Lumen Event Calendar

Must everything be wrapped up with a bow on top? One intangible but priceless possession is worth some reflection.



I am amazed to see the heroic sacrifices so many moms make for the good of their kids. It’s the same with the hard work and sleepless nights so many businessmen and women endure to provide for their families.

But how willing are they to sacrifice for their spouse? And do they realize that if they do, they’re giving a tremendous and lifelong gift to their children?

I recently asked a mother of four, “What percentage of your day do you spend thinking about your kids?”

She responded, “Ninety-nine percent — actually, probably 99.9 percent.”

So I asked next, “What about your husband?”

She said, “My husband is a big boy now. He can take care of himself.”

During dinner with a family in Washington, D.C., I asked the husband about his role within the family and how he perceived it. He replied, “That’s pretty clear. I’m here to provide for them. I work hard to pay the bills and keep this ship running. My wife focuses on the kids.”

Another gentleman once told me, “Father, if I died today, I would be good with God. I provided my wife and kids with this beautiful house, a safe neighborhood, and a top-class education. They have nothing to worry about.”

Many years ago, a successful business leader shared a very telling concern. His name had been in the papers for his business successes, he said, and “accolades were pouring in from all sides. But I am deeply hurt,” he told me, “because the one person who matters most to me is not recognizing my success. My wife even belittles me and tries to minimize it as much as possible. Her esteem is what I would most appreciate — this is so painful.

Revealing, isn’t it?

Another business leader I know once told me that if a colleague at work stops by to make a joke or to comment on a current event or a bit of sports news, he will always make time in his busy schedule for that kind of chitchat. But if his wife calls him during work, he immediately gets impatient and tells her, “Honey, I am overwhelmed at work right now. Sorry, I can’t discuss this now. It’ll have to wait.”

I could continue with more anecdotes, but the point is clear. The greatest gift parents can give their children is the love and respect they have for each other. Moms need to be wives and dads need to be husbands, first and foremost.

Looking back on my own childhood, I recall how I sensed when my parents were in a good spot with each other — and I loved how they would spend some time together with each other, sometimes with a glass of wine as they chatted. At other times, they’d pray together, play tennis, and go dancing. They also went on several European trips and cruises together.

I noticed so many little sacrifices and acts of kindness that they extended toward each other — it was easy to see they were each thinking of the other, all the time.

This gave me great peace and still does — and it showed what true love and commitment are all about. I encourage all parents to focus more on the needs of their spouses — and to give this tremendous and lifelong gift to the children.
Dear Friends,
Thy Kingdom Come!
Greetings from Montreal. I hope you are enjoying this beautiful weekend.
God bless you!
Fr. Stephen
If one were to ask an ordinary American Catholic today who his favorite authors were, I doubt very much that any of them would be among the so-called “Fathers of the Church”. These influential Christian scholars, living in general before 700 A.D., set the theological foundations of Christianity. Today, however, they seem distant at the best. This probably is not too surprising. Even among those committed Catholics who do read, most of them will dedicate their reading time to contemporary Christian writers who at least seem capable of responding to today’s challenges with today’s language. St. Athanasius’s “Apologia Contra Arianos” (Apology against the Arians) might be a Catholic classic, but for our contemporary reader, the problem of the Arians seems as antiquated as a grandfather’s style of dress, and why one would have to “apologize against” them seems an even greater, and non-relevant, mystery.

There is one exception. St. Augustine of Hippo. The Share Faith Magazine (a Protestant publication)[1] rated Augustine’s Confessions as the third most important Christian book of all time (before Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” and Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”), while Church Times, (self-proclaimed as “the world’s leading Anglican Newspaper”)[2] placed it number one in their list of “100 Best Christian Books”. Catholic surveys nearly always put it among the top five spiritual classics read even today.[3] Such examples as these could go on and on; there is little doubt that St. Augustine has remained one of the very few ancient Christian authors, if not the only, still read widely in the world today. Why is this?

