top of page

Weeks 91-100

Week 91: The Undivided Heart: A Reflection on Matthew 19: 10-12



“If that is the case between a man and a wife, it is better not to marry.’ He said, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, only those to whom it is given to do so. Some men are incapable of sexual activity from birth; some have been deliberately made so, and some there are who have freely renounced sex for the sake of God’s reign. Let him accept this teaching who can.”(Mt 19:10-12)



Now there are some who claim that there is no reason for a celibate clergy. Priests would be better off if we let them get married. There are others who claim that Jesus never intended to have a celibate clergy and this is something the Church imposed on priests in the Middle Ages because the Church wanted to hold onto its property. This passage of Scripture blows both of those claims away.



First, let me say I don’t like this translation of Scripture. Jesus was a lot more graphic than this in the original Greek. In the original translation, Jesus says “there are some men who are eunuchs from birth; some have been made eunuchs deliberately, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God.” What is a eunuch? Eunuchs were officials of the royal court. They were high-ranking officers and had positions of extreme authority and power within the kingdoms of their lords.



One of the duties of the eunuch was to see to the needs of the royal harem. In the ancient world, in the Middle East, kings had harems, concubines. This was socially acceptable, because they always wanted to insure that a king had plenty of male heirs to assume the throne after the king died. To insure that the royal official wasn’t messing around with the king’s harem, and so also taint the royal bloodline, eunuchs were castrated.



Here in the passage of Scripture Jesus is saying that some are born eunuchs, some are made deliberately so, and there are some who make themselves eunuchs for God. Jesus is using a very perverse image to make a point that can’t be misinterpreted. He’s being so graphic that I can understand why Scripture translators get squeamish about translating this passage as is, and sort of dress it up a bit. It’s easy to mistake what Jesus is saying for self-mutilation. But Jesus isn’t talking about physically mutilating our bodies; rather Jesus is talking about having an undivided heart.



In Ezekiel, the Lord speaks of his relationship with Israel in marital imagery, that of a young man taking a bride. Israel’s sin is adultery. Through her idolatry, chasing other gods, Israel didn’t have marital fidelity to the Lord, and that is why Israel is punished. But the Lord promises to stay faithful, and to reclaim her as his bride again. This is because God has an undivided heart for us. And he wants us to have an undivided heart for him.



What is marriage? Marriage is when two people proclaim, “I only have eyes for you.

I only have a heart for you, for you and you alone, till death do us part.”



That is what the priesthood has in our commitment to celibacy. We are the eunuchs, the royal officials in the kingdom of God. We have been given vast power and authority in God’s kingdom. The authority to call down our King upon the altar and make him present to us. That’s power that even eunuchs in the ancient world didn’t have. We have been given the most sacred charge of seeing after the needs, NOT of the king’s harem, because OUR king is not a playboy, but rather, we’ve been the given the charge of seeing after the needs of the royal bride, the queen, the Church.



Being celibate is not about not having sex. Any priest who takes that approach will fall. Being celibate is about serving the Lord with an undivided heart. Pray for us, that all priests may faithfully do so.



Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents



Quote From a Saint: “To love God as He ought to be loved, we must be detached from all temporal love. We must love nothing but Him, or if we love anything else, we must love it only for His sake.” -- Saint Peter Claver



Prayer By a Saint: “Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you." -- Saint Augustine of Hippo



Questions for Reflection:



1. Describe your understanding an undivided heart.


2. Compare and contrast the undivided heart and celibacy with the First Commandment and the Greatest Commandment. 


3. Why is this undivided heart so important to priesthood?


4. How is your own heart divided?


5. Is it possible for a married person to live with an undivided heart?  If so, how can this be done?  If it cannot be done, why is that so?


6. The difference between a contract and a covenant is this: when a contract is broken by either party, neither party remains bound; where as in a covenant, if one party breaks the covenant, the other still remains bound.  This is why God remained faithful to Israel.  He had made a covenant with them.  Have you ever entered into a covenant? 


7. What would be the wisdom of entering into a covenantal relationship? The benefits?  The risks? 


8. How can you support the celibacy of our priests and why is that important?



By Susan Boudreau

Reflection 92: The Message of the Cross: A Reflection on 1 Corinthians 1: 17-20


"For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’  Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?"


(I Cor 1:17-20)


Where is the wise man to be found? Saint Paul asks a good question here. One of my favorite Broadway plays is “Godspell,” which is a musical based on Matthew’s gospel, and which was written as an answer to the Broadway play “Jesus Christ Superstar.” One of the things I like about “Godspell” is that it reinvents itself with each generation, because the whole concept is ‘What if the incarnation had happened here, today, instead of two thousand years ago in ancient Israel? What would Jesus be doing for a living? Who would he choose as disciples?’


One of my favorite scenes in the play happens right in the beginning. It’s an optional piece; many productions choose to omit it, probably because they don’t get it, but it’s called “Babel.” Each of the actors walks silently on stage wearing sunglasses and holding a sign in front of them with the name of famous philosopher; Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Galileo, L. Ron Hubbard, Immanuel Kant, etc.         

Socrates begins singing an excerpt from his famous “Apology,” as he was on trial for his life in Athens. Then each actor, one by one, begins singing the philosophy of the name they are holding, until by the end it sounds like babbling!


