to love and imitate its Author.

Our co-operators, though, aren’t they evangelizing too? And men and women of good will, might they be evangelizers also? Of course, they may be simply engaged in a type of social work which can be efficient at a certain level without involvement with Christ, either explicitly or implicitly. The same may be true of Catholics or other Christians. The work in itself, however, is good and has good consequences.


Mainline Catholicism maintains that there is salvation outside the visible Church and that we cannot restrict the work of the Holy Spirit to those who are baptized. Any good work, then, is a work of the Spirit, and reveals the love of God directly or indirectly.

Healthcare, care of people with respect to their health needs, is an immensely important good. Like any human good, it can be corrupted and debased through the common vices of people (the seven deadly sins) and through muddled thinking, the child of bias and darkness of mind and heart. In itself, though, it is a great good. To repeat, any true human good comes through the Holy Spirit and through Him alone, and healthcare is one such good.

Our Catholic healthcare institutions and healthcare workers should understand themselves as agents of evangelization. Explicitly, they bring the love and care of Jesus for poor and sick (all those who are ill are impoverished), and so spread the good news of God’s love for each of them. Such love-in-action outstrips sermons and homilies in evangelization.

A secular hospital as such has no direct connection with Jesus and his curing of the sick. Sometimes the institution, or part of it, contradicts not only Jesus’ love of the sick and suffering, but even human virtues in their regard. Killing our most vulnerable (the unborn) and maltreating (even killing) our seniors stand in direct contradiction to love and concern. But when a secular hospital is dedicated to the care and comfort of patients as individually important, and with medical expertise, then God’s Kingdom is being extended. People are being evangelized towards Good, who is God. These are early steps in the journey towards the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but they are steps on the true journey.

The ethos of a Catholic hospital is characterized by its open acceptance of biblical truth about God and each person as made in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ. Healthcare is directed to brothers and sisters in Christ. The ethos of a good secular hospital reveals itself in its caring for all persons in love and truth. This is a work that points beyond itself to the Author of life, even if this lesson can at times be seen in a mirror darkly.

Leo Walsh, CSB, STD, Professor Emeritus, Moral Theology, in the Faculty of Theology of the University of St Michael’s College, is the Pastor at St Paul’s Church, LaSalle, Ontario, and Vice-President, Academic, Assumption University. Father Walsh is a staff member of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute.

Photo: (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz) (CNS/Tannen Maury, EPA)

Deacon-structing: A Memorial


I set out to deacon-struct Holy Week and soon found that I was faced with a monumental task. I looked at each of the key moments of the Passion: the entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the trial, the way of the Cross and crucifixion… the burial… there is so much there. I have always been drawn to the mysteries of Holy Week and the more I study and pray with these mysteries, the more I feel I am over my head.

I guess that’s why it’s a Mystery. When we use the word “mystery” in our Faith, we don’t mean it’s something that has to be solved, like an Agatha Christie novel. Rather, it means that it is something so profound, so amazing, so vast, that it cannot be fully understood in human terms; it cannot be fully explained in human language. And so we are called to understand it only in part and to stand at the foot of the Mystery and contemplate it; to gaze upon it and let it change us. As Pope Francis says so beautifully in Joy of the Gospel with regards to the neighbour: “remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other” (EG 169). That’s what we do when faced with Mystery.

And that’s how we should approach Holy Week. It is not something to “understand” but something to behold: to gaze upon. We are called to walk with Jesus through his passion and death.

But that doesn’t mean that we are not meant to try to understand it as much as possible. This understanding can help us enter more deeply into the Mystery of the Passion.