I think the reason lies in St. Augustine’s passionate and constant concern for spiritual realities that today we need, and nevertheless neglect, more than ever. In 1986, Saint Pope John Paul II wrote to the entire Church an apostolic letter about St. Augustine (Augustinem Hipponsensem). At the end of this letter, the Pope addresses himself to St. Augustine, and asks the great Bishop what he has to say to modern man. St. John Paul describes in this way Augustine’s answer: “It seems to me that one must bring men back…to the hope of finding the truth. One must seek the truth with piety, chastity and diligence, in order to return into oneself, to the interior realm where truth dwells; and likewise to overcome the materialism and rationalism which prevent the mind from understanding the “mystery” of the human person.”[4] At the end of the letter, the Pope reminds the young people of the world that Augustine constantly recalls them to the great things in life without which they would not wish to live: love, freedom, and beauty.[5] More compelling still is that he recalls them not only with his teaching, which is indeed brilliant, but even more so by his example and sincerity. In his Confessions Augustine opens up his personal history and struggles with a style centuries before its time, and arguably more personal, poignant, and authentic than even that of our modern Robert Lowells and Sylvia Plaths.

When I first turned to St. Augustine (and his Confessions in particular) in my early 20’s, I suppose it was because I saw in Augustine’s life aspects of my own. I suppose this is also true for that great mass of struggling Catholics who, though they would like to be good and faithful, are a bit overwhelmed by their weaknesses, failures, and downright confusion. Constantly pummeled by an ever-more secular and aggressive society, contemporary Catholics struggle with those same themes with which Augustine struggled: sexual practice outside of marriage or the norms of the time, flirtation with peripheral religious and spiritual tendencies, exacerbated rationalism, love of fame, fortune, and well-being, etc., etc. If all these we recognize only too easily today, they were also the bread and butter of Augustine’s everyday life. The pre-conversion Augustine really was not so different from a Brad Pitt “Fight Club style” wild young man, confident and cocky on his self-destructive path, or from a Camus-like rebellious freethinker set on carving out his own way through the meaningless forests of the world. Add to this fascinating history a man fearlessly sincere and capable of brilliant writing, and it is little wonder that his writings still appeal to readers today.

Nevertheless, it is finally one thing above all these that probably makes Augustine not only a perennial, but also a contemporary favorite: his deep-seated love of truth.   For a world plagued by relativism, where everyone would have his own truth and feel morally obliged only by it, Augustine represents the man that the partial, the individual, or the relative will never satisfy.   The great fault of relativism is that it locks us into our individual cages; the hope of an ultimate truth and love that binds us all is lost, and with the loss of that hope, we lose our hope of happiness. Augustine, however, would never submit to that. In his passion for man and for the truth, Augustine strove to seek the source of that truth in a God he imagined as the great and inaccessible One. He found instead, in a blaze of faith-filled light, the Incarnate Christ. As Pope Benedict XVI once wrote: Christ made him (Augustine) understand that God, apparently so distant, in reality was not that at all. He in fact made himself near to us, becoming one of us… (and taught us that) a man who is distant from God is also distant from himself, alienated from himself, and can only find himself by encountering God.[6] Through his own experience, Augustine becomes the great teacher of the possibility of finding the Truth, and with the Truth, love, and with love, peace. Even for the most contemporary of men, even for those most sold out to the cynicism of relativism, these never lose their force of attraction: they are simply too tempting.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the first famous American poets, wrote a little-read poem entitled “The Ladder of Saint Augustine”. The poem speaks of how Augustine teaches us to use our weaknesses as rungs of a ladder that will eventually lead us to God if we are not afraid to climb them. Perhaps this is why Augustine remains so pertinent and popular even today: a strange and wonderful mix of realism and faith permit us not to lose “the hope of finding the truth”.

‘We have not wings, we cannot soar; But we have feet to scale and climb By slow degrees, by more and more, The cloudy summits of our time.

Standing on what too long we bore With shoulders bent and downcast eyes, We may discern — unseen before — A path to higher destinies,

Nor doom the irrevocable Past As wholly wasted, wholly vain, If, rising on its wrecks, at last To something nobler we attain.`[7]

Fr. Bruce Wren, August 2017
[1] Share Faith Magazine, May 6, 2015.
[2] Church Times, https://ct100books.hymnsam.co.uk/
[3] A simple Google search under “Top Ten Catholic Spiritual Books” will make this immediately evident.
[4] Augustinum Hipponsensem 4, August 28, 1986
[5] Ibid, 5.
[6] Cfr. Papal Audiences of Benedict 16th, January 2008, 3 and 5.

Lumen Speaker Series: Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. Houston Chapter Speaker Series Luncheon – 3/31/17.

His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo is the metropolitan archbishop of Galveston-Houston and pastor to its 1.3 million Catholics (and over 4 million non-Catholics) and 440 priests in 146 parishes and 60 schools spread over 8,880 square miles. His seats are St. Mary Cathedral Basilica in Galveston and the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston.


Born in Steubenville, Ohio, and raised with three siblings in Castle Shannon near Pittsburgh, Cardinal DiNardo attended St. Anne grade school and the Jesuit-run Bishop’s Latin school before enrolling in St. Paul Seminary and Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. He received his master’s degree in philosophy from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and degrees of Sacred Theology from both the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Patristic Institute Augustinianum in Rome.


He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Pittsburgh on July 16, 1977 and served as parish pastor, seminary professor, spiritual director, and in the chancery. From 1984 to 1991, he worked in Rome as a staff member for the Congregation for Bishops, as director of Villa Stritch (the house for American clergy), and as adjunct professor at the Pontifical North American College. In 1991 he returned to Pittsburgh, serving as pastor to several parishes and again in the chancery. 


He was appointed coadjutor bishop of Sioux City, Iowa and ordained there as a bishop in October 1997. As his Episcopal motto he adopted: Ave Crux Spes Unica, meaning “Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.” He succeeded retiring Bishop Lawrence Donald Soens of Sioux City in November of 1998.


He was named coadjutor bishop (later coadjutor archbishop) of Galveston-Houston in January 2004 and succeeded Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza on February 28, 2006. On June 29, 2006, he received the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals in November of 2007 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. As a member of the Sacred College, he served as a Cardinal-Elector in the Papal Conclave of 2013, which saw the election of Pope Francis to the See of Peter. In November of the same year, he was elected by his brother bishops as the Vice-President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for a three-year term. He was elected President of the USCCB on November 15, 2016. He is a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the Pontifical Council for the Economy, and is on the Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

In our Gospel today, we read about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus was in the southern part of Palestine, near the Jordan River when he heard that John been arrested. So he made a decision: he left the Province of Judea and his hometown of Nazareth and he moved to a city in Galilee called Capernaum. That city was to become his home, his base of operations for the next three years, and those three years that followed that decision were going to be the most influential years ever spent by a human being: they would change history dramatically forever. So how did that happen? How did Jesus go from being a young 30 year old man, barely known outside of his home town, who had never drawn particular attention to himself of done anything extraordinary, to this? I ask the question because if we think over the last three years of our lives, I would bet that we would say that we were quite busy, we did many things, but did they change history, even a little? Or perhaps more realistically, did they change the lives of at least some people for the better? If our answer is no, or at least not very much, what were we doing?

The first reading, the psalm, and the Gospel all speak about Jesus’ decision as the birth of a new light for the people: the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. I suppose we too would like to think our lives are, or have been, a light for people around us. But this decision of Jesus just didn’t happen: his decision to begin his public ministry, and the way he spent his next three years, wasn’t automatic. One all important thing preceded those three years, and was the cause of it. Do you know what that was? If you go back to the Gospels and read what Jesus did before this decision, you will see it. First, He had just finished forty days of prayer in the desert; second, He had been baptised by John, where he also was praying. And before that? Before that Jesus spent about 30 years of his life in the longest retreat ever recorded, with Mary and Joseph, learning how to pray, read the scriptures, and understand Himself and what He was supposed to do in the world.

We spend most of our lives as very busy people; perhaps some of us have even been quite successful, made a lot of money, or have a certain status. But if we ever want to really do something that will become a light for the world, I am convinced that will come about only if make our decisions after doing just what Jesus did: pray. It certainly worked for Jesus, and if even Jesus had to do so, how much more must this be for us? So I think that a very good resolution for this New Year would be to schedule in a retreat, and the longer the better. And don’t make excuses, don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert at prayer, or know how to pray like some saintly mystic: just give yourself some time to try. There is no better investment of our time if we want to do something important with our lives that really would help our loved ones and the world around us.

H. James Towey is in his sixth year as president of Ave Maria University (AMU). His career has included previous service as a college president, senior advisor to the President of the United States, key aide to a Congressional leader, member of the cabinet of Florida’s governor, founder of a national non-profit organization, and legal counsel to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. During his tenure as AMU’s second president, Mr. Towey has ushered in record enrollment, over $50 million in fundraising and 19 new majors.

Mr. Towey served as Assistant to the President of the United States. He was a member of President George W. Bush’s senior staff and attended meetings of his Cabinet. As director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives from 2002 to 2006, Mr. Towey tracked billions of dollars in federal grants that were awarded annually to faith-based charities serving the poor. In 1985 Mr. Towey became personal friends with Mother Teresa and served as her legal counsel in the United States during the last 12 years of her life. He was a full-time volunteer for her for two years, living with her order of priests in their seminary in Tijuana, Mexico, and caring for the dying in her home for people with AIDS in Washington. Mr. Towey was a member of the official delegations sent by the President of the United States for both Mother Teresa’s funeral in Calcutta in 1997, and her beatification at St. Peter’s Basilica in 2003.

He has received many honors, including the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal from His Holiness Pope John Paul II, and six honorary doctorate degrees. He and his wife Mary have five children and reside in the town of Ave Maria, Florida.
Here is a summary of 7 lessons on gratitude. Of all the biblical numbers you should be grateful I didn’t choose 144,000.
1) Gratitude should never be silent. We all know what it feels like when they say thank you. And when they don’t! “Unexpressed gratitude is ingratitude.” No doubt the other 9 lepers were super grateful to Jesus. They just didn’t tell him! And didn’t get saved!
2) Gratitude comes from looking and realizing your blessings. The leper looked down. He was a leper and now he is not! Our problem may be that we don’t often realize our blessings. So many gifts of God we have always just had. Just look at all the problems you don’t have! 
3) Gratitude begins where my sense of entitlement ends. As a priest, I’ve had plenty of chances to enter into the challenges people face. With social media even more. There are many byproducts of serving and accompanying the poor, but a primary byproduct for me is to help me see how blessed I am. And see how happy other people can be with so little. 
4) Gratitude is an echo chamber…A good thing happens which is great but once you thank and share it, it is like an echo. The opposite of gratitude is bitterness and it is like sound deadening material. Bitterness allows pain to live longer. Gratitude allows the joys to live longer. 
5) Gratitude is like fertilizer – it makes all kind of other virtues grow. Gratitude generates generosity and attracts people that have a positive spirit. On the other side, ungrateful complainers have the ability (more like a liability) to find, grow, and create burdens. Not showing gratitude can kill are relationship. Spreading a lot of gratitude around will make them flourish!
6) Gratitude is a filter. It sifts out the good and leaves aside the bad. Like our ear picks up all the noises but we only listen to what interests us. A grateful soul focuses on the good, the uplifting, the graces. So filter out the bad, skim it off the top, throw it in the trash and enjoy the long lasting concentrate of goodness. 
7) Finally, gratitude always increases opportunity. When I have my gratitude goggles on I can see opportunities that I missed when I’m not in a feeling of gratitude.


So if you made it to the end of the article. THANK YOU! And pick one of these lessons to put into practice!