Then enters John the Baptist singing “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” and as he baptizes each of the actors with his bucket and sponge, they drop their signs, take off their sunglasses, and join his chorus until they’re all singing in harmony with him. I think the meaning of the scene is the most profound in the play; human intellect will only take us so far, and then, if we truly seek wisdom, we have to make a leap of faith.


This is exactly what Paul is talking about.    “The message of the cross is complete absurdity to those headed for ruin.” I remember when I was in graduate school, wearing my crucifix, this one young woman saying to me, “I’ve never understood why you Catholics get off on wearing an instrument of torture with a man’s corpse on it!” Even after I explained it, it didn’t do any good. Complete absurdity.


When you look at many of our practices, it’s not too hard to see why so many people think we’re superstitious, or just all out nuts. And if you think explaining relics, indulgences, and the intercession of the saints to non-Catholics is challenging, just imagine what Paul had to go through!


The incarnation: OK, that’s not too bad. The pagans believed myths of gods temporarily taking human form. The incarnation shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for them. Miracles: again, not too bad. They believe myths where gods suspend the laws of nature for their purposes. But what happens when you get to the cross? What?! God suffer?! You can’t hurt a god! What’s wrong with you? GOD DIE?! You’re crazy! Gods can’t die! If they could, they wouldn’t be gods! Just imagine trying to explain that to them.


The message of the cross is complete absurdity to those headed for ruin. Try to explain to someone with no faith why they should thank God for their suffering. ‘Thank God? That I’m going through this? Are you crazy?’ The message of the cross is complete absurdity to those headed for ruin. Why can’t they see it? They can’t because faith is by definition that which we can’t scientifically explain.


Sometimes God uses natural events to convey supernatural realities. Sometimes God suspends the natural laws and does something extraordinary to demonstrate his dominion over the natural world, like the miracle of the sun at Fatima. God is always challenging us to see the extraordinary behind the ordinary. God wants us to see him in ourselves, in one another, and in the natural world around us so we can also see him in eternity. For that we need faith. And when we strive to see him there, his great love in the incarnation, and in his passion and death make perfect sense.


Brothers and sisters, it is my prayer for all of us today, that, through our embracing of the cross, those in the world will drop their signs, takes off their sunglasses, and join our chorus, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”


Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents


Quote From a Saint: “Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”  --Saint Rose of Lima


Prayer By a Saint: “I give You glory, O Christ, because You, the Only-begotten, the Lord of all, underwent the death of the Cross to free my sinful soul from the bonds of sin. What shall I give to You, O Lord, in return for all this kindness? Glory to You, O Lord, for Your love, for Your mercy, for Your patience. Glory to You, for forgiving us all our sins, for coming to save our souls, for Your incarnation in the Virgin's womb. Glory to You, for Your bonds, for receiving the cut of the lash, for accepting mockery. Glory to You, for Your crucifixion, for Your burial, for Your resurrection. Glory to You, for Your resurrection, for being preached to men, for being taken up heaven. Glory to You who sit at the Father's right hand and will return in glory. Glory to You for willing that the sinner be saved through Your great mercy and compassion." -- Saint Ephrem of Syria


Questions for Reflection:

1. What philosophies are prevalent in our society today? 


2. What is the message of the Cross?


3. What makes that message so difficult for some to understand?


4. What makes it possible for you to understand the message of the Cross? 


5. Give examples of when you have seen the extraordinary behind the ordinary.


6. Where do you most often see God? 


7. By what means are you approaching Heaven? 


8. How are you giving God glory? 


9. Where is the wise man to be found?


By Susan Boudreau

Week 93: Triumph of the Cross – Life From Death: A Reflection on Numbers 21: 4-8


4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. 5The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ 6Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 7The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. 8And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ 9So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. (Numbers 21: 4-8)


Now I’ve said on several occasions before that the single most predominant attribute of God is that God is life giving. OK, that’s a given, but what is truly amazing is that God always brings life from death.


Science can create life, even illicitly. We see that in cloning. We see that in invitro fertilization. Couples can create life. A man and a woman engage in the marital act, and they can have children. They create life. But science creates life from building blocks of things that are already living. So do couples. For a couple to create life, both participants must be alive. Only God can create life from lifelessness. Only God can bring life from the dead. We see this in Scripture.


In Genesis, the world is a formless waste, a lifeless mass, until God breathes life into it. Jesus raises several people from the dead: Jairus’ daughter, the poor widow’s son, Lazarus, himself. Jesus puts life back into people who are dead. God is always bringing life from death to reaffirm for us his power. God is always bringing life from death to constantly show us his authority. Because no matter how technologically advanced we get, no matter how much money and power we acquire, death comes for us all.


Working at RI hospital for two years, I saw death every day. I saw old people die, I saw young people die, I saw people die quickly, and I saw people deteriorate slowly. We can run from it, we can stall it, we can delay it, but eventually death catches up to all of us. In my time in hospital ministry, I saw beautiful deaths, I saw sudden deaths, and I saw tragic deaths. Yet this is something we don’t have to fear, because our death doesn’t mean the end of our existence, but a change in our existence. Through death, God continues to give life.


The Israelites, while wandering in the desert after being led out of slavery, complain against the Lord, and the Lord punishes them by sending serpents to bite them. They repent of their sin and God tells Moses to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole, so that anyone who looks at it will recover. The instrument of the very thing that was killing them becomes the symbol of their healing. What gave death, now gives life. Jesus undergoes the crucifixion so the instrument of his death, the cross, can become the symbol of life and salvation.


God brings life from death, not only for himself in Christ, but for all of us. That’s why we wear crosses and crucifixes. These are not morbid reminders, but an inspirational hope. When we see a crucifix, we are reminded that, just as God brought triumphal life from the death on the cross, God can take our little crosses and make beautiful little resurrections rise from them every day.


Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents


Quotes From a Saint: “The Cross is my sure salvation. The Cross, I ever adore. The Cross of my Lord is with me. The Cross is my refuge.”  --Saint Thomas Aquinas


“Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven."

--Saint Rose of Lima


Prayer By a Saint: “Does our life become from day to day more painful, more oppressive, more replete with sufferings?  Blessed be He a thousand times who desires it so.  If life be harder, love makes it also stronger, and only this love, grounded on suffering, can carry the Cross of my Lord, Jesus Christ. I believe, O Lord, but strengthen my faith. Heart of Jesus, I love Thee, but increase my love. Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee, but give greater vigor to my confidence. Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee, but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee. Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine, but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.

-- Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J


Questions for Reflection:


1. How has God demonstrated His life-giving power in your life?


2. How has God demonstrated His life-giving authority in your life?


3. In what ways have you seen His power or authority usurped?


4. In your opinion, what is the difference between a beautiful death and a tragic death?


5. How do you think you might have felt, or what would you have thought, if you had been present at the raising of Jarius’ daughter, the widow’s son or Lazarus? 


6. How do you feel when you think about your own death?


7. Besides the bronze serpent or the Cross of Christ, can you think of other things that once brought death but now bring life?


8. What do you think about when you see someone else wearing a cross or crucifix?


9. Give an example of when you have turned a little cross into a little resurrection.


By Susan Boudreau

Reflection 94: Desirous of Conversion: A Reflection on Matthew 9: 9-13


9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ 12But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’ (Matthew 9: 9-13)



The Church celebrates the feast of probably one of the most influential apostles, the feast of Saint Matthew. I think Matthew would make a great patron for our nation, and I think we should all pray to Saint Matthew on behalf of the country, because like our country, Matthew’s sin is obsession with wealth.


Matthew was a tax collector, and tax collectors had a nasty habit of charging people extra, and keeping the surplus for themselves. That was just one reason why they were hated so intensely by the Israelites. Matthew was a wealthy man, and he got his wealth dishonestly, by the honest sweat of his neighbors.


What makes this even more interesting is how dramatic Matthew’s conversion is.

What makes it more interesting is how readily Matthew leaves it all behind to follow Jesus. You may say, “Well, didn’t James and John leave their father and fishing boat the same way?” But they were fishermen. They were honest men who made an honest living. They weren’t sinners like Matthew.


I think Matthew’s conversion is the most dramatic because Matthew had the most to lose. For Matthew to follow Jesus meant having to give up all of his illegally gotten money and goods that took him years to accumulate. For Matthew to follow Jesus, he had to give up his job. To be a tax collector meant you needed to be appointed by the empire. You obviously just couldn’t start collecting taxes on your own authority. And if you leave this post, unless you have some kind of political pull, you can be sure you won’t be appointed again.


Oh sure, James, John and Peter had to leave their jobs too, but let’s face it; the fish will always be there. “If this Jesus guy doesn’t work out I can always go back to my boat.” Matthew’s future wasn’t that certain.


So why do I think Matthew so quickly follows Jesus? Why do I think Matthew was so eager to leave his life of sin and be a disciple of the Lord, and later an apostle? I don’t think Matthew liked his life of sin. I don’t think Matthew liked his wealth anymore. I don’t think Matthew liked himself.


The problem was that, once you’re a tax collector, you’re an outcast for life in a

Jewish community. So Jesus gives him an opportunity to change. Jesus gives him an opening, and bang! He jumps at it! I think Matthew had already learned, as so many learn too late, that while sin looks attractive at first, it never really satisfies for long.


And I wonder how many Matthew’s we have out there who are waiting for an invitation. You know,  sometimes that’s all it takes. Sometimes people are just waiting for you to say to them, “Hey, do you want to come to Mass with me?”

Sometimes people who have been away from Church for a long time feel ashamed or hypocritical. We’ve got to help get them get past that. We’ve got to say to them, “That is your Father’s house. You have every right to be there.” Sometimes all it takes is an invitation. Let’s pray now…


“In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. Saint Matthew, by your prayers lead home again all of God’s children, who have been lured away from the Church by the pursuit of money and material things. Help them to see that true wealth lies in a pure and faithful heart, and help us to be good witnesses, that we may help others to reach their heavenly home. And we ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents


Quote From a Saint: “To convert somebody, go and take them by the hand and guide them." --Saint Thomas Aquinas


Prayer By a Saint: “Who could know God, if it were not for you, most holy Mary? Who could be saved? Who would be preserved from dangers? Who would receive any grace, if it were not for you, Mother of God, full of grace? What hope could we have of salvation if you were to abandon us, O Mary, who are the life of Christians?” –Saint Germanus


Questions for Reflection:


1. Have you ever had or witnessed a dramatic conversion? Describe it.


2. What was given up or lost in this conversion? 


3.  What made it possible to move away from this loss?


4. Toward what prize did the convert move?


5. What made this prize worth the loss? 


6. How are you imitating Christ in His invitation to Matthew?


7. Who in your life could you realistically invite to conversion and what type of conversion would it be?


8. Describe a personal conversion that you desire.


9. What invitation would prompt you to make the first step toward your conversion?


By Susan Boudreau

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 95: In Christ, We Were Chosen


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 heb]">] predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.


