Day 1 & 2 | Embarking with OPEN Baggage, Part 2

Day 1 & 2, PART 2 – The Anti-Fiat (Closed Baggage)

Suddenly, in the midst of my grogginess, I awoke to Mary, Caryn, and Ed’s concerns about our bus’s misfortune. Apparently, a police officer had just pulled us over to inform us that luggage had been flying out of the bus all over the interstate because our side hatchway had opened up unexpectedly. Sadly, “that other guy” (Leo!) hadn’t closed it hard enough and after a few hours of jangling back and forth, the door finally jangled loose and opened up long enough for our cooler full of food, Caryn’s backpack, and poor Jacob Cantrell’s luggage to be violently cast into the darkness.

Driving back the 15 miles wasn’t easy, but with an express Novena in the Memorare and a Glory Be for a successful search (prayed beforehand!), we received the gift of recovering some of the food and Caryn’s bag, though still without recovering Jacob’s luggage.

It was a bittersweet moment, though at the time we didn’t know who’s luggage we had lost, for the only recovered item from that bag was the broken handle that would have wheeled Jacob’s Pokemon t-shirts safely into his hotel room. Oh that boy is a gift, and what an incredible gift he became for us when despite his loss and our worries, he maintained a joyful and open spirit to whatever the Lord had in store for him! Mary and Caryn quickly came to his aid and raced to the nearest store to buy him some new shirts and other clothing items (that’s it’s own hilarious story!) From there, they hiked uphill both ways in the snow to get back before everyone went to sleep after the pizza dinner. And yet, Jacob was patient and unconcerned the whole time! Truly, the gift of detachment I think is what Jacob gave us by the end of Day 2, for that is the only preliminary grace we could require in our own utter abandonment to divine providence.

If we truly wished to live the Will of God, and thus enter into Heaven, then a spirit of total openness and positive detachment was necessary—or our joy could never fully come to us!

So often, we get lost in the complexities of grasping, as if we could ever resolve the deep ache for Infinite Love. Rather, we condition ourselves to hiding, suppressing, or deceiving, which only perpetuates the complexities, thus leading to an infinite ache of constant emptiness. Instead of being filled with the Ultimate Fullness in our docile attitude and eager heart, we let our perceptions and speculation dictate our emotional lives. If we can learn how to channel these passionate desires for beauty, then surely our lives will become more stable and more peaceful.

Arriving in D.C. after a wonderful and much needed breakfast at Cracker Barrel (where Bradley refused to do his 50 pushups as agreed!)—was extraordinarily somber. Fellowship immediately gave way to Solidarity with the Jewish people as we encountered the National Holocaust Museum for the first time in recent memory. Mike Swearingen’s contingency of pilgrims from DeSales (my alma mater) was among the throngs of pilgrims ahead of us streaming into the museum, through the security, up the elevator, and at last within the bowels of historical and yet prophetic symbolism to what has now become the greatest Holocaust in human history: Abortion.

Suddenly, I was emotionally back in college 2011 during my own first experience of the March for Life Pilgrimage as I simultaneously prepared for my first trip overseas and by airplane to the great city of Madrid later that August for World Youth Day. Suddenly, I was staring wide-eyed at the powerful imagery of the empty shoes, and my heart sunk to the very doorway of my inaccessible Eden by which beauty had not yet been fully redeemed, and yet there was a glimpse nonetheless!

Margaret Sanger, through her horrific agenda and eugenic infamy akin to the evils of Adolf Hitler himself, actually provided us with the fuel for creating perhaps the most sustainable and profound culture of life that could have ever existed. While walking through the turtle-paced halls of the Holocaust Museum, we learned a powerful truth. The Nazis burned thousands of books in book burning “ceremonies” during the early years of Hitler’s regime. Among those books were the writings of Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Margaret Sanger herself—and we wondered to ourselves how such destructive voices in the 20th century like Marx, Freud, and Sanger could have been lumped into the poetry, artwork, and intellectual achievements of so many others. How could such an evil as Hitler’s intolerance have possibly not recognized the “comradery” in those other voices of division and relativism? Ah, and that’s where we found the key that would unlock this mystery of America’s deepest issues.

