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Author: Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland. He's a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He's active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.
Fundamentalist Catholics and Ecclesial Catholics

Fundamentalist Catholics and Ecclesial Catholics

The division among certain Catholics that began with the election of Pope Francis and became pronounced upon the public release of the four cardinals’ dubia continues to widen.

Catholics, many of whom were close allies during the pontificates of St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, find themselves looking across an unbridgeable and widening canyon between two dramatically different ways of how to understand the Church.

What appeared at first to be a debate over questions of moral theology related to some passages of the eighth chapter of the exhortation has become a division over the issues of the role of the papacy, doctrinal authority, and the nature of the Magisterium in the Church.

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Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.

Critics of Pope Francis, What’s your End-Game?

Critics of Pope Francis, What’s your End-Game?

In the debate over the doctrinal soundness of Amoris Laetitia — and of the orthodoxy of Pope Francis’s teaching in general — is one area where papal critics cannot provide a single clear or compelling answer: how this ends.

While they can be quite clear in explaining where they think they are right and Pope Francis is wrong, there is a lack of clarity about when or how they think Francis’s “errors” will be corrected, or by whom. Some of the possible solutions that have been presented by papal critics lack any canonical weight or any precedent in the history of the Church.

Indeed, Catholic law and doctrine fail to foresee the possibility of a heretic pope (and many theologians say it’s impossible), and there are no provisions for licit dissent or conditions upon which the primacy of the pope is not to be respected on matters of faith and morals. The closest thing I could find to an instruction for those who ultimately cannot assent to a particular teaching of the Magisterium is in the CDF document Donum Veritatis, On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, which states,

“Faced with a proposition to which he feels he cannot give his intellectual assent, the theologian nevertheless has the duty to remain open to a deeper examination of the question.

For a loyal spirit, animated by love for the Church, such a situation can certainly prove a difficult trial. It can be a call to suffer for the truth, in silence and prayer, but with the certainty, that if the truth really is at stake, it will ultimately prevail.” (DV 31)

The public outcry over Pope Francis hardly looks like suffering in silence and prayer. The public nature of the dissent on display is calling for action on the part of the bishops against the pope, open defiance of papal teaching in the form of public letters or petitions, and books and essays written to persuade the faithful of their position that the pope is heterodox and aiming to undermine the unchanging teachings of the Church.

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Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.

Who should “Joe Catholic” listen to?

Who should “Joe Catholic” listen to?

It’s fairly evident that the debate over Amoris Laetitia has mostly stayed within the domain of a very small subset of Catholics: those who follow Vatican affairs closely, those who consume EWTN and other Catholic media, and those who enjoy reading papal encyclicals and theological writing.

The typical practicing Catholic, thankfully, is quite unaware of the civil war that’s raging in academia, within the walls of the Vatican, and (perhaps most intensely) on social media. In many ways, these Catholics are the lifeblood of the Church: they are prayerful, receptive, generous, humble, and joyful. Their experience of the faith is personal and communal, and they trust the Holy Spirit and the hierarchy to work out the finer points of Church doctrine and discipline.

These are the Catholics who Pope Francis is clearly most concerned with, especially the poor and those on the margins, the hungry and hurting, the questioning but open, the good-hearted and sincere disciples who paradoxically extend to the margins of our society but are closest to the heart of Christ.

The Church is made up of many different types, however. Diversity is a good thing, and it’s how the Church has always been. For every hundred Catholics who follow the “little way” of St. Therese, there might be one who dives deeply and seriously into the vast theological and intellectual tradition of the Church, studying the intricacies of moral theology or scripture or canon law.

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Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.

Urban Legends and Conspiracy Theories: A Hallmark of Papal Critics

Urban Legends and Conspiracy Theories: A Hallmark of Papal Critics

Yet another conference headlined by American Cardinal Raymond Burke and Kazakhstan Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider was held in Rome on April 7. With the succinct title, Catholic Church: Where are you heading? Only a blind man can deny that there is great confusion in the Church, the presenters spoke on topics related to the limits of papal authority and potential courses of action that Catholics might use to try to repair the damage supposedly inflicted on the Church by Pope Francis.

It was covered by a number of news outlets, and the conclusion of the article by John Allen and Claire Giangravé in Crux caught my attention in particular. Referring to the address given by Bishop Schneider, it said,

“Schneider then invoked a supposed oath that many traditionalist Catholics believe newly elected popes took for centuries, up to Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1963. In the form in which it’s usually cited, its first article is: ‘I vow to change nothing of the received Tradition, and nothing thereof I have found before me guarded by my God-pleasing predecessors, to encroach upon, to alter, or to permit any innovation therein.’

