Friday, April 29, 2022

Daily Gospel Reflection for April 29, 2022

 Today's Gospel: John 6:1-15

Today’s Gospel of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes teaches us about the Eucharist. John creates the setting by stating that the Feast of Passover is near—a clue that this meal foreshadows the Last Supper. Pragmatic Philip thinks in human terms: how many days’ wages would give the crowd just a morsel of food. Jesus thinks supernaturally: He will give the crowd eternal food that will always satisfy and never run out.

As He will later do at the Last Supper, Jesus gives thanks and performs the miracle. Yet, Our Lord doesn’t choose to do this all on His own; He engages the apostles, receiving the initial offering from them and then asking them to collect whatever remains. Similarly, during the Offertory at Mass, the priest gives thanks and offers to God simple bread and wine. Jesus the High Priest consecrates them into His Body and Blood, but it is through the hands and voice of the priest. After everyone has consumed the heavenly Food, the priest then collects the remaining Hosts, placing them in the tabernacle.

This Gospel is a story of scarcity. Philip says of the few loaves and fishes, “What good are these for so many?” Perhaps that is the way we see things too. What good is this fifteen spare minutes I have? What good are these couple of bucks? What good is this menial task of folding laundry?

It is also a Gospel of abundance. God transforms the scarcity into an overflowing, above-and-beyond abundance—twelve baskets worth! Just like the Eucharist is always more than enough to satisfy our souls.

Jesus wants nothing wasted, even what we think might be pointless scarcity. Do I waste my time? My money? My leftover food? My gifts and talents? My work, which can be sanctified?




Jesus is the One who performs miracles, but He wants us to be involved, too. What seemingly trivial scarcity can you give to Jesus today, for Him to make abundant?



Thank you, Jesus, for providing us with the abundant food that is the Eucharist. May my soul always hunger for You.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Lessons from For Whom the Bell Tolls

 You are instruments to do your duty. There are necessary orders that are no fault of yours and there is a bridge and that bridge can be the point on which the future of the human race can turn.

If you only had three days to live, how would you live them?

For any soldier on the battlefront, the possibility of death, at any moment’s notice, is a constant reality.  As you try to kill your enemy, your enemy tries to kill you: death is the objective of both parties.  Maybe war is about winning, though when so many lives are lost, is there ever a true victor?    

Poet John Donne wrote, “ … any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”  Any time someone dies, that loss of human life has ripple effects.  The human family, of which we all belong as brothers and sisters, mourns the death of any individual.  Does this include enemies too?  Well, yes: enemies who perhaps perished without any opportunity to atone for their misdeeds, who entered the world as innocent children and somewhere along the way, lost their way—perhaps through no fault of their own, but by the people who raised them or teachers who taught them.  

Donne’s poem is the inspiration for the title of Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls

Published in 1940, For Whom the Bell Tolls takes place in May 1937 in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.  The protagonist is an American named Robert Jordan, a professor of the Spanish language who moved to Spain and joined the Republican cause.  The action of the novel takes place over the course of three days.  Jordan has a mission: he must destroy a bridge.  To do so, he must enlist the help of a band of guerrillas located in the mountains behind Franco’s line.  

It is a fascinating and painful look at the life of a soldier at war.  There is the logistical aspect to the plot: Robert Jordan is ordered to blow up a bridge, a key tactic in the greater strategy of a battle about to unfold.  He must blow up the bridge at the appointed time.  In any wartime situation, soldiers will encounter friction: the unplanned element of surprise, of unforeseen events that get in the way of carefully laid plans.  Something inevitably goes wrong.  How do you respond?  How can you get the plan back on track?  In this novel, something as seemingly harmless as snowfall leads to deadly consequences.  

