People of the Diocese of Covington help seminarians to ‘persevere,’ says Deacon Michael Elmlinger at the 2022 Seminary Ball

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

 Supporters of seminarian education gathered the evening of Oct. 21 for the 2022 Seminary Ball. Since its resurgence 13 years ago by Bishop Emeritus Roger Foys, the Seminary Ball has become the Diocese of Covington’s biggest fundraising event for seminarian education. The ball is hosted by the diocesan Office for Stewardship and Mission in conjunction with the Seminary Ball Committee. 

A record crowd of over 630 attended the ball, which included a reception and drinks, dinner and dancing, with speeches from Bishop John Iffert of the Diocese of Covington, and seminarian Deacon Michael Elmlinger. Father Gregory Bach, assistant director of seminarians, was the master of ceremonies. 

“Throughout seminary there’s a lot of peaks, a lot of doubts,” said Deacon Elmlinger. “First you have the peaks. Those are the greatest moments, the moments when you say I absolutely love everything I’m doing. You’re growing in your love of God, you grow in your love of the people of God, we just always grow in that love of the ministry that we’re training to undertake,” he said. 

“Those are the peaks but with every peak there is a valley, and those valleys can be very low,” Deacon Elmlinger continued. “In those valleys, there were three things that helped all of us to persevere, that helped all of the seminarians get through. First, ultimately and supremely is God. He constantly calls us to grow in that love of him and to go deeper into our relationship with him, and he gives us the grace to persevere,” he said, citing his family and all the people of the Diocese of Covington as the other two inspirations for perseverance. “It’s you who helps us to persevere,” he said, “whether it’s your prayers, whether it’s the ways that you support us, whether it’s just sending a card or just taking a few minutes a day just thinking about us.” 

In his address, Bishop Iffert reflected on his time as a seminarian. “I came home and let them (his parents) know that I was going to be leaving my job and that I was going to be going away to seminary. I was very nervous about telling my parents this because when I decided that I would go to seminary, I hadn’t yet decided that I was going to be a priest. I thought God might be calling me to be a priest. I had a sense that this was something I might have gifts to be able to do, and I was willing to spend some time thinking and praying,” he said. 

“My parents were amazing,” said Bishop Iffert. “My dad said, John, we’re proud of you and your grandparents would be proud of you. I’m just proud that I have a son who is willing to think about this, who’s willing to consider whether God might be calling them to do something like this. I want every seminarian to have that kind of support.” 

Bishop Iffert, whose mother had passed away days before the ball, finished his speech thanking the people of the Diocese and those attending the ball, saying, “Thank you for your support tonight … this week I buried my mother and I was surrounded by four brother bishops and about 30-35 priests who came together to help me and my family through that time, along with many other folks from the diocese who actually surprised me and made that trip,” he said. 

“It was a great gift to me. And, what we’re doing here tonight is to try to do everything we can to continue to provide the Church with these priestly leaders who will be there for you when you need them. Thank you again. God bless you for your generosity.” 

Image: The diocese’s seminarians sang for attendees of the 2022 Seminary Ball.

Meet Blessed Carlo Acutis — a witness of Christ for all

Mike Krokos, Catholic News Service

Italian teenager Carlo Acutis was beatified Oct. 10, 2020, in Assisi, Italy. He is the first millennial to be declared “blessed.” His feast is celebrated Oct. 12. 

Carlo used his computer programming skills to spread devotion to the Eucharist, which he called his “highway to heaven.” On the website he created, Carlo told people that “the more often we receive the Eucharist, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.” 

Although he grew up in Milan, Carlo requested to be buried in Assisi, because of his love for St. Francis of Assisi. 

Carlo’s faith was evident early in life. At age 7, he wrote, “To be always united with Jesus, this is my life program.” 

Before his death from leukemia at age 15 in 2006, Carlo was an average teen with an above-average knack for computers. He put that knowledge to use by creating an online database of Eucharistic miracles around the world. ( 

Carlo’s life centered around his faith: He attended daily Mass, prayed the rosary each day, received the sacrament of reconciliation weekly and prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. 

In his apostolic exhortation on young people, “Christus Vivit” (“Christ Lives”), Pope Francis said Carlo was a role model for young people today who are often tempted by the traps of “self-absorption, isolation and empty pleasure.” 

“Carlo was well-aware that the whole apparatus of communications, advertising and social networking can be used to lull us, to make us addicted to consumerism and buying the latest thing on the market, obsessed with our free time, caught up in negativity,” the pope wrote. 

