Back to School 1

Prayer and Gratitude will get you through school and life

By David Cooley.

It’s that time of the year again that’s filled with both excitement and anxiety for students, teachers, and parents alike. For most of us the summer is already out of reach, but a new school year brings with it an opportunity for a fresh start and new adventures.

Still, August and everything that comes after can be a little overwhelming. There is always so much to do and lots of pressure to get the school year off to a good start. With all the paperwork, school rules, bus routes, uniforms, practices, homework, etc., it’s important that we find balance each day. And there is only one way to ensure balance. Prayer, our ongoing conversation with God, must be our anchor in our day-to-day life if we are going to have any sense of peace.

The best way we can help our young people navigate through this life is to teach them the art of daily prayer — the importance of finding a place to be quiet and shut out all the noise — and to challenge them to find things to be grateful for every day. Prayer and gratitude, these are treasures of a Catholic school.

I don’t have to tell you that childhood today is very different than when we were growing up. But remember, it was a lot different for us than it was for our grandparents. Yet, it seems that many young people in our time are struggling with finding joy. Perhaps without all this technology it was easier to find the simple joys of life. The antidote to this problem is prayer and gratitude.

Children always have and will always need the same things. They need love and family, they need structure and recreation, they need friendship and a sense of understanding who they are in the eyes of God. They need to be humble, but also recognize they have a great purpose in life.

If we are to teach our children to be grateful, then we need to be grateful ourselves. Our gratitude and positive attitudes must be visible to young eyes. Teachers are, after all, witnesses. It is very fitting that in the Diocese of Covington, Bishop Iffert’s episcopal motto is “In all things give thanks,” (Thes 5:18). It is not easy, but it is life changing.

I want to begin this year by expressing how grateful I am for Catholic schools.

First and foremost, Catholic schools provide opportunities every day for students and faculty to encounter Christ. Our schools are at their best when they are providing the opportunity to receive Jesus in the sacrament of His Most Holy Body and Blood — what a gift!

Catholic schools are a place where we find an extended family, people who understand that we are all on this journey together to get to heaven. As the culture becomes more and more secular, Catholic schools are safe havens and beacons of light in the growing darkness. There aren’t many places left where we can trust our young people aren’t being bombarded with all kinds of unhealthy messages.

Catholic schools help our young people prioritize what is really important in life. By orienting their lives toward Christ and to serving others, things begin to make more sense. Sports, art, academics, video games, etc., all have a place, but a good school teaches children that God comes first. If a child learns early to put God first in everything they do everything else will fall into place.

Catholic schools teach children that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore every individual is unique and has an undeniable dignity as a child of God. This is important because it helps them understand more profoundly why things like bullying is wrong, why we need to respect our bodies and the bodies of others. It isn’t just, “This is wrong because the teacher said so;” it’s a lot deeper than that. Seeing the world this way, helps people learn to love themselves and others.

I could go on and on about why I am grateful for Catholic schools. I am so thankful for the many years I spent in Catholic schools myself and that I am now able to send my own children to Catholic schools.

I think if I had to sum it all up I would say that Catholic schools are a blessing because they minister to the whole person — mind, body and soul. There is a lot to unpack in that statement, and there are a lot of happy accidents in the results when you minister to children this way. Graduating from our schools we see good citizens, we see artists, we see doctors, we see famers, we see firefighters, teachers, the list can go on and on. But most importantly, graduating from our schools we see disciples of Christ, who are going to go out and make this world a better place.

Catholic schools teach us to be grateful to God for our life, for His love, and for His mercy, and they teach us to treat other people accordingly.

David Cooley is co-director of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Covington.

Social Media

Seeing and understanding

By David Cooley.

In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus’ disciples ask him why he speaks to the people through parables. He answers: “… because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” (Matt 13:13) He goes on to explain that the people he is talking about fulfill an ancient prophecy of Isaiah: “You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive.” (Isaiah 6: 9-10)

Jesus’ parables are always fascinating but what’s striking in the passage above is how he refers to those who aren’t following him. What does it mean to be a person that looks but does not see, or a person that hears but does not understand? And how can disciples of Jesus today be sure to be people who truly see and understand?

I often think of Pope St. John Paul II and the world in which he grew up. Observing the horrible ways that so many human beings were treated in the first have of the 20th century had a profound impact on him. He realized early on how important it is that we understand who we are and how we ought to act in the world. His teachings on the Catholic understanding of the human person are often referred to as the Theology of the Body.

The understanding of what it means to be a human person in light of Scripture, helps us to understand how we were created, our identity in Christ and our gifts so that we may see ourselves and others the way God intended.

Today, children are growing up immersed in social media. While it’s bad enough that traditional childhood activities are set aside in order to digitally “follow” others, create Tik Tok videos and stay up to date on the latest trends, what is even more worrisome is how young people are learning to perceive themselves and others. The line between what is real and what is not real is continuously becoming more and more blurred.

Since all of creation has a message to tell, it is important that we pay attention. Since part of the mystery of God is revealed through the human body, it is important that we have a proper understanding of human sexuality. In today’s culture, young people are being formed to not see creation the way it was meant to be seen, to not see their bodies the way they were meant to be seen, and to not see others the way they are meant to be seen.

Child cell phone social media

This is all part of what it means to be spiritually blind, and Jesus is constantly inviting us to become people that see. In a fallen world we must train our eyes to see God’s plan for creation and to see that God has a plan for all of us. Only then will we be able to explore the two fundamental questions from the Catechism of the Catholic Church — where do we come from? And where are we going?

The older generations must properly lead the younger generations. Adults have a perspective about life that young people lack. They can see the bigger picture simply because they have been around longer. It seems like every year more and more studies are coming out about the increases in depression and anxiety in young people. There is a direct correlation between these findings and the rise of social media. This makes sense because they are selling themselves short and not realizing that they are made for so much more.

Those of us who have been around for a little while need to make sure that we, ourselves, are close followers of Christ and reading the signs of the times in light of the Gospel. We cannot do that unless we are on our knees praying every day and making the sacrifices that we need to make.

Secondly, we need to lead by example. Children are always watching and learning from us — how are we spending our time? We also need to make sure that the line of communication is always open and that our young people know where to go for information when difficult questions arise.

Finally, we need to at least ask the question: Do young people need to be on social media at all? It is skewing their vision of the world and their vision of themselves. It’s warping their ability to establish and grow real relationships that they will need later in life. Worst of all, it is plunging them into a society that is loud, showy, fake and often manipulative. Social media trains the person to look but not to see.

Our technology is growing so fast that we are all at risk of missing the world we were meant to see and not becoming the people we were meant to become.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Covington.

Cross the Bridge for Life – Sunday, June 4, 2023

Join hundreds of participants for this peaceful, prayerful presence to advocate for the sanctity of human life. Now, more than ever, our voices need to be heard!

Please join us and bring your families. This is a collaborative event sponsored by the Diocese of Covington, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and other Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky life-affirming organizations. A great family event to share with all ages!

For more information, Click Here for Flyer or call the Diocese of Covington Pro-Life Office at (859) 392-1500.


True Cross 1

Relic of the True Cross to be Displayed for First Friday Veneration

Messenger 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.”

True Cross 3“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.”

True Cross 2

Fr. Jordan Hainsey

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.


Faithful families begin with ‘purposeful, persuasive, encouraging’ marriage preparation

By David Cooley.

At the request of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in Rome has prepared a document called “Catechumenal Pathways for Married Life,” which was recently translated into English. This document is an important step for the universal Church in moving toward a marriage preparation process that rises to the challenge of equipping couples with the tools they need to maneuver through modern trials. Additionally, this new approach comes with a recommendation for a process where members of the local Church and parish community continue to walk with newlyweds as they build their life together during the early years of their marriage.

Currently, many young couples spend far more time and effort preparing for their wedding day than they do preparing for their marriage. The consequences of that are often painful and can be disastrous. We can see that today’s “hedonistic mentality, which distorts the beauty and depth of human sexuality; a self-centeredness which makes it difficult to espouse the commitments of married life; a limited understanding of the gift of the Sacrament of Marriage, the meaning of spousal love, and its essence as an authentic vocation” has created a fragile state for marriages in society as a whole, “which puts at stake the personal fulfillment and happiness of a great many lay faithful around the world” (CPMF #3).

A loving response from the Church is to recognize all of this, instruct young couples properly, provide the means for a more thorough and Christ-centered preparation for the sacrament marriage, and accompany them as they begin to live out their life-long vocation.

While it is exciting that the Holy Father is asking dioceses all over the world to develop their own pastoral approach to marriage preparation — an approach that is “purposeful, persuasive, encouraging, and fully oriented toward emphasizing the good and beautiful aspects of married life” (#20) — the development and implementation of such a robust catechumenal model will take some time and a great deal of effort.