Many Church historians, however, regard the oath as myth, saying there’s no evidence it was ever administered or incorporated into papal coronation ceremonies.

Nevertheless, Schneider said, ‘I think it’s urgent to revive this formula of papal swearing-in in our days,’ triggering another round of strong applause and cries of Bravo! Bravo!

The reference can be found in context in the fourth paragraph of his full address here. You can also read the entire text of the alleged vow, which he prefaces by saying, “The following oath that Popes for more than a millennium have made at the beginning of their apostolic ministry is impressive and extremely timely.” The LifeSiteNews article adds the following, which doesn’t appear in the official text: “It is urgent that this papal oath be reinstituted in our times, Schneider added.”

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Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.

Raymond Arroyo: Derision over Truth

Raymond Arroyo: Derision over Truth

Image (from left): Fr. Gerald Murray, Robert Royal, Raymond Arroyo

Why are we listening to young people, who really haven’t experienced a lot of life, or God, frankly?

— Raymond Arroyo

Note: This is the second post in a series on longtime EWTN host Raymond Arroyo. Last week’s first part, “Policy over Fidelity,” explored how Arroyo uses his program, The World Over Live, to promote a political agenda that is often at odds with Church teaching. Part Two, “Posse of Deceit,” explores how he has used the program to undermine Pope Francis and his work to sow doubt and dissent among the faithful.

The second part of this series will take a somewhat different approach than part one. In the first article, I highlighted several of the more unsavory, politically-minded guests he invited to his program. Part two will focus on one recent (and representative) segment from The World Over Live, in which he misinterprets the intentions and mission of this papacy and how he and the “Papal Posse” had no qualms about portraying a pre-synodal gathering of young people at the Vatican in a negative light. This type of thing is a frequent occurrence on the show, and this example demonstrates the degree to which falsehoods and unfair representations permeate the discussion on his program.  

Since early in the papacy, Arroyo and his Papal Posse (author Robert Royal and Archdiocese of New York priest Fr. Gerald Murray) have been providing coverage and “analysis” of the words and actions of Pope Francis — coverage that is often incomplete, and analysis that is almost always critical and condescending toward the Holy Father. Frequently, guests on the program are known for their extreme opposition to the mission and vision of Pope Francis, whether they’ve written books critical of his papacy (Phil Lawler, Ross Douthat), or they’ve signed document or petitions suggesting that the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia contains doctrinal errors or heresy (Joseph Shaw, Cardinal Raymond Burke).

Many Catholics have taken note, and it appears that Arroyo has been feeling a little heat lately. On the April 12 episode of The World Over Live, he let loose on his critics and defended his coverage of the papacy, stating,

“I get this every week. Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m not the pope. All we do is cover this. I do think people sometimes — look, we all love the Holy Father, I think, the viewers of this program do. It is up to us to respect him enough to take the words and evaluate them in a context of the times and of the moment, and if we look the other way for portions and pretend we’re not seeing it, we’re letting that audience down and we’re not being, to my mind, good Catholics.”

–Raymond Arroyo
April 12, 2018 broadcast of
The World Over Live

Earlier that day, Twitter user Patrick Neve (@catholicpat) posted an 8-second clip from the March 29 episode showing Arroyo questioning why the opinions of young people matter. It was asked at the beginning of a discussion with his “papal posse” about the final document of the pre-synod meeting of youth in Rome. Since the tweet was posted, a number of social media users, as well as blog posts and articles have popped up to chastise Arroyo and to defend the valuable voices of the youth in the Church.

Here’s the clip:

Lest anyone suggest that the quote is taken out of context, here is the entire episode from March 29 (video cued to the beginning of coverage of the pre-synodal meeting). It is clear that the posse’s discussion of the document was agenda-driven from beginning to end.

First, let’s look at Arroyo’s initial question, “Why are we listening to young people, who really haven’t experienced a lot of life, or God, frankly?” The implications here are nothing short of dismissive, not only to to the concerns of Catholic young people in general, but the the 305 young adults who gathered in Rome from March 19 to 25 to discuss issues relevant to vocations and the faith of young people. His tone arguably projects an air of condescension that infects the entire segment of the program.

Regarding the youth he was questioning: this was not a random sample of teenagers picked up off the street. First of all, the entire delegation was made up of young adults (18 years or older). Participants were selected by their national bishops’ conferences and represented a wide variety of life experiences and cultural backgrounds. They came from all continents: Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia, and Europe.

