Prayer & Babysteps

Jean-François Millet, The Angelus, 1857-1859

If someone were to ask me what the most important thing is for growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ, among my first answers would be a regular, deepening prayer life. Not a perfect prayer life, mind you, nor a profound one — at least initially — but a regular and deepening one.

I can personally testify to the utility of a “babysteps” approach to prayer: if you don’t pray regularly right now, start with thirty seconds… maybe one Our Father, said slowly and attentively. Then bump it up to a minute or two, maybe with some prayers of thanks for the gifts of the day and/or intercessions for someone — maybe you — who is in need. Then maybe five minutes… then ten. Read the Scripture readings read at Mass that day, prayerfully and carefully. Listen for the word, phrase or sentence that jumps out at you, and meditate on that.

You’ll probably plateau at some point, but that’s okay… like any relationship, the time spent together is more about quality than quantity. But also like any relationship, don’t let that become an excuse either.

As I said, I’ve found this to be a helpful way to consistently improve my prayer life; what about you? What’s worked for you in your own prayer life?

It Looks Better on the Inside


At the Easter Sunday Mass one of the options for the reading from the Gospels is John 20:1-9, in which we read about how Mary Magdalene told Peter and John (the disciple whom Jesus loved) that Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb and about their response: they ran to the tomb.

We’re told that Peter and John both ran to the tomb, and that although John reached the tomb first, he did not go in until Peter arrived.

Note what happens after Peter has arrived, entered the tomb and examined the scene: “Then the other disciple [John], who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed” (verse 8).

John — who’d reached the tomb first — goes into the tomb, sees, and believes.

He goes in, and then he sees and believes.

It is only when he has entered in that he is able to see and to believe.

In the experience of many people who’ve embraced Christianity in general or Catholicism in particular, there comes a point at which further investigation “from the outside” yields diminishing results: a decision has to be made to “enter in,” and once that happens… seeing and believing.

Have you had that experience? Are you in that position now? Enter in, that you might see and believe.

The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done… Do You Believe It?

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70, David Roberts, 1850


Catholics and other Christians living in the United States today often feel as though they are under assault, but the deeper reality is just the opposite: they are the ones who should be confident of their victory. Why? Because that’s what their Captain promised in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.

Before getting to His words, though, let’s set the table by looking at the cultural context in which we find ourselves today.

Continue reading “The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done… Do You Believe It?”

Unexpected Lessons

Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1668


You know what was one of the most surprising things about this Lent for me? The unexpected lessons from the Father, the bearhugs He gave me that have been both a little painful and a lot heart-warming.

He’s shown me some hard truths… some of the dirt I’ve missed — or frankly, ignored — but He’s been pretty gentle in how He’s done it. In my case, it was a good dose of humility… just when I think I’m well on my way to having this pride thing licked, He shows me that it’s a lot bigger onion than I realized!

But even more than pointing the dirt out to me, He’s shown me how much better I look when I get cleaned up!

I used to be afraid of that kind of Fatherly discipline, but now I thank Him for it. If I remember.  🙂

What are the unexpected — but good! — lessons that He’s taught you?

What to Expect When You’re Reading (Cruciform)

As I’ve mentioned before, this isn’t my first blog… the first go was pretty rant-heavy and all across the board, topic-wise.

It was also very across the board in terms of frequency of posting, due to the fact that most of my posts were in response to the news of the day, oftentimes political (hence the ranting).

With Cruciform, my intent is to be more deliberate in both topics and frequency. I’ve already spoken to the focus of this site; in terms of frequency you can expect to see one lengthy post per week and two to four shorter posts.

But this is also an experiment, with the results determined in large part by the preference of you, the reader… so please… let me know what you think as we go forward. And to that end, expect me to see questions every so often about what is most interesting and helpful to you, including the regularity of my posts.

Thanks for journeying with me!

What is Truth?

“What is truth?” Those are the words of that great postmodern philosopher Pontius Pilate, uttered nearly 2000 years ago (maybe postmodern isn’t as postmodern as we thought).

Mihaly Munkacsy, Christ before Pilate, 1881


While many today share Pilate’s skepticism, many others have found the Truth. Not just truths, mind you, but the Truth: the truth about themselves, about their lives, about their destiny. And with it they have found peace, joy and purpose.

You can find it too.

Are you ready?


One thing that continues to strike me is the way that deep truths both have a certain beauty to them and provoke a beautiful response. The latter has certainly been the case with the Christian tradition and the multiple forms of artistic beauty that it inspires.

To that point, the other day I read this post listing ten classical music pieces for Easter. The author notes that he’s leaving off the most well-known Easter-inspired piece, which leads us down another road…

Many Christian traditions are known for the spiritual practice of giving something up for the six week-plus season of Lent, leading up to the celebration of Easter. Catholics, for instance, give up meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.

Perhaps less well-known is the practice of “giving up” the Alleluia…

As with many Christian worship services, the Catholic Mass always includes a reading from one of the four Gospels. Immediately prior to the reading comes the Gospel acclamation, typically a verse or two from the Bible, which is “bookended” by the singing of the word “Alleluia.” This word is a variation of the Hebrew word Hallelujah, which is an exhortation to give praise to God.

During the seasons of Advent and Lent, however, Catholics “give up” the Alleluia, not singing it from Ash Wednesday through Good Friday. It is only at the Easter Vigil after sundown on Holy Saturday that this word is sung again.

Now that Lent is over and Easter has begun, this word — both an exhortation to give praise to God and itself a means of giving that praise — returns full force.

As such, it only seems appropriate to listen to what is probably the most well-known composition around this biblical word of praise: the “Hallelujah Chorus” from George Handel’s 1741 work The Messiah.

So… turn the volume up to 11, click the Play icon below and listen to the Royal Choral Society’s stirring performance of this classic: