3 Reasons Philip Neri Should Be Your Patron Saint

Saint Philip Neri

According to the great Italian Saint Philip Neri, “There is no surer or clearer proof of the love of God than adversity.”

His message certainly stands in stark opposition with what the modern world tells us will bring love. Creating viral videos on YouTube, increasing our followers on social media platforms, and possessing the latest Apple technology appear to be channels by which 21st century humanity may achieve happiness. Suffering is so medieval or ancient times!

Why does man need to suffer when technological advancements will eliminate disease and human ailments in the future?

The Christian approach to redemptive suffering stands counter-cultural. What is not necessarily controversial is surprise and intrigue. Less than a year ago, I discovered the unconventional St. Philip Neri. In fact, I learned that the Italian priest is actually the patron saint of joy and humor!

Mark Twain once wrote, “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” As a Catholic, I contend with his claim that humor is the greatest blessing, as that belongs to the gift of the sacraments (especially Eucharist and Confession), the American author was correct that good-natured wit and jocosity help humanity. At the end of a stressful day at work, what normally infuses life into my wife and I’s day, and sometimes week, is comedy.

Levity, lightness, and wit dominate Philip’s letters and maxims. He loved to banter with his friends and later in life even with notable Church leaders like St. Charles Borromeo and his friend CesareCardinal Baronius. Along with being the patron saint of joy and humor, I will briefly detail three reasons why Philip Neri could be your patron saint as well!

Humility Makes Us Human

humility quotes

A manager of mine once gave me interesting advice whenever he came across negative experiences from customers. “Remember the Q-TIP method—Quit taking it personal!” Perhaps it is because of the interesting mental imagery that came to mind or maybe my ears were clogged with earwax that I needed to keep using the “Q-TIP” method before I started to take that advice. A more likely answer is that setting my pride aside and listening to others is easier when reading the wisdom of holy individuals such as St. Philip Neri. Neri states,

“When a man is reproved for anything, he ought not to take it too much to heart, for we commit a greater fault by our sadness than by the sin for which we are reproved.”

The Italian saint writes frequently about the importance of humility and the joy that comes as a result of asking for that virtue from the Holy Spirit. Pride is considered to be the vice opposed to the virtue of humility. St. Philip Neri spoke about hubris in this way, “Excessive sadness seldom springs from any other source than pride.” God did not intend for humanity to be sad, but we were made to experience joy and communion. Excessive joy, the opposite of sadness, would spring from the reverse of pride—humility. 

Simple Life

Along with the importance St. Philip Neri attaches to the humility, a virtue necessary for growing in the spiritual life, his writings demonstrate an attractive simplicity to living life.  Living in today’s world we all could certainly learn to live with less. I particularly struggle with excess—binge watching Netflix, eating fast food, or struggles with too much negativity. According to him, “Avarice is the pest of the soul!” Learning about this joyful saint through his writings help limit these unhealthy desires in my life.

Saint Philip Neri

Wading through the mires of trials, self-doubts, and obstacles certainly seems confusing. I came across a gem of spiritual advice from St. Neri. In regards to tackling on the pressures and temptations of the world he wrote, “Persons who live in the world should persevere in coming to church to hear sermons, and remember to read spiritual books, especially the Lives of the Saints.” Weekly attendance of Mass helps sustain us through tough times. While at Sunday Liturgy, Neri provides a simple, but profound insight to combat the devil. He urges us, “at communion we ought to ask for the remedy of the vice to which we feel ourselves most inclined.” His pithy and modest maxims show that living in holiness need not be complicated. 

Delight in Difficulties

Another hallmark of the writings of St. Philip Neri is his focus on satisfaction gained through encountering suffering with grace. He realizes that truth of redemptive suffering contains the path to authentic joy. The Italian priest penned, “Nothing more glorious can happen to a Christian, than to suffer for Christ.”

joy in suffering

Our joy gained via difficulties does not originate from man. Neri reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the cause for our continual peace and joy in trials. The Enemy’s primary weapon is suffering in hopes we fall into despair. The opposite of despair or sadness is humility. According to Neri, “One of the very best means of obtaining humility, is sincere and frequent confession.” Whenever I receive those sacramental graces poured forth in the medicine box any suffering I encounter turns sweet instead of sour.