Participants came from all different states of life. Among them were singles, those discerning a vocation, married people, seminarians, and those in religious life. For example, the three United States delegates were a young married mother and author, a Lasallian brother who teaches high school religion classes, and a single man who works in campus ministry. Each of the three was selected for experience working with young people, and for dedication to the faith. Yet listening to the continuing discussion on The World Over. you would think this was a group of unwitting subversives, selected to undermine the faith.

Where Peter Is has already commented on the final document of the pre-synod meeting twice (here and here). As you can probably guess, we were big fans of the document, and were particularly impressed at the young people’s work, and are looking forward to the outcome of the synod with great anticipation.

The Papal Posse thinks otherwise.

Robert Royal (by far the most charitable of the trio but no better informed than the others) said this group of young people “know almost nothing about the Church, about why the Church thinks the way that it does, so they put out things that I think the bishops probably already knew. But it’s part of what I think Pope Francis thinks will be a way of evangelizing…Obviously the concrete suggestions that they make are suggestions that a 20-something person asks without understanding the nature of what they are talking [about].

Cutting Royal off before he could finish his sentence, Arroyo turned to Fr. Murray and asked, “The question I have is most of these young people are catechized not by the Church but by the world. So what fruit can this ‘dialogue,’ this interaction, bring forth?”

Fr. Murray, the curmudgeon of the group who never passes up an opportunity to voice his disagreement with anything even vaguely related to Pope Francis, responded,

“The dialogue is important if it’s a dialogue in which information’s being communicated to people who lack it. So I’m always suspicious when there’s a document with people who don’t really know Catholic teaching, then tell us that we need to reexamine these teachings in order to be more relevant in the modern age. I think the mission of the Church is to communicate the Word of God and it’s obvious that this hasn’t been very well communicated the last 20-30 years, to the coming generation. So I sit down to look at this document and it’s very concerning because it’s basically rehashing secular criticisms of Catholic morality and then bringing up the subject of why don’t we have women priests, why isn’t there equality in the Church? This is not what we need to be discussing right now. This is basically just continuing what I would say is a revolutionary process that has fomentented when we take these questions and treat them as open questions. These are not open questions.”

First of all, if Gerald Murray had actually read the document before making that statement, I’ll eat my hat. Secondly, he’s also accepted Arroyo’s slanderous classification of the young adults as ignorant dissenters.  

Arroyo then drew their attention to a quote from the meeting’s final document:

“The Church oftentimes appears as too severe and is often associated with excessive moralism. Sometimes, in the Church, it is hard to overcome the logic of ‘it has always been done this way.’ We need a Church that is welcoming and merciful.”

Note that the document does not say that the Church is excessively moralistic. Nor does it say that the teachings of the Church are untrue. It simply states something that anyone who has ever spoken to a lapsed Catholic or secular liberal know to be true: there are people who do think the Church is too strict. There are people who are not convinced by certain arguments made to defend Church teachings. The point is that we need to make a better effort to reach these people.

That’s not how the posse saw it. Arroyo immediately saw invisible hands at work in the drafting of the document, saying,

“There was a line here we mentioned some time ago, ‘Sometimes, in the Church, it is hard to overcome the logic of ‘it has always been done this way.’ That line that appears in this pre-synodal document supposedly from these young people, allegedly, that was a line Pope Francis used in his opening address to them. That we have to get away from this notion that it has always been done this way. Are we … looking at a little bit of ventriloquism here, with the old Vatican hands using these kids as convenient mouthpieces?”

Murray was quick to agree,

That’s always the suspicion, Raymond, because young people may not organize their thoughts in the precise language that we just heard. Talk about the Church as severe and moralistic. I mean, that’s a complaint I hear constantly, usually from people who don’t accept Catholic morality. My question is when you say things have always been done this way, and that’s not a justification, in the history of the church, since we are passing on a message from 2000 years ago: doctrine, practices, ways of living, they’re inherited, they’re cherished and appreciated. In fact, people who are cultural Catholics, they look back on their family formations as the transmitters of faith, festivals, feats, and beliefs. If something that has been done in the Church for a long time, the presumption is it’s a good thing that we need to preserve. So the logic of it’s been done in the past, it’s got to be rejected, unless you can explain it to me instantaneously. That’s an invitation for chaos.”

Clearly, no one on the program watched or read the explanation given at the press conference for the release of the final document, where participant Laphidil Twumasi (a young woman of Ghanaian origin, representing the Migrantes group in Vicenza and Youth Ministry of the Diocese of Vicenza) described the process of drafting the final document:

“I was part of the document editing group, and it was a unique and unforgettable experience. We felt very involved, and worked on the material we collected from the twenty different language groups that were created. There were nine groups for English, four for Spanish, four for Italian and three for French. In addition to these groups, there were six other groups from the social world to hear the voices of young people not physically present at the pre-Synodal Meeting. Indeed, on social media, the same questions were asked on our three themes:

  • challenges and opportunities of young people in today’s world
  • faith and vocation, discernment and accompaniment
  • the educational and pastoral action of the Church.

The initial challenge was to take 26 different texts, translate them all into English, look for the points they had in common, make a kind of summary, and then re-translate everything into different languages. We editorial group members were divided into three groups, so that each group could elaborate on one of the three themes. There were four speakers and three translators for each group. We worked for three days, or rather nights, on the document, each time offering the general meeting the opportunity to share their opinions and comments on its drafting and content. For the most part, we carried out a work of synthesis and tried to put our ideas in writing with a direct, precise and clear language, making sure that every young person felt represented in the document, without excluding anyone.”

This certainly doesn’t sound like Sr. Joan Chittiser and Fr. James Martin were in the back stitching together meeting notes from old “We are Church” newsletters to make up the document.

Mr. Arroyo, if this is what you’re giving every week, you shouldn’t be surprised about what you are getting every week. You owe an apology to every single young delegate who participated in the meeting, and you and the posse should retract your false characterizations of the youth that were made on the program. Then, perhaps you should invite some of the people who participated in and helped organize the meeting to provide accurate coverage of what really happened.

If he leaves this condescension and slander uncorrected, I once again call on the Catholic bishops to speak out in defense of the young people at the synod, and I call on the Catholic press to pay closer attention to the damage that he’s inflicting on the body of Christ through his program.

Stay tuned for part 3…

Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.

GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE: Reaction Roundup

GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE: Reaction Roundup

 

Introducing: Gaudete et Exsultate from Catholic Church (England/Wales) on Vimeo.

Today, at noon Rome time, Pope Francis released Gaudete et Exulsate, a new exhortation on the universal call to holiness. In it, he reminds us that holiness is not just for priests or nuns or those who have led a virtually sinless life. Living a life of holiness is a call we should all respond to, regardless of our past and our state in life.

You can read the exhortation here.

We at Where Peter Is are in the process of reading and discussing this exhortation, and we will be providing our own reflections in the near future. In the meantime, here are some interesting commentaries that might fuel your own reading of the document.

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Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.

Happy Easter from WPI!

Happy Easter from WPI!

“We Christians believe and know that Christ’s resurrection is the true hope of the world, the hope that does not disappoint. It is the power of the grain of wheat, the power of that love which humbles itself and gives itself to the very end, and thus truly renews the world.”

— Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi message, Easter 2018

On behalf of the contributors to Where Peter Is, I hope you all had a blessed Easter Sunday, and wish you joy and happiness in this Easter season!

This past weekend was, of course, quite busy for Pope Francis. After presiding over the Chrism Mass and the Triduum liturgy from Thursday to Saturday evening, he celebrated Mass on Easter Sunday and gave his “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and to the world”) message from the Loggia at St Peter’s Square. In it, he renewed his call for peace in the world, drawing specific attention to areas suffering from conflict and war, including Syria, Yemen, and the Korean peninsula.

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Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.

Closeness is the Key to Truth

Closeness is the Key to Truth

Since the first Holy Thursday of his papacy, when he moved the Mass of the Lord’s Supper to a youth prison on the outskirts of Rome, Pope Francis has used this day to paint a portrait of his vision for the Church: a Church that goes out to the margins and encounters, evangelizes, and serves others. Much has been made over the controversy from Francis’ decision to wash the feet of women and non-Catholics (and even non-Christians) during the evening Mass. Some critics even claimed that Francis was in violation of Church law, with some bishops refusing to follow the example of the pope and prohibiting the washing of women’s feet in their dioceses.

Obviously the dominant and most compelling aspect of Holy Thursday has been the visually compelling image of Francis both washing and kissing the feet of men and women from a marginalized group, whether it’s prisoners or inmates at a juvenile detention center, the disabled and elderly, or migrants and refugees. But let us not forget that every Holy Thursday, Francis has given two homilies: one at the Mass of the Lord’s supper, and another earlier in the day at the Chrism Mass for the Diocese of Rome.

Every year, during Holy Week (traditionally on Holy Thursday, if possible) the bishop of every diocese in the world gathers with all the priests of his diocese for a mass at which the sacred oils for the coming year are blessed. As the diocesan Bishop of Rome, Francis is no different. And at every Chrism Mass since his election, he has preached on his vision of the Catholic priesthood.

This morning, Pope Francis again returned to this topic. In his homily, he spoke about one of the most controversial and divisive themes of his papacy: the role of the pastor as one who accompanies his people with mercy and understanding, who does not wield the law as a weapon or instrument of division.