For example, a few times I have been honoured to be part of a Jewish Seder meal. This is the Passover meal that Jesus would have been celebrating. I remember coming out from the meal with a whole new understanding of the Mass. Once we know what the ritual of the Seder is, we come to appreciate what Scriptures tell us about the Last Supper much more deeply. For example, why are they dipping bread in a dish (Mk. 14:20; Jn 13:26)? Which of the four ritual cups of wine is the cup that Jesus is says is “the cup of the New Covenant” (Mt. 17:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20)? What is the hymn that they sang when it says, “after they had sung the hymn…” (Mt. 26:30; Mk 14:26)? Or the fact that in the synoptic Gospels Jesus dies on the day after Passover (Mt. 26:17; Mk 14:12; Lk 22:7) , but according to the Gospel of John, it was the day of preparation for the Passover (Jn 19:31). There is so much there and I don’t think I could do it justice. It is certainly enough for a lifetime of prayer and meditation.

But today I can’t stop thinking about one thing: The Cross. We have no idea what people at the time thought about or felt about this instrument of torture and death. When Jesus said “pick up your cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:24; Lk 9:23) what did people think? Was that a common expression at the time? Would he have said today, “pick up your electric chair and follow me?”

 And the fact that almost immediately, the followers of Jesus seemed to embrace this “Cross.” I’m sure they remembered Jesus saying “pick up your cross and follow me” but did they remember him saying “do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19)?

Did they understand that it is through the Cross that Jesus saves us? That it is through the Cross that Jesus makes all things new: by destroying death forever and forgiving our sins. I wonder when they started signing themselves with this sign, the “sign of the Cross.”

I wonder if they began signing themselves with this sign as a reminder of who they were: As a reminder of the love of God. Did they remember what Jesus told Nicodemus that “God so loved the world that he “gave” his only Son? (John 3:16?) Did they think that this thing that Jesus did for all of us they were called to do for others?

What did Jesus mean when He said, “do this in memory of me?” I don’t think he was just talking about eating bread and drinking wine. Was He speaking about washing each other’s feet? Did he mean going up on the Cross like him? I’m pretty sure He wasn’t talking about merely “remembering” him.

In Spanish, when Jesus said, “do this in memory of me,” He says, “hagan esto en conmemoración mia.” That means something closer to “do this to honour me.” It is not about remembering Jesus. That when we remember Jesus we are to do something or when we do something we are to remember Jesus. I suppose it could mean that, but I think it means that we are to do something so as to commemorate Jesus and what He did for us. Commemorate is not just to remember. It is not just to honour. According to the Oxford Dictionary, commemorate means “to keep in the memory by means of a celebration or ceremony” and “to be a memorial to.” But I don’t even think this is exactly what Jesus meant. After all, He didn’t say “do this to commemorate me” (hagan esto para conmemorarme). Perhaps, “do this so that it is a memorial to me and to what I have done.”

St. Paul refers to this very moment in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 11:23-26). To them he writes that, “whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Our “eating of this bread” (which symbolically can mean doing all the things I mentioned above) is a proclamation of the Lord’s death and a reminder and sign that He will come again.

It’s almost as if when we celebrate the sacrifice of the Eucharist, we are transported back in time to the foot of the Cross. Not that Christ dies again everytime we are at Mass, but that we are taken right back there and we are part of that sacrifice once more. I don’t know how to explain it better; we don’t recreate the sacrifice of the Cross. We don’t repeat the sacrifice of the Cross. Rather, it’s more like God makes us present to the sacrifice of the Cross, which it happening all the time in Kairos time. This is the commemoration, the memorial, the proclamation. It is more than just a memory, although a memory, more than just an honouring, although very much in honour.

In fact, memory is very important in Jewish tradition. For a Jew to “remember” actually had this significance: to make present again that which had already taken place. Many Jewish prayers and Psalms call us to “remember.” For the Jews at the time, and to this day, the Passover meal is a “participation” in the Exodus. The Passover for Jews is a memorial, a remembering, but also a “making present” the deliverance that God had granted their ancestors with the exodus from Egypt.

