Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 2, 2017

"And I promise you that whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these lowly ones because he is a disciple will not want for his reward." -- Matthew 10:42

“And I promise you that whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these lowly ones because he is a disciple will not want for his reward.” — Matthew 10:42

July 2, Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a

      Psalm 89:2-3, 16-19

      2) Romans 6:3-4, 8-11

      Gospel: Matthew 10:37-42


By Beverly Corzine
Catholic News Service

One winter morning I awoke to the sound of wind rattling loose windows and making a sorrowful sound that can only be experienced on the windswept Colorado prairie. I was an only and often lonely child in a world of adults, watching the light, sifting snow accumulate in the interior corners of my windowsill. As this particular day progressed, I realized that the storm I was observing was unlike any I had witnessed in my young life.

My mother and grandfather carried in load after load of snow-covered firewood, coal and canned goods from the cellar. “God only knows when I’ll be able to get out to the barn to feed again,” said my grandfather, closing the kitchen door behind him. I remember scraping frost from the windowpane and trying to catch a glimpse of him fighting his way through swirling snow on his way to the barn and henhouse. After what seemed hours to me, he burst through the kitchen door, cursing all snowstorms present and past while at the same time thanking God for being able to find the house in the blizzard that now raged against every living thing in its path.

After supper that evening we sat close to the gigantic brown heating stove. My mother had just begun the next chapter of the book she was reading to us when above the shrieking storm we heard a muffled knocking. I watched my mother and grandfather exchange perplexed looks. My mother resumed her reading. Then the knocking started again, this time at our front door.

I peered around his long legs as my grandfather opened the door. “In the name of God,” he shouted over the wind, “come in here and get warm!” Outside our front door in the sea of snow huddled a clump of people that turned out to be two snowbound couples and their exhausted, hungry children and young baby. I could not believe my good fortune. Children my own age had arrived and a baby besides. I would have playmates for more than a week until the thaw began. Life was good indeed.

Years later I understood that my grandfather really was welcoming our guests in the name of God. He and my mother would have extended the same life-saving hospitality to people in need on a warm spring day as they had during the winter of the deadly blizzard.


Have you remembered to welcome others as one would welcome Christ? How has the hospitality of others been a sign of Christ’s love to you?

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 25, 2017

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." -- Matthew 10:28

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” — Matthew 10:28

June 25, Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

      Cycle A. Readings

      1) Jeremiah 20:10-13

      Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35

      2) Romans 5:12-15

      Gospel: Matthew 10:26-33


By Beverly Corzine
Catholic News Service

By mid-June, school vacation days have begun across most of the country. Breakneck schedules for families subside. During this blessed time, travel is usually on the agenda. Those of us who live where it is hot long to go to some place cool. On the other hand, those who have endured months of living in a deep freeze often plan trips to sunny realms.

No matter what direction the compass may lead us, the summer itinerary of most vacationers will include a visit to at least one historical site. Walking the same ground where our fellow human beings have been put to the test often mesmerizes us. Their past becomes part of our past, and their stories become part of our own.

I never will forget my first visit to the lush Pennsylvania farmland where fields rich with sweet corn create towering green roadside walls. My destination that day had once been simply part of the rolling landscape — an open field that stretches to a patch of trees in the distance. I was one of millions of people to have visited this quiet place where the echoes of birdsong and muffled voices fill the air. One of history’s great ironies lay before me. The green grass now covers ground that once was soaked with blood. In the peace of a summer day the thunder of war raged — men and animals alike were trapped in the great pandemonium of suffering.

As I walked around the field, I thought of Abraham Lincoln, tormented by loneliness and the anguish of leadership, waiting for the horrific battlefield reports telegraphed from Gettysburg in July. Biographers tell us he was a man of great prayer, a man chosen by history whose only constant was God.

The first reading for this Sunday comes from the prophet Jeremiah. When we hear this ancient voice, it is helpful to know something of the man. God called Jeremiah to preach a message of repentance to God’s people who had strayed far away from their faith. In times of doubt, Jeremiah thinks that perhaps God has made a fool of him. In today’s passage from this great prophet we have a window into his suffering. However, we also have a palpable example of his sustaining faith.


What people in your life have been models of courage sustained through their reliance on God? When has your trust in God strengthened your ability to stand against the work of evil?

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 18, 2017

"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life." -- John 6:54

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” — John 6:54


June 18, Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a

      Psalm 147:12-15, 19-20

      2) 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

      Gospel: John 6:51-58


By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

My grandfather had been away from the church for more than 50 years. I only saw him a handful of times in my life because we always lived on opposite sides of the country.

I have a few memories of him though. When I was 16, he came for a visit, and I shook his hand with a rather limp effort. He looked me in the eye and proceeded to teach me how to shake another man’s hand: with a firm but not too powerful grip. I have put that into practice ever since.

When he was nearing the end of his life, my father went to visit him. In an attempt to help his father come back to the Lord, my father wrote a prayer on a piece of paper and gave it to my grandfather, then my dad came back home.

A few weeks later my grandfather passed away. When my dad went to the funeral, he stopped by the nursing home where my grandfather spent his final days and the nurse gave my dad back the piece of paper that he had given to his dad. The nurse explained that every day my grandfather would read this paper and say, “Dave (my dad) really loved me.”

The nurse went on to explain that after a few weeks of reading this prayer my grandfather asked to see a priest. He gave his first confession in more than 50 years and received Communion. The next day he died. I have always imagined the Lord keeping my grandfather alive long enough for him to come back to him.

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” For me, this verse has never been so true as in the life of my grandfather. Jesus offers us his body and blood as a ransom for our body and blood so that we can have eternal live. Though I did not get to know my grandfather very well on this earth, I look forward to having an eternity to catch up with him.


How has the body and blood of Jesus impacted your life? If you know someone who has been away from the church for a long time, what can you do to help him or her come back?

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 11, 2017

"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." -- John 3:16

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” — John 3:16

June 11, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9

      Psalm: Daniel 3:52-56

      2) 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

      Gospel: John 3:16-18


By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

Years ago I was a clown. Not in the Ringling Bros. sense of the word, but the clown ministry version. I loved my costume: I was kind of a prom date gone wrong with top hat, tails and all.

My time in this ministry was short-lived, and my great costume went into the closet to collect dust. Some time later a friend of mine who was still in the ministry asked if he could have my top hat for his costume. I was hesitant, thinking maybe I would pull it out for Halloween or some other random event. In the end I said no.

That top hat sat untouched on the top shelf in my office for the next 10 years. Every time I looked at it I remembered my unwillingness to give it away. My attachment to this small material object blocked the love I had for my friend.

Lucky for us, God does not behave like this. John’s Gospel tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

Love is wanting good for another and being willing to do what it takes to bring about this good in the person’s life. God demonstrates this definitively in the sacrifice of his Son. It is God’s desire that every one of us spend eternity in union with him.

To bring about this desired good meant sending Jesus to earth to suffer and die for our sins. God was willing to do this. This was the first “big give” (sorry, Oprah).

John 3:16 is not just a great sign to hold up in the end zone of a football game. It is the defining statement of God’s love for us. Yet, at the same time, it is also the blueprint for how we are called to love.

God does not ask us to give up our children to save the world, but he challenges us to show our love for God and our neighbor through what we give, be that a lifetime of missionary work or an unused top hat. It truly is not how much we give but that we give.


How would you make John 3:16 come alive for you? (You) so loved (name a person) that (you) gave (a gift) so that this person would have (name the good you want for him/her). What is a good you have received from someone’s love for you?

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Guest column: How are your technological ‘practices’ affecting your memory and imagination?

Brett Robinson is a guest columnist for Catholic News Service. He is director of communications and Catholic media studies at the University of Notre Dame McGrath Institute for Church Life. (CNS/courtesy Brett Robinson)

Brett Robinson is a guest columnist for Catholic News Service. He is director of communications and Catholic media studies at the University of Notre Dame McGrath Institute for Church Life. (CNS/courtesy Brett Robinson)

By Brett Robinson
Catholic News Service

As a father of four, I am familiar with practice. There’s hockey practice, piano practice and lots of practicing patience. My kids are learning what a C-sharp sounds like and how to track the puck when they are playing defense. These practices form our family by training perception.

I’m thankful for all of the kids’ activities, partly because they distract them from the screen. The screen is another venue for forming perception, though we rarely think of it that way. We tend to talk about media technology as a means for communicating or gathering information.

Meanwhile, the practice of using the technology is forming our perception in small ways that often go unnoticed.

One example is the blue light that is emitted from smartphones and tablets that interferes with the neurotransmitters that bring on sleep. Reading before bed can be a relaxing activity but doing it from a screen can tell your brain just the opposite, to wake up.

Media technology practice also has an effect on memory. How many times have you opted to Google something rather than try to remember it on your own? How many photos have you taken at a party or on vacation for fear that you might not remember how fun or beautiful everything was?

Practice forms habits and when they are properly ordered, habits can be salutary for the soul. However, habits can also turn into disordered obsessions or addictions. Today, we hear a lot about technology addiction but not a lot about technology practice.

There are certainly addictive qualities about media technology but even if we are not addicted, we are still engaged in the practice of using those technologies regularly. And those practices can alter our perception in ways that change our understanding of others, ourselves and God.

The question that needs asking is, What is all of this technology practice forming us for?

Our devices — even when they are put away — haunt us with the possibility that a new message or bit of news is ready to be consumed. It starts with a practice like using the computer for hours a day (required for most office workers) that spills over into leisure time with social media, games and plenty of Netflix.

For children, it is the threat of boredom that drives them to the screen. Boredom, a state once reserved for the free play of the imagination and memory, is conquered by their thirst for constant stimulation that can only be slaked by streaming media.

Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper said that leisure was the basis of culture. It’s leisure that gives us the time and space to contemplate God. Without it — in lives that are dictated by labor and the digital tools required to perform it — we lose our capacity to perceive the capaciousness of God. The ways that we spend our leisure time says a lot about what we ultimately value.

But there are upsides to the new technology’s effects on the senses, memory and imagination. There are practices that help us recognize the pain of another human being or get in touch with something transcendent.

One example is viewing family photos with a child and telling them stories about when they were little. It’s a small practice that forms their memory in ways that remind them that they are part of a family and a stream of memories, part of something much larger than themselves.

If the goal is finding a healthy balance with our technological creations, then we have to start with practice. Just as a doctor practices medicine, a Catholic practices religion. We know it’s the cure for our spiritual maladies, but sometimes we shirk our duty to rise and pursue the good.

Take a moment to revisit the practices in your daily life and to ask how they are forming your memory and imagination. As Catholics, we call to mind Christ’s passion, death and resurrection so that we can imagine a life of hope.

There’s even an app for that! It’s called 3D Catholic and 3D stands for three devotions: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It’s a simple reminder that our virtual technologies shouldn’t strip us of our physical bodies. Because those bodies can be used to commemorate Christ’s passion through prayer, fasting and helping others in very real ways.

– – –

Robinson is director of communications and Catholic media studies at the University of Notre Dame McGrath Institute for Church Life.

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Guest column: I didn’t sign up for this. Or did I?

Laura Kelly Fanucci is a guest columnist for Catholic News Service. (CNS/courtesy Laura Kelly Fanucci)

Laura Kelly Fanucci is a guest columnist for Catholic News Service. (CNS/courtesy Laura Kelly Fanucci)

By Laura Kelly Fanucci
Catholic News Service

Stripping soaked sheets off a child’s bed for the third night in a row. Scrubbing vomit out of a car seat. Listening to a bedroom door slam with an angry “I hate you!”

“This is not what I signed up for.”

In the years since I became a mother, the tempting, selfish thought has sneaked into my mind a thousand times, dark and brooding.

But every time a quiet voice responds gently: “Are you sure?”

Before we had children, the prospect of parenthood played in my mind like a movie montage: the joy of holding our baby, watching a toddler take first steps, spinning around with a laughing child, playing soccer together at the park, tearing up at graduation.

I daydreamed about the highlight reel. I did not imagine any ugly moments on the cutting room floor.

I smile now at my naivete. What parent wouldn’t? We grow into this calling as it polishes our rough edges smooth over time. Our tolerance for noise, mess and chaos increases as our younger impatience fades.

But after late nights or weeks of sickness or one more exasperating argument, I still hear the temptation creeping into my mind: “This is not what I signed up for.” The sin of pride, taunting me to believe myself better than the work before me.

Back when I was a bright-eyed college graduate, I signed up for a year of service in France with the Sisters of the Assumption. What better way to put my newly minted French degree to good use?

I found myself working in a L’Arche home for adults with severe physical and developmental disabilities. Every morning I stripped soaked sheets, washed them and remade the beds. Every day I helped residents go to the bathroom, get dressed and eat lunch.

I remember ironing the same stack of clothes for the 12th time that week and muttering to myself: “This is not what I signed up for.”

No one cared if I could analyze a French novel brilliantly. No one gave a glowing grade to my work. No one knew if I’d gone to a great university or had some all-star resume.

What I had signed up to do was to serve. With love. Which meant setting aside my own ego and expectations and humbling myself to the place God had called me, where the people I came to serve were the ones who taught me everything.

Turns out that year at L’Arche was the best preparation for parenthood.

Today none of my children care that I have a graduate degree. None of them have ever asked to see my resume. What matters to them is that I show up each day and love them. This is exactly what I signed up for when I became their mom.

Whenever I’m tempted to think otherwise, I hear the quiet, gentle voice I have come to recognize as God’s. That peaceful voice reminds me that the work of love is my vocation.

Sometimes it means washing stomach-churning laundry. Or comforting a crying newborn for hours. Or working through the daily conflicts of a house full of humans.

It’s not always what I pictured, glamorous or enviable. But callings don’t come with promises of bliss and self-fulfillment.

God asks us to give our lives to each other in sacrifice and love. Whether we are parents or priests, single or married, professionals or caregivers, we all grow into the hard work that comes with vocation. This is where God calls us.

This is exactly what we signed up for.

– – –

Fanucci is a mother, writer and director of a project on vocation at the Collegeville Institute in Collegeville, MN. She is the author of several books, including “Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting,” and blogs at www.motheringspirit.com.

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REWIND: Pope Francis on God as our Father

Here’s what you missed from Pope Francis’ weekly general audience this morning:

Pope Francis arrives for his general audience June 7 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (CNS/Reuters)

Pope Francis arrives for his general audience June 7 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (CNS/Reuters)

Here’s a link to our story today:


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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 4, 2017

“Then he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” — John 20:22

June 4, Pentecost Sunday

      Cycle A. Readings:

     1) Acts 2:1-11

      Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34

      2) 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13

      Gospel: John 20:19-23

By Dan Luby
Catholic News Service

Tornado season is part of the landscape of spring. It brings with it images of the wind’s awesome power and autonomy. Alongside tragic stories of devastation there are incredible tales of straw driven through telephone poles and of beds, complete with sleepers, lifted out of houses and deposited unharmed, hundreds of feet away.

The power of the wind is undeniable. The mystery of it, however, is that the wind itself cannot be seen. We can recognize its presence only by its effect on other things — roofless houses, snapping flags, mountainous snow drifts, sculpted dunes on an ocean beach.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “the term ‘Spirit’ translates the Hebrew word ‘ruah,’ which, in its primary sense, means breath, air, wind” (No. 691). As with the wind we recognize the power and presence of the Holy Spirit only by the shape it gives our lives.

In the Pentecost liturgy, Paul identifies one of the principal examples of how the Spirit invisibly moves us: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

It’s not that mere utterance of the words requires divine inspiration; rather, to say “Jesus is Lord” and mean it both requires and proves that the Holy Spirit is moving within us.

Whenever we see the Lordship of Jesus given shape in human community, we are seeing the effects of the Spirit. The loving attention of friends for a dying person; the courage of an employee refusing to cheat customers; the self-sacrifice of sleepless parents with a sick child; the inspiration of a heartfelt homily — all signal the Spirit’s moving our hearts and hands and minds.

May Pentecost open us more fully to the movement of God’s Spirit. May our lives give evidence of Christ’s love in a hurting world.


What is one good thing you’ve done for others that you were surprised you could do? What evidence of the invisible movement of the Spirit do you see daily that you tend to take for granted?

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, May 28, 2017

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” — Matthew 28:18-19a

May 28, The Ascension of the Lord

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Acts 1:1-11

      Psalm 47:2-3, 6-9

      2) Ephesians 1:17-23

      Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20


By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

I’ve had the privilege of being present when two of my nephews were commissioned as Marine officers. They had been through months of rigorous academic, physical and leadership training, and it was a proud moment for their parents when the new officers, resplendent in their “dress blues,” received their second-lieutenant pins.

The most moving part of the commissioning ceremony was the officers’ oath, ending with the solemn words, “I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion. … I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter, so help me God.”

My nephews’ commissioning marked the beginning of a commitment of service to their country and their fellow Marines. Although the details of their future deployments were as then unknown, they had been well prepared, authorized and empowered for the work that would be asked of them.

Today’s readings are about a different kind of commissioning — often referred to as “the great commission.” The 11 disciples, prepared and taught by Jesus during his ministry, passion, death and resurrection, assembled in Galilee as they had been instructed.

The writings of Matthew and Luke affirm both the given assignment — to be witnesses to Jesus’ Lordship to the entire world (evangelization) — and the power to accomplish it, through the awaited gift of the Holy Spirit. While each disciple probably had “mental reservations” and the occasional temptation to evade his commission, Jesus’ promise to be always with his body, the church, gave them the authority and the courage to fulfill their calling.

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium,” says: “All the baptized, whatever their position in the church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. … Indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.”

We, the baptized, are authorized by the Father, clothed in Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit — and our solemn oath is the promise made in baptism. It’s time for deployment.


When is the last time you shared your experience of “God’s saving love” with someone? How can you rely more on the Holy Spirit’s power to equip you as Jesus’ witness?

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Protecting children: Don’t let dedication deplete reserves of compassion

Drew Dillingham of the USCCB office of child protection is pictured in Rome Jan. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Drew Dillingham
Catholic News Service

(Fourteenth in a series)

ROME — To have compassion means to suffer with another. It is a trait we as Christians seek to live out every day. Many of us labor, personally and professionally, to carry out Jesus’ call to provide compassionate support to others. In our society, for example, mothers, fathers, priests, nuns, doctors, psychologists, nurses, social workers, teachers and many others dedicate their lives to helping others. In this way, many of us are fulfilling our vocations to love God and to love one another as ourselves.

Too often, however, we forget that in order to love one another, we must also love and take care of ourselves. Sometimes we spend so much time helping others carry their crosses that we forget we also are carrying our own. Spending time to help others, with no consideration of our own spiritual, physical and mental needs can lead to “compassion fatigue.” This is what my classmates and I learned at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Wednesday as we wrap up our studies on safeguarding minors. While we looked at this issue in terms of child protection and victim assistance, compassion fatigue can affect anyone whose role includes helping others on a consistent basis.

Dominican Sister Catherine Marie talks with a patient at a facility in Hawthorne, N.Y., in 2011. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

According to Charles Figley, an expert in psychology and mental health:

“Compassion fatigue has been described as the ‘cost of caring’ for others in emotional and physical pain. It is characterized by deep physical and emotional exhaustion and a pronounced change in the helper’s ability to feel empathy for their patients, their loved ones and their co-workers. It is marked by increased cynicism at work, a loss of enjoyment … and eventually can transform into depression, secondary traumatic stress and stress-related illnesses. The most insidious aspect of compassion fatigue is that it attacks the very core of what brought us into this work (to help): our empathy and compassion for others.”

One of the biggest obstacles to identifying and treating compassion fatigue is our struggle to recognize that the experiences, emotions and feelings of those we help can affect us negatively. As someone who enjoys reading stoic philosophy, I often find myself falling into that trap. For example, in Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, you can find ideas like, “Reject the sense of the injury, and the injury itself disappears,” or “When something happens that makes you feel bitter, treat it not as misfortune, but say ‘to bear this worthily is good fortune.'”

promiseThese types of stoic ideas can be helpful in some ways, but they also lead to the idea that we ourselves can always rise above our emotions and feelings. Our experiences in life show this not to be true. As Rachel Naomi Remen says, “The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet.”

pledgeTrue happiness requires more than just our own use of reason. It requires the recognition and management of our emotions, the help of others and the grace of God. One way to recognize if you are experiencing the effects of compassion fatigue is by using the Professional Quality of Life Scale. This scale is used by those in professions that help others to measure whether they need to take some time to provide for their own self-care. Those who have been providing care to others in their personal lives may also find this scale helpful.

Self-care can take the form of anything that relieves your stress and simply makes you happy. For example, hobbies, physical exercise, athletics, watching movies and comedies, being with those you love, taking a vacation and spending time with God through prayer. Mass or Eucharistic Adoration can be used to prevent and treat compassion fatigue. If self-care is not enough, it is also helpful to seek the assistance of other professionals.

Eucharist adoration at St. Margaret of Scotland Church in Shelden, N.Y., in 2009. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Compassion fatigue can affect all of us. In order to continue our vocations to provide compassionate care to others, it is important to be as kind to yourself as you are to others. So this week, I hope you take some time to take care your neighbor AND yourself.

– – –

Drew Dillingham is the Coordinator for Resources and Special Projects with the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.  He is attending Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University’s interdisciplinary program for a diploma in safeguarding minors. He is an avid reader of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and shares his April 26th birthday. Dillingham also dabbles in the works of Bishop Robert Barron, thanks to the ongoing encouragement of his wife, Kim. 


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