“[Jesus] could have been a scribe or a doctor of the law, but he wanted to be an ‘evangelizer,’ a street preacher, the ‘bearer of joyful news’ for his people, the preacher whose feet are beautiful, as Isaiah says. The Preacher is always close.

This is God’s great choice: the Lord chose to be close to his people. Thirty years of hidden life! Only then did he begin his preaching. Here we see the pedagogy of the Incarnation, a pedagogy of inculturation, not only in foreign cultures but also in our own parishes, in the new culture of young people…”

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Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.

Who am I? Who am I, before my Lord?

Who am I? Who am I, before my Lord?

As we progress through this Holy Week, turning our minds toward the great Paschal Mystery and the Passion of our Lord, I would like to share and reflect upon one of the moments that struck me deeply during the early part of Francis’s papacy. It was April 13, 2014, on Palm Sunday, when a subdued Francis decided (after the Passion narrative had been read) to abandon his prepared homily, and instead spoke from his heart.

This week begins with the festive procession with olive branches: the entire populace welcomes Jesus. The children and young people sing, praising Jesus.

But this week continues in the mystery of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. We have just listened to the Passion of our Lord. We might well ask ourselves just one question:

Who am I?

Who am I, before my Lord?

Who am I, before Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowd?

Am I ready to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I stand back?

Who am I, before the suffering Jesus?

An important part of Ignatian Spirituality is to imagine oneself as an eyewitness to the events described in the Gospel. By asking these questions, Francis pulls our minds into the event of the Passion, but also asks us to reflect on our own strengths, weaknesses, sins, and betrayals. It is important that we regularly examine our consciences, and in doing so we identify who and what we are as we stand exposed before our Lord.

We have just heard many, many names. The group of leaders, some priests, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, who had decided to kill Jesus. They were waiting for the chance to arrest him. Am I like one of them?

We have also heard another name: Judas. Thirty pieces of silver. Am I like Judas?

We have heard other names too: the disciples who understand nothing, who fell asleep while the Lord was suffering. Has my life fallen asleep?

Or am I like the disciples, who did not realize what it was to betray Jesus?

Or like that other disciple, who wanted to settle everything with a sword?

Am I like them?

Am I like Judas, who feigns love and then kisses the Master in order to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor?

Am I like those people in power who hastily summon a tribunal and seek false witnesses: am I like them? And when I do these things, if I do them, do I think that in this way I am saving the people?

Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation is difficult, do I wash my hands and dodge my responsibility, allowing people to be condemned – or condemning them myself?

Where have we come up short in our relationship with Christ? Have we neglected or ignored the face of Christ in another? Or worse, have we let a brother or sister down, and not kept a promise? Do we ignore the feelings and needs of others when we make a decision? Or do we try to hastily “fix” a problem without realizing that we are making a situation worse? Have I hidden my true self? Have I betrayed someone?

Am I like that crowd which was not sure whether they were at a religious meeting, a trial or a circus, and then chose Barabbas? For them it was all the same: it was more entertaining to humiliate Jesus.

Am I like the soldiers who strike the Lord, spit on him, insult him, who find entertainment in humiliating him?

Am I like the Cyrenean, who was returning from work, weary, yet was good enough to help the Lord carry his cross?

Am I like those who walked by the cross and mocked Jesus: “He was so courageous! Let him come down from the cross and then we will believe in him!”. Mocking Jesus….

Am I like those fearless women, and like the mother of Jesus, who were there, and who suffered in silence?

When the weak are mocked, do I also mock? When cruel jokes are told at another’s expense, do I say nothing? Do we twist the words and advice of those who love us or want to help us, and accuse them instead? Still —

Have we persevered in a difficult, unappreciated task? Have we stood in solidarity with the suffering? Have we done good works or protected the rights of others, even when our efforts will be unnoticed? Have we trusted God during these times?

Am I like Joseph, the hidden disciple, who lovingly carries the body of Jesus to give it burial?

Am I like the two Marys, who remained at the Tomb, weeping and praying?

Am I like those leaders who went the next day to Pilate and said, “Look, this man said that he was going to rise again. We cannot let another fraud take place!”, and who block life, who block the tomb, in order to maintain doctrine, lest life come forth?

Where is my heart?

Which of these persons am I like?

May this question remain with us throughout the entire week.

Do I pitch in and help others with their problems, even when it is late, even when it is difficult? Do I truly mourn for those who have suffered and died, weeping but trusting the Lord? Or–

Do I close my heart to the truth, and refuse to allow the Lord to convert me, change me, and save me?

Or do I open my heart to Christ, and allow his love to work in me and through me?

Amen.

Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.