Over a year ago,  I accidentally stumbled across the unconventional, yet witty life and works of St. Philip Neri. Humility pervades his writings. While you may not acknowledge it now, we all truly need to learn more about being humble in the age of “selfies”. The wit and cheerful tone of Neri’s letters will prompt the natural urge to pursue truth in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Joy and humor enliven the spirit. St. Philip Neri proclaims, “The cheerful are much easier to guide in the spiritual life than the melancholy.”  If you prefer an easier, but still true, path to living Gospel maybe you should take up the Italian priest as your patron saint!

Related Links

St. Philip Romolo Neri- New Advent

The Humble Wit & Humor of St. Philip Neri

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How The Amazing Spider-Man Teaches about the Entangling Powers of Sin


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on December 06, 2021.


One of the movies I’m most excited about since Avengers: Endgame is Spider-Man: No Way Home. One of the ways I have been preparing for it is rewatching the Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spidey films. Another way is reading the recent run of The Amazing Spider-Man by Nick Spencer. It’s an intriguing series and puts a new spin on one of Peter Parker’s greatest villains. Specifically, this article will be based on issues #37-60.

The Amazing Spider-Man cover Volume 9 Nick Spencer.

Even Heroes Need to Grieve

Arguably the most iconic quote in comic book history is Ben Parker’s, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Peter Parker took his uncle’s words to heart and takes the job of a superhero seriously. In the MCU, Peter is always trying to do his best at making Tony Stark (a father figure) proud. The weight of responsibility Spider-Man carries makes him one of my favorite Marvel characters.

One of the side effects of taking your responsibilities so carefully and seriously is you often don’t have the foresight to recognize it’s sometimes okay to make mistakes. In Spencer’s The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter doesn’t give himself enough grace when things happen outside of his control. He even takes responsibility for the choices of the villains Sin-Eater and Kindred.

Sins Must Be Paid— But By Who?

The Sin-Eater is a former S.H.IE.L.D. agent (Stanley Carter) turned serial killer. He believed the sins of his father were passed onto him and decided to “absorb” the sins of other people who abused their power. Spider-Man values human life so much that his battles with Sin-Eater forces Parker to defend one of his greatest villains—Norman Osborn.

In a soliloquy during issue #47, Sin-Eater tells Spider-Man:

“Do you want to know what your problem is, Spider-Man? You think you’re superior. Above all this. Above them. You look at their fear, and their bloodlust with disdain. Of course, you do. Why wouldn’t you? You swing up high, through the city, you tear down walls with your bare hands. It affords you this luxury. The luxury to call what I do unseemly. To refuse to believe in my calling. To insist I can’t be trusted. You don’t know what they’re feeling—how desperate they are. But you will…you see the one who called me, he has a plan for you. I am just his vessel. He told me who to cleanse next—see what your sins have done.”

Sticking to the Mission

Throughout his superhero career Peter Parker took it upon himself to protect his city, family, and friends. When I think of Spider-Man I don’t normally associate him being part of a superhero team like the Avengers or Fantastic Four. Spider-Man had good reasons to be solitary and keep his identity secret—to protect Aunt May, Mary Jane, and others he loved.

Even when members of the “Order of the Web” showed up in Volume 9: Green Goblin Returns, Peter Parker is reticent to accept their help. He doesn’t think it’s their responsibility for his “sins” or past failures. He wants to stick with his mission of fighting villains by himself.

In issue #51 Spider-Man seeks out help from Dr. Strange in finding the demon Kindred. Peter tells Strange, “For as long as I’ve been putting this suit on, one deranged monster after another has used the people I love as pawns. I have lost so many of them…But that ends here. It has to.” Great power. Great (sole) responsibility. That’s what Peter learned long ago from his Uncle Ben. He continued to tell the mystical doctor, “So whatever you think can be done—to find him (Kindred), to free them—I am in. But understand this—I will be there. I’ll be the one to face him. And I am not taking no for an answer.”

