Why Celebrating the Mass is Like Returning Home in 2020

The death of Kobe Bryant ushered in the new year. It shocked the world. Suddenly the coronarovirus circled the globed. Lockdowns and quarantines ensued. Our lives have been upended. You may have joked about this year being the beginning of an apocalypse— honestly, it feels Pandora’s box of evil was opened and there is no end in sight.

time traveler 2020 meme

Recreational outlets for stress such as sporting events, music concerts, and festivals have either been cancelled for postponed indefinitely.  Local libraries, zoo, and museums closed. How the heck are you supposed to live? I contracted COVID19 in April and those were among the most miserable weeks for my family. And if that wasn’t bad enough the Church suspended public Masses.

I understand why the bishops temporarily removed the Sunday obligation. Viewing the Mass via the Internet was a gift. It was a grace to hear my diocese’s newly ordained bishop preach (my family ordinarily don’t attend the Cathedral for Mass so we wouldn’t have heard Bishop DeGrood otherwise).

In May several dioceses across the United States started allowing public liturgies with safety precautions. I was recently graced with the ability to receive the Blessed Sacrament for the first time in months. It felt like a homecoming.

Home is Where the Sacred Heart is

Saint Augustine wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. ” This year was a journey in the wilderness (I mean that literally and figuratively). Lent ended on April 11th however my spiritual dryness and suffering continued well into the Easter Season. Streaming the Mass on TV felt like viewing an oasis far off in a desert. Some weeks it appeared real and other times as a mirage.

sacred heart of Jesus is our home

The tangibility of going to Mass physically reminds me of the Incarnation—  God becoming man. Without that direct connection of hearing and seeing the priest in person it remained a great Cross to bear.

Saint Pope Pius X said, “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven.” This life is not our true home. It is a pilgrimage toward our destination.

Home is about love. The truest form of love is found in the heart of Jesus.

Community of Love

Another term for the Blessed Sacrament is Holy Communion. I love this name for the Eucharist. Under the section What is this Sacrament Called?  the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1331,  (It is called)  “Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.” Love can only happen in the presence of another.

Jesus told his Apostles in Matthew 18:20,  “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” This is the reality of the Church. People united together with each other through the power of God’s love.

Returning to Mass reminded me of this communion with God AND man. The priest stands in Personi Christ (the Person of Christ). While only a validly ordained priest, Eucharistic prayer, wheat bread, and grape wine are officially needed for the Sacrament to occur, it is a fuller sign of God’s love when the laity are present. Hearing the faithful sing the various hymns helped me to greater enter into the mystery of the Mass.

An Invisible (But Still Real Communion)

Mass is not boring

The community of the laity are a visible sign of communion. Yet, there is an invisible assembly present in the Mass— the angelic hosts and communion of saints. I felt closer to the holy ones during the Eucharist than when I was watching it in my own home on the television.  Jesus’ words to Thomas in John 20:29 hit home last Sunday, “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” This world is not our true home. A world beyond the senses exist.

According to the Catechism, “The whole community thus joins in the unending praise that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints (CCC 1352). St. Augustine echoes this truth,  “The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass.” Understanding this reality helped deepen my appreciate for the Mass. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Ask God to Give You Strength

God won't leave you

This year continues to send us new and unimaginable trials. Our hearts ache for love. The inability to receive the Eucharist made those challenges exponentially tougher. Some of you may still be in “exile” and wondering how long you have to wander aimlessly in the desert of 2020. God never totally abandons us even though it feels like it sometimes. Read the Bible daily or the writings of saints for comfort. Praying the Rosary or chaplet of Divine Mercy help ward off distress. I offer my sufferings to God in hopes that you may receive spiritual consolation to soothe you during your trials!

Related Links

10 Things You Should Do Until Public Masses Return

Why Priestly Ordinations Give Me Hope in an Age of Pandemic

7 Reasons to Go to Eucharistic Adoration


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Comparing Superman’s Return and the Resurrection of Jesus

Rejoice He is Risen! The Easter Season is a time of joy. Jesus defeated death and promises us the hope of resurrection. During the current pandemic we need as much hope as possible.

Jesus Resurrection

Saint Pope John Paul II proclaimed, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Hope is confidence in the uncertain. Uncertainty definitely has prevailed over the past several months. Or at least that is the appearance. Despair, confusion, and doubt are the weapons of our Enemy.