In the very literature of the museum exhibit on the Nazi’s book burning ceremonies was the enshrined reality of our own propaganda’s hold on cultural evils. The following quote comes directly from the plaque at the Holocaust Museum: “Writings by the American women’s rights activist Margaret Sanger were destroyed, as were those by Helen Keller.”

How could such a woman who made it her life’s goal to throw off the “chains” of what many see as the reproductive burden of femininity ever be deemed a champion of women’s rights? How could abortion ever be considered a right for anyone in this world? And yet, through such subtle verbal engineering, the shrine set in our nation’s capital to ensure we never repeat such atrocities has actually enshrined within it the very assumption that would perpetuate something far worse?

Funny that she was placed next to Helen Keller, a woman who due to a childhood sickness lost both her sight and her hearing yet overcame them to become an equally influential feminist in the 20th century. Unfortunately, it is this loss of vision and obstinate refusal to hear or embrace truth that brings about a rejection of Eternal Life itself! God sends none of us to Hell, nor does He make us deaf or blind to the grace it would take to embrace Heaven. Rather, through our free will, we choose for ourselves our eternal destination. We either cut ourselves off from divine providence by attempting to control our destiny, or we open ourselves up to divine providence by embracing God’s control over His destiny for us. Every single one of us has that choice, and perhaps the greatest grace by which we can recognize this reality comes from the silence of those empty shoes and the great potential that so many rejected in the name of “progress.”

Indeed, the Holocaust was a cleansing, but not in the way the Nazi’s envisioned. God instead, through the slow passage of time, awoke within us a great ache for human dignity and a restoration of the human person. St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body was a direct response to this evil rejection of love, and the glory of God that is resulting from this beautiful Gospel lens is manifesting itself in the Pro-Life Generation of today’s American young person. Each of these students, teenagers and young adults alike, are encountering first-hand the effects of birth control’s intolerance and realizing its direct connection to manipulation, fear, and societal devastation. Margaret Sanger was not a woman’s rights activist. She embodied the anti-Fiat in it’s most extreme form, and brought with it human devastation beyond anything this world has ever seen.

Praise God for His providence and sovereignty over human suffering, for this is beyond any one person or group’s ability to untwist or abolish. In fact, for decades, the pro-life movement has come to understand this truth in profound ways—for despite our human efforts, as we have tirelessly worked to compel the world to overturn Roe v. Wade, change our laws, and reform our hearts about contraception and abortion—it has felt unheard and/or purposefully sabotaged by the mainstream media and special interest groups. Yet, we know, based on Salvation History and the depth of our heart’s desires, that we will discover and recover God’s original purpose—but without going back in time. We aren’t asking God for a cure, we are asking diligently for a healing, so that we can thoroughly understand why we have fallen to this terrible lie and given into fear instead of seeing the truth and trusting God’s deliverance!

Mother Mary, come to our Aid! Crush the sabotage of the world’s diabolic mockery and give us your Son’s Divine Life in the Eucharist! And suddenly, we recognize what you did for us that evening. After we left the Holocaust Museum around 1:30pm (waiting on Assumption HS and Ed Harpring to get back to the bus), we made the drive to the most highly anticipated Vigil Mass for Life we’ve ever encountered. In the wake of the sexual abuse scandal, in the midst of this abortion-wounded culture, the Circle of Life with the whole Archdiocese of Louisville experienced the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with 10,000 other pilgrims at the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

 

In Christ, for Love & Life!

The Fellowship of the Fiat, ArchLouWYD2019

Day 3, PART 3 – The Promised Land

Day 3 | WE MARCH WITH BABY STEPS

PART 3 – The Promised Land

God brought on all the cheers and prayers and celebratory mantras we’ve now ingrained in our beings for the past 46 years, with all the colors of vibrancy flooding the “Gate of Death” that has become the US Supreme Court’s doorstep. Indeed, while many marches, demonstrations, protests, and rallies have donned our nation’s capital for over 200 years—still nothing can compare to the yearly consistency of God’s Chosen People appealing to His Providence in the wake of these devastating realities.

