Category Archives: Modern Wisdom

Short written pieces by modern writers that add color and depth in my journey to God.

Twin Blessings

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue Columbia Magazine, page 25.  Kevin DiCamillo is a freelance writer and editor in northern New Jersey, and is a member of the Don Bosco Knights of Columbus Council 4960 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Seeking to adopt a child following medical difficulties, a Knights of Columbus couple received an unexpected gift.

The DiCamillo Family are pictured at their home in New Jersey
The DiCamillo Family are pictured at their home in New Jersey

After my wife, Alicia, and I were married, we were looking forward to welcoming the children that God would send to our family.  Yet we never expected the challenges that we confronted when I was diagnosed with cancer.  Following surgery and months of radiation, doctors told us that we would not be able to conceive.  Amid the heartbreak, we began to explore adoption.

We checked out private agencies for domestic and foreign adoption, but chose a more affordable option close to home: the New Jersey state adoption agency.  After spending thousands of dollars on my cancer treatments, this seemed like the most sensible path.  As with most things in life, there were good and bad aspects, and in the end, we received a surprise that only God could have arranged.

Continue reading Twin Blessings

I’m Just Like Daddy

What a well-written article!  The following excerpt is from The Catholic Gentleman.  I highly recommend reading the full article.

Much of parenting, then, comes down to the example we set. But there is a deeper lesson to be learned from children, and that is the way of our own spiritual advancement.

Many times, we overcomplicate the spiritual life. We want a sophisticated program, involving perhaps copious study of theology and philosophy. We want to pray many prayers and read many books. But while these things are well and good in their place, they are not the essence of spiritual growth. In reality, the program of spiritual progress is very simple: It is carefully imitating God our Father with childlike simplicity.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,” teaches St. Paul, for indeed, that is what we are—children of God. In a very real sense, we can call God, “Abba, Daddy.” By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we share his nature, the fullness of his life lives in our souls. And as his beloved sons and daughters, we should aspire to say, “I’m just like you, Daddy.”

The proud in heart reject this simple way of childlike imitation. They see the spiritual life as involving many complex and difficult requirements, as a way for only the strong, mature, and knowledgeable. They have nothing but scorn for those who follow Christ in simplicity. They forget the words of Christ, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

When my little boy looks up with me and says, “I’m just like you, Daddy,” my heart is filled with love and joy. I want him to be like me. What father doesn’t? So to it is with the family of God. God our Father longs for us to be just like him, to radiate his image fully and completely. His fatherly heart greatly desires us to look up at him with love and say, “I’m just like you, Daddy.”

In sum, the Christian life, the Catholic life, is striving after conformity to Jesus Christ, our elder brother in the Divine family. We want to exchange our lives for his, to the point that he lives perfectly in and through us. We must imitate him in every thought, word, and deed, until we can say like St. Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

Fr. Rolheiser on Our Lord’s Epiphany

The Epiphany of Our Lord
The Epiphany of Our Lord

I love this last paragraph from Father Ron Rolheiser’s reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel (The Epiphany of Our Lord):

To bless another person is to give away some of one’s own life so that the other might be more resourced for his or her journey. Good parents do that for their children. Good teachers do that for their students, good mentors do that for their protégés, good pastors do that for their parishioners, good politicians do that for their countries, and good elders do that for the young. They give away some of their own lives to resource the other. The wise men did that for Jesus.

How do we react when a young star’s rising begins to eclipse our own light?

If you have the time, I highly recommend reading the whole article.

Have you ever wondered what ever happened to the Three Wise Men?  According to Fr. Rolheiser, while there are myths, the fact that there is no real historical proof is part of their gift.  Jesus was the Star.  So the three kings, who were probably stars in their own right, were able to exit the stage:

The wise men follow the star, find the new king, and, upon seeing him, place their gifts at his feet. What happens to them afterwards? We have all kinds of apocryphal stories about their journey back home, but these, while interesting, are not helpful. We do not know what happened to them afterwards and that is exactly the point. Their slipping away into anonymity is a crucial part of their gift. The idea is that they now disappear because they can now disappear. They have placed their gifts at the feet of the young king and can now leave everything safely in his hands. His star has eclipsed theirs. Far from fighting for their former place, they now happily cede it to him. Like old Simeon, they can happily exit the stage singing: Now, Lord, you can dismiss your servants! We can die! We’re in safe hands!

You should read his bio here, and while I was there myself, I picked up this wonderful passage from one of his old columns:

All of us live our lives in exile. We live in our separate riddles, partially separated from God, each other, and even from ourselves. We experience some love, some community, some peace, but never these in their fullness. Our senses, egocentricity, and human nature place a veil between us and full love, full community, and full peace. We live, truly, as in a riddle: The God who is omnipresent cannot be sensed; others, who are as real as ourselves, are always partially distanced and unreal; and we are, in the end, fundamentally a mystery even to ourselves.

Isn’t that beautiful?  He articulated what I felt while going home on the subway this past Tuesday.

God bless Father Rolheiser.  May his wisdom set other souls on fire.

Homily on the Holy Family by Pope Paul VI

Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand his Gospel. Here we can observe and ponder the simple appeal of the way God’s Son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning. And gradually we may even learn to imitate him.

Here we can learn to realize who Christ really is. And here we can sense and take account of the conditions and circumstances that surrounded and affected his life on earth: the places, the tenor of the times, the culture, the language, religious customs, in brief everything which Jesus used to make himself known to the world. Here everything speaks to us, everything has meaning. Here we can learn the importance of spiritual discipline for all who wish to follow Christ and to live by the teachings of his Gospel.

How I would like to return to my childhood and attend the simple yet profound school that is Nazareth! How wonderful to be close to Mary, learning again the lesson of the true meaning of life, learning again God’s truths. But here we are only on pilgrimage. Time presses and I must set aside my desire to stay and carry on my education in the Gospel, for that education is never finished. But I cannot leave without recalling, briefly and in passing, some thoughts I take with me from Nazareth.

First, we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value. We need this wonderful state of mind, beset as we are by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God.

Second, we learn about family life. May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplifying its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings; in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children—and for this there is no substitute.

Finally, in Nazareth, the home of a craftsman’s son, we learn about work and the discipline it entails. I would especially like to recognize its value—demanding yet redeeming—and to give it proper respect. I would remind everyone that work has its own dignity. On the other hand, it is not an end in itself. Its value and free character, however, derive not only from its place in the economic system, as they say, but rather from the purpose it serves.

In closing, may I express my deep regard for people everywhere who work for a living. To them I would point out their great model, Christ their brother, our Lord and God, who is their prophet in every cause that promotes their well being.

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Text of Pope Francis’ homily at Christmas Mass

This is a beautiful Christmas homily.

There were two parts that particularly spoke to me:

(1) God is in love with our smallness… He made himself small so that we can encounter him.

(2) Do I welcome with warmth the difficulties and problems of those near me, or do I prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective, but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel?

CNS Blog

VATICAN CITY — Here is the English translation of Pope Francis’ homily at Christmas Mass Dec. 24 in St. Peter’s Basilica:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:1). “An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk 2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Savior: as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness.

We too, in this blessed night, have come to the house of God. We have passed through the darkness which envelops the earth, guided by the flame…

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In full: Lord Sacks speech that brought Vatican conference to its feet

Wow. I can see why Lord Sacks got a standing ovation! Dear Readers, please read the whole transcript of the speech. It is beautiful…

Catholic Voices Comment

Sacks[From Austen Ivereigh in Rome]

Among many speeches yesterday following Pope Francis’s address to the Humanum colloquium on complementarity, that of Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, was the standout, bringing the audience of 300 in the synod hall to their feet. Using dazzling oratory, he offered a magisterial account of the development of marriage from the very start — a sexual act between fish in Scotland — right up to the present day, told by means of seven stories, and ending with a spectacular exegesis of the Genesis account. It is a story with a tragic end: the dismantling of what he calls “the single most humanising institution in history” resulting in a whole new era of poverty and social division. Yet the recovery of that institution offers hope.  The full speech follows. 

I want this morning to begin our conversation by one way of telling the story…

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Rediscover Catholicism: Quotes (#51-75)

Quotes #1-21 from “Rediscover Catholicism,” by Matthew Kelly.

Quotes #22-50.

As I’ve said before, if you haven’t read it yet, you should.  It may set your soul on fire for our Catholic faith.