Jesus is a model for the perfect human. God became man. He shows us the way to free us from sins. Literature is filled with heroic figures. But nearly all contain a fatal character flaw. Hubris. Greed. Anger. Lust. Or envy. While  no characters, especially comic book characters, can be matched perfectly with Jesus there is one superhero most commonly associated Christ— Superman.

The Man of Steel embodies everything you want in a hero: strength, a great origin story, and virtuous character. Some may argue Kal-El is too perfect.  Unrelatable even. But I think most can agree that Superman is a symbol of hope for Metropolis and Earth.

Nearly 30 years ago, DC featured a game-changing storyline—The Death of Superman. In an epic fight against Doomsday, Superman fought this villain to the death. This shocked the comic book world when it first debuted. The Man of Tomorrow died. What happened next in The Return of Superman Volume was mysterious. Reading it reminded me of the mystery surrounding the identity of Jesus after his Resurrection.

Who Do You Say that I am?

Before Superman returned several claimants to his mantle appeared.  In the Reign of Supermen, four “heroes” arrive on the scene: The Man of Steel (Steel), The Man of Tomorrow (later referred to as Cyborg Superman), Metropolis Kid (Superboy), and The Last Son of Krypton (later revealed as the Eradicator). All four wear the symbol of Superman, but it quickly becomes clear to the reader that neither Steel nor Superboy are actually a version of Superman.

cyborg superman

Cyborg Superman and the Eradicator initially convince some people in Metropolis that they are the “resurrected” Superman. In Born Again,  Lois Lane encounters the new visored Superman and thinks, “He looks like Clark but he sounds so cold, hollow.” The following exchange between the Last Son of Kypton (Eradicator) and Lois foreshadows the false claim to Superman:

Eradicator: “I am Superman… I am not playing any game.”

Lois: “Superman never hid his face! and he didn’t wear black like an executioner!”

Eradicator: “No, not before, but I have been through so much…I have changed.”

He provided specific facts about Lois’ life to convince her, at first, that he was Superman. But facts alone don’t prove that a person rises from the dead.

Likewise, Cyborg Superman addresses Lois in similar fashion in the issue Alive.  Lois questions the Cyborg, but he claims that most of his memory is lost. To the reader, the story gets more complicated as to the identity of the real Superman when Cyborg has his DNA tested against a sample from Kal-El. It was revealed that the DNA matched perfectly. Professor Hamilton tells Lois, “I’m telling you that all my tests and data have me thoroughly convinced. I would say say with great probability–that this man is Superman come back to life!

Actions Speak Louder than Words

While mystery pervades the majority of The Return of Superman volume, over time the actions of the claimants to Superman’s name show more sinister motives. Lies cannot last forever. The actions of Cyborg Superman and the Eradicator did not line up with the ideals of the true Last Son of Krypton.

superman symbol

In the issue Lies and Revelations, a cult of followers worship Cyborg Superman. A cult member exclaimed, “Look not upon our Savior’s face with fear! For though he bears the marks of his righteous battle against the terrible beast Doomsday–by his deeds you shall know the truth! And his noble and merciful deeds reveal in him the one true Superman!” He goes on to tell the crowd that the “visored Superman” (the Eradicator) is the false one because of his tortuous and violent acts.

At this point in the story arc, the reader knows fairly certain that the Eradicator is not the real Superman. However, the verdict is still out for Cyborg Superman. Later in the issue it is revealed that Cyborg Superman has enlisted the villain Mongul.

In the episode Return of Superman, Cyborg Superman’s plot to destroy Metropolis is revealed in addition to the fact that he is actually the consciousness of Hank Henshaw transferred into a cyborg body with the DNA splicing of Superman. At the end of the issue the true Superman returns in a black Kryptonian armor suit. “Don’t let the outfit fool you. I’m Superman and I’m back.”

Connections with Christ

Superman’s return has a few connections with the true Resurrection of Jesus. First of all, both Superman and Jesus were initially unrecognizable. According to John 20:15, Mary Magdalene did not realize the man speaking to her was Jesus.

Another similarity between Kal-El and Christ involves the battle over evil. Jesus defeated sin with his Death on the Cross. Superman killed Doomsday, a horrific foe, who represents

pure brutality and rage. In a sense—sin incarnate. Now a compelling reason why Cyborg Superman was at first convincing was that he bore the wounds of death and battle. Jesus’ resurrected body also bore the marks of the Crucifixion. The major difference between the two is that Cyborg Superman was part machine. Artificial. Christ’s resurrected body was true flesh. Still fully human while being fully divine.

A final connection I found between Jesus and Superman’s resurrections is that love led to their closest friends recognizing the truth. The Apostle’s recalled Jesus’ teachings and through the power of the Holy Spirit had faith that their teacher and friend truly returned from the dead. Analogously, Superman’s encounter with Lois displayed the power of love too. He appealed to Lois’ marriage with Clark Kent, his alter ego. Superman told his wife that Clark’s favorite movie is To Kill a Mockingbird. This intimate detail proved his claim. Lois recognized the dark clad man as the true Superman/Clark Kent. Love and truth always go together.

Rejoice He is Risen! Truly this is Good News. More accurately it is Great News!  We live in stressful times. Satan is always on the prowl. God loves us and wants us to enjoy his presence. Reading is proven way to relax. The Return of Superman  was an enjoyable, page-turning story. Add the fact it had resurrection and new life themes and it makes an excellent read (or re-read) anytime.

 

 

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Creative First Communion Gift for 2020!

Things are starting to open back up!

My son’s First Communion Mass is scheduled. 😊

Looking for affordable gifts to give your children, godchildren, or friends to celebrate them receiving the Blessed Sacrament?

Consider getting them a unique and beautiful crafted Catholic comic book from Voyage Comics.

Philip Kosloski is a prolific Catholic writer for Aleteia and he started Voyage Comics in 2018.

I write for his blog monthly but I am not paid to market his work. I simply want to share creative Catholic work because I hope others find value in it. And yes, I am a big comic book nerd so I love talking about them whenever I can. 😊

Don’t delay! Visit Voyage Comics today for a creative gift for that special first communicant in your life.

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How My Role Model Stood Up Against Nazism


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 29, 2017.


A fruit of my consecration to Jesus through Mary in the days leading up to the centenary anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima was reflecting on the heroic life and death of St. Maximilian Kolbe by the hands of Nazi Germany. Aside from St. Athanasius and St. John Paul II, I do not think there is another saint that modeled love and courage to speak the truth with such tenacity!

From an early age, Maximilian promoted devotion to Mary and sought to bring others of God through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. Ordained in 1918, he continued to work promoting Mary throughout Poland. I believe Divine Providence strategically placed Maximilian in Poland to be a light to the destitute because this nation eventually became an epicenter for Nazi domination.

st-maximilian-kolbe-icon-389.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During May 1941, Maximilian was transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The Polish priest died on August 14th, 1941. Despite his short stay, the heroism of St. Maximilian lives on and impacted his fellow inmates and generations to this day. I want to highlight three essential points about Maximilian’s life that compelled me turn to him as a role model.

Savior

Maximilian only cared about others. He refused to sign German documents that would have provided protections to avoid sending him to the concentration camps. He heroically volunteered to take the place of a man, with a large family, who was sentenced to death. Such selfless love is powerful. Maximilian allowed the Holy Spirit to be so present inside him that he reflected the love of Christ perfectly and died a horrific death like Jesus to save others!

concentration camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sacrifice of the Mass

St. Maximilian once said, “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” The Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium echoes this point as well by calling the Eucharistic sacrifice the “source and summit” of the Catholic life (no. 5).

As a priest, Maximilian lived this reality and he took it to a new level in the concentration camps as well. He celebrated Mass daily and fellow prisoners even attested the Polish priest took crumbs of wheat bread to gather the substance needed to perform the sacrifice of the Mass when times became really desolate in his cell.

Divine Insight

Father Kolbe’s theology clarified dogmatic proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in the 19th century about Mary being sinless. Mary’s apparition at Lourdes revealed to Bernadette that she is the Immaculate Conception.

Kolbe expanded on this revelation by making a distinction between the created Immaculate Conception [Mary] versus the uncreated Immaculate Conception [the Holy Spirit]. Maximilian clarified the Catholic understanding of Mary for me personally with this distinction. It is important to realize that Mary is a part of CREATION and it not to be worshipped. I think St. Maximilian provided a good example to help me understand how we honor the Mother of God!

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Role models are not merely people that exist in a state of earthly life today. We may all look to the Catholic saints as good examples to mirror when it comes to combating our own selfish wills and desires. St. Maximilian stood up against the malevolent force of Nazism by proclaiming the truth of the Gospel.

In a world of tumult and lack of stability clarity has never been more important. St. Maximilian once said, “No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it.” Let us seek truth always!

Related Links

Maximilian Kolbe- Saint and Martyr

The Writings of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe

Why the Immaculate Conception is Important

Reconciling Mary as Mediator with 1 Timothy 2:5

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Fear of the Lord: A Word Study from Proverbs

The Fear of the Lord

By: William Hemsworth

The phrase to be studied is “fear of the Lord” and the text has much meaning. Fopurposes of this exercise the study is limited to the first two chapters of the book of Proverbs. The usage of this phrase occurs in Proverbs 1:7, 1:29, and 2:5. 

The Importance of Repetition

The first word in the phrase “fear” is the Hebrew word yir’ah, or יִרְאָה. This term is used forty-five times in the Old Testament. Its root word is the adjective yare’, or יָרֵא, which is used sixty-four times in the Hebrew Bible[1].

The second word in in the phrase, which makes up “of the Lord” is the Hebrew word Yĕhovah, which in Hebrew is יְ֭הוָה. As one can imagine this word is used several times. In fact, it is used an astounding 6,519 times[2]. Though it is the name of the Lord, its root word is hayah, or הָיָה in Hebrew.

The first word yir’ah, or יִרְאָה, is used three times in the first two chapters of Proverbs in 1:7, 1:29, and 2:5. The second word Yĕhovah, or יְ֭הוָה in Hebrew, is used a total of four times in the first two chapter Proverbs in 1:7, 1:29, 2:5, and 2:6.

The English word used for the word yir’ah are fear, exceedingly, dreadful, fearfulness, or reverence[3]. Many sources available, such as Blue Letter Bible and Bible Gateway agree, but Strong’s also added reverence. When one speaks of the fear of the Lord it is in reverence, so it was good to see it listed.

The second word Yĕhovah, or יְ֭הוָה is translated as Lord, God, and Jehovah[4]. It is the proper known for the God of Israel, and the translations appear to be universally agreed upon.

Context Clues

The context of the passages is crucial to word placement in the passages mentioned. The first two chapters of Proverbs deal with the call of wisdom and the treasure of wisdom. The fear of the Lord in the beginning of understanding (1:7), those who hate knowledge do not have respect for the Lord (1:29), and those who fear the Lord are illuminated with knowledge (2:5).

The first two chapters of Proverbs teach us a valuable lesson. No matter hard one may try, an understanding of life and of God begins with a deep reverence for the creator[5]. This will lead to wisdom which is the humility to understand that God is God and we are not.  God grants us understanding and wisdom, but if we become prideful and elevate ourselves to a place we should not be then we will be humbled.  We will be humbled because we no longer have the fear of the Lord.  The fear of the Lord is the foundation of a holy life.

Bibliography

Dockery, David S., ed. Holman Concise Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.

Gesenius, Wilhelm, and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003.

Mangum, Douglas, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, and Rebekah Hurst, eds. Lexham Theological Wordbook. Lexham Bible Reference Series. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009.

Thomas, Robert L. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, 1998.

[1]. Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 364.

[2]. Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications,, 1998).

[3]. James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009).

[4]. Douglas Mangum et al., eds., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[5]. David S. Dockery, ed., Holman Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 237.


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary. William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at https://tucsonapologetics.org/for more great and informative Catholic content!

Thank you for sharing!

How Saint Catherine of Siena Leads You to God

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena on April 29th. One of only four women Doctors of the Church, Catherine’s writings and life continues lead people to Christ.

Catherine of Siena

Catherine has been particularly important in my life. When my wife was pregnant with our youngest child  complications existed. Several times throughout the pregnancy we feared having a miscarriage. We prayed daily for the safety of our unborn child and asked for saints Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Gerard of Majella for help and intercession. Avila Catherine Geraldine was born in late 2018. She was healthy!

Since then my family continues to look to Catherine of Siena as a role model and guide to God. The Doctor of the Church provides mystical insight into the Gospel and demonstrates the depths of God’s love.

Fierce Defender of Truth

Few individuals have displayed such tenacity for the truth as Catherine did in her life. During the 14th century, the Catholic Church endured one of the most corrupt periods. Known as the Avignon papacy, the popes succumbed to worldly powers, specifically under the influence of the French monarchy. Catherine wrote frequently to Pope Gregory XI. An example of her boldness is shown in a Letter to Pope Gregory, “But, I hope, by the goodness of God that you will pay more heed to His honor and the safety of your own flock than to yourself, like a good shepherd, who ought to lay down his life for his sheep.”

Love is a Divine Furnace

Another key theme in Catherine’s writing is describing how God  love burns away sin.  God appears to be absent in our life. Suffering seems mysterious. That was the way I thought before reading the saint’s works. Her description of love as a divine furnace helped me better understand how God allows suffering to draw us closer to Him.

Fire of God's love

Reflecting on my past pains I realized how my prayer life actually bloomed. Having recovered from the contracting COVID19 a couple weeks ago, I rediscovered the importance of relying on God. At first I was angry for getting sick. I took all the precautions. Prayers started out as laments and ended in hope.

God was using my sickness to cauterize my sinful inclinations and renew my prayer life and trust in Him.

Spiritual Sister

According to the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his General Audience on November 24, 2010, “Catherine (of Siena) is one of these and still today speaks to us and impels us to walk courageously toward holiness to be ever more fully disciples of the Lord.” Her intercession is powerful. I used to only think of saints as people too lofty to relate to. But reading the Sienese saint’s writings and her struggles I gained an intimate spiritual relationship with her—like a sister.

Her wit and spiritual knowledge helps me grow in holiness. Sanctity. That truly is the purpose of family. Catherine wrote,  “There is no sin nor wrong that gives man such a foretaste of Hell in this life as anger and impatience.” Wow! Those words sound like they were written specifically for me. Parenting tests your patience. Daily. Hourly. And sometimes nearly every minute.

Catherine of siena quote

Catherine reminds me to trust in God. Her holiness shows through in her books and letters. I highly recommend looking to this Doctor of the Church for spiritual guidance.


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Irenaeus, Apostolic Succession, and the One True Faith

Saint Irenaeus

By: William Hemsworth

In the second century Gnosticism threatened to tear the young Christian Church apart.  It was a heresy that taught that all matter was evil, Jesus was spirit, and that true salvific doctrine was passed down through a secret oral tradition.  To combat this growing problem the early Church father St. Irenaeus wrote a lengthy treatise titled Against Heresies

Foundations Of The Creed

One of the methods used by the great Church Father was the rule of faith.  In describing the rule of faith Irenaeus writes, “The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation.”

This rule of faith would lay the groundwork for what would become the Apostles’ Creed.  St. Irenaeus argues that the faith was given by Christ to the Apostles, and then to the bishops to whom the disciples appointed.  Which is exactly what the Catholic church teaches today.

The Historic Faith

The rule of faith also shows that Christ was truly incarnate, and that matter was created by an eternal God and not evil.  The rule of faith was a vital part in combating Gnostic teaching because it showed that they had no historical, scriptural, or apostolic support for the claims that they were making.

Incarnation of Jesus

It helped expose their schismatic and anti-scriptural view of Christianity.  Irenaeus also appealed to Ephesians 1:9-10 in his refutation of Gnosticism.  That passage of scripture states, “he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (NRSV).”  The great saint used this to show that, contrary to the Gnostic view, not all matter is bad.

One Faith Given By Christ

The Church was to be a unified body of believers with Jesus Christ as its head.  However the Gnostic heresy was causing division.  It is linked with the rule of faith in that there was only one faith handed down from Christ.  There was not one faith for one group, and a special secret faith for a select few.  The faith in Christ is available to all people and in that we should be unified.

The rule of faith previously cited is a great tool in confronting false doctrines in our own times  There is no shortage of false doctrine and some of these groups out there are great at evangelization.  This is impressive given how low their numbers are compared to Catholics.  The rule of faith is a great tool because it shows that the catholic faith is not a new invention, but was passed down by Christ himself.

It shows that Christ is God incarnate, and firmly teaching that the Trinity is one being with three distinct persons.  Many of these groups deny the Trinity and claim scriptural support.  Many of these passages were used in the days of Irenaeus and he corrected false usage.

Go preach the gospel

Whether it be in person, phone, or email, a dialogue about the truth can mean a lot to someone caught in false doctrine.  It gives them someone to ask questions to and the Holy Spirit can plant a seed.  Many great saints came to faith in just that way.


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary.  William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at williamhemsworth.com for more great and informative Catholic content!


 

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