Ed Harpring and I reflected a lot on the way to the March, sharing personal stories from family heartache and disfunction, as well as talking deeply about the importance of building up our own Archdiocese through the youth and their families. Ideas of school and parish hats, and one unifying hoody for all Archdiocesan youth events which finds its fulfillment at the March for Life each year were among those ideas. Caryn Crush, Bryan Cain, and I certainly have our work cut out for us concerning the graphic designs for these inspirations which God may charge us with in the coming months!

Ed also granted me a beautiful interview which will come into focus with a solid promotional video for the March for Life and World Youth Day in the coming years! His heart is on fire with divine love, and his consistent dedication is beyond me. Yet, in his humility—he even recognized his own inadequacies concerning the concision and bold articulation of our next and most unexpected, unplanned contributor to Archdiocesan collaboration. Indeed, Divine Providence granted us an interview with Fr. Frank Pavone, President & Founder of Priests for Life—on the steps of the Supreme Court.

His words from that short four-minute encounter are included in their entirety here:

What is the difference between Abortion & the Eucharist?

“The Eucharist is the sacrament of life. Abortion is all about death. The Eucharist is the sacrament of love, where our Lord teaches us its meaning through four simple words, which ironically are used by the supporters of abortion to justify what they do – ‘This is My Body’.

               This is my body, some say I can do what I want, even if it means killing the child.

This is My Body, Jesus says – I give it away so that you may live.

Four little words, spoken from two opposite ends of the universe with completely different results. When we go to the Eucharist, we are going to not only the sacrament of life, we are going to the victory of life because it gives us the power to love and to welcome life so that others may flourish.

The Eucharist, as John Paul II said, in the final encyclical of his papacy, which was about the Eucharist, said that it points us to the future when all Creation will be transformed into Christ as now we see the bread and wine actually becoming Christ. He said interestingly that this makes us all the more engaged in our political responsibilities building that culture of life. Abortion splits and divides and destroys. The Eucharist instead unites and brings together. Abortion dismembers, and in the Eucharist we say “Do this in REMEMBRANCE of me.” It brings the Body together, Abortion takes the body apart. There are so many connections.

               What we can see … is that as the number of perpetual adoration chapels across America has grown, the number of Abortion Clinics has declined. And a few years ago, the number of adoration chapels surpassed the number of abortion facilities, and I think that was a spiritual turning point—the meaning of which will become clear in the years to come. But as God’s people worship Him in the Eucharist, they are rejecting more and more this false idea of Abortion.”

               What is the Fiat, & how can Mother Mary help us unite Catholics & Christians & people all over the world?

               “Be it done unto me according to YOUR WORD” Mary said when she was told that despite her not planning it, she would be pregnant. What she said is that God’s choice comes before ours. Notice what she says, “Let it be done TO me”. She is receiving that Word, that decision, that choice of God and letting Him make the plan. Abortion is just the opposite. Abortion says “MY Choice”. Fiat says “Lord, YOUR Choice.”

               Abortion says, “My choice, my will. Let it be done according to MY Word!” and it’s exactly the opposite. Abortion is the great NO to God. No to His Plan, no to His Providence. When did He decide that you and I or any unborn baby would exist? He decided it for as long as He’s been God! He decided it from all eternity. Abortion is a slap in His Face. It’s a denial of His Will.

               Christ on the other hand, is as St. Paul tells us, ‘the great Amen’, the great YES to all the promises of God, and that’s why WE, the people gathered here for this March, that’s why WE are the great YES to God and to Life!”

               When we say Yes, what does that do to us?

               “When we say yes, it unites us with God’s Will, it makes us holy, and as we know by His grace, it makes us even into His own sons and daughters which is amazing! Because we have human life (that’s what we’re celebrating today), but we have even more than human life! We have divine life, and that’s like…unbelievable, but it’s true!”