Republican soldiers in 1936

There are elements outside one’s control—such as weather—but Jordan must also deal with his compatriots, whom he must enlist for help.  The band of guerrillas poses its own difficulty.  Jordan needs their support, but can he trust them—especially the leader, Pablo, who is embittered after fighting many previous battles and who opposes blowing up the bridge?  On the other hand, there are members of the band who are supportive and encouraging to Jordan, with whom he even develops a strong bond.  This itself becomes an obstacle.  It’s much easier to send someone to their likely death when the person is anonymous to you; it’s harder when he or she is a friend.

Jordan is originally drawn to fighting for the Republic because he believes in the ideology and platform.  Yet, as time has passed, his zeal for the cause has waned.  Who is the enemy?  In a civil war, this becomes hard to discern.  Soldiers on either side share the same language, culture, and history.  They raise their weapons against each other, but it’s not as simplistic as it might seem.  In a poignant scene, Hemingway shows a group of Fascists speaking together one evening, speculating on the possibility of an upcoming battle and remarking on the weather.  It is the same conversation the Republicans are having that evening.  Jordan reflects that many of the Fascists aren’t even true Fascists: they were enlisted to fight, but many would rather just be back home with their families, spending life in the ordinary, human way.  And yet these men across the line must die because they are the enemy.

When death is all around you, how does one cope?  Some soldiers turn their sorrow and despair into hatred in order to keep being a soldier.  Jordan remarks that, in order to persevere in his work, he must forget about the people he has killed; he can’t linger on those thoughts.  Anselmo, one of the guerrillas, yearns to atone for the deaths he has caused:  

“The killing is necessary, I know, but still the doing of it is very bad for a man and I think that, after all this is over and we have won the war, there must be a penance of some kind for the cleansing of us all.”

While the Republic has abolished religion in name and practice, it cannot wipe it from the souls of the Spanish people. Many of the Republican soldiers still turn to God in the critical moment of death.  One guerilla fighter begins chanting Republican slogans to buoy his spirits as an airplane approaches, about to bomb the place where he lays, trapped and defenseless.  Yet these empty slogans quickly change to prayers.  

This, of course, raises the question of religion in warfare.  War—the effort to kill an enemy—is an intrinsically immoral act.  War, quite simply, is never a good thing, though it may be necessary at times.  The taking of another person’s life is always wrong, though circumstances may justify the act.  How can a soldier kill in a moral way?  Is it in one’s mindset?  Though how hard must it be to remember that the man actively trying to kill you is also a beloved son of God!

“I believe in the people and their right to govern themselves as they wish. But you mustn’t believe in killing, he told himself. You must do it as a necessity but you must not believe in it. If you believe in it the whole thing is wrong.”

Robert Jordan has no religious frame of mind and is certain of there being no hereafter, calling the idea “damn foolish business.”  His life is all that he has and, if his life is possibly limited to only these three days before the blowing up of the bridge, then he has to make everything of those seventy-two hours.  For Jordan, having three days to live means making himself emotionally vulnerable by falling in love with Maria and bonding himself to her physically—though, of course, not sacramentally.  But if this world is all that you have to live for, why not?

“The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”

“But you weren’t supposed to live forever. Maybe I have had all my life in three days, he thought.”

Three days.  What if you had three days to live?  How would you live them?  Many might create a “bucket list” and cross off as many fulfilled dreams as possible.  But perhaps three days to live really means three days to get ready to die: three days to put your soul into order, to atone and repent, to pray and prepare yourself, not just for a dismal end to everything, but for the beginning of a perfect eternity.  

Friday, April 8, 2022

Holy Week in Our Domestic Church

Holy Week is rich in opportunities to immerse our children in the Catholic faith. The Triduum represents the three most holy days of the entire year! So, what are some ways we can honor this time in our domestic churches? Here are a few of my family’s favorite traditions to celebrate Holy Week.


palm crosses


Palm Sunday

Before Palm Sunday Mass, we prepare our children for the liturgy by explaining that the Passion narrative we will hear is a preview of what’s to come this Holy Week. We try to match our clothes to the liturgical color of red and display the palms prominently in our home.


child playing "I Spy"


