Pope Francis Reflects on His Apostolic Trip to Cuba & US

Just a few days ago we watched our Holy Father, Pope Francis, leave our land and return to the Vatican.  Pondering all the graces he brought to our country, the love of Christ that he showed to the thousands of people, from every walk of life, from many different creeds, it’s still just as moving to think about today as it was last week.  We pray that many seeds of faith, hope, and charity were planted by his visit to the United States.

In his General Audience today Pope Francis reflected on his visit to Cuba and the US.   Continue reading

Chesterton Conference – Part II

This is part two of my recap of the 34th Annual American Chesterton Society Conference, held at the Menger Hotel, right here in San Antonio.  The entire two days were packed with enlightening talks, many on historical characters of Chesterton’s time that many of us weren’t familiar with. Here I’m only highlighting a handful of my favorites, but there were many more wonderful talks throughout the conference.

The first official talk on Thursday evening was given by Dr. Peter Howard, professor of Theology at the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation. Dr. Howard and his wife recently founded Heroic Families, HowardAvilaa ministry dedicated to “awakening Catholic families to their critical call to live their faith with courage, passion and purpose.”  He spoke on Chesterton and Fulton Sheen, a great pairing since in his day Sheen was referred to as “the American GK Chesterton.” Dr. Howard’s focus was on the destruction of the family by false values introduced by the French Revolution. The answer to rebuilding our wounded and broken families? Our Lady! We must invite her back into our families in a very real way. We got goose bumps when Dr. Howard reminded us that we are living in the greatest Marian Age in history. No other age has been graced with so many apparitions of the Mother of God. Good Mother that she is, she is always leading us back to her Son. He shared a very beautiful quote from Sheen about Our Lady:

“God who made the sun, also made the moon.  The moon does not take away from the brilliance of the sun.  All its light is reflected from the sun.  The Blessed Mother reflects her Divine Son; without Him, she is nothing.  With Him, she is the Mother of men.”

 When it is night, Dr. Howard said, and we are in darkness, as in these times of moral and spiritual darkness, we may not be able to see the sun, but we can look to the moon and know by its light that the sun is still shining, even if hidden from our eyes. Among the many books we took home from the conference, we made sure to buy a copy of Dr. Howard’s book on Our Lady: The Woman: The Mystery of Mary as Mediatrix in the Teaching of Fulton J. Sheen.

The next two days were long and filled with excellent talks by wonderful speakers. There are too many for me to recount them all, so I’ll briefly mention a few that we especially enjoyed.

Kevin O’Brien’s rousing talk on Chesterton and Orestes Brownson got the only standing ovation at the conference, and that’s saying something considering all the great speakers.  You’re probably wondering how it could be such a great talk 11822296_506876480032_3402538834034529782_nif it’s on a person you’ve never heard of? Well, he made it very personal, speaking from his own experience of battling the dragons in his own life, tying this in with the dark periods in both GKC’s and Brownson’s lives.  As he pointed out, we are often hesitant to talk about our struggles with discouragement, depression, sadness and sin, but we all have them, and we can all identify. Every person in the room understood from personal experience the pain and struggle he shared in his talk, and it was beautiful to see the reaction from everyone as they heard his powerful words.

Joseph Pearce. Need we say more – it’s Joseph Pearce: Catholic convert, Chestertonian, writer, biographer, and Englishman (Sr. Grace Marie insisted I add that last point, which IMG_1670she says should actually be first on the list of his virtues).  He spoke about GKC and Oscar Wilde, “Godfather of the Decadent movement”, (which reminded me that I’ve been meaning to read his biography on Wilde for several years now).   You may only know Wilde from what you’ve read in the secular media; they’ve made him a celebrity for gay rights, but often leave out his lifelong flirtation with Catholicism, to which he converted on his deathbed. Actually, Joseph Pearce named off a long list of Decadents who eventually became Catholic, which was encouraging to hear.  Add his book, The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde, to your reading list.  In fact, add all of his books, especially the biographies, to your list.  The subject of his most recent biography was…himself.  I think many of the attendees hoped he would be speaking about his own conversion story at the conference, but for that you’ll want to read Race With the Devil: My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love.

Christopher Check, president of Catholic Answers, gave the Key Note talk on Chesterton and Hannibal. Sr. Grace Marie loves history, so she especially enjoyed this talk about the Punic Wars (yes, that really was the topic – it’s amazing how vast and varied the talks at a Chesterton Conference). For those of you who think history a dry list of dates and names, let me tell you this talk was very interesting, and not just because he made it interesting, but because he wanted to show us why it’s relevant toIMG_2823day. Our Western Civilization (the one we are watching collapse from the inside out) has its roots in the Roman Empire, and as Roman Catholics, he said, we need to know it and be proud of it, because it’s our story, too. The Church spread because of the Roman Empire and it’s important that we understand how, as he put it, Roman cultural will defeated the might of Hannibal. The America of today has a lot in common with ancient Carthage (note: Carthage = Phoenician = Punic): it began as a colony, it grew into a vast empire based on trade, its agrarian side became more like our agricultural monopolies today, and it devolved into a cheap culture, very commercial, which left behind no art, literature or philosophy. Now does it sound more interesting than just a history lesson?

The last talk I’ll mention was by Dr. John Medaille, from the University of Dallas, who spoke about GKC and distributism. Distributism is one of those things that few of us really know much about, and what you often hear people say, if they’ve even heard of it at all, is that it’s a nice idea but totally untenable. Dr. Medaille, (who, by the way, looked the epitome of a Southern Gentleman with his seersucker suit and straw hat – not that he wore a hat while giving his talk, as that would be very un-gentlemanly), focused on the Church’s social teaching, as outlined in Benedict XVI’s encyclical Charity in Truth (which, like distributism, is also quite neglected and misunderstood). We Americans tend to get ticked off when the Church speaks to us about economics. You have seen that happen with Pope Francis, but it also happened with Benedict. We don’t like to be told wh11826024_10152948935752301_8172385206803233571_nat to do. Not only that, but our thoughts about things like social justice and economic justice have been formed more by the political party with which we align ourselves than with the teachings of Christ’s Church. The truth is that there is no political party that squares 100% with the Church’s teaching. What the Popes are trying to remind us is that all economic thought must have at its center the well-being of each human person. We must incorporate the idea of gratuitousness and gift into the way we operate at every level. If you haven’t read Charity in Truth please give it a chance. It will also help you see the continuity of thought with Pope Francis’ latest encyclical Laudato Si.  Dr. Medaille was the recipient of this year’s Outline of Sanity Award.  Before we left, we made sure to pick up a copy of his book Toward a Truly Free Market:  A Distributist Perspective on the Role of Government, Taxes, Health Care, Deficits, and More.

There were many more amazing talks, but, like I said, these are just a few of our favorites. All of the talks were recorded, and will be available in audio and video formats from the American Chesterton Society. So, even if you weren’t able to attend the conference, you can still take part in it by ordering the talks.

Those two days back in August were pretty surreal – throughout the whole weekend I still kept saying to myself “Is this really happening?  Am I really at the Chesterton Conference?”  God is so good, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend time with so many wonderful people who came together to celebrate sanity, joy, common sense, virtue and holiness as exemplified by the great Gilbert Keith Chesterton, whose thought is just as inspiring and relevant today as it was a hundred years ago.

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

We love you Holy Father!  Thank you for strengthening us, encouraging us, and blessing us with your presence.  Come back soon!  We will miss you!FullSizeRender-19

Lord Jesus, shelter our Holy Father the Pope under the protection of Your Sacred Heart. Be his light, his strength and his consolation.

Just a few hours left…

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It’s our Holy Father’s last day in America, and we are sad that we only have a few hours left with him.  It’s been so comforting to know he is here, and even though he’s still 1,700 miles away, this may be the closest we’ll ever get to him.  Hopefully you’ve been able to follow his visit through EWTN’s live coverage (which you can find on our website texasnuns.com), and read the transcripts of his homilies and addresses (which, by the way, you can also find on our website).

Last night Pope Francis addressed families at the Festival of Families.  Despite all his stops, including his trip to Cuba before coming here, attending the World Meeting of Families was the reason for the Pope’s visit to America.  Everything else was just extra.  His address to families last night was our favorite so far, and it looks like it might have been his favorite encounter with the faithful, too – we saw him animated and joyful, humorous and encouraging, as he spoke to families from around the world.

If you didn’t catch it already, please take 20 minutes to listen to his address.  And if you’ve already seen it, it’s worth watching again.  Plus, we just like to hear the soothing voice of his translator, Msgr. Mark Miles.