The Amazing (and Lonely) Spider-Man

When Peter Parker does eventually find Kindred he is quickly outwatched. The centipede-clothed villain wants Spider-Man to confess his sins. After torturing Spidey for some time, Kindred pulls off his mask and reveals himself to be Harry Osborn.

Kindred (Harry) hints at Spider-Man’s primary character flaw in reply to Peter blaming him for sending Sin-Eater, “No, you decided—like you always do—that you knew best. Thinking you know better than all of us.” Much of the hatred Harry/Kindred feels towards Spider-Man originates from Peter keeping the secret of Norman Osborn being the Green Goblin. Harry felt betrayed because he didn’t know what his father was going through until it was too late. Spider-Man wanted to protect Harry from his father.

The following exchange between the former best friends comes to a boil:

Harry/Kindred: He was my father!!! I had the right to know! It was my family, not yours! I could’ve gotten him help. You just let him walk free!

Peter: I…I didn’t know he was still a threat. He had suffered amnesia after our last fight. He didn’t even remember he was the Goblin.

Harry/Kindred: There we are. There’s the lie. You let him go because of the amnesia. Yeah, Pete, that’s right. But not because he didn’t remember who he was. It was because he didn’t remember who you were.

A fractured friendship was sowed by distrust. Harry could have forgiven Peter’s mistake of not keeping him aware of Norman’s identity as the Green Goblin. Spider-Man could have eased the tension by looping more friends into his secret of being a superhero. But  trust lost entangled their relationship.

Confession Leads to Peace

The fight between Kindred, Spider-Man, and Green Goblin (who shows up at the end of Issue #55) ends with Wilson Fisk showing up. The Kingpin harnessed and amplified the villain The Spot’s powers to contain Harry. Kindred is trapped in a sort of dimensional encasement.

Even after the capture of Kindred, Peter continues to have dreams about him and struggles with his past decisions as Spider-Man. At the urging of Mary Jane, Peter decides to talk about his problems and fear relating to Kindred. Peter closes his eyes and imagines Kindred standing before him. Spider-Man explains why he takes it upon himself and decides what’s best for others. Peter blamed himself for his Uncle Ben’s death and the lost friendship with Harry. Peter pleads, “Just tell me out to fix it, Harry. Tell me what to do. I’ll confess to anything, do anything…”

Love and Forgiveness

Peter admits to Mary Jane he feels more at peace getting his “sins” off his chest. There’s something about externalizing our problems, failures, and sins to others that makes us better able to move on. The Catholic Church has the sacrament of confession where one receives the grace of healing and forgiveness. Though not an exact parallel, Peter does find the ability to move past this obstacle in his life. Mary Jane’s love for Peter was a catalyst for him pausing and recognizing he needs help.

Nick Spencer’s The Amazing Spider-Man was a fun and intriguing read. Peter Parker’s stubbornness and need to shoulder responsibility by himself resonates with me. Great power comes with great responsibility. But the greater lesson I learned? You don’t need to shoulder the burden by yourself. Be willing to ask for help in time of need.

Thank you for sharing!

4 Reasons Why Crying Out to God is Essential for the Spiritual Life


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on June 16, 2017.


Emotions ran high in my family yesterday. I struggled with a stressful situation at work and my son fell off his bike and scrapes his knee—a meltdown ensued. Feelings are part of the fabric of what it means to be human. I am not proud to admit this, but I have greatly failed in keeping my feeling in check during the past couple weeks.

On my drove to work this morning, words from a Christian song over the radio jogged a thought I had about prayer and our communication of God. I pondered how natural it is for humanity to complain when things do not go your way. How do we overcome the sin of complaining? Listening to the song lyrics I realized the answer is incredibly simple—cry out to God!

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Using examples from the Scriptures, excerpts from Saint John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul, and my own personal experiences I give 4 reasons why “crying out to God” is not complaining but rather an essential part of the spiritual life.