 

               It was breath-taking and wondrous. Nothing anyone said before or after compared to the threshold interview of Fr. Frank Pavone. It was like witnessing the eschatological tension between the past and the future, the anti-Fiat and the Fiat, Satan and St. Michael become incarnate in the words of this holy Catholic priest. THIS was the mountain top experience of a lifetime, and in the same moment, contained within all his grandiose notoriety and star-struck aura, he was still humble, simple, and childlike! Fr. Frank took pictures with us, laughed with us, graced us with an interview, and then encouraged Kaylin and Brady in their snowball making skills! Yes, all throughout the March, those young and energetic hearts spent most of their time making snowballs and mini-snowmen to leave everywhere for people to find!

We experienced a few of those snowballs up close and personal too—though I will take credit for one of the best “gotcha!” moments when on the way to the March, Bradley kept pelting us with snowballs so when he turned around to pick up some more snow, I ran the short distance across the parking lot at the rest stop and shoved him full on into that snow, to the roaring cheers of our bus compatriots!

Of course, I never made a snowball so Brady and Kaylin, Gabe and Destiny still got me there! Oh the little things that bring joy to our hearts right?! This again is all part of the mountaintop of JOY that God has destined us to receive in its entirety in the life to come, but only through the Great Delay of this present life, in all its littleness.

St. Therese of Lisieux, show us your little way of childhood trust!

For my own sake, I was gifted with Jacob Cantrell’s presence and help during this half of the journey. Crystal, my fiancé, had entrusted me with her Little Foot dinosaur from her infancy since Christmas, and I was given the grace to bring him with me to get blessed and as a beautiful representation of my own vocational love in my heart. Carrying Little Foot though was not something I could do on my own of course, for everyone ended up helping me keep him close. Jacob held onto him in a death grip of love that only Jacob could possess. Yet, Jacob’s character stands out from that simple gesture of support and good will. His ability to let go of his possessions when they were cast into the darkness forever was admirable, but his love for Jesus was contagious.

I got to interview him in the Subway restaurant before we started our march, and then—after Fr. Frank Pavone dazzled us with his words, GOD dazzled us all with Jacob’s unexpected gift. You see, Jacob is a character who assumes the identity of many fantastic characters, from Batman to Luke Skywalker to an NCIS Agent—you never know what he’s going to do next. We shouldn’t have been surprised when he showed up with his Pokemon shirt and hat and pokeballs, AND POKEDEX. So why were surprised when Pikachu made his appearance in the throngs of pilgrims for Jacob to CATCH ON CAMERA?!

It reminded us instantly of the homily from Poland’s World Youth Day as one of the priests referenced the newly released “Pokemon GO!” App that came out in the summer of 2016—that just like the mad craze for Pokemon “Gotta catch ‘em all!”—so too do we as Catholic Christians need to shed light on the Gospel in order to catch men and women in the truth of divine love. Jacob Cantrell certainly shows us how that divine love is often manifested in this world, in the unexpected and innocent moments of childhood desire. There is a difference indeed between childishness and being child-like—though I was still learning that truth as I saw the blinding light of joy stretch from ear to ear on Jacob’s face as he held up his Pokeball to catch Pikachu at last on the steps of the Supreme Court!

It made my photos with Little Foot in that same spot where “Little Foot goes to Washington” take hold of my heart in a deeper and more profound way. The childhood ecstasy of nuptial union with God is the most important trait we can possess in our humanity. Without that positive spirit of joyful openness to hope—not the unfounded optimism of being ignorantly euphoric, but rather true hope in embracing the certainly that things will make sense no matter what happens—then surely we could not possibly come to possess eternal life!

The long hours sitting in Union Station after that moment certainly began to show us the reality of hope—for we immediately knew we were on the descending journey from the mountaintop. After getting back to the hotel, getting everyone back onto a bus for the food court and Lincoln Memorial (for those who didn’t want to just sleep the rest of the night)—I began to realize how profound the peaks and valleys of daily living were meant to be encountered.

The gift of the Eucharist comes first (as it was experienced with the Mass with the Archbishop), and only then do we descend into the spiral of intimacy (like the March for Life) so as to enter the Promised Land of Heaven (the mountaintop). THAT is how we march with baby steps, by holding onto the guardrail of God’s grace and merciful protection and taking this incredible journey of life ever more deeply to the heights of divine love one step at a time.

 

Day 3, PART 2 | The Spiral of Intimacy

Day 3, PART 2 – The Spiral of Intimacy
Fr. Joe Rankin—my pastor, mentor, boss, and friend—told me this about youth ministry and evangelization in general that I’ve never forgotten. Paraphrased of course, “Sharing the Gospel is like inviting people into a funnel. You have some people at the top, others farther down in, but you can only invite them in. You can’t pull them in.”
That funnel is a spiral of intimacy, and whether or not you know your faith catechetically or not—we are all in some way peering into the depth of that spiraling love. Some of us have never seen or encountered Jesus in the Eucharist, either in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or in the profundity of Eucharistic Adoration. Others have been around such beauty all their lives; they’re even constantly and consistently taught the logic and lordship of Jesus in the Eucharist—yet still—an authentic, humble, and messy encounter has alluded them! Still others experience moments of deep mystical union with Our Lord, but in the ebb and flow of life find themselves lulled into a subconscious complacency as the noonday devil of acedia strikes.
Oftentimes we find ourselves lost in our own traumas, our own desire for healing—that we forget the real reason for our pilgrimage on earth, at the March for Life, at World Youth Day. The real reason for our trip to the March for Life is NOT to protest Roe v. Wade in order to overturn it. Boldly, I say it again. The real reason for our trip to the March for Life is NOT to protest a political issue.
Rather, the real reason for our trip to the March for Life is to pray to Jesus Christ and encounter His peace in hopes to find inspiration, motivation, and an unshakeable joy of unity and momentum that no darkness of abortion, abuse, or abandonment can overcome.
Through the trauma of Abortion, I believe our world has found a new understanding of the healing of the Eucharist. What started as a protest has been transformed into a prayer. What started as a death march has finally started to be seen as a victory march. Tens of thousands? Try hundreds of thousands who keep coming year after year without fail to see the Promised Land. Last year, to witness President Trump on video and Vice President Pence speak live at the National March for Life (the first time a sitting President has ever addressed the March) was powerful, and from his cooperation came the keystrokes of Christ’s ultimate purpose for Roe v. Wade. The declaration of Sanctity of Human Life Day was enshrined in our American story, giving us only a matter of time before we see it enshrined in our Constitution.
His words from last year are as follows, for the momentum we started last year has only snowballed into a more powerful calling this year:
President Donald J. Trump Proclaims January 22, 2018, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day
Issued on: January 19, 2018
Today, we focus our attention on the love and protection each person, born and unborn, deserves regardless of disability, gender, appearance, or ethnicity. Much of the greatest suffering in our Nation’s history — and, indeed, our planet’s history — has been the result of disgracefully misguided attempts to dehumanize whole classes of people based on these immutable characteristics. We cannot let this shameful history repeat itself in new forms, and we must be particularly vigilant to safeguard the most vulnerable lives among us. This is why we observe National Sanctity of Human Life Day: to affirm the truth that all life is sacred, that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and that no class of people should ever be discarded as “non-human.”
Reverence for every human life, one of the values for which our Founding Fathers fought, defines the character of our Nation. Today, it moves us to promote the health of pregnant mothers and their unborn children. It animates our concern for single moms; the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled; and orphan and foster children. It compels us to address the opioid epidemic and to bring aid to those who struggle with mental illness. It gives us the courage to stand up for the weak and the powerless. And it dispels the notion that our worth depends on the extent to which we are planned for or wanted.
Science continues to support and build the case for life. Medical technologies allow us to see images of the unborn children moving their newly formed fingers and toes, yawning, and even smiling. Those images present us with irrefutable evidence that babies are growing within their mothers’ wombs — precious, unique lives, each deserving a future filled with promise and hope. We can also now operate on babies in utero to stave off life-threatening diseases. These important medical advances give us an even greater appreciation for the humanity of the unborn.
Today, citizens throughout our great country are working for the cause of life and fighting for the unborn, driven by love and supported by both science and philosophy. These compassionate Americans are volunteers who assist women through difficult pregnancies, facilitate adoptions, and offer hope to those considering or recovering from abortions. They are medical providers who, often at the risk of their livelihood, conscientiously refuse to participate in abortions. And they are legislators who support health and safety standards, informed consent, parental notification, and bans on late-term abortions, when babies can feel pain. These undeterred warriors, many of whom travel to Washington, D.C., every year for the March for Life, are changing hearts and saving lives through their passionate defense of and loving care for all human lives. Thankfully, the number of abortions, which has been in steady decline since 1980, is now at a historic low. Though the fight to protect life is not yet over, we commit to advocating each day for all who cannot speak for themselves.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 22, 2018, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call on all Americans to reflect on the value of our lives; to respond to others in keeping with their inherent dignity; to act compassionately to those with disabilities, infirmities, or frailties; to look beyond external factors that might separate us; and to embrace the common humanity that unites us. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this nineteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.
DONALD J. TRUMP

The fact that I said “snowballed” was not even intentional, and yet—how many years has it snowed and utterly overwhelmed us as our storied pilgrimage on earth has peaked year after year at the March? On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it was a freezing blizzard. In 2016, they dubbed it “Snowpocalypse”, and yet—I believe in the sacrificial offering of the Mass proclaimed on that altar made of snow, Christ enacted His Supreme Power over the Supreme Court.
The throngs of pilgrims was almost inestimable. A beautiful sign reading “We March with Baby Steps” was spotted up ahead of us in the spiraling funnel of intimacy down Constitution Avenue. Oh indeed, it was quite intimate as we became more and more jam packed by the minute before things opened up for us enough to breathe again. Listening to the yearly witnesses like Abby Johnson and other former abortion clinic workers, seeing the Knights of Columbus’ powerful contribution to the movement in the form of countless ultrasounds for Pregnancy Centers, and then seeing the great Commissioning as we began our sojourn to the steps of the Supreme Court was breath-taking. No wonder we couldn’t breathe for a time.
Once it opened up though, some very important moments were given room in our hearts, and what moments they were!

In Christ, for Love & Life!

The Fellowship of the Fiat

 

 

Day 3, PART 1 – Mass with the Archbishop

Friday, January 18, 2019
Day 3 | “We March with Baby Steps”

Part 1 – Mass with the Archbishop

Too many moments placed one after another with faulty internet and inconsistent blogging habits made for a much less “in the moment” reflection, and so with the daily notes I took from our profound experiences in D.C. and Panama, I take back up the reflection from the Fellowship of the Fiat.

After an intense first full day in D.C.—complete with a closing pizza dinner at the Arlington Court Suites and an actual place to shower for once—we knew we’d have some semblance of rest in time to pick ourselves back up for another full day of intensity. Usually, the morning of the March for Life consists of attending the Verizon Center Arena with thousands of young people and hundreds of priests and seminarians for a massive mega-Mass for Life all over again at 6 or 7am, but after several years of seeing the Mass get earlier and earlier without a lot of substantive fruits, we as an Archdiocese worked tirelessly (and by we, I mean Ed Harpring!) to schedule Archbishop Kurtz and all our represented schools, churches, and youth groups for a personal Mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary at 9am before the March for Life.

Without a big plan for music or servers or lectors or anything, we knew the humility and simplicity of it all would be breath-taking. No, it was NOT a haphazardly thrown-together event with ignorance or indifference ruling over the liturgical norms; rather, a beautiful symphony of collaborative gifts were brought forth for the glory of God in that simple little Liturgy. As Archbishop Joseph E, Kurtz, DD approached the Sanctuary, I was blessed with the opening chant in honor of Our Lady who made this powerful moment possible: “Oh Holy, dwelling place of God! Oh Holy Temple of the Word. Oh Holy Mary, Holy Mother of God!”

It was glorious to watch David Vest and Bradley Holt serve in the cassocks and surplices provided by that intimate and traditional parish. Archbishop’s Homily was historic and I was seized with joy to witness a moment none of us could have planned or foreseen on our own. As our pilgrim leader courageously and humbly granted us the gift of his presence, we witnessed the meeting place of Heaven and Earth with our very own eyes in a very concrete and visible reality.

As Archbishop unpacked the Gospel for us in his homily, Immaculata Classical Academy finally arrived from the throngs of pilgrims and entered the sanctuary in droves. Walking into the left-hand side of the sanctuary, they filled the remaining void of the seating, and we realized the profundity of their placement. Directly on the opposite end of the sanctuary sat Sacred Heart Academy filling the right-hand side, with all the other schools and churches represented in the middle! Thus, in one clear and finite moment, the Immaculate Heart of Mary (symbolized in Immaculata) and the Sacred Heart of Jesus (SHA) were joined in the one-flesh union of Archdiocesan Salvation History.

If that’s confusing, don’t worry—we were astounded ourselves, for the fear of the Lord was quite apparent during that time. To be utterly struck with wonder and awe in the face of God’s perfect love for us was beyond our own understanding, and I will not speculate or try to understand it fully. We simply remained fixated on the Word Made Flesh as Archbishop brought forth the Incarnation through his active receptivity to Christ’s work within him! Holy Communion became heavenly then as Holly Ray, a senior at Sacred Heart and long-time Circle of Life vocalist brought her gifts to the altar of sacrifice, singing the Salve Regina and other sacred hymns as we were consumed with Divine Love in those moments of sacred silence.

I cannot describe to you further the importance of that moment for our Archdiocese, for the anti-Fiat with all the individualized agenda’s and personalities that have struggled to witness this vision over the decades were transformed and regenerated into the one Fiat of Our Lady without blemish. Truly, our pain and suffering, disfunction and sin that has ever felt too much to overcome or ignore for the sake of unity seemed to melt away in the face of God’s grander purposes. Who cares if we don’t get along with every single person at Mass or in church or in another school, community, or group?! Regardless of our personal wounds, we can witness a healing and deep-seated redemption provided we embrace said suffering for the sake of this United Front of Beatific Providence!

THAT perspective is what Christ granted me as I witnessed and met every person face to face as I handed them the Holy Eucharist next to Archbishop Kurtz. Indeed, it was an honor to be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion in that moment Lord Jesus, for I could not have reflected on these sacred moments more effectively without such a grace.

It was a tiny “baby step” that we can all tuck into our hearts for the coming years of continued growth and spiritual grace, but it certainly began said thousand-mile journey into the Promised Land of milk and honey! No wonder everyone wanted a picture of the whole group with the Archbishop afterward (as well as individual shots on the steps of the church!) to remember this moment forever. Then, with most everyone moving toward the big moment at Centennial Mall, I myself was graced with a concise 4-6 minute encounter with the Archbishop in a video interview that opened the door for a profound question that can only be unpacked in the next part of this segment in the grander pilgrimage saga!

What is the difference between Abortion & the Eucharist?

Day 1 & 2, PART 3 – The Fiat (Open Baggage)

For the first time that I can remember, after a whole night’s drive with barely any sleep, as if by some divine miracle fueled by my desire to catch this experience on film, I actually stayed awake during the Homily! You laugh, but it’s true! Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City, KS and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities was the Principal Celebrant and Homilist.

His words were beautiful and clear. The Mass was heavenly and strong. I felt caught up in the Communion of Saints as I read through my personal life creed before and after receiving the Holy Eucharist. The depth of articulation that the Archbishop displayed quelled the fears of distrust and betrayal that we’ve rightfully felt from the national presbyterate. A boiling rage I think has been unleashed on the universal Church, consuming even the perceived reputation of our Holy Father Pope Francis! Many people have turned against the reality of the Holy Spirit’s sovereignty over human suffering, decrying resignation and vengeance, rejection and violence on the Catholic Church’s Magisterium, instead of a humble submission to the authority of Divine Providence and the sacredness of redemptive suffering—all without justifying or enabling those who perpetrated the crimes for which they’ve been accused and convicted over the decades.

This is essential, for it is these very sins which have perpetuated the anti-Fiat’s darkness. St. Paul VI, as he published his encyclical on Humanae Vitae in 1968 knew this inevitability. I believe he sensed the darkness that had been unleashed on the world and which had even begun festering within the Church, and I believe he knew it would be a great many years before the world would or could fully embrace God’s Plan for human sexuality. St. John Paul the Great sensed this too as he tirelessly proclaimed his mission in those Wednesday audiences for the first five years of his pontificate (Theology of the Body).

The spectrum of identity has been fragmented in a prism of colors that all still has its source in the one light of the Beatific Vision, Unconditional Love Himself. Yet, as I witnessed these young people take in the beauty of this timeless Liturgy with the universal Church, as I sat in awe as hundreds of bishops, priests, and seminarians (including Michael Schultz and Cole McDowell!) flooded the sanctuary with the Crucifix held high in a Victory March, I realized just who the Blessed Mother had allowed herself to become. I realized who all those beautiful habited religious sisters were emulating in their vocational life as they too listened to the Word of God that night. I realized who every woman is reflecting in the depths of her longing for affection, attention, and approval from every man.

As I watched the Universal Church embrace the Cross of Conversion that night, I saw the Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Conception begin to make sense. Her ability to give her courageous YES to the Will of God was not coincidence or enacted solely from her own power. Her freedom in this decision came from the grace of her Son’s redemptive act on Calvary which could only result from a cosmic convergence of past and future, contained within the tension of the present moment.

ALL of us have that tension within us. Every young person sitting next to me in that Basilica has sinned and made mistakes which will haunt them and twist their desires for many years to come, for Satan’s stronghold in this world can feel impossible to break off. Yet, instead of seeing it as two hulahoops pulling us in opposite directions, paralyzing us to the point of annihilation in the fires of Mount DOOM—see this journey as a powerful and breath-taking mountaintop, where we can see where we’ve come from, but then all the more gaze into the future with hope and determination for the journey ahead—inspiring us to enter the open-ended threshold of erotic desire in the fires of Divine LOVE.

This is the reality of St. John Paul the Great and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, the reality of entering “Into the Deep”, while simultaneously ascending “To the highest heights”, without falling asleep during the Homily (the breaking open of the Word Made Flesh!).

No, we can no longer lull ourselves into a quiet passivity that leaves everything to chance and nothing to trust, but rather, we must embrace an active receptivity to the Divine Lord’s promptings, just as Mother Mary did in her Fiat, “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.” Her understanding of her role in Salvation History was first one of relationship with God the Father, as his humble servant, and only then could she embrace the action of the Holy Spirit within her womb, so that the Greatest Mission of All, the logic of all reason and understanding could actually take on flesh and dwell among us.

It made sense then that we would boisterously sing all SEVEN verses of “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” at the commissioning of the Universal Church at the end of Mass, for we knew our prayers were being answered more profoundly this year than perhaps ever before. All we had to do was say Yes, and let ourselves utilize the grace and time that He’s given us to see this piece of salvation become history. I believe it was this powerful prayer they included at the end of our Petitions that night that began that most humble of Yes’s in what perhaps has been our Church’s most humiliating year since the Reformation.

“God of endless love, ever caring, ever strong, always present, always just: You gave your only Son to save us by the blood of his cross. Gentle Jesus, shepherd of peace, join to our own suffering the pain of all who have been hurt in body, mind, and spirit by those who betrayed the trust placed in them. Hear our cries as we agonize over the harm done to our brothers and sisters. Breathe wisdom into our prayers, soothe restless hearts with hope, steady shaken spirits with faith: Show us the way to justice and wholeness, enlightened by truth and enfolded in your mercy. Holy Spirit, comforter of hearts, heal your people’s wounds and transform our brokenness. Grant us courage and wisdom, humility and grace, so that we may act with justice and find peace in you. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

Day 1 & 2 | Embarking with OPEN Baggage, Part 1


Part 1 – Beginning the Journey

Welcome to the Year of the Fiat! What better way to begin such a glorious new year in our Lord’s Kingship than with a beautiful awareness of His Blessed Mother’s perfect receptivity to Redemption? Such an openness to God’s Will of course is exactly why she becomes the perfect example for us to emulate, and I believe it’s why we have embarked on this exciting journey to World Youth Day in Panama. If you are joining us on the blog, then please feel free to share and reflect with us in prayer during our incredible journey. Otherwise, let Mary’s great Fiat for which all of Heaven so greatly yearned wash over you more deeply in these pilgrim reflections. Continue reading “Day 1 & 2 | Embarking with OPEN Baggage, Part 1”