Many of the problems facing contemporary families, especially in economically developed societies, result from their increasing difficulty in communicating. Families seldom manage to come together, and the rare occasions when they do are often taken up with watching television. To return to the recitation of the family Rosary means filling daily life with very different images, images of the mystery of salvation: the image of the Redeemer, the image of his most Blessed Mother. The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on. — St. John Paul II

Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

I just wanted to reiterate the point I made when I resumed posting, that my work load this Fall is making blog writing quite difficult. Though there is some flex in my time to write these days, competing demands are leaving my creative capacity near-empty. Sicut Deus vult illud esse. I will post as frequently as I am able.

If nothing else, I will most certainly post on October 14.

Thank you for making this blog part of your reading.

“Madonna of the Rosary,”, Lorenzo Lotto (1539),


Today is St. Jerome’s feast. He’s the patron of Scripture scholars. Brilliant linguist, interpreter of Holy Writ and a cantankerous man whose sainthood should give clear evidence that holiness can be compatible with an acerbic temperament. The same Jerome who famously said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ,” also remarked about one of his critics, “…so you say that Dormitianus has again opened his stinking mouth and emitted some foul putrescence against relics of the martyrs?”

There’s humorous story told of Pope Sixtus V that, while looking at a picture of St. Jerome beating his chest with a stone, said, as if addressing the saint in person, “you do well to hold that stone, for without it the Church would never have canonized you.”

Also, here’s my favorite 7 minute recap of Pope Francis’ astonishing pastoral visit to the U.S. Though we live in a secularized culture largely innoculated against intrusions of the transcendent, the papacy retains its power to lead us beyond the threshold of hope to where the FarNear awaits us. Watch here:

I will be resuming posting tomorrow, but at least for a while it may be somewhat sporadic as work has not really let up. But I feel compelled to resume (hopefully because of 2 Cor. 5:14). Deo gratias.

I am grateful to return, and grateful to those who return with me.

[I am also aware there’s something odd about announcing a return to posting with a post]

Catch my breath


I have to grudgingly concede I can’t maintain my blog these days. The irreducible multiplicity of work and home commitments have erased the time available for pleasure writing (which is what I consider my blog). My plan is to start up again consistently posting on October 1.

Thank you for making this blog a part of your life. It’s life-giving for me in ways I could never adequately describe.

Let me leave you with some art to chew on until then: drawing, singing, poetry, a hymn and a photo.

First, I’ll share with you two artistic pieces: one by my daughter, Maria, and the other by local Gospel and blues singer, Cornelius “CC” Celestine, who sings in my wife’s parish choir.

Maria’s piece is a 27 second sped-up video she made that chronicles her drawing to the beat of a cool tune:

CC’s piece is an audio recording of his gorgeous a cappella rendition of Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, an African slave song that gives voice to the devastating experience of families being torn apart by the violence of slave trade. See the lyrics below the audio clip. He sang it one Sunday at Mass after Communion. I’d never heard it before, but it was for me like a meditation on the painful cry of prayer found in Psalm 88:14-15:

As for me, Lord, I call to you for help;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Lord, why do you reject me?
Why do you hide your face?


Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
A long way from home
A long way from home

Sometimes I feel like I’m almost done
Sometimes I feel like I’m almost done
Sometimes I feel like I’m almost done
A long way from home
A long way from home

True believers a long way from home

A long way from home
A long way from home

To honor Our Lady for her September 8 feast, I wrote a poem back in 2010. I titled it by the Aramaic word for mother: Imma. To love this Lady is to discover her Son in a way you simply could not apart from her.

O Imma

I rejoice this festival of your birth
O Ark fashioned in secret earth,
conceived all-awash in mercy tide
gushing from His open side:
God’s hoping future crashing in
to stay the hand of Adam’s sin.
For of your womb, O Chalice pure,
is born for earth a heavenly Cure
who enfolds all in deathless-Life
harrowing hell and quenching strife.
Pray for us now, and as death preys,
to the timeless One, that Ancient of days
whom you knew as so young, so near,
kissing His face, sweeping His tear.
O look up now to Him who stoops low
that He might grace us with weal, not woe;
with treasures of grace and garments of light
putting our deadly, darkened Foe to flight.
O Bearer of the Infinitely Above,
O Whisperer to the God of love;
O Mother who alone dares to say:
“O God, this is how you are to pray.”
To you we raise a hymn of joy,
O Woman made without alloy,
celebrating your Nativity feast
gives great glory to God the Least. Amen.