“Yet he knew how to use the new communications technology to transmit the Gospel, to communicate values and beauty,” the pope added (#105). 

There was fruit born from Carlo’s devotion. His witness of faith led to a deep conversion in his mom, because, according to the priest promoting his cause for sainthood, he “managed to drag his relatives, his parents to Mass every day. It was not the other way around; it was not his parents bringing the little boy to Mass, but it was he who managed to get himself to Mass and to convince others to receive Communion daily.” 

Carlo also was known for defending kids at school who were picked on, especially students with disabilities. 

Pope Francis called Blessed Carlo a witness of Christ for younger generations. But Carlo’s words and actions are worth all people emulating. 

“The only thing we have to ask God for, in prayer, is the desire to be holy,” Blessed Carlo once said. 

As we celebrate his life and continue our journey of faith, together we say: Blessed Carlo Acutis, pray for us. 

Mike Krokos is editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. 

Going deeper 

Carlo Acutis used his talents in digital media and devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist to create a website dedicated to sharing Eucharistic miracles that have occurred around the world. The website offers an especially useful digital “museum” where all of the Eucharistic miracles are beautifully organized and displayed. Visit his website at 

St. Henry Parish, Elsmere, has created 41 Eucharistic Miracle panels, including two panels that introduce Carlo Acutis and his miracles project, that schools and parishes are welcome to borrow. Contact St. Henry Parish, (859) 727-2035.

Thomas Murrin ordained to the Order of Deacon

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

 A congregation of family and friends gathered at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Oct. 15, for the ordination of Deacon Thomas (Tom) John Murrin to the Order of Deacon for the Diocese of Covington. Bishop John Iffert was the celebrant and ordaining prelate. Concelebrating were Father Mark Keene, vicar general and pastor of St. Agnes Parish, Ft. Wright, and Father David Sunberg, director of the Permanent Deacon Formation Program at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. 

While expected to be ordained with the rest of his class in April, an injury as result of a fall and subsequential months of recovery led to a delay of Tom Murrin’s ordination, which was celebrated last weekend. In attendance to this celebration was much of Deacon Murrin’s family, including his wife, Mary Murrin, and children, who spent “long hours in the hospital and long hours in Also attending the ordination Mass were many of the diocese’s deacons, including those who were ordained from Deacon Murrin’s class earlier this year and from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and members of Deacon Murrin’s home parish, St. Philip, Melbourne. 

During his homily, Bishop Iffert recalled the second reading from the Acts of the Apostles, describing the formation of the Order of Deacon. In this reading, the minority population, Greek-speaking Jews, believed their widows were being treated unfairly. As a solution, the apostles “call upon the assembled Church to select the leaders who will attend to the collection and distribution of food so that the apostles can attend to the prayer and ministry of the world,” said Bishop Iffert. “Notice that the community and the apostles are generous in their solution. All the men, all seven of them chosen for this diaconal ministry, all seven of them have Greek names. Presumably, they’re all from among the minority, who have raised this complaint. There’s no bickering about representation or fairness, these men are chosen from among the minority community that feels aggrieved, and they are entrusted to share the authority of the apostles.” 

Bishop Iffert then addresses Deacon Murrin directly, saying, “This is an extraordinary example for us. You can’t help but be struck by the generosity of this sharing of authority. There is no self interest in the call of these men, who we will come to think of as the first deacons … the only ambition that is properly Christian is the ambition to serve, to serve after the example of Jesus Christ,” he said. 

Following the homily, Bishop Iffert prays the Prayer of Ordination and lays his hands over top Deacon Murrin’s head, conferring the Holy Spirit to him and officially ordaining him as a deacon. Following, Deacon Murrin is vested for the first time by his brother, Deacon Kevin Murrin of the Diocese of Columbus. 

Following Mass, Bishop Iffert announced Deacon Murrin’s first official assignment — to his home parish of St. Philip, Melbourne.prayer accompanying Tom through those dark days,” said Bishop Iffert during his homily, thanking the family for their generosity of supporting Deacon Murrin and his pursuit of his “ordained ministry in the Church.” 

Image: Laying his hands over the head of Deacon Murrin, Bishop Iffert confers to him the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Let the ‘Soul of Christ’ lead you on the Eucharistic Revival

Laura Keener, Editor

On the Feast of Corpus Christi in June 2022, the Diocese of Covington, along with dioceses across the United States and in collaboration with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, launched a three-year Eucharistic Revival. The mission of the revival is to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. The key to achieving that mission is to restore understanding and devotion to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic. 

The revival will be implemented in three phases. Year 1 — June 2022 thru June 2023, is the Year of Diocesan Revival. Each Diocese is tasked to encourage the faithful to grow in their understanding and devotion to Christ in the Eucharist. 

In the Diocese of Covington, Father Daniel Schomaker, director, Office of Worship and Liturgy, will be leading the diocese’s efforts. To start, the diocese will be including Eucharistic adoration and benediction as a part of already scheduled diocesan celebrations. An example was the most recent Pro-Life Mass, which ended with a few minutes of adoration and benediction. 

In collaboration with the Messenger, the Office of Worship and Liturgy begins with this edition a yearlong, weekly series of brief articles to engage “the head and the heart;” to increase the understanding of and love for Jesus in the Eucharist. The series will introduce or re-introduce Eucharistic prayers; Eucharistic art and music, which are seen and heard in parish churches; praying the Mass, the source and summit of our Eucharistic life; and sharing personal witnesses, both local and historical. 

The series begins by introducing a prayer — the “Anima Christi” (“Soul of Christ”). The Anima Christi is an ancient prayer. It is typically referred to as the prayer After Communion, since many people pray the Anima Christi after receiving holy Communion. It is often associated with 16th century St. Ignatius of Loyola, although historians have found the prayer in documents dating back to the 14th century. St. Ignatius uses the prayer as an opening to his Spiritual Exercises. 

Adding the Anima Christi to your prayer toolbox, especially after receiving holy Communion, is a blessed way to start a personal Eucharistic revival. 

Anima Christi 

Soul of Christ, sanctify me. 

Body of Christ, save me. 

Blood of Christ, inebriate me. 

Water from the side of Christ, wash me. 

Passion of Christ, strengthen me. 

O good Jesus, hear me. 

Within your wounds, hide me. 

Let me never be separated from you. 

From the malignant enemy, defend me. 

In the hour of my death, call me, 

And bid me come to you, 

That with your saints I may praise you 

Forever and ever. Amen. 

Digging deeper: 

Franciscan Media offers a line-by-line breakdown of the Anima Christi: 

Ignatian Spirituality offers “An Ignatian Prayer Adventure,” an online, eight-week, modified version of the St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises: 

Eucharistic Revival Timeline 

The Year of Diocesan Revival — June 2022 thru June 2023. Each Diocese will encourage the faithful to grow in their understanding and devotion to Christ in the Eucharist, to raise up Eucharistic missionaries at all levels of the Church. 

The Year of Parish Revival — June 2023 thru June 2024. During this year parishes are tasked to foster Eucharistic devotion at the parish level, strengthening liturgical life through Eucharistic adoration, missions, resources, preaching, and organic movements of the Holy Spirit. 

The National Eucharistic Congress — July 17–21, 2024. This five-day historic event will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, where over 80,000 Catholics are expected to gather and be reconsecrated to the Catholic faith as missionary disciples. 

The National Year of Mission— July 2024 thru July 2025. The entire American Church will be sent on mission to share the gift of the Eucharistic Lord with their local communities and beyond.

Like pieces on a chess board, the cause for life is ‘a symphony’

Laura Keener, Editor

 Respect Life month kicked off in prayer, Oct. 4, with the celebration of the annual diocesan Pro-Life Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. Bishop John Iffert was the celebrant and Father Conor Kunath the homilist. Over 300 people attended the Mass, which began with praying the rosary, included a moment of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction and ended with the distribution of “Vote Yes on 2” yard signs outside of the church. 

Vote Yes on 2 refers to amendment 2, which will be on the ballot this Nov. 8. The amendment is clear, concise and would amend the Bill of Rights of the Kentucky Constitution to state that nothing in the state constitution protects or secures a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion. Voting “Yes” is a vote for life. 

In his closing remarks, Bishop Iffert encouraged everyone to vote this November and in particular, vote “yes” on amendment 2 and to “do it joyfully and to do it with thanksgiving to God for giving us this opportunity,” he said. The trick, he said, is that amendment 2 will be the last item on the ballot and that some voters may have to turn over their ballot to see the amendment. Also, anyone voting a straight party ticket will need to be sure that they also mark their vote for amendment 2. Amendment 2 is a non-partisan piece of legislation, and like all non-partisan seats (for example judges, city council members and others) is not automatically picked up in a straight party vote. Each non-partisan item must be marked individually. 

“It begins with this phrase, ‘For the protection of human life…’ If you are for the protection of human life, then vote yes on that amendment. Encourage your neighbors and your friends to do the same,” said Bishop Iffert. “It’s very, very important. Please become a little group of recruiters that will go out into the world to recruit other people to vote yes on amendment 2. It’s an important thing that we can do to help assure the protection life from the moment of conception.” 

In his homily, Father Kunath used the great 1972 World Chess Championship between Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer of the United States as an analogy for the pro-life movement. 

“The date is July 23, 1972. After five back and forth games with a surprising forfeit in the second, the match is equaled up. People don’t quite know what to expect at this point. There’s already been a lot of history made up to this point and in just the last five days, things that had never happened before have happened. The world is on edge because this is one of those great confrontations between the two great powers of the Cold War — the United States and Russia,” Father Kunath said. 

The sixth game, a seminal game that would break the tie and determine the momentum of the match, begins with an open that plays to the strengths of the grandmaster. Yet, Mr. Fischer dominates his opponent in way that not only impresses those watching the game, but also the grandmaster himself. In an interview, a friend of Mr. Fischer described the game as “a symphony of classic beauty.” 

“That phrase always struck me,” said Father Kunath. “What exactly is he seeing that we are not seeing? What exactly is going on over those 64 squares that the rest of us don’t see?” By understanding the foundations of chess, a person begins to understand the achievements of that day and what Bobby Fischer accomplished, Father Kunath said. 

To be able to see so deeply into the game of chess to be able to describe it as a symphony of classic beauty, “I think that this sort of sentiment, this fact, is something we, especially as pro-lifers, have to be very keen to observe for ourselves, because while certainly our life, our mission, as pro-lifers is primarily and rightly centered on abortion, our cause as pro-lifers encompasses a great deal more than that,” Father Kunath said. “Our cause as pro-lifers encompasses all that is good, true and beautiful. Our cause as pro-lifers encompasses everything that is.” 

Father Kunath encouraged those in the pro-life movement to understand more deeply what is the cause for life. 

“You and I aren’t just standing here praising God this evening in hopes that he will give us an abundant victory,” Father Kunath said. “You and I are here tonight celebrating the very fact of our existence. We’re not just fighting against a terrible scourge on our culture. We’re not just fighting against abortion and its attendant vices. You and I are arguing by the way we live our life, that life is fundamentally good. That life is beautiful. That everything that is around us is in one sentence or another a love letter from God himself.” 

The annual diocesan Pro-Life Mass is organized by the diocesan Pro-Life Office. For more information on the pro-life efforts in the Diocese of Covington and how you or your parish can get involved visit

Image: Vote “Yes on 2” yard signs were distributed after Mass. Raising their sign, from left, are: Father Mark Keene, vicar general and pastor, St. Agnes Parish, Ft. Wright; Addia Wuchner, executive director, Kentucky Right to Life; Bishop Iffert; Peggy Piccola, assistant director, diocesan Pro-Life Office and Julie Gallenstein, parishioner, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Burlington. 

Through the Eucharist, we are ‘free to proclaim the word of God,’ Bishop Iffert preaches at SUMMIT22 Mass

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

Youth in the Diocese of Covington, age 13-22, attended SUMMIT22, a youth retreat, at Covington Catholic High School, Oct. 7–9. Following the model of World Youth Day, the weekend-long retreat engages youth in daily Mass, rosary, Eucharistic adoration and “dynamic catechesis.” Saturday, Oct. 8, Bishop John Iffert joined attendees of the weekend retreat to celebrate Mass. 

In his homily, Bishop Iffert draws parallels between the story of the lepers in Luke’s Gospel with the Eucharist. “Jesus sends them (the lepers) to the priest to be healed. He says to the priests, to pronounce them clean,” he said, “The priest examines the one who has been healed of leprosy. And if he finds no blotch on them, he might separate them out for seven days, and then examine them again. And if he still finds no blotch on them, then there’s a sacrifice that is prescribed… the person who has been declared healed of leprosy is to go procure two birds, perfect birds, without any blotch or scar.” Bishop Iffert then goes on to describe the process of this sacrifice as written in Leviticus 14, including the two “perfect birds” and a “pot of living water,” water from a flowing stream. 

“He takes one of the birds and he kills the bird, and he drains the blood from the bird into that pot of water that has been taken from a living source. And then, now with this pot of blood from the sacrifice bird, he takes the other bird, the one that is still live. He binds it to Cedar wood with scarlet thread. And then, the priest takes the living bird, the one who has been offered for sacrifice but is still alive… He takes the living bird and he dips that living bird into the blood of the bird that has been sacrificed, into that clay pot of blood and living water,” he said. After sprinkling the blood and living water with the bird seven times over the leper that has been declared clean, the living bird is then set free to “fly across the countryside.” 

Bishop Iffert goes on to compare the parallels of the sacrificial rites of the two birds to Jesus in the crucifixion, “What flows from Jesus’ side? When Jesus is pierced — blood, and living water,” he said, referencing the moment of the crucifixion when a Roman soldier pierces Jesus’s side with a lance. “We are washed in that. And, then like that bird, set free for a purpose, to proclaim the mercy and the glory of God.” 

Bishop Iffert then challenged those gathered to be “amazed at the hugeness of mercy” offered in the Eucharist, “and respond with hearts that respond well to graciousness. Hearts that are thankful. Can we do that? Are we determined?” He concludes by once again referencing and comparing us, the Church, to the “bird that was set free,” to proclaim the word of God. 

The annual Eucharistic retreat for youth and young adults is organized and sponsored by the diocesan Office of Catechesis and Evangelization and the Covington Retreat Committee. This year the retreat was led by the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament from Cleveland, Ohio.

Image: Bishop John Iffert addresses attendees of SUMMIT22 during his homily at the retreat’s Saturday Mass service, October 8. 

Like family, ‘With One Heart’ launches

Laura Keener, Editor

 Blue skies, cooler temperatures and a mostly gentle breeze made for a relaxed and enjoyable celebration and launch party, Sept. 30, at the Curia’s St. Mary Park, Covington. The celebration was for Bishop John Iffert’s one year — to-the-day — anniversary. The launch party was for the diocese’s strategic pastoral planning and leadership development initiative “With One Heart” (WOH). 

Organized by Deacon Jim Fortner, chief operating officer and Jamie Schroeder, chancellor, with assistance from the WOH Core Team and Planning Commission and members of the Curia staff, the event resembled a backyard family cookout. Hamburgers were donated by JTM Food Group and hotdogs by Bluegrass Meats. Local Catholic organizations and groups provided the sides — potato salad, broccoli salad, fruit salad, baked beans and desserts. These groups included the Catholic Order of Foresters, Cursillo, Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, Knights of St. John, Mustard Seed Community, Parish Kitchen, Regnum Christi, Serra Club of Northern Kentucky, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, That Man Is You! and Walking with Purpose. Dan Walsh, parishioner, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Burlington, provided musical entertainment; Pam Schneider, parishioner, Divine Mercy Parish, Bellevue, made the cake and members of the Knights of Columbus manned the grill. 

“They asked me what kind of event I wanted to celebrate my first year anniversary and I said I want hamburgers, hotdogs and potato salad. I hope that you like that cuisine as well because it’s my favorite,” said Bishop Iffert as he began leading attendees in the prayer before meals. 

Nearly 300 people attended the event, including Bishop Emeritus Roger Foys, to celebrate Bishop Iffert and to hear his vision for WOH. Bishop Iffert began by sharing some of his many “firsts” as Bishop of Covington — confirmations, ordinations, Masses, classroom visits, parish festivals, etc. (A pictorial exhibit of some of his first year highlights is on display at St. Mary Park through the month of October.) He also recalled that, at the press conference “Weeks after that, I thought I really should have given a better answer than that,” said Bishop Iffert. “What I would like to have said was that there’s no way that I can enunciate for you on that first day a vision or pastoral plan. Because I really believe that God gifts every people with genius … I believe the Diocese of Covington has a genius and that you contain that hope, you have the answer, the ability and the gifts to address every difficulty that the Church faces here in Northern Kentucky today. You all contain all of the resources, have all of the wisdom, all of the knowledge, to address all of those critical problems that we face to carry on the mission of Jesus in the life of the Church. I believe that with my whole heart.” 

After being here a year, Bishop Iffert said, he is ready to announce his vision. “My vision is that God has given us together the gifts that we need to be his living mission. My vision is that we would work together to develop a vision that is in service to the entire body of the Church. That we would step outside of ourselves and our own little preferences and our own special interests and we would think about what is best for this group, this Church, this body that lives here in Northern Kentucky and that we would act and decide together.” 

Because pastors — the way they preach, the way they welcome, the way they interact with their parishioners — are instrumental to creating a parish that others would recommend to their family and friends, Bishop Iffert said, “I am unapologetic about saying, the first group of people we need to focus on are our priests, who put themselves out there to be leaders, to help embolden them, to invest in our priests the skills for leadership. Our priests are excellent priests. Our presbyterate is filled with good and holy and talented men. And to give them the support to be the leaders that they want to be and that we all know they can be, this is the first and centerpiece of the vision that I want to annunciate here.” 

Bishop Iffert said he also wants to empower the laity, to invite the laity to bring the skills that they have developed in all the areas of their life into the life of the Church to assist their priests. 

“That’s part of the vision … I want us to be set free from fear …I want a vision of Church that unleashes that potential; that priests and religious and deacons and laity respond free from fear,” he said. 

The content of that vision, Bishop Iffert said, “that’s up to us to develop together and that’s what this With One Heart initiative is all about. It’s all about assessing the situation together. Planning together. Accompanying one another with leadership formation together, and working to implement those plans, thanking God for them, reviewing them and then doing it again.” 

In closing, Bishop Iffert recognized and praised Bishop Foys for his over 40 years as an administrator both in the Diocese of Steubenville as vicar general for 22 years and as Bishop of Covington for 20 years. 

“I want to appreciate Bishop Foys in a very special way,” Bishop Iffert said. “He told me when I got here that he was going to step back for that first year and let me have some time on my own. Now we’re at the end of that year. I hope now that we can invite you back into the active life of the Church. Thank you, thank you so much.”announcing his appointment, a reporter had asked what his vision and pastoral plan was for the diocese and how he had quipped that he had only been here for 12 minutes. 

Image: Bishop John Iffert announces his vision for the With One Heart strategic pastoral plan and leadership development initiative, Sept. 30, at St. Mary’s Park, Covington. Nearly 300 people attended the event, which included a celebration of Bishop Iffert’s first year in Covington. 


Catholic schools are designed to teach virtues and form saints

By David Cooley.

The beginning of a new school year is both exciting and overwhelming. There is so much to do, and when there is so much to do it becomes even more important for us to focus on what really matters.

The mission of the Catholic Church is to form disciples for Jesus Christ and our Catholic schools, more than any other system in place, provide a privileged way for countless young people to encounter the Lord. What a tremendous, awesome responsibility we all have!

Catholic schools don’t exist to form engineers, mathematicians, lawyers, athletes, artists, or even good citizens—although those are some positive outcomes for students. Catholic schools exist for nothing less than to create saints.

And what are saints? Simply put, saints are heroes who live virtuous lives in a challenging world despite all the obstacles.

How can Catholic schools, practically speaking, approach such a huge undertaking as forming saints and changing the world? The answer couldn’t be clearer — by primarily focusing on heroic Christian virtues!

No matter where we are, or whether we are teachers or students, principals or parents, coaches, or guidance counselors, the four cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice, and the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity must always be on the forefront of our minds.

Perhaps, these days, we hear a lot about faith, hope, and charity, but not so much about prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. These four Christian virtues have the power to change any atmosphere.

Prudence helps us to recognize our limits but also to discover the concrete means of putting our faith into action. Sometimes when we start something new, we take on too much at first and get burned out too quickly. If we get our priorities straight, center on prayer, and put God first in our lives, everything else should fall into place. Prudence is the virtue that will help us slow down and recognize our need for prayer and the sacred.

Temperance is so important today, for example, when it comes to our relationship with technology. The technology that exists today gives us a lot of power and leaves us with numerous distractions. It also provides a temptation to focus more and more on ourselves and to be less attentive to others. Unfortunately, Technology seems to be taking over many lives and leaving people, especially children, feeling empty and sad.

Temperance, while helping us seek excellence in enjoyable things, calls us to a moderation that protects our interior life and opens a way to contemplation. Today’s world tells us that all suffering must be avoided at all costs, but when pleasures and possessions become an end to themselves, they become idols that turn us away from God. We must limit our wants as best we can and teach young people to do the same. We could all spend a little more time (or a lot more time) in Eucharistic adoration.

Fortitude — Christian Bravery — is so important and will, ultimately, bring people back to God. We must not be afraid to preach and live the Gospel every day. Students in Catholic schools must learn to be the salt of the earth and a sign of contradiction for the world — the Lord did not ask us to avoid having enemies, just to love them. We need less “cool kids”, “influencers”, and “bullies”, and more Christian heroes who stand up for what is good, true, and beautiful.

Founded on their faith in God, students must have the courage to confront the contemptuous laughter and ridicule of those that conform to the ways of the world. They should learn through the examples of their parents and teachers to be brave witnesses, filled with joy and love for the Lord. The strength of Catholics comes from the truth of Christ. We have nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.

Finally, when we talk about justice, first and foremost, we must recognize that it is right and just to worship God, to love Him with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength. Gratitude for our lives, and the blessings in our lives, is the first step in seeking justice. From there we begin to understand what we have been given and what it means to give others—made in the image and likeness of God—their due. We also must come to the realization that not passing on our faith is unjust to others. If we keep the Gospel from those we love, we are doing them a great disservice. We cannot let our own shortcomings and ignorance prevent us from passing on what is ideal.

These are just a few short reflections that barely begin to scratch the surface of the importance of Christian virtues that can serve as a springboard for a blessed school year. Even as the world gets more complicated and confusing, the answers lie in the constant wisdom of the ages.  Students at Catholic schools must be formed to see the world through the eyes of faith. They must be strengthened by the sacraments.

As the world continues to organize itself more and more against God, our Catholic school communities must not be content to just make a little room for Him on the calendar but determine to place Him at the center of everything. That is how others will come to recognize what it is that makes Catholic schools so different, and they will desperately want to be a part of it. Let us be ready to open the doors because we can never have too many saints!

SUMMIT22 — youth and young adults invited to experience the Eucharistic mountain

By David Cooley.

Last year at SUMMIT21 over 200 attendees shared a powerful three-day experience together centered on the Eucharist. This year, teens and young adults, ages 13 to 22, are invited to the state-of-the-art Covington Catholic High School campus, Oct. 7–9, for SUMMIT22.

The weekend retreat (Friday 6:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sunday 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.) is designed to lead young people to Christ through prayer and instruction before the Blessed Sacrament. SUMMIT22 is designed to respond to the call of Pope Francis to prepare young people to live and proclaim the Gospel in a world that desperately needs it.

This past June on Corpus Christi Sunday — the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ — the United States bishops launched a national Eucharistic Revival — a three-year initiative to help God’s people understand the extraordinary gift we have been given in the Eucharist. SUMMIT22 is a perfect and profound way for youth and adults to prayerfully begin this grace-filled time centered around the mystery of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

The Eucharist is the “source and summit of Christian life.” All blessings flow from the Eucharist, and it is a foretaste of heaven – the goal of Christian life. In the Blessed Sacrament Christ is truly Emmanuel — “God with us” — giving us the grace we need to become the saints we are called to be.

Fittingly, a summit is a large gathering of people coming together for a singular purpose, and SUMMIT22 is an assembly of God’s people coming together to pray before the Eucharist and grow in their relationship with Christ. However, a summit is also the highest point of a hill or mountain that one can reach.

In our lives we have “mountain” experiences and “valley” experiences. SUMMIT22 is intended to be a spiritual mountain experience for those who attend. In the Gospel Jesus would often go off to a mountain to separate himself from the crowds and be close to his Father in heaven. SUMMIT22 is an opportunity for young people to separate from everyday life and mundane routines.

There was a time in the Gospel when Jesus did not go to a mountain alone. Jesus brought Peter, James and John to a mountain, where they were given just a glimpse of his glory. Naturally, they wanted to stay there at the summit, but they were called to come down from the mountain and go out to be salt of the earth and light for the world.

Those who attend SUMMIT22 — just as all of those who meet Christ in the Eucharist — are also called to mission. We are called to receive Jesus and then bring him out into world. The Eucharist is both the source of our strength and the summit of our desires.

In years past the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal led this event (formally called YOUTH 2000). This year the diocesan team is excited to welcome the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament from Cleveland, Ohio, to help to discover more of the love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. As consecrated women, the sisters extend their Eucharistic Mercedarian spirit of adoration and praise to Jesus in the Eucharist, and filial love and devotion to Our Lady of Mercy, Mother of the Redeemer, all over the world.

Attendees of SUMMIT22 can expect a prayerful experience with music, meditations and Eucharistic adoration. There will be dynamic talks and testimonies, as well as a Catholic expert panel that will entertain any and all questions about the Catholic faith. There will be prayer services, the sacrament of confession and holy Mass, including Mass Saturday evening celebrated by Bishop John Iffert. There will be food, fun, fellowship and more.

In a world full of noise drowning out the call to holiness, and in a landscape that is secular, materialistic and hostile toward Christian values, followers of Christ need a place where they can withdraw from the crowds and focus on what really matters in life. SUMMIT22 is that place. It is never too early or too late to learn to let go of things that are passing away in this world, and hold fast to the things that are eternal.

Blessed Virgin Mary – Our Queen Mother

By David Cooley.

Among the many beautiful Marian feast days of the Church — such as Mary the Mother of God, the Annunciation, the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception — the feast of Mary’s Queenship, established by Pope Pius XII in 1954, often goes by unnoticed. We celebrated recently celebrated the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Aug. 22.

There seems to be a reluctance to apply the title “queen” to the Blessed Virgin. Some seem to think it’s passe, almost a medieval form of praise. On top of that, in America, we are not very familiar or comfortable with kingships and queenships, due to our democratic sensibilities. And the most likely reason for people’s reluctance to claim Mary as our queen is to avoid those misunderstandings among our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters. One of the biggest misconceptions about Catholics is that they worship Mary, as opposed to loving and honoring her. Even among theologians it is argued that the title of “queen” evokes more of a Mariology of privilege rather than a Mariology of service.

However, the nature of Mary’s regality is not only rooted in Scripture (both New and Old Testaments), but also has important theological implications that have been explored throughout Church history.

At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” Christ is king of all creation and Mary is closely associated with her son — her queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship.

In the Old Testament we have the fascinating figure of the Queen Mother. In ancient times, the mother of an heir to the throne or of a young king had a great influence in the royal court. In the Davidic kingdom, the mother of the king held an official position in which she shared in her son’s reign and served as an advocate for the people and as a counselor for her son. For us we think of a queen as the wife of a king, but the queen mother of Israel was their most powerful, and therefore preferred, advocate. Her specific place of honor and intercession is dramatically illustrated in 1 Kings 2:13-21.

The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 involves the sign of a queen mother who will conceive and bear the future Davidic King — Immanuel. The queen-mother figure also seems to appear prototypically in Genesis 3:15, which associates a mother and her royal offspring in the context of God’s kingdom.

Applied to Mary, we recognize that she is closely related to Christ’s kingship and her whole being is involved in the spread of his kingdom. In contrast to many historical queen mothers, Mary did not seek the throne for her son because of any personal ambition. Her ministry was one of service, to the point of sacrificing her motherly rights for our sake.

As Queen Mother, Mary never rules in Christ’s stead; she does not command her son, yet it gives him joy to fulfill her wishes. Her authority in the kingdom is authentic but always dependent on the King. (Cf. John 2:5. “Do whatever He tells you.”) Mary’s queenly function consists in interceding on our behalf. It is anchored in her early role as Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the redeemed.

The feast of Mary’s Queenship is celebrated on the octave day of the feast of the Assumption. The coronation of Mary connects to her Assumption into heaven. While the assumption has been the object of dogmatic definition (1950), the coronation of Mary is a traditional devotion. The coronation points to the Marian title of “queen,” known in Christianity since from the beginning of the fourth century.

Her queenship is an an indication of her excellence based primarily on her role as the Mother of Jesus Christ, “Theotokos,” and as “the all holy one” (“panagia”). As the glorified Jesus remains with us as our king until the end of time (Matt 28:20), so does Mary, who was assumed into heaven and crowned queen of heaven and earth.

The Second Vatican Council, perched on hundreds and hundreds of years of tradition, reaffirmed authoritatively the doctrine of Mary’s queenship: “When her earthly life was over,” she was “exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son.” (Lumen Gentium n. 59)

The coronation of Mary was the outcome of Mary’s journey of discipleship. At the end of her earthly life, she was borne to the Kingdom of her beloved Son (cf. Col 1:13) and received for her faithfulness “the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10; cf. 1 Cor 9:25) This outcome has universal significance because the Blessed Virgin, now having attained fullness of freedom and full communion with Christ, is the icon of the advance of the Church and of all of history and creation, as it moves forward toward becoming “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1; cf. Is 65:17), God’s dwelling, in which “there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain.” (Rev 21:4; cf. Is 25:8)

Pope St. John Paul II saw the Assumption of Mary into heaven as the ultimate exaltation of the noble “Daughter of Zion,” and he associated her assumption with her established queenly position. He states that Christ raises his mother to be eternally glorified as “Queen of the Universe.” We recognize Christ as the ultimate Davidic king — the realization of everything Israel and the whole world could hope for, ushering in the kingdom of God — and by his side is the Queen Mother. And, just as the Queen Mother found in the Old Testament (cf. Jer 13:18; 1 Kg 2:19), was granted the office of sitting beside her king son and mediating on behalf of the people, the Virgin Mary, our Holy Queen, speaks on our behalf to her Son, our King. In this heavenly role, she serves as a protector to us all.

Mary’s Queenship, like her Son’s kingship, is one of love and service, not pomp and power (John 18:36; Matt 20:20). The roots of Mary’s Queenship are to be found in the Paschal Mystery of Christ, which is a mystery of self-giving, death and resurrection and ascension — the reaching of glory through humility.

Hail, Holy Queen!