In his letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul makes a very important statement. “In Christ, we were chosen.” It’s very important that we don’t just glaze over that line.

Because I think this is a truth that many of us easily forget. In Christ we were chosen.


None of us came into this world through our willing it. None of us determined what we would be, or how we would live. None of us is here today by his or her own power. In Christ we were chosen.


We are here because God has willed us to be here. We are what we are because God has willed it. I’m not a priest by my power. In fact, if I had gotten my way, I wouldn’t be a priest at all. I was perfectly content to be a teacher and a writer.

I was perfectly content to get married and have a family. God had other plans.

If you had told me twenty-five years ago that I would be a priest today, I would have called you crazy. Next week in fact, marks the twentieth anniversary of my first pilgrimage to Medjugorie, the pilgrimage that changed my life. And I remember something that was said to us on that pilgrimage. “None of you came on this pilgrimage because you wanted it. You are here because our Lady wanted you here.” In Christ we were chosen.


Why is this so important for us to remember? To remember that we are chosen is to remember that nothing happens by coincidence or accident. It’s to remember that we are all part of a larger plan. To be chosen means that we don’t have to grieve at being in a hospital or nursing home, because we realize that suffering is a means to redemption and sanctification. It means that we don’t have to be devastated at the loss of family or friends, because we know our final destiny is with God.


Ultimately, there are only two kinds of people in the world; poker people, and puzzle people. Poker people believe skill and proper discernment play some part of our future, but much of our destiny is based on luck. You have the cards, or you don’t. Poker people are justified in cursing their bad fortune, or feeling sorry for themselves because someone else had opportunities that they didn’t have.


Puzzle people, on the other hand, don’t believe in luck in all. They realize their lives are part of a much larger picture, even though they’re not sure what the big picture looks like. And even if they’re not particularly happy with the shape, or color, or size of their piece, they know that, once it’s joined to the others, it will create something beautiful. (We call that God’s Divine plan.) And so puzzle people dedicate their lives, not trying to change their piece, like poker players change their cards, hoping for a better hand. Rather, puzzle people spend their lives searching for where their piece fits in the big picture.


As Christians we are called to be puzzle people. We are called to look for God’s Divine hand in all circumstances of our lives. This brings me to the second important reason to realize why we have been chosen. Responsibility.


We have a responsibility to God and to others to be witnesses to the fact that we have been chosen. We have to act like a people who believe they have been chosen. Why? So people can see the faith in us and want to live it themselves. Pope Benedict XVI deemed a year of faith. That means our faith should inspire others to believe. It is my prayer today that we truly act like puzzle people, the people of God, people who in Christ, have been chosen.


Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents


Quote From a Saint: “When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.” -- Saint Ambrose of Milan


Prayer By a Saint: “I bind myself today
The might of the Incarnation of Christ with that of His Baptism,
The might of His Crucifixion with that of His Burial,
The might of His Resurrection with that of His Ascension,
The might of His Coming on the Judgment Day.”
- Saint Patrick of Ireland


Questions for Reflection:

1. What do you think God might have intended by choosing the Israelites?


2. What did the Israelites understand and misunderstand about being chosen? 


3. What does it mean to you to be “In Christ”?


4. What might be Christ’s intention in choosing you?


5. What is your understanding of your status as “chosen”?


6. Who is obligated by your being chosen and in what way?


7. Are you a “poker person” or a “puzzle person”?


8. When you speak, do people recognize Christ? How so, or not so?


9. How do you bind yourself to Christ?


By Susan Boudreau

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 96: External Acts Inspire Internal Conversion: A Reflection on Galatians 2: 15-21


We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2: 15-21)


In Saint Paul’s letters to the Galatians, he really nails in a nutshell why the Mosaic Law was not adequate to save. The Law could dictate behavior, but the law couldn’t change hearts. And if the heart doesn’t change, the law is reduced to pietistic practices. We see this so clearly in the Pharisees, who have all the rules and precepts of Judaism down pat, and yet they haven’t the first shred of faith.


This is even a continuation of a previous theme, about persevering in faith, but be careful that you’re persevering in the right faith. The Pharisees have persevered in the Law for so long, and they’re so fixed on the Law, that they can’t see that Jesus’ teaching is the next logical step.


The law could only affect external practices. Sacraments effect internal dispositions. But the law had to come first because we have to condition the mind before we can be ready to condition the soul.


Think about it. I want to lose weight. (So what else is new?) Because I want to lose weight I have to resign myself to certain physical truths. Physical truth number one; I have to eat less. Don’t try to tell me, “Oh, Father Mike, I have this diet where you can eat anything you want and still lose weight!” BULL! Trust me. I’ve tried them all. They don’t work. The bottom line is, if you want to lose weight, eat less.


Physical truth, number two: eat healthier. That’s the one that really hurts.

It means cutting down on pasta, bread, potatoes, desserts (basically everything I like), and eating more fruits and vegetables, which I hate.


And finally, physical truth, number three; exercise, which compared to physical truths one and two, isn’t all that bad. I started to see physical progress once I resigned myself to these three physical realities.  What else has happened?


Because I am resigned to these exterior realities, interior realities begin to be realized. When I lose weight, I have more energy. I’m not as tired as I was before.

I’ve noticed that I feel better. I can get more work done in a day. My mind has been more focused. I’m not even hungry all the time. I’m not always thinking about food. All of these are interior realities.


But the interior realities couldn’t be realized until the exterior realities were embraced. That was the meaning and purpose of the Law.


God didn’t give the Law to oppress. God wasn’t beating the Jews into submission.

God’s Law was aimed at training his people in exterior discipline. That exterior discipline was never intended to be an end in and of itself. Rather, that discipline was aimed at giving the people a thirst for interior Grace. But because the Pharisees made the Law an end in and of itself, instead of increasing the desire for faith, it killed faith all together.


For example, if someone wants to lose weight just to look attractive, with no care for the health of the body, either one of two things will happen. Either the weight is going to come back when that person has attracted a mate, or the appearance of the body becomes such an obsession that the person destroys the interior health of the body for the sake of the exterior appearance (pills, steroids, starvation, or other destructive methods). If the exterior is not drawing us toward the interior, we either give it all up, or the exterior practices, becoming ends in themselves, destroy spiritual growth.


My brothers and sisters, we are called upon to do exterior practices of piety, public prayer, and acts of charity for the sake of witnessing to our faith. But if we do these things without allowing them, with the sacraments, to change our interior dispositions, so we keep gossiping about our neighbors, using foul language, or being unkind, or judgmental, we become the Pharisees. Every good act we do becomes one for show, with no faith behind it.


My prayer is that our exterior piety reflects interior grace; and that our exterior acts of piety inspire conversion in others, which is what external piety was intended for in the first place.


Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents


Quote from a Saint: “The law detects, grace alone conquers sin. -- Saint Augustine


Prayer by a Saint: “Lord, increase my faith, bless my efforts and work, now and for evermore. Amen.” -- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta


Questions for Reflection:


1. Make a short list of people in whom, or things in which, you have faith. 


2. Describe how the law (civil and Church) dictates your behavior.


3. In what acts of piety do you routinely engage?


4. What are the exterior realities to which these acts give witness? 


5. What interior graces do you experience due to these acts?


6. Do you perform exterior acts of piety with the intention of inspiring others?  If so, give an example of someone who might have been inspired by your pious action.


7. How do these acts change your interior disposition? 


8. Describe how your faith in the people and things listed above dictates your behavior.


9. Describe the difference between the conditioning of your mind based on the law and the conditioning of your soul.


10. How does one influence the other? 


11. Discuss the Scripture Reading as it applies to external and internal spiritual change.


By Susan Boudreau


Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 97: Live a Life Worthy of Your Calling: A Reflection on Ephesians 4: 1-6


I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4: 1-6)


 “I plead with you as a prisoner for the Lord, to live a life worthy of the calling you have received…” So says Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.


Live a life worthy of our calling. What does that mean? What have we been called to? Holiness! Sanctity! Sainthood! We have been called to be laborers in building God’s kingdom on earth. It’s a daunting task. So how do we do it? How do we live a life worthy of our calling? Fortunately, Saint Paul tells us.


Perfect humility is the first goal Paul sets for us because, without humility, no other virtues will follow. Humility is the source of all virtues, as pride is the source of all sin. It is no coincidence that when Jesus gives his sermon on the mount, the first thing he says is “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” To be poor in spirit is to be humble, and without being poor in spirit first, none of the other beatitudes will follow. So what is humility?


Saint Paul said that charity should be the root and foundation of our lives. Well, every plant stems from a root, and every building rises from a foundation. Doesn’t that mean charity, and not humility, is the root of all virtues? No, it doesn’t, because we can perform acts of charity that are insincere. Sometimes people give huge amounts of money to charity for recognition or because it’s politically correct.


Sometimes charity can be misdirected, for instance in the case of euthanasia.  Because someone is in great suffering, a nurse thinks she is performing a charitable act in administering a lethal dose of morphine. That is misdirected charity. That is charity without humility. Humility seeks to put another’s best interest before our own.


The Catholic Dictionary defines humility as “the supernatural virtue by which one attains the correct perception of one’s relationship to God…. The attitude of humility is, ‘I am only good, because of God’s mercy.’” 


Proper charity comes from humility and also fosters humility. After humility, Paul names meekness. Meekness is not weakness. Meekness is the ability to lay our self down to the will of God. So Jesus is described as “meek,” as he is led to the crucifixion, like a lamb led to the slaughter. Meekness is a resignation to God’s Divine will. You can see why humility would have to come before meekness, because pride doesn’t want to lay down to anyone’s will. Pride wants to lead, not to be led.


Any true teacher knows we are all students. We never stop learning. Any true leader knows there are powers that none of us can control. And so meekness seeks God’s plan before my plans.


Patience, Paul names next, which he defines himself. “Bear with one another lovingly.” That’s patience. We are all in different places in our faith walk.


We’re ahead of some. We’re behind others. We need to correct others when we see them in sin, but lovingly. But we also need to put up with the quirks and foibles of our brothers and sisters, and they need to deal with ours, because if we don’t, divisions follow.


Isn’t it odd that the next thing Paul says is, “make every effort to preserve the unity,” because without humility, meekness, and patience, unity cannot exist. For example, if there is someone you don’t like, have you noticed how every little character defect they have annoys the heck out of you? It could be something as simple as the way they laugh. That sins against patience. There’s no justification for that. And I know what I’m talking about here. I can bear with people that annoy me, but not lovingly, and that’s my sin. My sin of impatience is rooted in a lack of humility and meekness. Pray for me.


Paul tells us that, if we focus ourselves in growing in humility, meekness, and patience, then unity and peace will follow. If there was ever a time we needed unity and peace in our families, our parish, our country, our Church and our world, it’s now.


Blessed Be God Forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents


Quote from a Saint: “Humility is to the various virtues what the chain is in a Rosary. Take away the chain and the beads are scattered; remove humility, and all virtues vanish.” -- Saint John Vianney


Prayer by a Saint: “Heavenly Father, you have given us the model of life in the Holy Family of Nazareth. Help us, O Loving Father, to make our family another Nazareth where love, peace and joy reign. May it be deeply contemplative, intensely Eucharistic, and revived with joy. Help us to stay together in joy and sorrow in family prayer. Teach us to see Jesus in the members of our families, especially in their distressing disguise. May the Eucharistic heart of Jesus make our hearts humble like his and help us to carry out our family duties in a holy way. May we love one another as God loves each one of us, more and more each day, and forgive each other's faults as you forgive our sins. Help us, O Loving Father, to take whatever you give and give whatever you take with a big smile.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, cause of our joy, pray for us.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

Holy Guardian Angels, be always with us, guide and protect us. Amen.

-- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta


Questions for Reflection:


1. What is the calling you personally have received?


2. What would constitute a “life worthy of that calling”?


3. Do you see yourself as worthy of that calling? 


4. Which virtues would you hold as most essential to that calling?


5. Which virtue(s) are you working to advance or perfect at this time?


6. In what area of your life could you use more peace?


7. How can you increase a sense of unity so as to enhance and encourage peace?


8. How might you influence unity and peace in your parish?


9. How might you influence unity and peace in our country? 


10. Where can you begin to make that difference today? 


By Susan Boudreau


Week 98: What Makes You Happy?: A Reflection on Isaiah 48:18


 “If only you had been alert to my commandments, your happiness would have been like a river, your integrity like the waves of the sea.”


What makes you happy?


When I was a kid I always wanted to be somewhere else; or be someone else; or do something else. My mind was never on where I was, or what I was doing. That was the criticism that came back on all my report cards in grade school, “Michael is a day dreamer.” And as I look around and notice people, I think many in our society today are guilty of the same thing. Have you ever noticed the large amounts of people who are looking for happiness? And happiness always seems to be something that will happen tomorrow. I’ll be happy when I can drive. I’ll be happy when I go to college. I’ll be happy when I get my degree. I’ll be happy when I get a job. I’ll be happy when I get my own apartment. I’ll be happy when I get a raise. I’ll be happy when I get married. I’ll be happy when I have kids. I’ll be happy when I get a promotion. I’ll be happy when I when my kids grow up and move out. I’ll be happy when I retire.


We waste so much time looking for happiness in things. Why? Because we equate happiness with status or money. It’s the sin of materialism that grows like a cancer in our culture, even in our religious feast days! From October until Christmas we are visited by the ghost of Christmas secular who’s haunting us on television, radio, and newspaper advertisements. How many of us squander away Advent preparing all the material aspects of Christmas but never have a moment to prepare ourselves spiritually?


We waste so much of our lives looking for happiness, when in fact, happiness has already found us and is waiting for us to claim it. “Let this be recorded for all generations to come, that a people yet unborn might praise the Lord. For the Lord looked down from his holy height; from heaven the Lord looked down to earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and free those condemned to die.” That comes from Psalm 102, my favorite psalm, in fact. This is why we should be joyful. This is why we should be filled with happiness. We couldn’t reach up to God. So God reached down to us. God came to us. To free us. To enlighten us. To empower us with his sacraments, so that we can be happy today. Instead of complaining about our trials, and faults, and sufferings, if we could only bring ourselves to see how those sufferings join us to the suffering Jesus on the cross, how could we not be joyful to share that intimacy with our God and savior, today?


I’m friends with a young couple who were trying to have a baby for years. They were overjoyed when they finally conceived, but it ended in a miscarriage. I called to offer my condolences, and the baby’s mom told me, “That’s OK. We have a little saint praying for us in heaven now.” By contrast, I visited a woman in Rhode Island Hospital while I was a chaplain, who was absolutely mortified that she would have to spend a couple months in a nursing home. She kept saying over and over, “All I want to do is die! I wish they would give me something to make me die.” I explained redemptive suffering, and joining our sufferings to Jesus on the cross, and how suffering is one of the ways God makes us saints. And that at least she wasn’t going to the nursing home forever. This is just a temporary suffering. But this woman would have none of it. She just kept saying, “All I want to do is die. I wish I had something to make me die.” That’s the difference I’m talking about. God has given us his commands, and given us Himself, to teach us how to live in happiness and peace. We spend so much time learning how to make a living that no one takes the time to learn how to live. That’s my prayer for today. That all may see that the only happiness is the happiness that comes from being a disciple of Christ.