One of the first challenges will be changing the hearts and minds of young adults about the importance of the sacrament of marriage and recognizing it as a vocation — a path to holiness that encompasses a person’s entire life. If the prospect of marriage is taken seriously, we can help couples invest the proper amount of time, consider what they need to consider, and reflect on what they need to reflect on before taking sacred vows. I have witnessed too many couples and their families simply looking for the quickest and easiest way of satisfying “bureaucratic” requirements to get married “in the Church.”

Another challenge will be the flexibility needed to allow at least a full 12 months for the catechumenate model. More time will need to be invested in the spiritual preparation for marriage and the building up of the couple’s relationship with Christ. While this will certainly be difficult — asking couples to consider a longer engagement period — it is necessary if we want to see any real change in how people live out married life. Couples coming to the Catholic Church to be married are always coming from many different places on their spiritual journey and we have to meet them wherever they are; but we must challenge them to move closer to Christ and remind them of Bishop Fulton Sheen’s words: “It takes three to get married.”

Before the release of “Catechumenal Pathways,” at the June 2021 Plenary Assembly, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved and published a document “Called to the Joy of Love,” which lays out a national pastoral framework for dioceses to start moving forward to better serve and assist couples discerning the sacrament of marriage. These two documents complement and reinforce each other.

Marriage preparation is an issue that should matter to all of us. The future of the family is the future of the Church. We need strong marriages to have strong families. We need strong families to spread the faith. We need families to spread the Gospel and build up the Church if we are going to be any help to the world. Pope John Paul II said, “The future of humanity passes by the way of the family.” It is time to double down on the importance of family life ministry and marriage preparation.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Covington.

Catholic School

Catholic Schools — ‘What are you looking for?’

By David Cooley.

There are three moments from the Gospels that I reflect on often. These are moments when Jesus turns to his disciples and asks them very poignant questions. These three questions from Jesus are meant for all of us and we should return to them often.

The first question is: “Who do you say that I am?” from the Gospel of Mark (8:29).

The world has many opinions and images of Jesus Christ, but it all comes down to what we say about him and how well we really know him and nurture our relationship with him. What place does he have in our hearts and lives? Do we know him and love him so much that we can’t help but spread the Gospel to others?

The second question Jesus asks us is: “Will you also go away?” This is from the Gospel of John (6:67).

It is a sad fact that many people walk away from their Catholic faith. While it is true to say that it is not easy being Catholic these days, it’s also true that it has never been easy. It’s difficult, and so many give up.

I have spoken to a lot of people who have left their faith behind — left the Church — and I have surmised three main reasons why people go. Most of the time they are scandalized by the behavior of others. This is often understandable — think of the sex abuse crisis and other failures of the members of the Body of Christ. Any way you look at it, hypocrisy is a very powerful roadblock for people when they are trying to get to know and have a relationship with God.

Another reason people leave is that their own behaviors drive them away (even if it is on a subconscious level). Usually nobody is harder on us than we are on ourselves. We recognize that we are unable to live up to the life we are called to. We are not conditioned for the great Christian adventure, our faith is weak, and we don’t trust fully in the grace of God. We know we can’t do it, so why even try — it’s impossible, and so we leave.

A final reason people leave is a result of one or many of the “hard teachings.” Common examples are the Eucharist, the dogmas of Mary, the primacy of the pope as the successor of St. Peter, etc. It was the Eucharist that Jesus was teaching about when many walked away from him prompting him to ask the few remaining if they were going to walk away too. Let’s face it, it’s hard to believe that Jesus gives us his body and blood to nourish our souls, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The Catholic Church safeguards the hard teachings of Christ and no matter how much some people want them to change, they never will.

So back to that second question from Jesus. When I am having a hard time handling what I hear in the news about the Catholic Church and I see the failures of all of us who are supposed to be God’s hands and his feet; when I am struggling with my faith, questioning if I really believe, and wondering if all of this is worth it; I can hear Jesus ask me, “Are you going to leave me, too?” On my hardest days my answer is simply the same as Peter’s: “To whom (to where) shall I go?”

The third question comes from the moment in the Gospel of John when Andrew and John first run up to Jesus and he turns to them to say: “What do you seek?” in other translations he says, “What are you looking for?” (1:38).

Believers and non-believers alike can start with this question. What is it that we are looking for? Why are we here? What do we want out of life? Most people will eventually recognize that we are all striving for happiness. But, how can human beings find happiness, everlasting joy? Ultimately, it circles back to that first question: who do you say Jesus is?

So, when it comes to the education of our children, what should we be looking for in a school?

My answer is a school not afraid to explore the big questions of life, such as: Who am I? What is the meaning of life? How am I supposed to live, and why?; a school that recognizes that there is a right and a wrong, good and evil, and that children need to be challenged to live a moral life so that they can flourish and promote the common good; a school where not only is a child allowed to pray — it’s essential. My answer is a thoroughly Catholic school.

When a Catholic school is living up to its name it will help students answer those three straightforward questions from Jesus in a way that enables them to discover who they really are, reach their fullest potential, and bear witness to God’s glory in a world that has been turned upside down. Catholic students need a strong foundation that will help them know and love their Catholic faith, ensuring that they won’t leave Christ when times get tough.

Catholic schools are different from all other schools because faith stands at the center. It is a community of believers striving to know God and live out their faith. A Catholic school adheres faithfully to the teachings of Christ and embraces its mission of bringing the faith to others in service of the Church and the world.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization.

John Paul II

John Paul II and the Rhapsodic Theater

By David Cooley.

The Church recently celebrated the feast day of Pope St. John Paul II on Oct. 22, which is the anniversary of the liturgical inauguration of his papacy in 1978. There is a story about John Paul II from when he was young man that I have always found inspiring.

By the time he was 21 years’ old Karol Wojtyła’s entire immediate family was dead, and his country was occupied by Nazis. He and his people were exiled in their own land. Their home was transformed into something unrecognizable and, during that occupation and later the Communist occupation, the Polish people were forced to deny their values and their beloved culture completely.

Karol Wojtyła’s response to this was two-fold. He secretly (since it was against the law) entered the seminary, answering a burning call from the Lord to become a priest, and he helped establish an underground (secret) group called the Rhapsodic Theater. The focus of this group was a “cultural resistance” against those that occupied his homeland.

Through the celebration of beauty and identity, Karol, and his friends — the Rhapsodists — fought to keep Polish history, faith, and tradition alive. Under dire circumstances, they focused on the things that the occupiers couldn’t take away. If they had been caught, they would have been killed, but they were simply willing to risk everything for what they knew was good, true, and beautiful.

There is so much we can learn from that future pope and his Rhapsodic Theater.

It can be disheartening to be a Catholic in the 21st century. Our faith, and really our culture as a whole, is challenged at every turn. The tenants of our faith, the teachings of the Catholic Church, do not mesh well with today’s secular society. Catholics are essentially strangers in a strange land, sojourners away from their true home.

It is our responsibility to preserve our heritage and pass it on for those who come after us. So, what are a few practical things we can do, as Catholics, to keep our culture alive?

First and foremost — we must pray! We need to develop this habit and we need to form others in the habit as well. Make time to pray together as a family, at least before meals and before bedtime. Designate times for family rosaries and Scripture studies. Pray publicly and invite others to join you. Make Mass and the sacrament of penance a priority in your life.

Second, learn Church history. There are so many good resources out there — books, movies, documentaries. We have so much to be proud of and we need to make sure the next generation of Catholics know that. It is time for us to focus on how blessed we are, and how proud we should be to be Catholic.

Third, learn to view the world through the eyes of faith and teach young people this art form. For example, no matter what students are learning in school — literature, math, science, or history — it can be approached through a Catholic worldview. Even the news of the day can be viewed in the context of Salvation history.

Next, never miss the easy teaching moments, especially on holy days and feast days. Halloween is coming up, and I’ll bet a lot of children are excited about that. But do they know what “All Hallows Eve” means? Make sure they know about All Saints Day and All Souls Day and why we have Halloween in the first place. Don’t let the culture tell them that it is an ancient pagan holiday (they’ll do the same thing with Christmas and Easter if you let them). They are wrong — everything revolves around Christ, and we need to point that out again and again. If these celebrations and traditions were strictly pagan, they would have fallen into the dust pile of oblivion a long time ago.

Finally, take time to explore works by Catholic artists, whether visual arts, theater, music, literature, or movies. Here you will find the highest quality of expressions of mankind’s search for the transcendent. And, just as important, we need Catholics today to use their talents in all these fields to create new works for our contemporary and future generations.

These are just a few quick examples, and there are many more. We must focus more on what is in our control and less on what is out of our control.

We must not become discouraged. If young Karl Wojtyła and his friends were able to subvert a totalitarian regime with little more than righteous defiance and powerful words, think of what we can do in our own time and place today. Albeit on a smaller scale, the Rhapsodic Theater did the same thing that the Catholic monasteries did for Western civilization during the so-called dark ages — namely, keep the light of Christ alive. We are all called to do the same thing no matter in what situation we find ourselves. Even though the world will keep trying to snuff them out, people will always be attracted to goodness, truth, and beauty.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization.


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.