+ + + +

This is a sung rendition (and lyrics) of an exquisite Byzantine hymn called, O Virgin Pure. It honors the mysteries surrounding Mary’s divine maternity:

O virgin pure, immaculate: O lady Theotokos
O rejoice, bride unwedded
O fleece bedewed with every grace, O virgin, queen and mother
O rejoice, bride unwedded
More radiant than the rays of sun and higher than the heavens
O rejoice, bride unwedded
O joy of virgin choruses superior to angels
O rejoice, bride unwedded
More bright than the firmament and purer than the sun’s light
O rejoice, bride unwedded
More holy than the multitude of all the heav’nly armies
O rejoice, bride unwedded

O ever-virgin Mary, of all the world, the Lady
O rejoice, bride unwedded
O bride all-pure, immaculate: O lady Panagia
O rejoice, bride unwedded
O Mary bride and queen of all, the cause of our rejoicing
O rejoice, bride unwedded
O humble maiden, gracious queen, supremely holy Mother
O rejoice, bride unwedded
More honored than the Cherubim, beyond compare more glorious
O rejoice, bride unwedded
Beyond bodiless Seraphim, transcending the angelic thrones
O rejoice, bride unwedded

Rejoice, the song of Cherubim; Rejoice, the hymn of angels
O rejoice, bride unwedded
Rejoice, the ode of Seraphim; the joy of the archangels
O rejoice, bride unwedded
Rejoice, O peace and happiness and haven of salvation
O rejoice, bride unwedded
O sacred chamber of the Word; the bud of incorruption
O rejoice, bride unwedded
Rejoice delightful Paradise of blessed life eternal
O rejoice, bride unwedded
Rejoice, O sacred tree of life and font of immortality
O rejoice, bride unwedded

I supplicate you, Lady now, I fervently entreat you
O rejoice, bride unwedded
O queen of all I earnestly implore and seek your favor
O rejoice, bride unwedded
O gracious maiden spotless one, O lady Panagia
O rejoice, bride unwedded
I call upon you ardently: O holy, hallowed temple
O rejoice, bride unwedded
Assist me and deliver me protect me from the enemy
O rejoice, bride unwedded
And make me an inheritor of blessed life eternal
O rejoice, bride unwedded

+ + + +

A Sunset

Photo of sunset by the levee taken by Maria

Please pray for me and my family.

I wrote a chapter in a book


I was very grateful and humbled when Liguori Publications asked me last Fall to contribute an introductory “theology of the family” chapter in a book on family life. The book to be published soon is wonderfully entitled, The Family, the Church and the Real World, and includes well-known contributing authors like Dr. Sean Reynolds, Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak, Lisa Hendey, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Don Paglia, Christopher West, Fr. Andrew Wisdom, and Greg and Jennifer Willits. I can’t wait to get a copy myself to feast on its riches!

When they first asked me, I confessed to them that I’m not a theological specialist in that area. But when they told me they were not looking for a specialized theological treatise, but rather an accessible Catholic theological meditation on the nature of family written in a familiar style by someone who is theologically literate, I felt more at home. Though I am a theologian, I’m not a scholar’s scholar. Rather, I consider myself more a public intellectual whose primary vocation and mission is to reveal intelligently and faithfully the Word made fresh. That’s my guiding ideal, at least.

To help me keep the tone of my chapter a bit more intimate, I decided to write it as a personal letter addressed to dear friends of mine who were married this last June (whom I mentioned in an earlier post): Mr. & Mrs. Jordan and Shannon Haddad. Just thinking of them makes my heart leap for joy — watch here and see why:

My chapter offers a brief look of the Church’s theological vision for family life.  It draws from Scripture and Tradition, and was influenced by my own experience of being married to Patti Ann Neal, and of being the father of Michael Anthony (19), Nicholas Patrick (17), Maria Thérèse (15) and Catherine Elizabeth (13), as well as of our six miscarried babies. As I wrote, in my mind’s eye also were countless witnesses to marriage and family life from my own family, my wife’s family, and among our friends and many acquaintances over the years, as well the bishops, priests, deacons and religious we have been privileged to know. These have convicted, rebuked, exhorted and encouraged us to live out a faithful marriage and family life, and to not despair in the face of weakness and failure. In that last category, I’d like single out the Brotherhood of Hope, whose love and devotion to marriage and family life has had an unparalleled influence in our lives. These extraordinary Brothers embody the complementarity of vocations in an exemplary way.