  1. There are certain disciplines that are associated with the lifestyle of an athlete that could also be compared with the lifestyle of a Christian.
  2. For the first Christians, Christianity was a lifestyle.
  3. There was unity and continuity between their professional lives and their family lives, between their social lives and their lives as members of the Church.
  4. Many people feel that they need to leave the values and principles of their faith outside certain activities in the same way you leave a coat in a waiting room.
  5. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.  Enkindle in us the fire of your love.  Send forth your spirit and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.
  6. The essence of Catholicism is dynamic transformation.
  7. You cannot become more like Jesus Christ and at the same time stay as you are.
  8. God constantly calls us to new life.
  9. As you journey toward your destiny, God intertwines your talents with the needs of others to allow you the privilege of touching them, serving them, and inspiring them as they make their own journey.
  10. [Quoting G.K. Chesteron:] “Christianity has not be tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
  11. “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you should also love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
  12. How I wish that when people discovered you or I are Catholic, they could immediately conclude that we are honest, hardworking, generous, loving, joyful, compassionate, temperate, humble, disciplined, prayerful, and generally in love with life.
  13. [In meeting with Catholic leaders around the world], the same issues seem to emerge consistently: Our parishes are emptying; we lack real contact with the youth; divorce is destroying families, dividing communities, and alienating whole families from Catholicism for generations to come; vocations to the priesthood and religious life are scarce; and the Church is facing a growing marginalization in the wake of an ever-intensifying secularity.
  14. As a Church, we have failed to show them how Jesus, the sacraments, the Gospel, the Eucharist, and Catholic spirituality in general can ease their pain, make them whole again, and bring meaning and purpose to their lives.
  15. The mission of the Church in this age is to share the life-giving gift of the Gospel with the people of our time.
  16. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and only when necessary use words.”  Our culture is hungry for authentic lives.  Let your life speak.
  17. Personal holiness is the answer to every problem.
  18. Holiness is simply the application of the values, principles, and spirit of the Gospel to the circumstances of our everyday lives, one moment at a time.  It is not complicated; it is disarmingly simple.  But simple is not the same as easy.
  19. [Saints] fashion Catholicism into a lifestyle, they listen attentively to the voice of God in their lives, and they passionately pursue their personal adventure of salvation.
  20. The Church… is not so much something we inherit from generations past… as it is something on loan to us from future generations.
  21. Everything the Church does is centered around a celebration.
  22. The spirit of Catholicism is predominantly one of celebration, which is the genius and the fundamental orientation of our faith.
  23. I believe the best way to defend life is to celebrate life.
  24. When Catholicism is the foundation of our family life, our social life, our intellectual life, our spiritual life, our community life, and our professional life, then we will have established an integrated life, a life of integrity.
  25. And if just a handful of people in one place and at one time will give their whole selves to seeking, discovering, embracing, and living this life, they will change the whole course of human history.

Rediscover Catholicism: Quotes (#22-50)

This post is a continuation from the one I published earlier.  Again, if you haven’t already gotten a copy, I highly recommend Matthew Kelly’s “Rediscover Catholicism.”  This book may very well revitalize your love for our faith.  There is genius in Catholicism:

  1. We often do things that we think will make us happy, only to discover that they end up making us miserable.
  2. These moments of happiness are of course real, but only as real as a shadow: A person’s shadow is real, but it is nothing compared to the actual person.
  3. God gave us this yearning for happiness that constantly preoccupy our hearts.  It seems he has placed this yearning within each human heart as a spiritual navigational instrument designed to lead us to our destiny.
  4. The philosophy of Christ is the ultimate philosophy of human happiness.
  5. It is easy to be a follower, but to be a disciple means to be a student — to be humble, docile, and teachable, and to listen.  All this requires discipline.  Christ invites us to a life of discipline not for his sake, but for our sake; not to help him, but to help us; not to make him happy, but to allow us to share in his happiness.
  6. There are four major aspects of the human person: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.
  7. Christ proposes a life of discipline… as the key to freedom.
  8. We find ourselves enslaved and imprisoned by a thousand different whims, cravings, addictions, and attachments.
  9. [Our culture subscribes to] the adolescent notion that freedom is the ability to do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, without interference from any authority.
  10. Freedom is the strength of character and the self-possession to do what is good, true, noble, and right.
  11. Love is the core of Jesus’ philosophy.  But in order to love you must be free.  For to love is to give your self freely and without reservation.
  12. [To] give your self — to another person, to an endeavor, or to God — you must first possess your self.  This possession of self is freedom.  It is a prerequisite for love, and is attained only through discipline.
  13. Before Jesus, the sick were left on the side of the road, left there to rot and die by relatives who feared for their own health.
  14. Education was only for the nobility until the Church recognized and proclaimed the dignity of every human person and introduced the idea that every person deserved an education.
  15. All the worldly success of Christ and the Church are insignificant compared to the change Christ wants to have in you and your life.
  16. Love is our origin and our destiny.
  17. Our quest for happiness is a quest for God.  This is the genius of God.  [It] is the ultimate homing device, designed to draw us gently toward our eternal home.
  18. [Quoting St. Augustine:] “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, Lord.”
  19. Christ did not entrust the Church with a social, political, or economic mission, but with a mission that is primarily spiritual.
  20. When we allow the Gospel to transform the way we live and love and work, it elevates every honest human endeavor and every aspect of society.
  21. [God] wants to deliver you from everything that stands in the way of becoming the-best-version-of-yourself.
  22. [God reveals to us our unique pat of salvation through] the relationship between our legitimate needs, our deepest desires, and our talents.
  23. One of the most ancient practices of Christian spirituality is the unveiling of the deepest desires of our hearts through contemplation and reflection.
  24. It is through prayer, reflection, the Scriptures, the grace of the Sacraments, the wisdom of the Church, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we discover and walk the path that God is calling us to walk.
  25. The world and all it has to offer [i.e. pleasure, possessions, power] can never content the human heart.  God alone can satisfy the deepest cravings of our hearts.
  26. It is the task of the Church to introduce us to our destiny by unveiling for us the mystery of God, who is our ultimate end and our destiny.
  27. God invites us to live, and become the-best-version-of-ourselves.
  28. Let us never forget that people do not exist for the Church — the Church exists for people.
  29. It is your task and mine to introduce others to their destiny by unveiling the mystery of God for them.  It is your task and mine to assist all those who cross our paths to fulfill their destiny.  This is one of the brilliant and beautiful ways that God has tied us all together.

Rediscover Catholicism: Quotes (#1-21)

I’m re-reading Matthew Kelly’s “Rediscover Catholicism” and am finding the author to be very quotable.  So here are 21 quotes for your enjoyment:

  1. There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world.  There are sixty-seven million Catholics in America — that’s at least fifteen million more people than it takes to elect an American president.
  2. Every single day the Catholic Church feeds, houses, and clothes more people, takes care of more sick people, visits more prisoners, and educates more people than any other institution on the face of the earth could ever hope to.
  3. The very essence of health care and caring for the sick emerged through the Church, through the religious orders, in direct response to the value and dignity that the Gospel assigns to each and every human life.
  4. Prior to the Church’s introduction of education for the common man, education was reserved only for the nobility.  Almost the entire Western world is educated today because of the Church’s pioneering role in universal education.
  5. In the United States alone the Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students every day, at the cost of ten billion dollars a year to parents and parishes.
  6. The Catholic education system alone saves American taxpayers eighteen billion dollars a year.
  7. The Catholic Church has a nonprofit hospital system comprising of 637 hospitals, which treat one in five patients in the United States every day.
  8. Our contribution on a local, national and global scale remains phenomenal even in spite of our faults, inefficiencies, and recent scandals, and yet the Church is despised by millions of ordinary Americans, while most Catholics want to crawl under the table when people start talking about the Church in a social setting.
  9. We have forgotten our story and as a result we allow the anti-Catholic segments of the media to distort our story on a daily basis.
  10. This year Catholic Charities will provide 2.2 million free meals to the hungry and the needy of Chicago.  We don’t ask them if they are Catholic — we just ask them if they are hungry.  Rediscover Catholicism.
  11. There is nothing wrong with Catholicism that can’t be fixed by what is right with Catholicism.
  12. We gravitate toward what is manageable, rather than imagining what is possible.
  13. If you had an ancient treasure map, would you throw it away just because it was old?
  14. Most of us know good, intelligent people, contributing members of our communities, who won’t have anything to do with Christianity. … Did the hypocrisy of individual church members or leaders obscure their experience of God?
  15. Our siblings, parents, and children are sending us this message, as are our friends, neighbors, and colleagues.  They are saying, whispering, crying out, “Don’t tell me — show me!”
  16. In reference to the well-known fact that Gandhi read from the New Testament every day and often quoted the Christian Scriptures, a reporter once asked him why he had never become a Christian.  He answered, “If I had ever met one, I would have become one.”
  17. We spend much of our time fixated on secondary questions (usually related to controversial and sensational issues) and every little time exploring the primary questions about our brief stay here on earth.
  18. [The three dominant philosophies of our time:] (1) Individualism: “What’s in it for me?”; (2) Hedonism: “If it feels good, do it!”; (3) Minimalism: “What is the least I can do?”
  19. The false and adolescent notion is that freedom is the opportunity to do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, without the interference of any other person or party.
  20. Hedonism is not an expression of freedom; it is a passport to enslavement by a thousand cravings and addictions.  And in the end it produces not pleasure, but despair.
  21. Minimalism is the enemy of excellence and the father of mediocrity.