“Spy” Wednesday

“Spy” Wednesday gets its name from the day’s Gospel, which states that Judas “looked for an opportunity to hand him [Jesus] over” (Matthew 26:16). In other words, Judas was spying on Jesus. We like to play “I Spy.” We also play “What’s Missing?”: one player inspects the room and then leaves. The other people take an object away and hide it. When the player returns, he or she must spy to see what the others have removed!


family baking bread


Holy Thursday

Every Holy Thursday morning we bake unleavened bread together. Visit Catholic Icing for a simple (and delicious!) recipe. As the bread bakes, the children and I gather in the living room for a little prayer service. I read from the Gospel of John about Jesus’s washing the disciples’ feet. After, I play a hymn (such as “What Wondrous Love is This”) and, one by one, we take turns washing each other’s feet. There are always a few giggles, but there is something very moving about this ritual. As a mother, I am humbled by the small fingers that wash my own foot and I am touched watching my children wash each other’s feet.

At lunch time, the children prepare the living room for our Last Supper play. A few years ago, I wrote a simple play based on the Gospel narratives of the Last Supper. The kids love setting the “table” (a large storage container, turned upside down with a tablecloth on top) and placing pillows around it so we can “recline at table.” They gather costumes (usually scarves wrapped like robes around them) and props (such as a stuffed animal rooster). We arrange the parts and put the food on the table (our unleavened bread, grapes, and grape juice). We act out the play, breaking the bread together.

These activities prepare everyone well for the beautiful Holy Thursday liturgy that evening. After Mass, we gather at the Altar of Repose and I whisper to the children to think about Jesus, praying in the Garden that night. What words of love can you say to console the Heart of Christ?


children coloring


Good Friday

We try to make Good Friday a somber day: no music while we are driving in the van or at home. After breakfast, the children color figures of the Passion, which we download from Catholic Icing. The children love coloring the pictures of Christ, the cross, the soldiers, St. Peter, St. Veronica, and others, which we glue to paper towel rolls. The set even includes a tomb made out of an empty tissue box. There is also a Resurrected Christ and angels, which we promptly hide.

We pray the Stations of the Cross together (our favorite version is this one from Holy Heroes). Then, at noon, one of the children tapes the paper body of Christ on the paper cross. We sing a verse of “Were You There?” At 3:00 PM, the hour that Jesus died, another child removes the paper body of Christ and places it in the tissue box tomb, taping the paper rock over the cover. We sing another verse of the hymn as this happens.


little girl coloring easter eggs


Holy Saturday

This is a day of waiting and expectation—and preparation! The children color their eggs in the morning and I explain the symbolism of the Easter egg: just as a chick emerges from the darkness of the egg into new life, so Christ comes out of the tomb, risen to life again! We make Resurrection rolls (find the recipe at Catholic Icing). The children love the symbolism of the ingredients: a white marshmallow for the sinless Christ; butter and cinnamon as the oil and spices used to anoint Christ’s dead body; the crescent roll dough wrapped around the marshmallow like Christ’s burial cloths; the oven an image of the tomb. Then, when the rolls are ready and cooled a bit, the children bite into them to reveal that the marshmallow has “disappeared!” Christ is risen!


jar of jelly beans


Easter Sunday

Before the children awake, I remove the paper rock from our tissue box tomb to show that our “tomb” is empty. I also bring out the Resurrected Christ and angels that the children had colored on Good Friday. Our family uses sacrifice beans every Lent, putting a bean in the jar for every sacrifice offered; these are replaced with jelly beans on Easter morning—a beautiful way of showing how God takes our little sacrifices and transforms them into abounding graces! After Mass and Easter brunch with family, we march outside and dig up the Alleluia signs we buried in the ground, so long ago on Fat Tuesday! Now we can sing, with all the angels and saints, our hearts and souls full of joy, for Christ is raised! Alleluia, alleluia!

What are some ways you celebrate Holy Week in your domestic church?