Okay! As I don’t want this to be longer than the chapter itself, let me end by sharing with you here a few of the energetic opening lines and then some of the more sober closing lines from this chapter:

Dear Jordan and Shannon,

What a privilege it will be for the Neal family to be part of your upcoming wedding day! I thought, as a gift to honor your marriage, I would offer you some of my own theological and personal reflections on the Church’s magnificent teaching on marriage and family life.

I remember vividly our wedding day back in 1995, on October 14th. It was also the feast of Pope St. Callistus I, who was martyred in 222 A.D. during a time of fierce hostility toward Christians in the Roman Empire. To be openly Christian in those days was a risky choice to make! But imagine – without those many men and women who did take the risk and choose to publicly proclaim the Gospel, where would we be? We need more daring witnesses! In fact, I’d say the Church is always in need of new martyrs, and your choice to give yourselves to each other in holy wedlock – freely, exclusively, totally, faithfully, irrevocably and fruitfully – is itself an heroic act in this day and age! Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, will consecrate your free act of self-gift by joining it to His own martyrdom as a Sacrament, i.e. a living and effective sign to the world of His saving death and glorious resurrection! The two of you, with hands joined, will become fountains of Christ lavishing graces, everything you will need to remain faithful to your exalted vocation.

Educating your children is a tall order! But the beauty is that we never have to do it alone. We are part of a Church that is a Family of families, a living Body of Christ in which all are concerned for the well-being of all. At least that’s our mission. Rely on the support of others, and pass on to those less fortunate than you the good things you have received. We are made in weakness that we might supply for one another. Be sure to consult often with your wiser elders, and teach your children to do the same. Remember your Baptismal anniversaries and use plenty of holy water to keep grace fresh. Frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation – together, and one day as a family – and stay close to the Holy Eucharist, which is the source and summit of your lives. See yourselves as architects of wonder who encourage the love of learning, and strive to build a home transparent, like a sacrament, to the presence of God. Read the Scriptures daily, pray together as often as possible and often intercede before God for your children, offering up for them many secret sacrifices. Give alms to the poor and teach your children to do the same. Keep close to the Mother of God and your patron saints, and talk often about saints on earth and in heaven. Practice hospitality, cultivate domestic stability, nurture a strong work ethic by giving out chores, practice frugality and generosity as stewards of God’s manifold gifts. Practice discipline of the tongue, bless your adversaries, speak well of others and criticize only when required by justice or charity…

Promo: Feminine Geniuses in NOLA

The Church sees in the face of women the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-offering totality of love; the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement. — St. John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater

The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling — Closing Message of the Second Vatican Council 1965

I’d like to promo an event here in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. It’s a series sponsored by Notre Dame Seminary, University Ministry at Loyola University, the Women’s Resource Center at Loyola University and the Loyola Institute for Ministry that will be held in Metairie at the Retreat Center of the Archdiocese of New Orleans on September 17, 24, October 1, 8, 2015, from 7:00-8:30 pm.

Five extraordinary women will be offering a series of reflections on the God-given dignity and unique vocation of women, as drawn from the wisdom of St. John Paul II’s 1988 papal apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women).  Each part of the series includes reflection on the theology and spirituality of this document, as well as opportunity for prayer and discussion.

I cannot recommend this event highly enough. Full details can be found here:

I know each of these women, and can attest each brings a unique gift, depth, beauty and experience of the gift of femininity lived out in faith. Here they are:

Jill Cabes

Sarah Denny

Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, Ph.D


Susie Veters

Jennifer E. Miller, S.T.D.


Word Made Face

Repost 2012

Breaking News: the father’s role in a child’s life is crucial.

When I was made aware last year of a study that found the average American parent spends fewer than 3 minutes a day in non-directive communication (directive meaning “do this, don’t do this”) with their child, I thought of the dangers built into a culture that discourages frequent real-time, in the flesh communication within a family. TV face, screen face often replaces face to face. Having face time with the ones you love is an irreplaceable dimension of being human, of fostering communion — and it is an irreplaceable means of forming, “getting into” the mind and heart of your child.