Lesson from Lamentations

Latent within the Old Testament, Lamentations is not among the first books that pop into my mind for having spiritual insight. I usually think of Proverbs or the Book of Wisdom. Lamentations is a collection of five poems that act as a woeful reply to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. Both individual and communal prayers of sorrow are found in this book. For my purposes today I will only focus on Lamentations 3:19-31 (click on link to see the full Bible passage) which contains an individual lament.

hope is in the lord.jpg

The inspired writer of Lamentations speaks directly to me in this passage. His words, “Over and over, my soul is downcast,” calls to mind my state of mind and relationship with God over the past several weeks. I was downtrodden and I frequently wanted to give up. Interestingly enough, I actually pondered the fact that there is a glimmer of hope in my situation. The writer of Lamentations is prophetic again when he states, “I tell myself, therefore I will hope in him. 25The LORD is good to those who trust in him, to the one that seeks him; 26It is good to hope in silence for the LORD’s deliverance.”

Crying Out to God in Psalm 22

According to Mark 15:34, Jesus cries out to the Father in similar fashion as the book of Lamentations and myself when I encounter the stresses of life. The evangelist writes, “And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”* which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

These words used to befuddle me.

I have since learned that Jesus was invoking the psalmist’s lamenting words in Psalm 22. The psalm begins as a sorrowful prayer to God but similar to Lamentations 3 it ends with hope [see Psalm 22:23-32]. Reading these words, the Holy Spirit connected the dots for me on this subject. Verse 30 references homage toward God on bended knee and I already was planning on talking about how lament leads to kneeling before God even before I read Psalm 22!! The movement of the Holy Spirit is mysterious yet true.

Dark Night of a Soul

Saint John of the Cross was a great mystic of the Catholic Church during the 16th century. His spiritual work Dark Night of the Soul is as relevant today as it was when it was originally written. I will only focus on the dark night of the purgation of our senses and tie it to the theme of crying out towards God. The major characteristic of this dark night is the soul finding no pleasure or consolation in the things of God. I find myself occasionally in a “spiritual rut” where I do not receive consolation or experience direct joy from God.

St. John tells us to not worry,

“It is well for those who find themselves in this condition to take comfort, to persevere in patience and to be in no wise afflicted. Let them trust in God, Who abandons not those that seek Him with a simple and right heart, and will not fail to give them what is needful for the road, until He bring them into the clear and pure light of love” (Chapter X no 3).

Like the writer of Lamentations, John of the Cross, reminds us purgation is necessary to increase our holiness and awareness of God.

dark night of the soul

Skinned Up Knees Leads to On Bended Knee

This week my wife and I added training wheels to our son’s first bicycle. We taught him the fundamentals of pedaling and coaxing him when he got frustrated because they were “too heavy”.

Things were going well. He gained momentum and cruised on our neighbor sidewalk for about 50 feet.

Suddenly he hit a raised section of the sidewalk and toppled off his bike. Tears immediately streamed down his face. My wife added a Band-Aid and after a few minutes of reassurance had him get back on the bike to try again.

falling off bike.jpg

How does this common childhood experience relate to the spiritual life? Oftentimes we get metaphorical “skinned up knees”. Gossip in the workplace or stressful family events damage our relationship with God. True growth is not without pain—both in learning to ride a bike and deepening our spiritual life. Having undergone lots of skinned up knees in learning to ride my bike it makes it easier for me to be on bended knee in prayer to thank God for going through the school of trials to learn more about Him.

The difference between complaining and lamenting is the former lacks the virtue of hope. Complaining is more self-centered in orientations whereas prayers of lament focus communication with our Divine Creator. Do not be ashamed to cry out to God but remember that while it is a necessary step in the spiritual process– it is only the beginning. May we always ask the Holy Spirit to lead us toward prayers of thanksgiving after a season of lament!

Related Links

4 Reasons to Never Worry—Trust God Will Provide

Prayer― Catholic Answers

7 Ways to Shield Yourself against Anxiety!

Arrow Prayers: A Powerful Way to Cry Out to God

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Re-Gaining a Sense of Voyage in Life


Editor’s Note: Article originally published in October 18, 2018.


As a child I had a fascination with maps, geography, and the idea of being on a quest. My favorite books to read as a kid included the famous Greek epic The Odyssey and the Redwall Series by English author Brian Jacques. Both included a sense of adventure whereby the main character(s) trekked across dangerous terrain and met obstacles to overcome (external and internal struggles) before arriving at their destination towards the end of the story. The word odyssey means journey, pilgrimage, or trek.

As a father of four [one is in utero!], I am able to reacquaint myself with the sense of life as a voyage. Frequently, I lose sight of reality as the flood of daily temptations, confusion, and struggles assail me. My 5-year-old daughter definitely got her penchant for atlases from me. Almost every day, she asks me, “Daddy! Can you please get me paper and markers for me to make a map?!” Cartography reigns supreme in my household—especially on rainy days!

Life is a Journey

The other day I read an article online that referenced the importance of returning to a sense of voyage. A quote from St. Thérèse of Lisieux stuck in my mind after I went on with the rest of my day. The Doctor of the Church wrote, “The symbol of a ship always delights me and helps me to bear the exile of this life.”

Her words convey a truth that something about sea travel points to a higher reality. Perhaps it is because we named our child Noah, named after the Old Testament figure who crafted the ark, that I tend to have boats on the mind—at least subconsciously. Or maybe, there is something innate in each of us that desires the continual movement that travel affords us. St. Augustine famously declared, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in you [God].”

Here is a well-written and easy to understand article on the connection between Noah’s Ark and its prefiguring of the Catholic Church: Ten Ways Noah’s Ark Prefigured the Church. Just as the giant boat housed the holy individuals of Noah and his family, so too, does the Catholic Church safeguard individuals striving for holiness against the dangers of the deluge of temptations!

Catholic Church is New Ark

Hope on the Heavenly Horizon

Another important point that stands out regarding the maritime theme is that life is bearable when we look to the Promised Land—Heaven—as our destination. When times get tough, during the turbulence of life we look beyond our vehicle, and outside of ourselves toward the horizon—toward the rising of the Sun [Son]!

Every quest involves dead-ends, treacherous terrain, and wild beasts [physical and/or spiritual]. Fellowship is essential for any journey—just ask Frodo the Hobbit!

Knowing life is a voyage helped remind me I’m not alone in the journey. God send you helpmates along the way!

Family. Friends. Saints.

When life gets your down and despair sets in, please be reminded that you still have a road ahead. You have the ability to pick the road on this pilgrimage of life. Make life more joyful by following the witnesses of the holy ones before us!

Related Links

An Unexpected Journey- How September 21st, 2017 Became the New Start to My Spiritual Life

3 Lessons from St. Therese of Liseux—Changing Lives One Day at a Time

Why Jesus is the true Noah and how his cross is the new “ark”


P.S. Congratulations on finishing your latest (reading) voyage!

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Saint Teresa of Avila Pray for Us!

Saint Teresa of Avila

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among my favorite saints is the Spanish Carmelite nun Teresa of Avila. Her spirituals works bring peace and comfort to my life. I discovered a simple, but powerful prayer, a poem Saint Teresa wrote, that brings comfort in distressing times.


Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.


We thank God for the wonder witness of the life of Saint Teresa of Avila. May we look to her as a faithful spiritual toward Jesus Christ. St. Teresa pray for us!

Related Links

How Saint Teresa of Avila Cut Through My Exterior with Her Interior Castle

Spiritual Surgeons— Clean Out the Wounds of Your Soul with Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila: Catholic Miracles

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Spiritual Surgeons— Clean Out the Wounds of Your Soul with Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa of Avila


Editor’s Note: Article originally published in 2017.


Does Your Soul Need a Deep Clean?

