Why is a best-selling author sending 17,000 books to U.S. Catholic pastors?

A parish isn’t a business. And it’s not supposed to be. But ask most any pastor and you’ll see that successfully running a parish requires a bit of business acumen.

That’s what Patrick Lencioni, New York Times best-selling author of books such as Death By Meeting and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, realizes too, and he is hoping to help.

Lencioni, who is well known by business leaders around the country for his ability to help improve organizational health, is doing something unconventional. He is sending out 17,000 free copies of his new book — one for every pastor he can find an address for.

Why? As a faithful Catholic, he is hoping that he can put his expertise and guidance at the service of the Church.

The Better Pastor is not your average business book. In fact, it is structured like a fable … or a parable, if you like.

Like Lencioni’s other books, the fable is a fictional account that seeks to guide the reader into understanding organizational principles that are essential for running a healthy business or, in this case, a parish.

Lencioni wrote The Better Pastor because he realized that while priests receive formation in theology, philosophy and homiletics, few receive training in practical management. And while a parish is obviously much different than a business, it is still an organization with employees and goals.

Is there really a need for a book like The Better Pastor? Lencioni argues that there is, and that parishes that implement the principles he outlines will run more effectively. This will give pastors time and energy to devote to what really matters — celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, visiting families, and other pastoral duties.

He explains in the book’s Preface:

The story is presented within the context of a pastor’s most important role as a spiritual father and shepherd, but I don’t focus on a priests’ faith or spiritual depth here. That is above my pay grade, as they say. My goal is simply to help pastors thinks about their “jobs” a little differently. I’m not prescribing a step-by-step model for running a parish. That would be a much longer book, one that would be difficult to write given the vastly different kind of parishes out there. I’m simply trying to present a slightly new way of thinking.

The book is a short read—sit down with a cup of coffee or two and you’ll be done in an hour.

Perhaps not every aspect of the story will seem familiar, but no doubt one or two points will: the parish secretary who has been there forever but doesn’t seem to like her job or anyone she encounters; a volunteer choir that gives of their time generously, but struggles to lead the singing effectively; a pastor who is so busy trying to make decisions and run the parish that parishioners never have the opportunity to see him spend time in prayer.

Not every parish will struggle with all of these, but that’s not the point.

Lencioni’s point is that whatever organizational struggles the parish has—and every organization has them—a small investment in thinking through effective management can bring about great results.

The Eucharistic miracle in Krakow

Nestled in the medieval Italian hill town of Siena lies the towering Basilica di San Francesco. Though it lacks the ornate black and white marble that decorates the Sienese cathedral, or the impressive and ancient frescoes that grace the neighborhood parishes, San Francesco does boast an extraordinary article of devotion – a Eucharistic miracle.

The story of the miracle begins on August 14, 1730, when a ciborium full of consecrated hosts was stolen from the church’s tabernacle. Happily, three days later, they were found stashed in the offering box, as the thief merely desired the costly golden ciborium.

The hosts were carefully cleaned of the dust and debris from the offering box. But the priests who found them, instead of consuming the hosts as practice dictates, placed them back into the tabernacle. This deviation from practice set the stage for the miracle: The faithful noticed that the hosts failed to deteriorate. For 300 years, the preservation has continued, with scientific tests showing that they are still as fresh as if they had been consecrated during today’s Mass.

More to read…The Miraculous Hosts of Siena: The Body of Christ, Ever New 

What is most curious, however, is not the nature of the miraculous preservation of the hosts, but rather the lack of widespread devotion to this supernatural event. During the summer months of 2016, among various daily and Sunday Masses which I attended at San Francesco, the central nave of the basilica was never used; rather, each Mass was said in a small, corner chapel, before the congregation of eight or nine people venerated the miraculous hosts.

In the face of such a lack of response to a supernatural proof of the Most Blessed Sacrament, one may ask: “If the faithful don’t respond to this display of God’s power, how are we to instill in the world a belief in the Eucharist?”

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The answer arrives through the Eucharistic miracle that was World Youth Day in Krakow. On Wednesday, July 27, 2016, more than 18,000 people fell on their knees before the Eucharist. This crowd numbered only those who were able to enter the packed Tauron Arena; there was an additional crowd, which sources estimate numbered between two and five thousand, who had to be turned away at the door. This display of devotion, however, was merely a foretaste of the true miracle which was to come three days later, when nearly 2 million pilgrims from 187 nations joined Pope Francis in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

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World Youth Day was miraculous because these two million young people are often written off as overly secular or unfaithful. Yet, that night there was no change in the appearance of the host; in truth, relatively few people could even see the host they were adoring. There was no thunder or lightning, no voice from the heavens reminding us “This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” There wasn’t even the exhilarating praise music of Matt Maher and Audrey Assad, which had accompanied Christ in the Tauron Arena. There was only the appearance of bread … and great faith.

More to read: Aleteia photographer shares his experiences at this Adoration event

The miracle is more momentous if we think of the history that brought those 2 million young people to Poland to demonstrate their faith in Jesus Christ hidden in bread. Pope Francis had to invite them to pray that night; an adult facilitator had to invite them to Krakow to be present for the pope’s invitation; Pope Saint John Paul II had to establish World Youth Day; Jan Tyranoski had to invite young Karol Wojtyla to be a parish youth leader where the seed of the idea of WYD was planted. The timeline can be followed further and further, through interaction and invitation, back to the encounter of Christ asking Simon and Andrew to follow Him and become fishers of men.

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For those who witnessed it, the miracle of July 30, 2016, cannot and will not be forgotten, for no man or woman can forget the sheer insanity of 2 million people bowing before what eyes perceive as bread, at the request of an elderly man lovingly called “Holy.”

Thus the question “How are we to instill in the world a faith in the Most Holy Sacrament?” is answered: encounter people; invite them, encourage them, challenge them, bring them to prayer. It will create in the world a new heart, for the light of encounter necessarily illuminates a display of faith to the world, whereas a light of supernatural intervention can be hidden under the basket of a small, unvisited chapel in a large, unused church.

More to read: Bishop Robert Barron shares his feelings about this event in Krakow

WATCH: Military dad waits for just the right moment to surprise his son

People with Down syndrome are notorious for their joy, and the son in this video is no exception. As he waits to welcome his father home, little does he know his dad is standing right behind him. The joy the two of them express at being reunited again demonstrates the power of love between a father and child. (And if the first reunion isn’t enough, the father then surprises his young daughter, too.)

The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him. — Proverbs 23:24

Benedictine hermit produces gourmet vinegar used in NYC restaurants

What’s that old saying? You can attract more with honey than with vinegar? Brother Victor Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette proves it wrong.

That long French name might ring a bell with readers who are familiar with a number of spiritually-themed cookbooks that were published in recent years, Twelve Months of Monastery Soups and The Monastery Garden Cookbook among them.

But to locals in the lower Hudson Valley region of New York, Brother Victor Antoine’s name conjures up images of an essential ingredient. Turns out this hermit monk has what aficionados call a “mother,” with a lineage going back four decades.

“The term refers to the secret sauce behind the artisanal vinegar carefully crafted at a small, woodsy monastery off of Barmore Road in the Town of Union Vale,” explains The Poughkeepsie Journal.

“Mother” is a gelatinous mixture of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria used to convert wine, cider or other alcoholic liquids into vinegar.

At Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery, Brother Victor Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette has been using the same mother for more than 40 years, the gooey catalyst evolving with every batch.

The slow fermentation process takes between six months to a year.

What emerges is a panoply of red and white vinegar types that have been featured in the New York Times and some Manhattan restaurants.

Brother Victor Antoine sells vinegar throughout the year—it’s the primary way he supports his monastery—but relies heavily on a two-day festival in July, where sales this year exceeded 500 bottles.

“A-maz-ing,” said one attendee. “You can’t find these flavors anywhere else.”

The vinegar is best served mixed with vegetables before oil is added.

“If you put the oil first, the greens tend to wilt,” Brother Victor said, crediting a chef from the Culinary Institute of America with the tip. “If you put the vinegar first, the greens retain the taste of the vinegar.”

If Brother Victor, a 76-year-old native of France, has had a modicum of success bringing foodies in touch with the spiritual, he also hopes to see a union of another kind. He began his Benedictine monastery in 1977. The conversion of the raised ranch that he bought included the building of a small chapel in an Eastern Orthodox style. Brother Victor said he prays for the reunion of the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

“We pray dearly for the reunion of the east and the west,” Brother Victor said, “so that all the churches become the undivided Church of Christ.”

More information: http://ourladyoftheresurrectionmonastery.webs.com/monasticvinegars.htm

In tribute to Fr. Jacques Hamel: Invite a friend to Mass this weekend, or on Monday!

An invitation was put forth last week, during the funeral of Fr. Jacques Hamel, toward the end of Rouen Archbishop Dominique Lebrun’s homily. He said, beautifully,

In tribute to Father Hamel,
we invite you to visit a church in the coming days,
to make it plain that you refuse to allow desecration in the holy places,
to be a witness that violence will not win in your own heart,
to ask for God’s graces for it,
to please light a candle in the church, a sign of resurrection;
to collect yourself there, and to open your heart to what is most profound;
to pray, if you can, to beg for mercy.

Lebrun cited August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption, as “a most appropriate day” for those who have been away from the Church to come to Mass, saying,”The Virgin Mary will welcome you with all her tenderness.”

Of course, in the United States, with the 2016 Feast of the Assumption falling as it does on a Monday, the obligation is abrogated, in which case — if you will only be going to Mass on Sunday — this weekend is a good time to take up the Archbishop’s idea and invite a friend who has been away from Mass for a while to go with you.

More to read: For the “Spiritual but not Religious”


Naturally you still may prefer to attend Mass on Monday, the 15th, and then of course, you should invite someone along, for their sake, for the sake of the world, and for all of us. As LeBrun said, “Let us remember our own mother and pray; God, do not turn away from the pleas of your children, who look to you! God, bring to fulfillment in our hearts what your Son Jesus has begun!”

Be bold, like a disciple! Call up a friend and ask him or her to come and light a candle with you — even if it is an electric one — in tribute to a priest slain during Mass, and in supplication for an end to the madness all around.

WATCH: Disabilities can’t keep these budding acrobats from flying high

A well-known acrobat in Argentina named Pitu Blazquez runs an acrobatics school and teaches people with disabilities to hang by silks in the air and do what what circus acrobats do. Blazquez finds something amazing in the people he teaches — a courage and determination that can inspire all of us to be our best selves and to appreciate the gifts that every human being has to offer the world.

Brett Favre’s Catholic faith carries him to the Hall of Fame

This weekend Brett Favre, one of the greatest NFL players of all time, will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. On Thursday he was presented with the prestigious “gold jacket,” the highest honor a player can get in the NFL.

What is unique about the event is that his wife Deanna presented him with the jacket and will formally introduce him at Saturday’s induction ceremony. She is only the second wife of a football player to do so.

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Favre said about the decision to have his wife participate, “Deanna is the best teammate I’ve ever had…She has been by my side throughout this journey and I’m so excited that she gets to play such an important role for me.”

The two have been together since high school and their teamwork was tested early on in their relationship. At age 19, Deanna found out she was pregnant and as Favre was the starting quarterback at Southern Mississippi University, they were not ready to be parents.

Her friends pressured her to have an abortion, but Deanna refused, saying, “there was no way I could destroy an innocent life.” She even admitted that having premarital sex was “a bad choice, and for every choice there’s a consequence.”

It was their shared Catholic faith that ultimately convinced them not to have an abortion and so Deanna gave birth to their first daughter, Brittany. They remained together throughout Favre’s success in college and the NFL and finally got married in 1996 at the height of his career with the Green Bay Packers.

Everything seemed to be going right. Favre became a three-time league MVP, won a Super Bowl, and started to break all the records.

Then everything changed in 2003 and 2004.

A day before a game against the Oakland Raiders, Favre was notified of the death of his father. This devastated Favre as he greatly admired his father, from whom he received much of his hard work ethic and stubborn personality. In fact, his father had always wanted to present Favre at the Hall of Fame ceremony and would have done so if he were alive.

He took his pain to the football field, passing for 399 yards and 4 touchdowns to solidify a 41-7 victory. His father wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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Ten months later his brother-in-law was killed in an accident and shortly after that Deanna was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a whirlwind of a year full of emotions that ultimately strengthened them and deepened their Catholic faith.

Deanna said in an interview with The Compass, “I just feel like, with faith, it helps me see the good in everything…I thank God all of the time that I have faith because I don’t understand what people would do without faith.”

She credited her mother for giving her a firm foundation, something to stand on during the many trials they experienced, “She was a huge influence. We were brought up Catholic and we’re still strong Catholics.”

After four months of chemotherapy, Deanna was declared cancer-free. The experience prompted her to extend their charitable foundation to include organizations that provide financial assistance to breast cancer patients. Their foundation, Favre4Hope, has donated $8 million dollars to charitable organizations since its inception in 1995.

Additionally, Deanna was the driving force behind a pink Pray for a Cure Bible that was published to raise awareness of breast cancer. Deanna handpicked Bible verses aimed at breast cancer survivors and patients. Her favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28 (“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose”), which has motivated her to persevere in every trial.

Priests who knew the Favre family in Green Bay and Mississippi said they were impressed by their faith. Fr. Tommy Conway, their pastor in Mississippi, said, “I think Deanna has shaped Brett Favre into the man he is today. I give her an awful lot of credit. They have faced adversity in their lives and they are both better people for it.”

In the end, while Brett Favre will go down in history as one of the best NFL players to ever play the game, he and his wife understand that none of it will matter when they part from this world to the next. Faith helped them get through some of the most difficult trials in their lives and continues to guide them forward into whatever else God has in store for them.

EXCLUSIVE: The extraordinary adventure of Fr. Federico Lombardi, faithful collaborator of three popes

After being a close collaborator of three popes, 10 years as the Director of the Holy See Press Office and 26 years at the helm of Vatican Radio, Fr. Federico Lombardi opens his heart to us in this exclusive interview.

In our dialogue he shared how he discovered his priestly vocation and what he learned from the last three popes, who have changed the history of the Church and the world.

It is a story that, like his life, is characterized by humility and authenticity.

 

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Aleteia: How old were you and what compelled you to one day to leave behind all the possibilities life was offering to become a Jesuit priest?

Fr. Lombardi: A vocation is something that depends on God. For me it was something that developed gradually, without any great drama in my youth, having been involved already in groups and activities in the Church. I was a Boy Scout, part of the Marian Association, and went to a Jesuit school, which, growing up, was one of the main factors that led me to ask to enter the Company of Jesus. I entered the novitiate at the age of adulthood, when I was 18. The decision was something that had matured through high school.

After your time as Provincial of the Jesuits in Italy, in 1990 you began your collaboration with John Paul II as the director of Vatican Radio. What are the life lessons you took away from your work with Pope Wojtyla?

The work of Vatican Radio in the years of John Paul II represented for me a true opening towards the global horizon of the world and the Church.

As a Jesuit, I already have a vocation that seeks to look out to the world, and as Provincial I took many trips and visited our missionaries across the globe. Thus, my horizon was already fairly vast. But with the work at Vatican Radio and accompanying John Paul II, particularly in his travels, the universal horizon of the Church and her attention to history and all human affairs from a spiritual perspective of faith became for me truly a continuous, daily focus.

I remember in my first days at Vatican Radio a consultation with the international press agencies, in which we were able to follow minute-by-minute the events taking place in various parts of the world; it drew me in. It moved me to broaden my spirituality, recognizing the presence of God, seeing the signs of His work in the everyday lives of persons and nations, thus becoming the substance of my daily life.

And in this John Paul II was a great master.

I remember two things that touched me deeply: one, his authority in speaking to people; he seemed to be truly an expert of people. During his trips, he had this ability to enter into the history, the culture, and the spirit of the different nations. Working at Vatican Radio, which has always striven to be multilingual, multicultural, open to differences and the variety of cultures in their uniqueness…it really drew me in. John Paul II, in my opinion, was an expert both of peoples and individual persons.

And then, his deep faith, which was manifested so clearly in moments of personal prayer, where he was collected and strong, even in the midst of great confusion and the great expectations surrounding the trips he took. You could tell that a personal relationship with God was at the center of his life, his focus, and his service, and in this sense his canonization corresponded to a very clear testimony of life and faith.

On July 11, 2006, Pope Benedict appointed you Director of the Press Office of the Holy See. What have been the most difficult moments in this mission? And the most beautiful? What have you taken away with you in your heart from your relationship with Pope Benedict?

I certainly participated in a profound way in the events of his pontificate, including those which could have been the greatest challenges he faced. I have to say that the difficult moments were those challenging moments for the Church, which the pope faced with the greatest courage and willingness. We can think of, for example, the debate on Islam, the crisis in the Church surrounding clerical sexual abuse, or other internal debates within the Roman Curia, which were later reflected in public opinion. Benedict faced these situations with the greatest courage, laying the first steps on which the Church can move forward, on a foundation of personal suffering in these difficulties, but also a foundation of great courage and sincerity.

I am convinced that these difficulties are the basis on which we have taken great steps forward, for example, in approaching with objectivity and depth our relation with the Muslim world, the issue of the violence we are currently witnessing, with all its depth and magnitude. And the pope faced these issues with clarity and courage, touching on the points that have yet to be confronted and resolved, both on the part of the Muslim world and on our own part in dialogue with them.

Regarding the issue of the cases of abuse, already as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and later as pope, he set out the principles of the procedural basis and proper approach to be taken by the Church regarding prevention and legal recognition of these errors, which have given a direction upon which Pope Francis can continue to build. But it was Benedict who set out and confronted the way of facing this incredibly complex and painful issue.

And regarding the internal discussions on the functioning of the Curia, on transparency, on the adoption of a system of regulation and administration that meets the standards of our contemporary culture, on correct administration at the international level, the pope put into motion a whole series of legislative norms and regulations on which we continue to work, and which have brought with them many fruits. In all of this, he was a person who faced these great problems with patience, simplicity, and fidelity. I am happy to have been able to work together in this undertaking.

Naturally we cannot forget the beautiful moments during this papacy, like the trip to the United Kingdom, the trip to the United States, and many other occasions which were encounters with nations where Catholics were not a majority. These were extremely festive and beautiful moments. And then some of his great addresses to the world and to contemporary society – the Westminster Hall Address, the Addresses to the United Nations and the German Parliament – which remain important chapters in an in-depth and serious dialogue by the Church with society and the contemporary world, and which were received with great respect for their spiritual and cultural quality, of which Benedict XVI was a master.

[img attachment=”118596″ align=”aligncenter” size=”full” alt=”Pope Francis (L) and father Federico Lombardi greet journalists of the papal flight upon arrival in Rio de Janeiro on July 22, 2013. Pope Francis landed in Brazil on Monday for his first overseas trip as pontiff to attend the international festival World Youth Day in Brazil, the world’s biggest Catholic country. AFP PHOTO/LUCA ZENNARO/POOL / AFP PHOTO / POOL / LUCA ZENNARO” caption=”Pope Francis (L) and father Federico Lombardi greet journalists of the papal flight upon arrival in Rio de Janeiro on July 22, 2013. Pope Francis landed in Brazil on Monday for his first overseas trip as pontiff to attend the international festival World Youth Day in Brazil, the world’s biggest Catholic country. AFP PHOTO/LUCA ZENNARO/POOL / AFP PHOTO / POOL / LUCA ZENNARO” /]

Since the election of Pope Francis, you have been one of his closest collaborators. They have been incredible years for the Church in terms of communication. What is Pope Francis’s secret? How has he become one of the greatest communicators on the planet?

Everyone is struck by Pope Francis’s communication. He is very spontaneous, and I would say that it is an aspect of his charismatic character, and that it comes from the direct relations with people which he has cultivated for decades as pastor of a very large diocese. His communication is sincere, free, and open, not the result of calculations made at a desk or a complex study conducted by experts. It is the sincerity, freedom, and openness of a pastor who meets the people of God and meets the men and women of today without barriers, with an ability to touch the heart and mind of each person.

All of this invokes a deep gratitude by those who feel a need for a testimony, a message, a presence that clearly manifests his attention, love, and solidarity, particularly for those who are poor, who suffer, who are on the margins of society; they feel welcomed, sought out, and respected by so many of the little gestures and words of Pope Francis.

So, then, this direct relationship, this concrete language, not speaking many languages, Francis speaks a language of gestures and has an approach that with extreme ease moves to the heart of the various peoples of Asia, of Africa, of Latin America where he is at home, and Europe.

The attitude of Pope Francis to which I have related the most, and which I think characterizes this pontificate, is that of trust in the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Church of God: a Church on the move, a Church that goes out into the world. A Church that begins to move even without knowing exactly where to go, knowing that she is guided by the Spirit of the Lord as long as she listens attentively to his word, because he accompanies us with the word in Scripture, and with the living closeness of the Spirit to the believers who daily seek to know the will of God and hear his call. This being a Church on the move, courageous and trusting, seems to be one of the spirits of this pontificate, which I have very much related to.

A classic word, also in Jesuit spirituality, is discernment. We see how Pope Francis invites the Church, pastors, and individuals to discern, that is, to seek to understand the will of God for them, to which we must respond with generosity.