God’s pedagogy in the Bible followed this pattern, as God’s incessant pleading with man for face-time in prayer found its completion in the Incarnation. In Jesus we see God’s human face, we see God pursuing a face-to-face encounter with us. That blows my mind. And remember that Jesus spent three long, intimate and uninterrupted years building a face-to-face friendship with his disciples (cf. John 15:15).

Stealing Back Time

A family asceticism must include a regular, rhythmic setting aside of computer and media technologies — activities that steal away family face time — in favor of engaging in close-range activities of all sorts. In our family, every Sunday is a “screen free” Sunday, meaning we put away every electronic device and rediscover the world as it was millennia before computers, iPhones, social media or internet existed. We do make exceptions for football or edifying movies. Our children think “edifying” is code word for torture, but we are working hard to change that.

On the nights I’m able, when our children go to bed I lie down on the floor between their beds and talk about the day. I ask lots of questions and offer subtle commentaries that hopefully help them think through life in the light of faith and good common sense. Even though these conversations often end with my falling asleep, or speaking some gibberish as I nod off, I’ve found these nighttime exchanges have been the most important (and special) moments of parenting. Helping form their minds and hearts seems somehow much easier at night. It’s hard sometimes to choose to disconnect from everything else  to be with them. My grandfather taught me how to do that when he would say, “Tommy, come waste time with your Pop talking about things that don’t really matter.” But they did matter because as we talked I felt that I mattered.

Here’s a study to that effect…

Adolescent kids retreat to their rooms when you try to ask them how they are and hide out with their friends so often that they spend less and less time with family, right? Read more…

Undefeated 4th

Happy Fourth of July! Let me share today St. John Paul II’s prayer for the U.S. back in 1995. Please join me:

Mary Immaculate, conceived without sin: Patroness of the United States! From the first moment of your existence you were called by God to be the Mother of His Incarnate Son. Model of our faith, you watched over the Incarnate Son of God as He grew in wisdom, age and grace. Look upon the people of this great nation, so richly blessed by God with material and spiritual resources. May they draw fresh inspiration from the highest ideals of their democratic tradition and contribute to the building of a world of solidarity, justice and peace, a world in which everyone is welcomed as a fellow-guest at the great banquet of life.

Mary our Queen, you stood beside your Son at the foot of the Cross and rejoiced in His Resurrection from the dead. Model of our hope, you awaited the fulfillment of Christ’s promises at Pentecost and now share the fullness of life in His eternal Kingdom. Look upon all who are united to your Son in Baptism and are called to share in His royal mission. May they be a leaven of the Kingdom of God in American society, humbly serving the needs of their brothers and sisters and bearing faithful witness to the splendor of Christ’s truth and to the saving power of His Gospel.

Mary, Mother of the Church: Mother of Christians! The Lord has entrusted all His disciples to you, to be our Mother (cf. John 19:27). Model of Christian love, you contemplate your Son in glory and intercede for the members of His Body on earth. Look upon the Church in the United States at the approach of the Third Christian Millennium. Through penance, prayer and active charity, may Christ’s followers meet the challenges of the new evangelization and work for the authentic renewal of human society in accordance with the truth of God’s Word. As they work together with all men and women of good will, may they be joyful heralds and servants of the Gospel of Life!

Today, I’d also like to encourage you to watch the documentary, Undefeated. It’s about a losing football team turned around by the uncommon leadership of coach Bill Courtney. My wife and I watched it last week, and both said in unison at the end of the credits, “Wow.” It’s truly a testament to the power of sports to forge — or better, reveal — moral character and to allow great leaders to influence (in the case of this movie) young men’s lives for the better. The core message of “team first” is a magnificent witness to the heart of Christ’s teaching on love as the guardian of the common good.

The song that played at the end, Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So (hear here), beautifully captured the essential theme of the movie: the redeemed reveal that goodness is the soul of greatness, and that the soul of goodness is love.

I will definitely be encouraging the seminarians I serve at Notre Dame Seminary to learn from coach Courtney’s exemplary style of fatherly leadership, moral character and selfless love.

Here’s info on the documentary: