Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa’s Toes

By Brad Torline.

If you have never Googled Mother Teresa’s toes, do it. You’ll be shocked.  Gnarled, crooked and folded over each other, it’s a wonder she was able to stand on them at all.

The story goes that she would rifle through all the shoes donated to the Missionaries of Charity and choose the worst ones for herself. Years of doing this resulted in horribly deformed feet.

What made me think of her toes the other day was a reflection I was reading during morning prayer. I have been meditating, for years now, on a remarkable book entitled “Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word.” The author, a literature professor turned trappiest monk, draws on his vast literary and spiritual experience to produce pages of commentary on just a few short words at a time in the Gospel of Matthew.

One such reflection is on the Lord’s striking admonition that if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better to lose one member of the body, than the whole body be cast into hell.

Father Simeon’s reflection is: “The Lord suggests that the Christian life is a battlefield. Only the squeamish and cowardly return untouched and ‘whole’ from the battle. Wounds make the hero. He who does no violence to himself is either spiritually dead, apathetic, … or narcissistic … this body of ours has been given us to engage it in adventures, odysseys, in warfare and in heroic deeds for the common good.”

Of course, neither the Lord nor Father Simeon (nor I for that matter), want you to hurt yourself. But we also don’t want you to overemphasize the role of comfort or “wholeness” in this life.

Our current culture believes that there is no God, there is no life after death, there is only nothingness which we are hurtling closer to each and every day. This life is all we have. These feeble bodies and their pleasures are all we have. Ergo our “wholeness” needs to be preserved at all costs.

Following this logic, you get the mindset that you need to care for yourself above all else. Don’t try to fix your strained relationships, just flee from them lest they cause you mental strain. Don’t go to Mass on Sunday mornings, go to the gym. And, good God, whatever you do don’t get married or have children. The lack of sleep, increase in stress, etc. etc. will surely put you in an early grave.

This last point is why this meditation hit me so hard. In the middle of praying, I looked up from Father Simeon’s book and caught a glimpse of my wife on the other end of the couch. She was also doing her morning prayer, reading a book about Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa Toes


My wife has given us two children in the last three years. All while launching a new career and working 12-hour shifts in the hospital caring for the sickest of the sick. She does not get much sleep. She rarely gets to run or exercise anymore. She had told me a few days ago that it was starting to bother her. The Lord had given me, through my prayer, some words of consolation to her.

Yes, we should strive for virtue, to have temperance, to care for our own health. But not for its own sake. The body must be preserved only for the sake of sacrifice, only so that we can offer more and more of it for love.

The mantra of the world is “My body, my choice.” The mantra of the Christian is “My Body, given up for you.”

Life is good and we should strive to preserve as much of it as we can — not for its own sake, only so that we can have more of it to give. And, ironically, paradoxically this is the secret to a happier, fuller life. How much better a life spent giving and spending itself out in love rather than stressfully, anxiously, frantically trying to preserve itself at all costs.

This reminds me of Bishop Fulton Sheen’s famous sermon on how Christians should be having more fun than atheists. He likened life to playing with a tattered old beach ball on a summer holiday. If we thought this old beach ball is all we will ever have, we will play with it less, be more careful with it, horde it, hide it. Conversely, if we know that when we are done with this tattered old ball, we will be given a new and better ball, we will play more recklessly, more joyfully with it. We will have more fun and be less anxious.

He who seeks to save his life, shall lose it. He who loses his life out of love, love of God most of all, will save it. The Christian life is a battlefield. It is an adventure. If you don’t want to scrape your knee, then this life is not for you. In this life, wounds make the hero. They are the marks of the saints.

In heaven, Christ still bears the marks of his crucifixion. They are his glory. Perhaps Mother Teresa will still have her gnarled toes. Perhaps mothers will still bear the marks of the sacrifices they made.

In heaven it will be the exact opposite of how it is here. In heaven the marks of our sacrifices, our wounds will be our glory. And any lack of them will be our shame.


Brad Torline

Brad Torline is executive director for The Angelico Project, Cincinnati, Ohio.

First Friday Veneration of the True Cross to begin May 5 at the Cathedral Basilica

Staff report
The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption will begin offering First Friday Veneration of the True Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ beginning Friday, May 5 from noon to 1 p.m. in the sanctuary of the Cathedral Basilica, Covington. A relic of the True Cross will be shown for veneration in a special throne in front of the main altar for both faithful and pilgrims to venerate in prayer. 

The First Friday veneration is brought to the Cathedral Basilica through the combined efforts of Father Ryan Maher, Cathedral rector, and Msgr. Gerald Twaddell, prior of the local section of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The relic has been made available by Father Jordan Hainsey, a Priest Knight of the Order and custos of Relics for the Diocese of Covington. 

The relic will be shown in a new reliquary donated to the Cathedral Basilica for the monthly veneration. The cross reliquary features the traditional implements of the passion. 

“People have prayed before the Cross of Jesus ever since the earliest days of the faith,” said Father Hainsey. “It is one of the oldest and most devout practices in the Christian tradition.” 

“This is a great way for the faithful to continue to receive graces we received during Lent and at Easter,” said Father Maher. “In praying before the True Cross, we are paying the highest honor to the Lord through the instrument of our salvation. The Cross is inseparable from his sacrifice, so in reverencing his cross we, in effect, adore Christ himself.” 

From the very beginning of Christianity, the cross of Jesus has been an object of special veneration. The Apostles considered it the most important object in their lives and in the life of the world. 

“O precious Cross!” cried St. Andrew as he was being martyred, “How long have I desired thee! How warmly have I loved thee! How constantly have I sought thee!” 

Saints throughout history have all identified the cross as the only path to salvation. “Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we get to heaven,” wrote St. Rose of Lima. 

St. John Vianney, patron of priests, observed: “Everything is a reminder of the Cross. We ourselves are made in the shape of a cross.” 

Even St. Paul, patron saint of the Diocese of Covington, wrote to the Galatians: “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Gal 6:14). 

“The cross is the symbol of our Order of the Holy Sepulchre, but more importantly, the cross is at the center of our faith,” said Msgr. Twaddell. “Whether one is able to spend five minutes or the whole hour praying before the True Cross, we hope people will come and take advantage of the opportunity to get closer to the Lord.” 

The relic to be used in the First Friday veneration is from the same cross found in 324 A.D. by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine. Tradition holds that she found three crosses buried at Golgotha but didn’t know which was the one on which Jesus had been crucified. To test and see which was the true cross, members of her courtiers searched for a leper at the outskirts of Jerusalem. Once one was found, they returned to the site of Golgotha, where the leper was instructed to touch each of the crosses one by one. He touched the first one and then the second, but nothing happened. When he touched the third cross, the leper was instantly healed of his leprosy. From that time on, the cross was known as “The True Cross.” 

As the years passed, tiny fragments were distributed to the care and protection of many Catholic churches around the world. 

“The First Friday veneration will be held at the same hour as we have confessions,” said Father Maher. “I’m so pleased we can provide this opportunity for people to partake in both the Sacrament of Confession as well as be able to pray before the True Cross where they can unite not only their sufferings with the Lord, but also their joys and hopes.”

Content provided by the Messenger.

The war on child sexual abuse: The most powerful weapon is education

Julie Feinauer, Contributor

Did you know that nearly 10 percent of children will report being victims of sexual abuse before they reach 18? Unfortunately, it is estimated that only about 38 percent of victims ever report. This means that the true impact of the problem may not be known. Also, those who are victims of voyeurism, exposure to pornography, sexting or other types of grooming where there is no touch but are harmed none-the-less, are not counted here, and would only raise the numbers of those affected. 

Recently the CDC stated that child sexual abuse is a national public health crisis due to the lifelong impact to health, opportunity and well-being. They state that the estimated lifetime economic burden of child sexual abuse in the United States alone is around $10 billion. These numbers are staggering, but together we can fight to bring about change. 

In the prevention of child sexual abuse, education and training are powerful weapons. When communities are educated about the tragic epidemic of child abuse, a new group is armed to aid in the protection of God’s most precious gifts. 

The Diocese of Covington Safe Environment Office is proud to share that nearly 34,000 employees and volunteers have completed VIRTUS — Protecting God’s Children training. These individuals have been instructed on how to identify deceitful grooming behaviors, how to calmly listen to a child who discloses abuse, and how to make a report of abuse to the proper authorities. 

These skills are invaluable and may save the life of a child. This training, followed up by the monthly bulletins and “refresher” modules help keep each user of the VIRTUS system up to date on the latest issues in child protection. In addition, principals, counselors, teachers, and Parish School of Religion teachers are further trained to educate children using the VIRTUS — Empowering God’s Children program (EGC). 

EGC, the children’s training platform, has made safe environment education equitable across all classrooms, Catholic school, Parish School of Religion (PSR/ CCD) and home school (by request and with their pastor’s approval). The lessons are designed to help children learn boundaries and safety in a non-threatening way that meets the needs of each grade level. 

The spiraled curriculum ensures that children learn about important topics over the course of their time in schools and PSR programs. We know that no child is responsible for their own safety; that is why a vital part of the program is assisting them in identifying those trusted adults in each of their lives. Children then know who they can turn to if they need to discuss difficult issues like physical or mental health issues, bullying or abuse. 

In addition to the EGC program, schools and PSR programs are encouraged to conduct training on (age appropriate) related issues such as bullying, drug and alcohol use, suicide prevention, and internet safety. 

Community programming is an important part of education. The Safe Environment Office kicked off the year with two outstanding presentations by Steve Smith with “A Wired Family.” Mr. Smith spoke about not only the dangerous predators that lurk behind the screen, but the illicit material that is easily attainable with just the click of a key. By discussing difficult but timely topics, everyone is better prepared for difficult situations that may arise in the community and maybe even in our own homes. The Safe Environment Office looks forward to providing additional community speakers and workshops in the coming year. 

Do your part to help win the war on abuse. Get educated about the topic, take the VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children training, attend a community program, or do some research on reputable websites like RAINN, The National Center for Victims of Crime, Darkness to Light, or the CDC. Support agencies that help children and families dealing with abuse, especially those in our area — the Family Nurturing Center, Northern Kentucky Children’s Advocacy Center, or the Diocesan Catholic Children’s Home are just a few of the places that work to ensure brighter futures for everyone. 

Above all, don’t be afraid to talk to others about what you have learned. Enlist others to the call of advocating for children. When we join in the army to protect God’s children, we are becoming allies to create a better world and a safe environment for all. 

Julie Feinauer is the director of the Safe Environment Office for the Diocese of Covington, Ky. 

Content provided by the Messenger.