On August 29 you will turn 74. An entire life dedicated in service to the Church, in particular to the Holy See. What advice would you give to those Catholics who are discouraged or disappointed by the scandals caused by the pastors or sons of the Church?

The believer is a pilgrim, a person on a journey in the world, in life, and can walk with trust, tranquility, joy, and courage if that believer knows the Lord is at her side, if that believer seeks to direct his life according to the calling that is at the origin of his very life, the calling to service, to solidarity with others, to an encounter with others, in particular with Jesus Christ who is for us guide and model for all other encounters.

Along this line, one of the Fathers of the Church said something very beautiful: “Abraham was ever more confident because he did not know where he was going.” It’s a bit paradoxical, but he was sure because he trusted in and felt the presence of the Lord accompanying him. That was the foundation of his confidence. Not knowing that there was a goal that had been established for him personally to achieve could not have given him any confidence. Confidence, the peace of mind that we have in our life is dependent on the knowledge that we are on a journey with the Lord by our side. And this is true at all stages of life.

This is the only piece of advice I can offer, and seems foundational for not fearing that which surrounds us in the situations in which we find ourselves: If we know that the Lord is with us, we can place our trust in Him, and there is no discouragement to be had; we must only have hope.

[img attachment=”118596″ align=”aligncenter” size=”full” alt=”Pope Francis (L) and father Federico Lombardi greet journalists of the papal flight upon arrival in Rio de Janeiro on July 22, 2013. Pope Francis landed in Brazil on Monday for his first overseas trip as pontiff to attend the international festival World Youth Day in Brazil, the world’s biggest Catholic country. AFP PHOTO/LUCA ZENNARO/POOL / AFP PHOTO / POOL / LUCA ZENNARO” caption=”Pope Francis (L) and father Federico Lombardi greet journalists of the papal flight upon arrival in Rio de Janeiro on July 22, 2013. Pope Francis landed in Brazil on Monday for his first overseas trip as pontiff to attend the international festival World Youth Day in Brazil, the world’s biggest Catholic country. AFP PHOTO/LUCA ZENNARO/POOL / AFP PHOTO / POOL / LUCA ZENNARO” /]

Help! My hipster niece is wearing Grandma’s rosary

Katrina,

I’ve got a teenaged niece who wears her grandmother’s rosary like a necklace. I’m pretty sure when Nana Bea died she didn’t mean for her hipster granddaughter to wear that rosary “ironically.” I told my niece that the rosary is meant to be prayed not worn, but she continues to wear it like a pretty piece of jewelry. I told my sister, her mom, that I thought she should take it away until she’s older and more mature about handling an heirloom like that. It drives me crazy to see people wearing rosaries like jewelry and it’s especially irritating that my niece is doing it. How can I convince her that she shouldn’t be wearing Nana Bea’s rosary?

Sheila

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Dear Sheila,  

I tell you what, wearing a rosary like a piece of jewelry used to be a huge pet peeve of mine. Like you, I viewed it as disrespectful. Then one day while talking with a friend of mine I was reminded that not only is the rosary a powerful tool for prayer, it’s also a powerful tool for evangelization and, most importantly, conversion.

This friend, a Catholic deacon, worked in the ER and saw folks from all walks of life. He noticed quite a few people would come in wearing religious jewelry and rosaries. Eventually he started to ask his patients wearing rosaries if they were Catholic and he noticed most of those who did wear them were not. David Beckham’s Dolce & Gabbana rosary and Nicole Richie’s rosary tattoo defined the rosary as a fashion accessory in popular culture instead of the powerful spiritual weapon that it is. Now he could have let this blatant religious appropriation bother him, like it would have bothered me, but he decided to turn those moments in the ER into moments of evangelization. He bought a bunch of rosary holy cards and kept them in his pocket to hand out. If a patient had a rosary on but wasn’t Catholic he’d ask them if they would like to know how the rosary is really used. If they said yes, he’d give them the holy card. St. Dominic would have been so proud.

Another friend of mine openly prays the rosary every morning on his metro commute. He said he’s often asked about the rosary by fellow commuters and has started carrying extra ones with him to give out. You know what prompted him to start this habit? Seeing another commuter wearing a rosary as a necklace. He thought he’d take his out and pray it so the other passenger could see the rosary’s proper function.

The rosary was also important in my own conversion. Back in the day, when I was a holy tongues of fire Pentecostal, a little old Dominican nun gave me a rosary and a pamphlet on how to pray it. I started to pray the rosary every day with Mother Angelica on EWTN and a year later I was on my way to converting to Catholicism.

My point is, instead of trying to convince your niece to give up her Nana Bea’s rosary, offer to teach her how to pray it. If she declines, then pray your own rosary for her conversion. Also consider that your niece is wearing the rosary to feel close to her Nana. Talk to her about that. Maybe she just misses her grandmother. If that’s the case then offering to teach her the rosary can be a way for her to feel connected to her grandmother.

There’s a lesson in here for everyone. Don’t assume a person wearing a rosary as a necklace is doing so out of disrespect or even ignorance. In fact, a lot of very devout and practicing Catholics of Hispanic heritage wear the rosary in the same way that most of us wear medals and the crucifix around our necks.

If you see someone wearing a rosary around their neck let that be an opportunity for evangelization. If that’s outside your comfort zone then pray for the wearer’s conversion. Never underestimate the power of the rosary and the intercession of Our Blessed Mother.

[Editor’s Note: Take the Poll – Is it alright to wear a Rosary around your neck?]

The Assumption: Celebrating the Blessed Mother’s ultimate journey

The gospel today begins with a journey.

“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste…”

This time of year, I think, a lot of us can appreciate the idea of taking a trip. Millions of us are headed to the beach or the mountains, National Parks or Disney World. But what Mary does here is hardly a vacation. She has just been told that she is to be the Mother of God. And rather than keeping this news to herself, or wondering how she will cope, she sets out on a journey, to visit her cousin, Elizabeth — and we have this momentous scene that follows, The Visitation.

Not only does Mary take this journey to a town of Judah but, with this event, the great journey of her LIFE begins – an adventure that will not end until her final journey, to heaven, on the feast we celebrate today, the Assumption.

We tend to think of the Blessed Mother as a quiet, serene figure – a woman of few words, but blessed with tremendous faith, and boundless trust. This is true.

But this morning, I’d like to ask you to think of her a little differently.

Think of her also as a woman of action.

She is a woman on a continual journey — constantly, by necessity, on the move. She is restless, rarely sitting still or staying in one place.

After this journey to see Elizabeth, we next find Mary embarking on an arduous trip, while pregnant, to Bethlehem.

After giving birth, she and her small family are on the move again, fleeing to Egypt, to escape death.

We meet her again, traveling to Jerusalem, where her son goes missing – and we follow her as she goes in search of him. Finding him, she continues her travels, bringing him home to Nazareth.

Mary, as the first disciple, in many ways prefigures all the disciples who will follow – those who traveled, mostly on foot, throughout the world to spread the gospel and proclaim the good news. Like those apostles, Mary was a missionary – the first missionary, a woman who traveled and carried Christ to the world.

In today’s gospel, we see her, literally, bringing Jesus to another, as she carries him in her womb and goes to her cousin and speaks the words any missionary might pronounce – words which are the very essence of The Good News, and the beginning of all belief:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”

What follows, the Magnificat, is Mary’s great gift to scripture, one of its most beautiful prayers. It is prayed every evening in the Liturgy of the Hours by millions around the world. With that, Mary’s great acclamation becomes the Church’s.

We can only imagine what other travels she took in the course of her life … but we can’t forget one in particular, the most difficult of all, as she followed her son on HIS journey to Calvary.

But today, on this feast, we celebrate her ultimate journey – her assumption into heaven, body and soul. The woman who spent so much of her life in motion — setting out, traveling, searching and fleeing – finally is given a place of rest, a place “prepared by God,” as Revelation puts it. This day, we honor that, and honor how God has “looked with favor on his lowly servant.”

This feast marks the end of Mary’s earthly story – and the beginning of one that continues, to this day, in heaven. She becomes, for all time, what Elizabeth says in her first word of greeting: “Blessed.”

But though she left this world, Mary is not removed from us. Her life is closely entwined with ours. All of us, like Mary, are on a journey. All of us are traveling to places we may not understand, to destinations we cannot see. This is life. But we ask Mary to help guide us on our way.

The road is long. The journey isn’t easy. We pray to have the trust in God that we need to travel whatever road we must take – just as Mary did.

And we pray, too, that one day our journeying will lead us to meet her face to face – in that place prepared for her, that destination that became her home, and where she waits for us, with a mother’s love and a mother’s hope.

This homily was first published at beliefnet.com and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.