An Unexpected Journey? The Case For The Canonization Of J.R.R. Tolkien

In high school, I checked out Tolkien’s The Hobbit from the municipal library for the first time. I was a chapter or two into the book before I abandoned the work. “This is incredibly long-winded and includes boring descriptions. How could anyone consider this a classic of literature?!” I thought.

Five years and a master’s degree in theology later, I purchased a gold-leafed leather copy of The Hobbit at a local used book store. Perhaps I matured in my taste and knowledge of good writing. Or maybe God provided me the ability to make it through the verbose explanations of hobbits and their dietary preferences.  Since my unexpected return back to J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, I developed a hunger for Middle Earth and his other literary works.

Tolkien

Being a cradle Catholic myself, I am actually a bit embarrassed to admit that I did not realize until recently that Tolkien was a devout Catholic. He even called his masterpiece  “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.” Whenever I read his writings, whether it be tales about hobbits or Middle Earth in general, Farmer Giles, or my personal favorite Leaf by Niggle, nostalgia for a deeper reality and a sense of wonder invades my heart, mind, and soul.

Tolkien’s Impact on Faith

Aside from the writings of spiritual greats like Saints John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, and John Paul II, to name a few, no other writer has impacted my life as much as J.R.R. Tolkien.  He inspires me to yearn for joy and realize that this life is a journey for the next. I would like to argue the case of the canonization of the great 20th century English writer using examples from both his writings and my personal life to demonstrate his impact on our pilgrim journey towards Heaven.

The canonization process is quite lengthy. After five years have passed since a person died, the Bishop of the Diocese upon which the individual passed away would need to petition the Holy See of Rome to start a Cause for Beatification and Canonization. This examination of the individual’s life is rigorous. Any miracles that are attributed to them are further scrutinized. Further information about this process may be found at the link at the end of this article.

Tolkien’s Strong Marian Devotion

Besides the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the communion of saints provide me the most consolation during times of despair. They testify to the truth safeguarded in the Catholic Church. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The term ‘communion of saints’ refers also to the communion of “holy persons” (sancti) in Christ who “died for all,” so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all” (961).  J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings helped further my understanding of the Catholic faith and promoted teaching truth for all!

Cure for Despair—Love of the Eucharist

Tolkien and Eucharist

As imaginative and impressionistic, Tolkien’s creation of Middle Earth is what stood out first for me is his thoughts about the Most Holy Sacrament. He said the following about the Eucharist:

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. . . . There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste—or foretaste—of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires (Letters of Tolkien, no. 43 pp. 53-54).

Food for the Journey

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1324 refers to the Eucharist as “the source and summit of the Christian life.” Tolkien held this belief as well. “The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion,” he wrote. The Eucharist was a fixture in his life. Tolkien created a literary equivalent to the Bread of Life in his Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Elven bread known as lembas, provided nourishment for travelers. Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee ate this food during their arduous journey to Mount Mordor to destroy the One Ring.

Fellowship Never Fails

Fellowship of the Ring

Along with Tolkien’s profound love for the Eucharist and his implicit references to the Holy Communion in the Lord of the Rings, his focus on the importance of camaraderie—especially in suffering—is a Catholic tradition that he teaches believers and nonbelievers through his literature.

While Frodo bears the burden of carrying the One Ring, he did not lack help. In The Fellowship of the Ring the wizard Gandalf puts together a motley crew of four hobbits, two of the race of men, a dwarf, and an elf to sojourn across Middle Earth to destroy the Ring. At the end of the first part of the trilogy all hope appears lost when the fellowship is fractured leaving Frodo alone save for his friend and fellow hobbit—Samwise.

In the third book The Return of the King, weariness weighs down on Frodo more as he ascends Mount Doom in his attempt to destroy Sauron’s Ring. Listen to the hero’s lament when the evilness of the ring tempts him:


Frodo: I can’t recall the taste of food, nor the sound of water, nor the touch of grass. I’m naked in the dark. There’s nothing–no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I can see him with my waking eyes.

Sam: Then let us be rid of it, once and for all. I can’t carry the ring for you, but I can carry you! Come on!


Helping others shoulder their cross is the hallmark of Christianity. Cooperation in suffering pervades the history of Christianity. From Simon the Cyrene helping Jesus bear the weight of the cross up Calvary, to the modern day saints like Saints John Paul II and Maximilian Kolbe offering their suffering and death to alleviate the suffering of their fellow mankind, we are all called to a Catholic [a universal] camaraderie. J.R.R. Tolkien also reminds readers of this universal truth!

Teacher of Truth

J.R.R. Tolkien

A third reason why I believe J.R.R. Tolkien should be canonized as a saint is due to his ability to instruct without resorting to sounding preachy or judgmental. His short story Leaf by Niggle is instructive. It contains truths about the importance of our pilgrim journey on earth, purgatory, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

The main reason I enjoy Leaf by Niggle is due to the clear catholicity contained within the characters, plot, and symbols. Niggle represents everyman—humanity as an individual and as a collective. When I looked up the word “niggle” in a thesaurus, I learned that the name has synonyms which included: annoy, bother, discomfort, and anxiety. According to Lumen Gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church),

“On earth, still as pilgrims in a strange land, tracing in trial and in oppression the paths He trod, we are made one with His sufferings like the body is one with the Head, suffering with Him, that with Him we may be glorified” (7)

Niggle also suffered various disturbances of his artwork while he was on a pilgrim journey.

Plan for the Journey (Beyond)

Tolkien quote

Tolkien’s The Hobbit also teaches us the importance of preparation. An unexpected responsibility of helping a group of dwarves upended Bilbo Baggins’ cozy life. So too living the Gospel sometimes shakes up our “perfect little world”.

While I fear the unknown, I gained a sense of peace and joy as I read the writings of Tolkien. I have also discovered during my interactions with fellow LOTR fans [friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even strangers] that a true sense of unity occurs. I can’t quite explain it but I always leave a conversation about Middle Earth with a joyful twinkle in my eyes. Any of his works have this effect in me. In fact, I leave with a more compassionate heart towards others in general. He possessed an ability to unite divergent people through literature and the world. This quality hints at his overall holiness and love of humanity.

Patron Saint of Fantasy Stories?

J.R.R. Tolkien’s name has become a token (no pun intended) reference for everything related to fantasy and epic-storytelling. The more well-known Catholic saints include priests, bishops, martyrs, nuns, or theologians. However, the Holy Spirit does work in mysterious ways above man’s total comprehensive nature. Is it possible that God has used the fantasy world created by Tolkien  to further belief in Jesus Christ?

According to St. Catherine of Sienna, “If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.” Tolkien certainly followed his natural (and supernatural) gifts. As a storyteller, he brought the world an unexpected set of characters that gained universal appeal. I pray for the opportunity to see the canonization of J.R.R. Tolkien in my lifetime. His writings have deepened my Catholic faith and love for humanity and God!

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6 Epic Facts About The Saint Behind Santa Claus

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” I certainly think that he would have (and hopefully you will) chuckle at the following joke: What do you call Santa when he has no money? Saint ‘Nickel-less’. Get it? Nicholas?

If you enjoy wordplay, you’re welcome! However, if you find such repartee revolting, I apologize, and implore you to still read on.

Ironically, Nicholas came from a wealthy family (more about that later). Some believed his family riches provided means for him able to make generous visits through the night delivering anonymous gifts to the less unfortunate in his city.

Below are six common (or maybe not so common!) facts about the Catholic saint later popularized and associated with Santa Claus. Regardless of whether you heard of these facts before or not, they are still epic!

Santa Clout punched the heretic

saint nick arius meme

Nicholas had such a fervor for the faith that he slugged the heretic priest Arius in the face as he was leading Christians astray by denying the divinity of Christ.

Hearing things like this about saints also gives hope that Heaven is possible even those with quick and short-fused tempers.

He participated in the Council of Nicaea

Nicholas was  among the bishops who attended the 1st Ecumenical Council at the city of Nicaea in the early 4th century.

The significance of this council includes the formal declaration of the faith in the Nicene Creed—a profession uttered every Sunday Mass!

Saint Nick Arian meme

Imprisoned for his Catholic faith

Similar to his contemporary, Saint Athanasius, Nicholas also was jailed for his persistence in pursuing and evangelizing the truth of the Gospel.

This should not be of great surprise since Nicholas lived in the most tumultuous times in Catholic Church history. Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in 312 A.D. But the Diocletian persecution of the turn of the century in 303 A.D. led to Nicholas being among numbers of Christians sent to prison for refusing to renounce Jesus Christ.

His tenacity for refusing to commit apostasy even in the face of persecution  is legendary. Nicholas’s faith and strength is on par with Saints Peter, Paul, Athanasius, and other bold proclaimers of the Good News!

The manna of Nicholas

manna of st. Nicholas

A legend began in Myra that every year on the feast day of Nicholas, the bones of the saint secrete a hyaline watery substance.

Known as the “Manna of Nicholas,” this substance is believed to have healing effects. If you want to find out more information about this interesting relic, check out this site.

He had philanthropic parents

The generosity of the bishop of Myra is well documented. However what you may not have known is that his parents’ generosity strongly influenced him.

According to Lumen Gentium, “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.”

Nicholas’ parents both perished as a result of an epidemic. But the morals, character, and faith they instilled in him at a young age served him for the rest of his life.

A panoply of patronages

The final of the six epic facts about Nicholas relates to his ability to appeal to a variety of individuals. Along with being known as the patron saint bringing joy to child, Old Saint Nick also helps the following groups: merchants, haberdashers, longshoremen, brewers, pawnbrokers, judges, and archers.

Saint Nicholas

Nicholas exhibited true love of God and neighbor through his anonymous gift-giving, especially to impoverished children. The bishop of Myra exuded holiness in all facets of his life.

Together with his ability to give, and give generously, Nicholas withstood persecution and staunchly defended the divinity of Christ against the assault of Arianism.

Some may call him magical, but the true charm of Nicholas came from his profound love of Jesus.

Let us all model Nicholas this Advent and Christmas seasons mirroring the love of God for others to see!

Related Links

Who is St. Nicholas?

How St. Nicholas was the first “Secret Santa”

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On Autism and Being a Priest: An Exclusive Interview with Fr. Matthew Schneider


Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted via email communication in August 2019. Some of the answers provided by the interviewee were edited to provide clarity for the reader. The integrity of Fr. Matthew Schneider’s answers was not compromised in the editing process.


Fr. Matthew Schneider

What challenges do you face as a priest with autism?

My religious community tends to take on other ministries more often. I was the chaplain and on the formation team at a K-12 school for the 2013-2014 school year. I recognized I had not had a perfect year, but I figured everything was within the learning curve of being new to a certain type of ministry. However, the school administration thought otherwise. They asked that another priest from the community take over after a year of what was supposed to be a 3 or 6 year assignment.

The administration also suggested I might have Asperger’s. I felt devastated but it hindsight this is a blessing as it lead to a diagnosis about 16 months later in January 2016. After that, I was transferred to working more behind the scenes on a few projects for my religious community – preparing a course, local administration, and the national communications – while studying grad theology part time and helping out with the sacraments at our retreat center and a few parishes.

How did the parishioners react when found out you were diagnosed with autism?

The regulars at the retreat center knew me kind of like a parish and they responded quite well. They didn’t really ask too many questions and just accepted the diagnosis when I explained it to them.

Given my situation, one family at the retreat center approached me as they have several autistic children. However, the mother of that family has already managed to get most things in order for her family at Mass, etc. so I probably learned as much from her as I helped her.

What challenges did you face after your ASD diagnosis?

As far as challenges, I definitely have some. I realize that I am not great at reading people. This has a lot of side effects regarding how I approach a lot of things. Right now, I am earning my doctorate in hopes be of service to the Church as a writer or teacher.

I’m more insistent on a confessional screen as I have trouble reading faces which people often expect in face-to-face confession. Also a few times, I’ve struggled with hearing confessions with talking going on in the background like at parishes missions or big events. Usually this issue was resolved by moving somewhere the preacher was not so loud.

How ASD ever affected your approach to the Liturgy?

As far as liturgy, I don’t think it has affected it too much.  A “normal” Mass doesn’t set off any sensory difficulties for me. I do tend to prefer a more structured liturgy as opposed to a free-form or charismatic type. I tend to say the black and do the red while tending to simplicity in songs.


Fr. Matthew wants to help you experience Jesus and become his apostle.
He is a priest with the Legionaries of Christ ordained in 2013, and lives in the Philadelphia metro area where he studies at theology doctorate and helps out with a few ministries. Fr. Matthew is also one of the top priests on social media with over 75,000 followers and writes a blog on Patheos. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Fr. Matthew has worked throughout North America.

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Why You’re Never Too Old to Evangelize

By: Nancy Ward

Old Sally leaned forward expectantly in her wheelchair inside the front door of the nursing center, awaiting the Sunday visitors. She was the first person my husband and I met on our initial assignment as Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist in 1985. The director had gathered the ambulatory Catholic residents into the library, which served as a chapel. Old Sally insisted on showing us the way and introducing us to the residents as her “new friends.”

new friend

As she made her way to her place in the center of the room, Old Sally stopped gave each person a hug or a pat on the hand. After the Communion service, I found that Old Sally had a story for everyone, many about answered prayers, healings, miracles – and some of them involved her great-grandchildren.  Her contagious laughter permeated the halls and drew the curious out of their TV stupors.

When I fast-forward for thirty years, I realize that I am about the same age as Old Sally was then. I’m not confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home, but I have stories—journals jammed full of accounts of what God has done in my life. The odd assortment of notebooks recount answered prayers, healings and miracles — some of them involved my new great-grandchildren.

Evangelization is about God’s Work

Old Sally taught me that evangelization is not about me or how well I can convince those lonely souls on the fringes of the church that they need God. Evangelization is about sharing what God has done in my life.

My spiritual biography began when I was a year old when I was baptized in my grandmother’s Protestant Church. I grew up going to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and Youth Ministry. When I was 15, I realized God was real and loved me. Me!  I gave my life to Jesus at a Youth Ministry Retreat but kept my relationship with God a deep secret I couldn’t put into words. When my father died suddenly three years later, Jesus was the only one to comfort me and I knew he would never leave me.

I worked in the church office in college, fell in love with a Catholic man and struggled with the difference in our denominations before we married in the Catholic Church. We moved around frequently in the military service. After three years of sporadic instructions and trying out the Catholic lifestyle, I knew by the peace in my heart that I  belonged in the Catholic Church. There I’ve found the fullness of my Faith.

new evangelization

During post-Vatican II fits and starts of renewal in the church, I learned from Saint John Paul II that the most effective way to evangelize is through our personal witness—what we know best and what we have available to us. Could I do this? I participated in every renewal program I could find, and recorded accounts of spectacular encounters with God in my journals.

Experience More Powerful than Logic

Saint Peter’s call to “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for the reason for your hope (1 Peter 3:15), called me to start blogging. I rummaged through decades of journals to find stories to share on the Internet. I discovered that I had greatly underestimated the power of my simple story and stopped focusing on all the “do nots”  and “should nots” of evangelizing.

I’m not a theologian or a gifted orator. If I was, my audience could question my logic. No one can refute the experience of my personal encounter with Christ! As for you, think of all the life lessons God has taught you through your God-moments!

God promises us, through the Psalmist,

“The just shall flourish like the palm tree, shall grow like a cedar of Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, they shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bear fruit even in old age, always vigorous and sturdy, as they proclaim: “The LORD is just; our rock, in whom there is no wrong.” (Psalm 92:13-16)

I’m part of the elder generation of faithful Christians who know the Truth and bring that Truth to the spiritual orphans of our secular culture. Vigorous and sturdy. We shall bear fruit among those whom no one else can evangelize but who can relate to us right here and now. We interact with the walking wounded at Walmart and can minister to the casualties of the culture of death.

Don’t be Afraid to Share Your Story

Share your story

When you share a story that’s relevant to the problem your listeners are struggling with, they will hear you. The cancer diagnosis they just received is less frightening in light of how God brought you through chemo and radiation treatments.

Trust the Holy Spirit. Prepare to tell your story by clarifying it through journaling but don’t rely only your own power. The Holy Spirit has empowered you to evangelize through your personal testimony and will guide you beyond what you can ever imagine. He knows who and when and where to share your story, for he has prepared the way.

As for what to say, rely on the promise Jesus made to us in John 14:26 that, “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

God Will Take Care of You

Jesus keeps his promises. The Holy Spirit has come! He will remind you of everything that Jesus has told you about your faith and your faith story. Then he will help you keep focused on what God does.

Know your story and know that God’s grace makes his presence real to those who receive your testimony. The encouragement they feel from your story is an answer to their prayers because you were available and ready for God to evangelize through you.

Old Sally didn’t worry about the “correct way” to evangelize or what reactions she would get. She exemplified the spirit of the New Evangelization in letting the love of Jesus overflow from within her to those around her. She trusted the Holy Spirit. Sally took St. Peter’s instructions as a direct order and was  always ready to share a story to bring hope to anyone.

Because you have lived a one-of-a-kind story, you alone can tell it from your heart in your one-of-a-kind voice with your authentic wording and emphasis. Someone is waiting to hear your story. Are you ready to share it?

Thank you for sharing!

How the Coronavirus Pandemic is an Opportunity for Catholics to Serve the Poor

This post was sponsored by a generous lay member of the Diocese of Barbados. COVID19 has hit this Catholic diocese particularly strong and many parishioners are in need of assistance.

Consider helping out by visiting God Squad T-Shirts to purchase a Catholic t-shirt. 100% of all proceeds will be used to buy food for the poor.


Over the centuries, humans have endured unimaginable trials. Volcanoes, hurricanes, droughts, famines, floods, and World Wars. The author of Ecclesiastes  was right in saying, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.” 

Our current situation with the COVID19 pandemic may seem unique. While the majority of people living haven’t experienced an event of this magnitude in their lifetime, largescale illnesses have spread the globe before. The virus has not only affected individual’s physical health but also spiritual, emotional, mental, and economic health.

Catholic and Coronavirus

The Catholic Church has been a bastion of hope during these times in the past. Now is the time for the Church to provide aid again. More than a building or group of bishops, the Church is primarily a community founded on love and obedience to God. According to 1 Peter 2:7-8, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone.”

The primary commandment is to love God with your whole heart, mind, and soul and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. How precisely do you love your neighbor in 2020?

Corporeal Works of Mercy

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2447,

The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.

Jesus specifically detailed these works of mercy in Matthew 25: 35-46. Preceding the passage about the Judgment of Nations are the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Talents. The first parable teaches about the importance of being prepared spiritually because we don’t know the time when our death arrives. In the second parable, Jesus talks about how our natural talents should be used for the common good. If we share our talents (time and treasure) to help others in need we will receive countless graces.

Corporeal works of mercy

Dioceses throughout the world face economic hardship due to the lockdowns. Our brothers and sisters in faith suffer hunger and financial strain. It can be difficult to help others in need especially if you and your family are currently going through similar pressures. Below I will examine a couple examples of saintly witnesses who cared for the poor despite suffering their own crosses.

Saint Gemma Galgani

Gemma Galgani is the patron saint of the poor and unemployed. She was only 8 years old when her mother died. Gemma’s father encountered financial strain shortly after. He was always a good steward with his wealth, but sickness and the death of his wife led to creditors seizing his property. Succumbing to cancer of the throat, Gemma’s father passed away when she was 19 year old.

Saint Gemma Galgani

Gemma orphaned lived in destitution and the churches had to take up collections for her and her siblings to eat. The saint wrote, “I am happy in every way that Jesus wills, and if Jesus wants the sacrifice of my life, I give it to Him at once. If He wants anything else, I am ready. One thing alone is enough for me; to be his victim, in order to atone for my innumerable sins, and if possible, for those of the whole world” How incredible is her faith? Certainly her story resonates with us during this year of endless trials.

Saint Charles Borromeo

Another saint who lived through an impoverished time was Charles Borromeo. As bishop of Milan, he is most famous for organizing the last session of the Council of Trent. The patron saint of catechists also promoted reform in the Catholic Church. At first his life may seem completely different from Gemma— a bishop versus an orphan.

Saint Charles Borromeo

Charles exhibited the same care for the poor as Gemma. He lived through the Bubonic plague (yes the 16th century was crazy!). Milan endured famine and eventually outbreak of the plague. Despite the secular leaders fleeing the city in fear, Charles remained to care for the people. He sought to feed 60,000 to 70,000 people daily and used all his funds feeding the hungry that he eventually went into debt.

The Italian bishop lived out the corporeal works of mercy. He sought to comfort the afflicted and care for the poor and sick. Saint Charles is an outstanding model for our current situation.

Be Christ to Others

Saints Gemma and Charles listened to the God’s will in the face of their own suffering. Loving our neighbors is not always easy. But carrying our crosses never is easy. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” 

Sadly, I have seen people remain apathetic to others’ suffering. “I doesn’t affect me. I don’t know them so why should I care.” God created humans to live communally. We are to care for the less fortunate. Our life can turn around quickly. Those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic know truth well.

Live out the corporeal works of mercy. Become Christ to everyone you meet. Donate to the poor individually or to charities. You may not be able to help out financially at this time. Share your time or talents with your neighbors. Pray for the conversion of souls and end of the pandemic.


Help our Catholic brothers and sisters in the Caribbean by visiting God Squad T-Shirts to purchase a Catholic t-shirt. 100% of all proceeds will be used to buy food for the poor.

If you are not able to donate at this time please share this post with your Catholic family and friends.

May God bless you and your generosity!

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How Suffering is Purposeful

A purpose in pain

Suffering is necessary for transformation.

If I did not suffer I would not be able to rely on God as much and I would not be able to be so aware of how sinful person I am.

Pride. Greed. Sloth. Lust. Gluttony. Anger. Envy.

I suffer from all these deadly sins.

I am suffering from them a lot less than I did five years ago.

Going through the trauma of losing all that I lost in 2014 made me the man I am today.

But God‘s not done with me. And I don’t want to be done with me not until I learned to be so unselfish that it’s so natural not just a majority of the time but all the time.

I just don’t want to be a good person I want to be a saint.

I want to be a person that others look to for help and encouragement.

Suffering sucks. But you know what?

Jesus suffered. Worse than anything I will endure.

If he didn’t avoid pain what makes me so special to think I should avoid suffering.

Suffering transforms. Makes you beautiful.

How is your Holy Triduum going?

What things can I pray for you?

Live Holy Week

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