Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Company We Keep

“You’re no better than the company you keep.”

My grandfather used to tell that to my father, and my father occasionally passed along that wisdom to me and my siblings.

As an adult, I’ve wondered whether those words are meant mostly for kids, to keep them away from bad influences in their formative years.

But certainly grown-ups need to be surrounded by good people, too. We need friends who are better than us to help us to continue to mature and grow.

Personally, I can think of several times when others made me a better person because of their influence.

In college, I was randomly assigned a multi-talented roommate. As a sophomore, she was advanced enough to be a teaching assistant in chemistry, her major. She also played the piano and minored in music. On a lark, she tried out for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln speech team, earned a spot at nationals, and was writing speeches for the governor the following summer. Also during summer break, she spent time in Spain, becoming fluent in Spanish.

My roommate’s talent didn’t rub off on me, but she motivated me. She was upbeat and happy, and I had my best grades when I roomed with her.

I never set out to surround myself with people of strong faith, but God seems to have taken care of that for me. He knows my needs – and weaknesses – and has given me good examples to follow, especially here at St. Columbkille, in priests and parishioners that I would call “scary holy,” with an astounding presence of God in them.

Sometimes those influences, those friends, come and go in our lives. We wish we could hang on to them because they showed us how to live and helped us grow, but we have to trust in God’s providence. He has greater plans for us and them.

One friend, the late Susan Koeppe, taught me the value of words. She chose hers carefully. She often paused before she spoke, and I could sense that she was looking for just the right words – the kindest, most effective way to get her point across.

When she was dying and after her death, I learned so much about Susan. I realized I never really knew her. I didn’t know her favorite color was green. It was apparent she was smart, but I never knew she graduated from college with distinction from college or received a Fulbright scholarship for a year of study in New Zealand.

Susan and I occasionally shared long conversations, and I relied on her advice, especially in spiritual matters – but she rarely talked about herself.

I would do well to follow her example.

And I can still turn to her for help.

God has placed many good people in my life, including His multitude of saints in heaven.

Thank You, Lord, for the “cloud of witnesses” you give us in heaven and on earth. May we learn from them, the company you would have us keep.

Inspired by the Year of Faith, Susan Szalewski began writing weekly columns for us. Although that year is over, we liked them so well that we asked her to keep writing. Thankfully, she said yes. So watch for these on Thursdays and see the Year of Faith Blog here.

Riddle of the Day

Riddle: What saint was cannonized before he died?

Answer: It was the saint with the feast day today: St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Inigo de Loyola was born in 1491 in Azpeitia in northern Spain. At the age of 30 in 1521 he was an officer defending the fortress of the town of Pamplona against the French, who claimed the territory as their own. The Spaniards were outnumbered and the commander wanted to surrender, but Ignatius convinced him to fight on for the honor of Spain, if not for victory. During the battle a cannon ball struck Ignatius, [Get it – “cannonized”] wounding one leg and breaking the other. Because they admired his courage, the French soldiers carried him back to recuperate at his home, the castle of Loyola, rather than to prison.

His leg was set but didn’t heal, so it was broken again and reset, all without anesthesia. Ignatius grew worse and was told by the doctors that he should prepare for death. On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29), he took an unexpected turn for the better. The leg healed.

During the long weeks of recuperation, he was extremely bored and asked for some romance novels to pass the time. There were none in the castle of Loyola, but there was a copy of the life of Christ and a book on the saints. Desperate, Ignatius began to read them. The more he read, the more he considered the exploits of the saints worth imitating. At the same time he continued to have daydreams of fame and glory, along with fantasies of winning the love of a noble lady of the court. He noticed, however, that after reading and thinking of the saints and Christ he was at peace and satisfied. Yet when he finished his long daydreams of his noble lady, he would feel restless and unsatisfied. Not only was this experience the beginning of his conversion, it was also the beginning of spiritual discernment, or discernment of spirits, which is associated with Ignatius and described in his Spiritual Exercises.

He went not only went on to become a priest, but he is the founder of the Jesuits. Today is his Feast Day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Immigration Information

Bishop Flores wrote:

A few days ago, July 22, to be exact, I was happy to join a visiting delegation of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention for a tour of the newly opened facility for processing unaccompanied minors, operated by Immigration Enforcement. It is important for religious leaders to see for themselves the extent of the human tragedy unfolding in our time here in the Western Hemisphere.

I am particularly fond of this picture to the side. Not because I am speaking, but because I am really happy to have these gentlemen of faith covering my back!
While inside, we had a chance to see the children and speak briefly with them. We also spoke with law enforcement personnel who assist in interviewing the children.  I think the common witness of the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, calling for a humanitarian response to the current influx of unaccompanied minors from Central American, is a singularly important witness. We call on our political leadership to recognize that we as a nation have the resources to respond calmly and effectively to women and children who are fleeing violence and extreme poverty. After we visited the new detention center in McAllen, we traveled together to San Antonio, Texas, where we visited the detention center located at Lackland Airforce Base. Again, we had a chance to speak to officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, who oversee the operation at Lackland. We also had a chance to talk to some of the young people.
I think this would be a good moment to answer some basic questions I have heard asked by ordinary folks. Many tell me that the media reports they hear do not necessarily clarify what is happening. 
For more click here

Last week many of our parish staff attended a presentation on Immigration Reform led by Jossy Rogers from Catholic Charities and Omar Gutierrez from the Archdiocesan Office of Missions and Justice.

We are delighted that they will be leading a session at our parish. It will be:

Immigration Reform and the Catholic Church
Tuesday, August 26th
7:30 to 9:30
Social Level of the church

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Our Lips are Sealed

A pop song from '80s has been replaying in my head since I heard it on the radio about a week ago.

I don’t know the lyrics very well, so interiorly I hum a few bars and sing the one line I know: “Our Lips Are Sealed,” which is also the name of the song, sung by the Go-Gos.

"Our lips are sealed" usually means a promise to keep quiet, but the phrase has taken on new meaning for me as it's been repeated in my brain. This week, at the same time I've been thinking about the song, I've had the blessing of being able to go to Mass several times and receive the Eucharist in both the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood.

When I receive Jesus' Precious Blood, I try to drink as little as possible, just a drop, because I know that's sufficient – for me and the whole world. And something strikes my heart in that initial encounter, when the Precious Blood touches my lips.

It makes me feel unworthy as I'm aware of its touch. It reminds me of how I've used my mouth to hurt others with my words. And its bittersweet taste on my tongue seems appropriate: the bitterness for our Lord's suffering and death because of our sins, and the sweetness of the very essence of pure Love, His blood poured out for us.

Now – particularly in the month of July, traditionally dedicated to the Precious Blood – when I think of "Our Lips Are Sealed," I think of them being sealed in the sense of an anointing, through our Lord's precious blood. And what a blessing that is!

In Wednesday's Mass readings, we heard of God appearing to the prophet Jeremiah: “Then the Lord extended His hand and touched my mouth, saying, ‘See, I place my words in your mouth! This day I set you over nations and kingdoms, to root up and to tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and to plant.’”

If God sanctified Jeremiah with His touch and sent him forth with a holy purpose, how much more has he blessed us with the touch of His Precious Blood on our mouths. We also are called to “root up and tear down, to destroy and demolish” whatever is not of God, sometimes using our mouths for that purpose.

And we also are to use our mouths “to build up” the Kingdom of God and “to plant” His word, like the sower in Jesus' parable in Wednesday’s Gospel reading.

When we receive Jesus' Precious Blood, our lips truly are sealed. We have been given an anointing, a calling. Our mouths are sacred and should be used to build others up, to kiss their wounds, to admonish their sins.

This month and always, let us adore and pray:

“O Sacrament Most Holy! O Sacrament Divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!”

Inspired by the Year of Faith, Susan Szalewski began writing weekly columns for us. Although that year is over, we liked them so well that we asked her to keep writing. Thankfully, she said yes. So watch for these on Thursdays and see the Year of Faith Blog here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cleaning It Up

A lot of things had to be moved so we 
can get the carpets cleaned today.

Amazingly, it will be done and ready for Mass at 5:30.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Treasure Hunt

Over the past week my family went on vacation, and we enjoyed some long, meandering walks.

As we roamed and explored we’d stop to take pictures, peer across distances through binoculars or a telescope and collect all sorts of “treasures:” rocks, seashells, acorns, flowers and leaves.

We also had the chance to do a lot of shopping, including some at thrift stores and rummage and garage sales, finding many treasures there, too.

After returning home with a carload of stuff, I've come to a conclusion. I think we’re all born with a desire to find a treasure.

I've had dreams in which I visit a beach and look zealously for seashells, as if they were worth a fortune. And I've also had a dream common to many: finding a hidden room in a home. I connect these dreams with a desire for treasure, finding a hidden surprise.

I think the desire is innate because even the tiniest of us seem to like to uncover something precious. On vacation, my family watched at a fair as toddlers and preschoolers combed through sand to find buried toys, coins and knick-knacks.

Treasure hunting can amount to greed, an inordinate desire for material things. But I think God planted a desire for treasure in hearts, so that we would find Him, the ultimate treasure, as described in St. Matthew’s Gospel:

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

We all long for treasure. Let us pray we find the true treasure, the “pearl of great price,” and that we would be willing to part with everything to obtain Him.

Happy hunting, treasure-seekers.

Inspired by the Year of Faith, Susan Szalewski began writing weekly columns for us. Although that year is over, we liked them so well that we asked her to keep writing. Thankfully, she said yes. So watch for these on Thursdays and see the Year of Faith Blog here.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Replacing Some Stairs

We'd had some trouble with some of the stairs, so those were torn out and replaced this week.

Doesn't it look nice now?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mary Magdalene at the Cross

"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala."
(John 19:25)

Twenty-two years ago, I spent much of July at Children's Hospital.

My husband, Tim, and I had a newborn daughter home from another hospital for just a day, when we noticed her arm and leg twitching on one side of her body -- a seizure, it turned out.

We took her to Children's and learned she'd had bleeding in her brain -- likely from her delivery a few days earlier -- and the blood had clotted and was blocking spinal fluid in her brain and creating pressure there.

My parents met us at the hospital that evening. After learning the diagnosis but before returning home exhausted and without our baby, I remember my mother saying:  "I hate to tell you this, but welcome to parenthood."

Tim and I had a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old at home with their other grandmother, so we weren't completely new to parenting. But my mom knew all parents eventually face moments like these.

Looking back, I realize those times aren't reserved for parents alone. All love eventually takes us to the cross. Sooner or later our beloved ones will suffer, and we will be there with them.

Our daughter, Mary Therese, received three sacraments during her hospital stay: baptism, anointing of the sick and confirmation. Unlike most people who are confirmed, she wasn't able to choose her confirmation name. Tim and I made a quick choice, a well-known saint whom the church remembers every July: Mary Magdalene.

Now, more than ever, that choice seems appropriate. St. Mary Magdalene knew how to love, and she was faithful in that love even at the cross and the tomb.

Jesus rewarded her by showing her the glory of the Resurrection, as one of the first people to see Him on Easter and as one of our great saints.

A lot of time has passed since our daughter's birth, and now we probably take her good health for granted. During that early hospitalization one doctor told us: "She might be able to walk, but she'll never be a track athlete." (So of course I enjoyed a particular satisfaction when Mary was on St. Columbkille's track team while in school there.

Our family has so much to celebrate in remembering Mary's birth.

Jesus showed us the love of the cross -- and the glory of new life.

Inspired by the Year of Faith, Susan Szalewski began writing weekly columns for us. Although that year is over, we liked them so well that we asked her to keep writing. Thankfully, she said yes. So watch for these on Thursdays and see the Year of Faith Blog here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

2014 Heartland Family Festival

The Heartland Family Festival is Saturday, August 2nd. More information can be found here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Art of Paper Quilling

Today Lorraine Stanfield and Ralph Bichel spoke with members of the Happy Club about their quilling.

Lorraine told how they met and later learned about quilling at a resort in Texas.Paper quilling dates back the 14th century when religious sisters would do it to embellish Bibles or religious tracts. It saw a resurgence in Victorian times as it was considered something a woman of standing could do "without being too taxing upon her delicate nature."

 Above is the first piece Lorraine did.

Ralph has really enjoyed this centuries-old art form. As a former art student, he has enjoyed designing his own creations.

It's amazing what you can do with 
a bunch of thin strips of paper.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

St. Maria Goretti

In 1902, just 2 months before her 12th birthday, Maria was accosted by the young man Alessandro Serenelli. Alessandro threatened her with death if she would not have an immoral relationship with him. Maria's response was, "No! No! it is a sin!" On July 5, 1902, the frustrated Alessandro was to stab Maria 14 times, causing her to suffer an agonizing death. She succumbed the next day of her wounds. She had repeatedly warned Alessandro he was risking eternal damnation.

As she lay dying, when the parish priest of Nettuno brought her Holy Viaticum and asked whether she forgave Alessandro, she replied, "Yes, I forgive him and want him to be in Paradise with me some day."

Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years of prison. Showing no remorse for his crime, Alessandro had a remarkable dream during his 8th year of imprisonment. "The dream was so vivid he could not distinguish it from reality. The prison bars and walls fell away and his cell was a sunlit garden blooming with flowers. Towards him came a beautiful girl dressed in pure white. He said to himself: 'How is this? Peasant girls wear darkish clothes.' But he saw it was Marietta. She was walking among flowers, smiling, and without the least fear. He wanted to flee from her but could not. Marietta picked white lilies and handed them to him saying, 'Alessandro, take them!' He accepted the lilies, one by one, fourteen of them. But a strange thing took place. As he received them from her fingers, the lilies did not remain lilies but changed into so many flaming lights. There was a lily turned to purifying flame for every one of the 14 mortal blows he struck her on the fatal day in Ferriere. Marietta said smilingly, 'Alessandro, as I have promised, your soul shall someday reach me in heaven.'"

From that time on, he was consumed to make reparation for his crime. After 27 years of imprisonment, Alessandro was released, spared 3 years of confinement due to being a model prisoner. He went to Maria’s mother, Assunta Goretti, whom he had last seen 31 years before at his trial. Begging Assunta's forgiveness, she placed her hands on his head, caressed his face and gently said, "Alessandro, Marietta forgave you, Christ has forgiven you, and why should I not also forgive. I forgive you, of course, my son! Why have I not seen you sooner? Your evil days are past, and to me, you are a long-suffering son." (DiDon ato, p. 142)

Alessandro would testify at length at the canonical process for the beatification of Maria Goretti- the only witness who could detail what had actually happened in a brutal murder. He died at the age of 89 after a long life of prayer and penance in expiation of his crime, always invoking the intercession of St. Maria Goretti as his "protector".

On June 24, 1950 at the canonization of St. Maria Goretti in the open Piazza of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. "Never before had a million souls come to St. Peter's Basilica all at one time, nor in Catholic history had there ever been present at the ceremony of canonization the mother of the Saint." (Di Donato)

Pius XII who would canonize her, noted that St. Maria Goretti stood not only for purity of soul and body but also for "mastery of the spiritual over the material, for docile love of her parents, for sacrifice in harsh, daily labor, for poverty accepted as the Gospel teaches us to accept it, for love of prayer and of Jesus in the Eucharist, for charity in her heroic forgiveness [of her murderer]."

The Safe Environment program is the Omaha archdiocesan response to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. For more information go to

The text on St. Maria Goretti was taken from the website and the icon above was written by Fr. William McNichols. More information on Fr. McNichols and his icons is available at

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pope Francis Gives 6 Lessons from Soccer

Rome Reports has complied this list of analogies Pope Francis has used from soccer:

"Jesus asks us to follow him all of our lives, he asks us to be his disciples, for us to 'play on his team.'”

Pope Francis said that in order to be on Christ's team, people need to train. He explained what the training consists of.

"What does a player do when he's call to be a part of a team? He has to train, and train a lot. That's also how our lives as disciples of the Lord are. These is the training needed to follow Jesus: prayer, the Sacraments, and helping others, service towards others.”

As any avid soccer fan can attest, teams have their ups and downs. The Pope used this as a reminder that the important thing is not to win, but to get up and try again after losing.

"If you make a mistake in life, if you slip and fall, if you do something that's wrong, don't be afraid. 'Jesus, look at what I've done. What do I have to do now?' But always talk to Jesus, in good times and the bad.”

For any fan, the best view of the game has no price. But the Pope went on to say that there are no "free” access for Christians.

"He asks us to pray the entrance fee. And that fee requires us to train ourselves, to 'stay in shape,' in order to face without fear life's challenges, giving witness to our faith.”

It's never easy to accept defeat, especially when the match isn't fair. But the key, according to Pope Francis, is to always play clean.

"During a match, when you're on the field, you find beauty, gratitude and teamwork. If a team is missing that, it loses strength, even if it wins.”

The goal for any championship is to win. A trophy is the ultimate symbol of victory, but the Pope recalled that Christians receive something even more important.

"Jesus offers us something greater than the World Cup; something even greater than the World Cup! Jesus offers us the opportunity for a fruitful and happy life, and a never-ending future by His side, in eternal life. That's what Jesus has to offer.”

Any pilgrim that has followed his work, knows the Pope often talks about soccer. But even before him, St. Paul wrote in his letters that it's necessary to run like athletes in order to pursue the laurel crown that never withers.

Here is the video from Rome Reports:

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Saint on Skis

As Pier Giorgio Frassati was declared Blessed by St. John Paul II, a banner of him was unfurled. Traditionally such banners depict an icon of the saint. But instead it showed a young, strong mountain climber with one foot firmly resting on rock.

"With every passing day," Pier Giorgio wrote, "I fall madly in love with the mountains; their fascination attracts me." He was a member of the Italian Alpine Club and scaled a number of mountains. He once spent a sleepless night in a hole dug in snow and a descent in a snowstorm. The mountains allowed him to test his athletic body. With contagious joy he experienced the spirit of emulation.

With others, he would sometimes say his foot hurt so he needed to rest in order to not humiliate those who really did need to rest. He would also go back and forth between the mountains and plain in order to lighten the backpacks of those who were a little weaker. He had a spirit not even fatigue could destroy. Despite his off-key voice, he would sing for the group or invite everyone to pray before sleep.

He had a deep spiritual life with the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin as the two poles of his prayer life. While only 17, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society serving the sick and needy, caring for orphans and assisting the servicemen back from World War I. He would run home from school so he could give his bus fare to others. His charity was not simply giving to others, but fully giving himself. He often gave up vacations at the family summer home because "If everyone leaves Turin, who will take care of the poor?"

He told a friend he had decided to become a mining engineer (studying at the Royal Polytechnic University of Turin) so he could "serve Christ better among the miners." He joined the Catholic Student Foundation and Catholic Action promoting the Church's social teaching based on the principles Pope Leo XIII set in his encyclical Rerum Novarum.

Pier Giorgio contracted polio just before graduating form the university. Doctors suspected he caught the disease from the sick whom he tended. Still, he neglected his own health because his grandmother was dying. After six days of great suffering, he died on July 4, 1925 at the age of 24. The day before he died, with a paralyzed hand, he wrote to a friend asking him to take medicine to a poor man he had been visiting.

Upon his death, his family was stunned by the multitude of poor and needy who came to do him homage. They, in turn, were shocked to learn that he had been the heir to a wealthy family.

St John Paul II  said, "I wanted to pay homage to a young man who was able to witness to Christ with singular effectiveness in this century of ours. When I was a young man, I, too, felt the beneficial influence of his example and, as a student, I was impressed by the force of his testimony."

His remains, found incorrupt and completely intact in 1981, were moved from the family tomb to the cathedral in Turin. In 1990, at the beatification, St. John Paul II called him the "Man of the Eight Beatitudes." He was also named a Patron Saint of World Youth Days.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Prayerfully Celebrate Independence

It's time to celebrate our nation's birthday and the many freedoms we enjoy. Safely enjoy the picnics, fireworks and other festivities. And remember God as part of the celebration.

Fortnight for Freedom events conclude with holy hours 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. today and 8 a.m. on the Fourth of July, followed by a 9 a.m. Mass.

And below are a few prayers, borrowed from Catholic Online (

Prayer for our Nation (U.S.A)
God our Father,
Giver of life,
we entrust the United States of America to Your loving care.

You are the rock on which this nation was founded.
You alone are the true source of our cherished rights to life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Reclaim this land for Your glory and dwell among Your people.
Send Your Spirit to touch the hearts of our nation´s leaders.
Open their minds to the great worth of human life
and the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.
Remind Your people that true happiness is rooted in seeking and doing Your will.
Through the intercession of Mary Immaculate,
Patroness of our land,
grant us the courage to reject the "culture of death."
Lead us into a new millennium of life.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Prayer for Government Leaders
God of power and might, wisdom and justice, through You authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment is decreed. Assist with Your Spirit of counsel and fortitude the president and other government leaders of these United States. May they always seek the ways of righteousness, justice and mercy. Grant that they may be enabled by Your powerful protection to lead our country with honesty and integrity. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

A Prayer, For Those in the Military

Almighty God

We stand before You in supplication,
Asking Your Divine mercy and protection,
To envelop with Your invincible armor,
Our loved ones in all branches of the service.

Give them courage and strength
Against all enemies,
Both spiritual and physical,
And hasten their safe journey,
Back to their homes and families.

If it be Your holy will
That they be gathered to Your bosom,
With the eternal vanguard of the saints,
Let their journey to Your everlasting arms
Be swift and painless,

Where they may stand in honor and glory,
Praising You for all eternity.


Inspired by the Year of Faith, Susan Szalewski began writing weekly columns for us. Although that year is over, we liked them so well that we asked her to keep writing. Thankfully, she said yes. So watch for these on Thursdays and see the Year of Faith Blog here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The 20th Benediction of the Fortnight For Freedom

During the fourteen days of the Fortnight For Freedom, we are ending a Holy Hour with Benediction 24 times. This morning was the 20th.

During the days of the Fortnight For Freedom, parishioners have been praying with the Eucharist exposed in the chapel. Fr Vogel figured out this is well over 100 hours of prayer with our Lord.

Thank you to everyone who is or had been joining us in prayer:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Have You Got Your Fireworks Yet?

The St Columbkille Shepherds have their fireworks booth up at the South-West corner of 84th street and Cornhusker. They are ready to fulfill all your fireworks needs.

Remember to bring your coupon from page five of the bulletin this weekend for some savings:

Poor Pope Francis

(The Swiss Guards provide all security for the pope.)