And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents


Quote from a Saint:

“Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure: where your treasure, there your heart; where your heart, there your happiness.”  -- Saint Augustine of Hippo



Prayer: A Prayer for Happiness by Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta

May today there be peace within you.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing that you are a child of God.
Let His presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, and to bask in the sun.
It is there for each and every one of you.



Questions for Reflection


  1. What makes you happy? What would make you happy? Are these the same? Why or why not?

  2. Integrity is a concept of consistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actions. We think of integrity as honesty, the opposite of hypocrisy. How are happiness and integrity related?

  3. Analyze the quote from Isaiah.

  4. What does Fr. Sisco see as the primary reason why we should be happy?

  5. What does St. Augustine say about happiness? Do you find his insight to be true?

  6. Blessed Mother Theresa gives several insights into happiness. Discuss her prayer.

  7. What do you see as the primary difference between the couple and the older woman in Fr. Sisco’s examples?

  8. How does society define happiness?

  9. Is it possible to be happy outside of a relationship with God? Explain the basis for your answer.


---Madeline Pecora Nugent

Week 99: Arise, My Love, My Beautiful One, and Come: A Reflection on Song of Songs 2: 10-14


My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past,  the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtle-dove  is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” (Song of Songs 2: 10-14) 


“My lover speaks; he says to me, ‘Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one and come! For see, the winter is past, and the rains are over and gone.’” (Song of Songs2: 10-11) 


The Song of Solomon is probably one of the most beautiful works of literature in scripture. The language and the images in some parts are breath taking. But why is it in the Bible? Is it just because it was written by Solomon that it gets in the Bible? No. Isn’t this just a love poem that Solomon wrote one of his wives? Yes, it is that. But this is so much more. This poem is also conveying the relationship between God and the Church. This very romantic poem illustrates how deeply God loves us, and this is also why it is not only in scripture, but also why we read it especially during Advent. The poem is about a woman, a poor woman, a common woman, waiting for her lover to arrive, who she knows will return to her. And when he arrives, he’ll sweep her off her feet and make everything right in her life. That is, in essence, the story of our salvation.


We, the Church, are the poor woman, the common woman, who waited for our love to arrive. And when he did, he claimed us as his bride. Now he’s gone away again, and once again we await his return, when he will come and sweep us off our feet and carry us away to a place where everything will be made right for us.


Now I can hear you saying, “OK Father, this is a very good analogy, but does it really have a place in scripture?” Yes, because it’s not an analogy. It’s the reality.


The Bible is one big love story. And the love story gets spoiled right at the beginning of the story in Genesis with the fall of Adam and Eve. The devil turned our heads away from our true love and lured us away. And the entire rest of the Bible is God trying to re-establish the relationship. The entire rest of the Bible is God trying to win us back again.


How can we say “no” to Divine Love? We do, every time we say “yes” to sin. And yet, even then, He keeps saying to us, “Arise my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!” He doesn’t give up on us. And if that doesn’t blow your mind, it should! This is part of what Advent is about; waiting for our love to come back for us.


No matter what season of the year it is when you read these words, spend some time meditating on the love relationship between God and his Church. Ask the Lord to help us to give our love as completely to Him as He gives it to us.


And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor

Confraternity of Penitents


Quote from a Saint: Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind. --Saint Catherine of Siena



Loving God, you speak to us through all of life. Help me to trust you and to trust that what you desire for me lies in the deepest part of my heart. And, what you desire is that which allows me to grow and to be the person you created me to be - fully human and fully alive. May I always center my life on you and hear joyfully your call to be your companion. Help me to follow my desire to live my life as best I can and to serve others with the special gifts you have given me. Amen.


Questions for Reflection:

  1. Have you thought of the Song of Songs as a love song between God and the Church? What qualities make it that?

  2. Trace the outline of Scripture from Genesis through Revelation. How is this the love story of God with humanity, and God’s pursuit of us after we had left Him?

  3. Have you ever pursued someone’s love? How did that turn out? Has anyone ever pursued your love? How did that turn out? What is needed for love to be shared?

  4. Discuss the quote from Saint Catherine of Siena and apply it to Scripture and to your own life. Do you see examples of this in the lives of others?

  5. Read the prayer and then ask yourself, “Where is God speaking to me now?”

  6. Is God pursuing you? Have you surrendered to God? If so, what caused that surrender? If not, what is holding you back?

  7. How is it possible to fear God’s love? Discuss how fear of God’s love can impact lives and society.

  8. What can we do to love God completely?

  9. Read the title of this reflection. How can spiritual sloth (the refusal to arise and come when God calls) affect the spiritual life?


--Madeline Pecora Nugent

Week 100: The Feasts of the Christmas Season Outline Our Christian Responsibility: A Reflection on Acts 7:55-60


But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died. (Acts 7: 55-60)


It is very appropriate that we celebrate the feast of Saint Stephen, the Church’s first martyr, always the day after Christmas.


On Christmas, we celebrated that our God took on human life so we might someday share His divine life in heaven. And on St. Stephen’s Day, we see what the consequences of embracing that divine life might be. Celebrating the martyrdom of Saint Stephen reminds us that being a follower of Christ means we will be hated, means we will have to suffer. Martyrdom is evil in that an innocent life is being destroyed, but it is good as it leads us to glorify God in our bodies, so others may see and believe. Martyrdom is the highest form of praising God, as long as the reason we are being persecuted is because of the name of Jesus, and not because we’ve done something to antagonize the persecution. Now you don’t necessarily have to die to be a martyr. To be an everyday martyr we must be willing to lay ourselves down for the Lord. That means we must be willing to witness to the Lord with our actions.


All of the feasts through the Christmas season are an outline of our Christian responsibility. On December 27, we celebrate the feast of John the Evangelist, because that is the second responsibility of the Christian, evangelization. It is what we call the Church militant. These are two words our modern society fears, militant and evangelist, because these words have been associated with extremism.  No. To be the Church militant, we must be evangelists. To be evangelists we must be willing to share our faith with others. This is not an option!  This is a requirement of the faith. To be an evangelist we must be willing to witness to God with our words. So if we profess Jesus is Lord on our tongues at morning Mass every day, and then gossip about our neighbors in the lunch room at work, we have failed in our duty to be evangelists.


The feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28 reminds us of our Christian responsibility to defend the lives of those who cannot do so themselves. Evil will always seek to destroy the most innocent of life first. Once innocent life is destroyed, than evil comes after the rest of us. Just a warning for those who think abortion doesn’t affect them. The feast of the Holy Innocents reminds us of our responsibility to hold all human life as sacred. So if we hold grudges, if we harbor hatred or seek vengeance, we have failed in that responsibility.


The feast of the Holy Family reminds us of our Christian responsibility to our families. This applies to our homes and blood relatives, but it also applies to our larger family, the Church. Just as we have a responsibility to provide for our families, we have a responsibility to provide for the needs of the Church, the physical needs of our parishes and diocese. We have a responsibility to charity, the missions, to provide for those in the family less fortunate than ourselves. And just as we have a responsibility to heal wounds within our blood families; we have a responsibility to heal wounds with our neighbor.


The Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, on January 1, reminds us that we have a responsibility to say “yes” to what God asks of us. Mary’s response to God was always “yes.” God didn’t have to explain things to Mary. She didn’t demand an outline of what was going to happen if she said “yes.” She just agreed. It is our responsibility as Christians to ask God what He wants of us and then to do it. Mary is also our Mother in heaven. How many times have you run to your Mom for solace or comfort? How many scrapes did she bandage? How many of your tears did she dry? If Dad got angry with you, Mom would help him calm down. Mom was your advocate with your teachers, with the neighbors, with bullies. Mom never stopped being Mom, even when she got old.  As Christians, we have a responsibility to treat Mary as our Mom and to use her powerful intercession whenever we need it.


Finally in the feast of the Epiphany, we are reminded of our Christian responsibility to seek the Lord always. The magi sought the Lord.  They persevered.  They invested themselves wholly. We need to do that too, in our prayer. We have to seek the Lord–persevere. And this feast reminds us to bring the best of ourselves we have to offer to the Lord for him to use.


All of these feasts from Christmas to New Year’s remind us of what it is to be Christian. I would invite us to meditate closely on these feasts and see where we can improve our relationship with the Lord.


And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Visitor to the Confraternity of Penitents




Quote from a Saint:

Charity is no substitute for justice withheld. -- Saint Augustine





Give me, O God, a sense of responsibility.

Give me…

A sense of responsibility to myself, so that I may never waste the gifts which you have given to me;

A sense of responsibility to my parents, so that I may do something to try to repay them for all the love and the care
they have given to me;

A sense of responsibility to my teachers, so that all their patient teaching of me may not go for nothing;

A sense of responsibility to my friends, so that I may never disappoint them;

A sense of responsibility to those who have gone before me, so that I may never forget what my freedom and liberty cost, and that I may hand on still finer the heritage and the tradition into which I have entered;

A sense of responsibility to the world, so that I may put into life more than I take out;

A sense of responsibility to You, so that I may always remember that You loved me and gave yourself for me.

Help me remember what I have received, and to use what I have and so to make what I ought to out of this life of mine, which cost so much.

This I ask for your love’s sake, Amen.





Questions for Reflection


  1. Name some other feasts of the year. What does each one show about our responsibility toward God?

  2. Discuss the quote by Saint Augustine. How does it reflect responsibility?

  3. Add a few verses to the prayer.

  4. Father Sisco says that we WILL suffer if we follow Christ. Do you agree? Why or why not?

  5. What sort of suffering, if any, have you experienced because you are following Christ? Are you anticipating any suffering for being His follower?

  6. Why does Fr. Sisco say that evangelization is a REQUIREMENT of being a Christian? Do you agree? How can you evangelize?

  7. Why would evil always seek to destroy the innocent? What are we to do when we see this happening? How is it happening in the world today?

  8. Father Sisco discusses several responsibilities toward different types of families. Can you number these in order of obligation? Why did you number them that way?

  9. How is the Blessed Mother the perfect example of how we should interact with God?

  10. What does the Epiphany teach us about persevering in our faith?

  11. Do you see any other responsibilities in the feasts of Christmas other than those Fr. Sisco mentioned? What might they be?



--Madeline Pecora Nugent

bottom of page