Christ’s Agony in the Garden, A Reflection, Part 2

I would like to continue sharing Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s reflection on Christ’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, which now focuses on the meaning of finding the Apostles asleep.  I pray that it will help you in your reflections during Lent.

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In between the sins of the past which He pulled upon His soul as if they were His own, and the sins of the future which made Him wonder about the usefulness of His death — Quae utilitas in sanguine meo — was the horror of the present.

He found the Apostles asleep three times.  Men who were worried about the struggle against the powers of darkness could not sleep — but these men slept.  No wonder, then, with the accumulated guilt of all the ages clinging to Him as a pestilence, His bodily nature gave way.  As a father in agony will pay the debt of a wayward son, He now sensed guilt to such an extent that it forced Blood from His Body, Blood which fell like crimson beads upon the olive roots of Gethsemane, making the first Rosary of Redemption.  It was not bodily pain that was causing a soul’s agony; but full sorrow for rebellion against God that was creating bodily pain.  It has been observed of old that the gum which exudes from the tree without cutting is always the best.  Here the best spices flowed when there was no whip, no nail, and no wound.  Without a lance, but through the sheer voluntariness of Christ’s suffering, the Blood flowed freely.

Sin is in the blood.  Every doctor knows this; even passersby can see it.  Drunkenness is in the eyes, the bloated cheek.  Avarice is written in the hands and on the mouth.  Lust is written in the eyes.  There is not a libertine, a criminal, a bigot, a pervert who does not have his hate or his envy written in every inch of his body, every hidden gateway and alley of his blood, and every cell of his brain.

Since sin is in the blood, it must be poured out.  As Our Lord willed that the shedding of the blood of goats and animals should prefigure His own atonement, so He willed further that sinful men should never again shed any blood in war or hate, but would invoke only His Precious Blood now poured out in Redemption.  Since all sin needs expiation, modern man, instead of calling on the Blood of Christ in pardon, sheds his own brother’s blood in the dirty business of war.  All this crimsoning of the earth will not be stopped until man in the full consciousness of sin begins to invoke upon himself in peace and pardon the Redemptive Blood of Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Every soul can at least dimly understand the nature of the struggle that took place on the moonlit night in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Every heart knows something about it.  No one has ever come to the twenties — let alone to the forties, or the fifties, or the sixties, or the seventies of life — without reflecting with some degree of seriousness on himself and the world round about him, and without knowing the terrible tension that has been caused in his soul by sin.  Faults and follies do not efface themselves from the record of memory; sleeping tablets do not silence them; psychoanalysts cannot explain them away.  The brightness of youth may make them fade into some dim outline, but there are times of silence — on a sick bed, sleepless nights, the open seas, a moment of quiet, the innocence in the face of a child — when these sins, like spectres or phantoms, blaze their unrelenting characters of fire upon our consciences.  Their force might not have been realized in a moment of passion, but conscience is biding its time and will bear its stern uncompromising witness sometime, somewhere, and force a dread upon the soul that ought to make it cast itself back again to God.  Terrible though the agonies and tortures of a single soul be, they were only a drop in the ocean of humanity’s guilt which the Savior felt as His own in the Garden.

Finding the Apostles asleep the third time, the Savior did not ask again if they could watch one hour with Him; more awful than any reprimand was the significant permission to sleep:

Sleep and take your rest hereafter;
As I speak, the time draws near
When the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.
(Matthew 26:45)

The fatigued followers were allowed to sleep on until the last moment.  Their sympathy was needed no longer; while His friends slept, His enemies plotted.