Did you notice Jim Caviezel there as well?  What a nice way to spend your 47th birthday, mere feet away from the Holy Father!  (Wish he’d been hosting the event instead of Mark Wahlberg…)

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When we were listening to Sister Sledge is was kind of weird – we were having flashbacks to the radio studio…as if our show was about to start….150926203631-13-pope-0926-sister-sledge-super-169



Our DC Sisters are listening to the Holy Father live and in person right now! Sisters, we are so happy for you!  Sr. Marie St. John just sent us this picture of the Holy Father giving the homily.IMG_0995

L to R: Sr. Inez, Sr. Marie St. John, Mother Angela, Sr. Rita

L to R: Sr. Inez, Sr. Marie St. John, Mother Angela, Sr. Rita

She also sent us this picture earlier today, as they were waiting in the blazing sun for Pope Francis to arrive.  And she called in to our radio show!  We had a blast talking to her, you can listen to the clip below.  Thanks for calling, Sister, you made our day!

Keeping Up With the Pope

8821135_GHe’s here!  And if you want to keep up with all the live coverage of Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to the US please visit our totally revamped website texasnuns.com.  You can watch the live stream of all the Papal events, and find the transcripts of his talks and homilies on our Tu Es Petrus page.

Here are some prayers for the Pope and those he will meet today, as taken from the USCCB website’s Virtual Pilgrimage – Prayers for Pope Francis:

As Pope Francis goes to the White House to meet President Obama, please join in prayer that they will have a fruitful meeting. Here is a prayer from the Roman Missal for those in public office: 

Almighty ever-living God,
in whose hand lies every human heart and the rights of peoples,
look with favor, we pray,
on those who govern with authority over us,
that throughout the whole world
the prosperity of peoples,
the assurance of peace,
and freedom of religion
may through your gift be made secure.
Through Christ our Lord.

As Pope Francis gathers with the Bishops of the United States at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., please join them in prayer. Here is a prayer for Bishops from the Roman Missal: 

O God, eternal shepherd of the faithful,
who tend your Church in countless ways
and rule over her in love,
grant, we pray, that our Bishops, your servants,
whom you have set over your people,
may preside in the place of Christ
over the flock whose shepherd they are,
and be faithful as teachers of doctrine,
Priests of sacred worship,
and as those who serve them by governing.
Through Christ our Lord.

Today Pope Francis is declaring that the great missionary to California Junípero Serra is a saint. Please join in prayer for his intercession. Here is the Collect, or opening prayer, for today’s Mass:

O God, who by your ineffable mercy
have been pleased through the labors
of your Priest Saint Junípero Serra
to count many American peoples within your Church,
grant by his intercession
that we may so join our hearts to you in love,
as to carry always and everywhere before all people
the image of your Only Begotten Son.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Our Experience at the Chesterton Conference

We’ve been away from the blog for a while, so I’m here to fill you in on what we were up to last month.

August began with a dream come true – the American Chesterton Society held it’s 34th annual conference right here in San Antonio! Being long-time readers of Gilbert MagazineIMG_2728 and fans of GK Chesterton, we were thrilled at this opportunity to attend the conference right in our own backyard.   On August 5th Dale Ahlquist arrived in SA to set up for the conference. This provided a chance for us to have him in studio with us on A Good Habit Episodes. Back in 2013 Dale was our very first guest on the show, joining us via phone from his home in Minnesota, and we were eager to have him on again. Dale is always gracious, funny and a great fit for our show since we talk about “anything and everything” – which also describes all the different topics and ideas about which Chesterton wrote.

After the show we drove Dale to his hotel, and he very kindly invited us to join him and some of the other ACS members for a lateIMG_1656 lunch. So we found ourselves at the restaurant of the historic Menger Hotel right across from the Alamo. We have often passed by this San Antonio landmark, but have never been inside. As was often mentioned during the conference, the hotel bar was the site where Teddy Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders, and where Oscar Wilde likely had lunch while in San Antonio.  It can now add “Site of the 34th Annual American Chesterton Conference” to its list of notable achievements.  The Menger is also said to be haunted, something they are very proud of. We didn’t see any ghosts, but we did encounter Nancy Carpentier Brown, whose book on Frances Chesterton, The Woman Who Was Chesterton, is soon-to-be released.  She also took this picture of us having fun in the old phone booths by the lobby.

It felt a little surreal to meet people you’ve known for years, though only through the pages of a magazine.   We were introduced to Richard Aleman (President of the Society for Distributism and contributing editor for Gilbert Magazine), Kevin O’Brien (one of the conference speakers, he also writes for St. Austin Review and spends most of his time on stage with his Theater of the Word, Inc), Julian Ahlquist (Dale’s son, who apparently spoke at one conference on the topic of Chesterton and Aliens!), and Mairin and Rose, two lovely young ladies from the ACS office.

When dining with Chestertonians there are two things you can expect: good food and good conversation. Well, maybe a third thing you can expect is fermented beverages.

 Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like the laughing peasant of Italy. Never drink because you need it, for this is rational drinking, and the way to death and hell. But drink because you do not need it, for this is irrational drinking, and the ancient health of the world. ― G.K. Chesterton  

As for the good conversation, Richard Aleman’s end of the table covered the topic of distributism – always worth talking about, since it is so little understood.1514623_10152948046197301_2043875294044550129_n At the other end of the table Dale and Kevin O’Brien covered other topics – I’m not quite sure what they were, actually, since I ended up in the distributist conversation. All I know is that there was a lot of laughter and loud conversation coming from their end of the table.

The next evening the conference began with a welcome talk by Dale. We just love listening to Dale talk about Chesterton; he’s completely imbued with his thought, which is only natural since he’s been marinating in Chesterton for many, many years. One thing he IMG_2778talked about which really struck me was that GKC’s greatest accomplishment was that he remained GKC; he became the person God created him to be. Freedom, he said, is the ability of a thing to be itself. And in that sense Chesterton was truly free, and filled with a spirit of gratitude and wonder.   For myself, I really did feel Chesterton’s presence throughout the conference, and I had a sense that I was receiving a lot of graces through his intercession.  Though he’s not a canonized saint (not yet, anyway) I have long counted him among my saint friends, and I dare say he is my favorite (after Our Lady, of course). Since the conference, I have been asking for his help that I might develop a truly grateful heart and a child-like sense of wonder. The whole idea of gratitude hits home with us because our religious order is dedicated to Eucharistic Adoration in a spirit of thanksgiving, so thankfulness and gratitude are quite central to our spirit as Franciscan adorers.  Gratitude leaves little room in our heart for resentment, always something with which I always need help.  Another remarkable thing about Chesterton was that he truly loved his enemies; in fact, he didn’t consider them enemies at all.  He had a real gift for argument and debate, all in charity, without ever losing sight of the dignity of his opponent.  Chesterton was a truly amazing man whose virtues I hope to acquire one day.

One thing which struck me was the number of young people in attendance.  It’s a good rP20-GKC-800x500eminder that truth has universal appeal, and there are still plenty of young men and women whose ears are more attuned to truth than to the noise and distractions of the world.  It was unusual, and so refreshing, to see people sitting around talking or reading books (real live books, not Kindles or iPhones) during the breaks.

The conference ended with Mass at nearby St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. This little jewel is surrounded on three sides by Rivercenter Mall, so you could almost miss it if you weren’t looking. The Germans built this beautiful little church over a hundred years ago, and even though Joske’s Department Store tried to buy it and tear it down in 1945, the Church is very much alive, and Joske’s is no more. The Blessed Sacrament Fathers have been caring for the parish since 1982, and this is one reason we love going there whenever we have the chance; we always feel at home wherever the Blessed Sacrament is loved and adored. Monday through Friday they have Eucharistic Adoration and confession in the morning – what more can you ask for?

It was very moving to end the conference worshiping God in a beautiful Church, all of us together. Fr. Spencer Howe, a young priest from Minnesota who also spoke at the conference, gave a very beautiful homily about spiritual childhood, which was one of Chesterton’s most notable virtues.   This was the only time all weekend I didn’t take notes, so I’m hoping they include it in the conference talk CDs, or at least publish it in Gilbert Magazine.

The whole conference was permeated by a very tangible joy, and a feeling of camaraderie. Out of all the conferences I have been to, this one had a spirit all its own, of laughter, joy, and friendship. Even though it wasn’t a Catholic conference per se, with Chesterton it always does end up there, because he was always oriented toward the Truth, and it lead him into the sacramental embrace of Christ in His Catholic Church. Not all of the attendees were Catholic, but I dare say they will likely all end up Catholics one day.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about some of our favorite conference talks.