My wife and I completed an intense bout of pre-spring cleaning (it was a mere 2 days before the official start of spring J) this past weekend. That coupled with a reference to avoiding desolation and clearing our soul from the “dustiness” of a dry spiritual life during my weekly parish men’s group influenced the title of this post and inspired me to write today.

I am a neat freak. In fact, one of the major three tenets my blog is based on is organization. I am passionate about decluttering, sorting, and cleaning dusty crevices in my house. Yet, when it comes to the spiritual life, why do I occasionally lack the same fervor that I have cleaning my physical house?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 797,

“What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”243 “To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members.”244 The Holy Spirit makes the Church “the temple of the living God”.

The Cleansing Power of the Holy Spirit

This imagery of the Holy Spirt being housed in the church is not new. St. Paul clearly states this in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16 to name just a couple verses. However, it was through the intercession of St. Teresa of Avila’s writing that I especially encountered this truth recently.

She begins her greatest work, Interior Castle, with the following divinely inspired words, “ I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions.”

Teresa’s description of the soul is easy for me to understand yet at the same time illustrates the complexity of our human condition.

Throughout the Interior Castle the doctor of the Church takes readers on a spiritual journey by examining how in navigating through the castle of our soul we are able to grow in closer union with God.

Saint Teresa of Avila Pray for Us

Without a thorough examination of oneself and spiritual guidance we are not able to recognize the graces God grants us daily and gives ways for us to clear out the “dustiness” of our soul. Just like how my home needs frequent seasonal cleanings, the Church in Her wisdom has seasonal cleanings as well for us to grow in holiness.

My goal is to take a few minutes each week to reflect on St. Teresa of Avila’s words in Interior Castle. I hope you all prayerfully consider to join me in this journey and cleanse your own soul of the “dustiness” of sin and temptation.

spiritual surgeons

Related Links

Spiritual Surgeons—Saint Catherine of Siena

Spiritual Surgeons— Saint Isidore of Seville

Doctors of the Catholic Church: Definition and Complete List

Spiritual Surgeons— Alphonsus Liguori

Spiritual Surgeons—St. Lawrence of Brindisi

 

 

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Join Together—the Message of Jolly Pope John XXIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on October 15, 2018.


According to the Nicene Creed, the first of the distinguishing marks of the Catholic Church is unity. Without unity things tend to fall apart: societies collapse, families fight, and friendships evaporate. Over the course of history the Church has undergone a multitudes of developments and faced its share of difficulties threatening union. Jesus Christ promised that in spite of the conflicts unity still would persist through the office of the papacy.

United by the Holy Spirit

Guided by the power of the Holy Spirit all successors to the original “rock” of the Church, the Apostle St. Peter, provide stability and direction to the faithful. While I have been blessed with to live witness the tail end of the prominent papacy of St. John Paul II [the Great], I recently made an effort to acquaint myself with former pontiffs from the 20th century. Most recently, I learned more about the wondrous, albeit brief, papacy of the St. John XXIII.

Two words immediately come to mind with I think of John XXIII—jolliness and unity! He was a joyfully jolly individual whose papacy promoted greater unity for all mankind.  The Italian pope declared, “The whole world is my family.”

While at face value, this appears to be a simple and unimpressive statement, looking at the human conflicts currently existing in the world today and throughout history, we suddenly realize that disunity is part and parcel of human nature. Opening the world to the Catholic Church via the initiation of the Second Vatican Council, John XXIII opened the supernatural ark and invited humanity a chance assess the spiritual graces housed in the Catholic Church.

I am grateful to have discovered the positivity, and harmonious message of the pope of the Second Vatican Council. Below are several insightful and uplifting words from St. John XXII we can reflect on for the rest of the week!

Selected Quotes

“I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in.”

“Before everything else, fidelity to the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Jesus did not found several churches, but one single Church.”

“O Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I would like to be filled with love for You; keep me closely united with You, may my heart be near to Yours. I want to be to You like the apostle John. O Mary of the Rosary, keep me recollected when I say these prayers of yours; bind me forever, with your rosary, to Jesus of the Blessed Sacrament. Blessed be Jesus, my love.”

“Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.”

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