And we “do this” in a very special way every time we celebrate the Eucharist. But let me offer a very simple way that all of us can “remember” in a practical way, every day. We remember by making the Sign of the Cross. When I sign myself with the Cross, I am calling to mind all of this. Especially, I am calling to mind the sacrifice that I am called to do like Jesus on the Cross. I am reminded that I am called to die to my own petty ego needs; my own desire to be loved and to be special; my own needs to be right and to be needed. I am called to “die to myself.” I am called to sacrifice my own needs for the needs of others. As a husband, that is what I am called to do: put my wife’s needs before mine. Every time. As a father, I am called to place my children’s needs before mine. Every time. As a Christian, I am called to put others’ needs before mine. Of course, this doesn’t mean I become a throw rug for everyone to walk on but it does mean that I am called to consider other people’s needs to be more important than mine, every time. This, I believe, is true freedom: freedom from my own petty needs. And that is what Jesus did on the Cross: He set us free!

And when I remember, by making the Sign of the Cross, I do it in the name of the Father, of the Son and the Holy Spirit – a reminder of another awesome Mystery – the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. Not only do I remember in my mind, but also in my mind, my thoughts, my knowledge, my head; and in my heart, in my feelings, in my emotions and soul; and with my arms, through my actions, my service. It also reminds me that I am to love God back; with all my mind; with all my soul and my heart; and all my strength, and to love my neighbour as myself.

This Holy Week, let us walk with Jesus and let us remember. When we do, at Mass and at daily prayer; every time we make the Sign of the Cross; every time you put other people’s needs before your own – when we wash others’ feet, when we “remove our sandals at the sacred ground of the other” – remember the memorial. Let Christ be present to you and let yourself be present to him.

Send me your comments – especially if you know what the original Aramaic is for “do this in memory of me.”


(CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)


Pope says it’s OK to spank children if you don’t demean them


(CNN) Pope Francis has stirred up a hornet’s nest with remarks in which he said it’s OK for parents to spank children, so long as they do it with dignity.

The comments came in his general audience Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square, when Francis was talking about the importance of a good father within a family.

“I once heard at a wedding a father say, ‘I sometimes have to hit my children a little but never in the face, so as to not demean them.’ How nice, I thought, he has a sense of dignity,” the Pope said.

“When he punishes, he does it right and moves on.”

The principle of not humiliating the child while doling out the punishment appears to be central to the Pope’s justification of spanking, as is that of forgiveness.

“A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive from the bottom of his heart. Of course he can also discipline with a firm hand: he’s not weak, submissive, sentimental,” he said.

“This father knows how to discipline without demeaning; he knows how to protect without restraint.”

The issue of corporal punishment for children is divisive in many countries, and the Pope’s remarks prompted an outpouring of both support and criticism on social media.

Father Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, told CNN that it was important not to take the Pope’s words out of context — and that there was an important distinction to be made between discipline and punishment.

“It’s about time that we stop and allow the Pope to speak the language of most ordinary people, especially parents, who understand the Pope far better than those who parse every single word and statement that comes out of his mouth!” he said.

“Let us not read into the Pope’s words anything other than what is there. He speaks constantly of mercy and tenderness. He speaks as a pastor and loving father figure who loves children and wants the best for them.”

Francis showed this affection in a Google Hangout with disabled children from around the world Thursday, Rosica added, and “speaks about disciplining children and never punishing them.”

The pontiff also met with street children on a visit to a shelter in the Philippines last month.

According to the website of the Global Alliance to End Corporal Punishment of Children, children in at least 43 states are protected by law from all corporal punishment.

They include more than 20 European nations, as well as countries in Africa and Latin America.

The United States is not one of the nations where corporal punishment is banned, but an anti-spanking movement has gained momentum there.

The case of NFL star Adrian Peterson, given probation, a fine and community service in November after he admitted whipping his 4-year-old son, stirred up the debate. The NFL also suspended the Minnesota Vikings star running back for the rest of the season.

This article was originally published on CNN