My Nature is Fire – Prayer of St. Catherine of Siena

My Nature Is FireSt. Catherine of Siena

In your nature, eternal Godhead,
I shall come to know my nature.
And what is my nature, boundless love?
It is fire,
because you are nothing but a fire of love.
And you have given humankind
a share in this nature,
for by the fire of love you created us.
And so with all other people
and every created thing;
you made them out of love.
O ungrateful people!
What nature has your God given you?
His very own nature!
Are you not ashamed to cut yourself off from such a noble thing
through the guilt of deadly sin?
O eternal Trinity, my sweet love!
You, light, give us light.
You, wisdom, give us wisdom.
You, supreme strength, strengthen us.
Today, eternal God,
let our cloud be dissipated
so that we may perfectly know and follow your Truth in truth,
with a free and simple heart.
God, come to our assistance!
Lord, make haste to help us!


IP#206 Sharon Doran – “The Bible” on an Inside the Pages Special

With “Seeking Truth” founder and teaching director, Sharon Doran, we take a critical look at the History Channel presentation of “The Bible”, produced by Roma Downey andSharon Mark Burnett.  While we appreciate the opportunity to have the Bible lifted up in such a way on cable television, this presentation, and in particular the episode entitled “The Mission”, contains some problematic elements which subtly challenge basic tenets of our Catholic Christian understanding of the Gospel.  The argument has been made that artistic license needed to be employed to present the scope of the Bible in 10 hours, however certain choices were made by it’s producers which could be questioned by the discerning heart.  Also, several prominent Catholic leaders have encouraged the viewing of this presentation.  Should we being viewing it as a means of Evangelization or as simply a piece of entertainment?  Is there a danger in using this as tool in Catholic catechesis?  With Sharon, along with our Bibles in hand, we address some these questions and take a deeper look at some of the more challenging depictions presented in “The Mission” episode.

For solid teachings on the Sacred Scripture, we encourage you to check out “Seeking Truth” which is an in depth Catholic Bible Study, commissioned by the Archdiocese of Omaha in response to John Paul II’s call to the New Evangelization as well as Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation for all Catholics to study scripture. To learn more go

IP#205 Christopher West – Fill These Hearts on Inside the Pages

Christopher-WestChristopher West continues to offer to us work that is compelling, as well as challenging, in regards to our deepest desires…the yearning in our hearts that can only find rest in God.  Through the Scriptures, the writings of the Saints, and the teachings of the Church, Christopher West helps us to understand that so much of what we seek and how we seek it, especially expressed through our bodies, cannot be authentically found in what our culture offers.  The only place where true peace, joy, and fulfillment can be found is in the abundant love and grace  which resides in the Heart of  God who longs for us…it is up to us to respond.


fill-these-heartsYou can find the book here

“Christopher West is a gifted and effective evangelist with a passion for tackling one of the greatest obstacles to belief today: the heresy that Christianity is a joyless, rule-bound religion. Not so, argues West, in this timely, powerful book. Drawing upon Scripture, the saints and the glimmers of truth in pop culture, West reminds us that Christianity is essentially a love story, and Christian sexual ethics exist to help us fulfill, not repress, our deepest desires. For anyone who has ever doubted that Christ’s call to purity of heart is good news, Fill These Hearts will prove a surprising and consoling read, one with the potential to change your life as well as your mind.”
–Colleen Carroll Campbell, author of My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir

The Strength of Discernment – What is Spiritual Direction?

Catholic Spiritual Formation - Catholic Spiritual Direction

Msgr. Esseff, after leading a retreat consisting of over 140 Spiritual Directors from around the country, discusses Discernment.  Why is is it such an important aspect of our lives?  What is the role of the Spiritual Director?  What are the signs of  a good spiritual director ? How do we encounter them?

From the NAB 

Numbers Chap 21

The Bronze Serpent.4

From Mount Hor they set out by way of the Red Sea, to bypass the land of Edom, but the people’s patience was worn out by the journey;5so the people moses-and-bronze-serpentcomplainedd against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!”*

6So the LORD sent among the people seraph* serpents, which bite the people so that many of the Israelites died.7Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you. Pray to the LORD to take the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people,8and the LORD said to Moses: Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and everyone who has been bitten will look at it and recover.*9Accordingly Moses made a bronze serpent* and mounted it on a pole, and whenever the serpent bit someone, the person looked at the bronze serpent and recovered.


Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton.  He was ordained on May 30th 1953, by the late Bishop William J. Hafey, D.D. at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, PA.  Msgr. Esseff served a retreat director and confessor to Blessed Mother Teresa.    He continues to offer direction and retreats for the sisters of the missionaries of charity around the world.  Msgr. Esseff encountered St.  Padre Pio,  who would become a spiritual father to him.  He has lived in areas around the world,  serving  in the Pontifical missions, a Catholic organization established by Bl. Pope John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world especially to the poor.  Msgr. Esseff assisted the founders of the Institute for Priestly Formation and continues to serve as a spiritual director for the Institute.  He continues to  serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests and sisters and seminarians and other religious leaders around the world.   


CTD#3 – “Waiting in the Desert” – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating

Episode 3Deacon-James-Keating -Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion – “Waiting in the Desert”.  

“The ancient image of Lent as a time of withdrawal is relevant to the formation of conscience if we perceive that our consciences have been inordinately attached to anemic sources of influence.  Christians are called to transform the world of culture, work, and politics according to the truths learned through Christ in the Church.  It is a powerful and dignified calling.  Lent affords us a good opportunity to repent of those habits, attitudes, or behaviors that reflect a preoccupation with the secular.  Thus devoid of the religious, we are then called to eagerly respond to our faith and imbue the secular with religious and ethical meaning.  To do less than this is to render our baptisms impotent and meaningless.”

Deacon James Keating, PhD, the director of Theological Formation for the Institute for Priestly Formation, located at Creighton University, in Omaha, is making available to ”Discerning Hearts” and all who listen, his series of programs entitled “Crossing the Desert”.


IPF logo small ROHC#6 Deacon James Keating – Heart of Hope part 6 from Resting On the Heart of Christ

For more information on the “Institute of Priestly Formation” and for other material available by Deacon Keating, just click here


Check out Deacon Keating’s “Discerning Heart” page

CTD#4 – “The Desert of Sin” – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating

Episode 4 -Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion – “The Desert of Sin”.  Keating-2

“Any moral conversion, if it is to be real, must work its way into our minds and hearts.  The conversion we undergo is one that transforms our entire person, and so our thought processes, habits, perceptions, and affections all become realigned to a new way of seeing good and evil Patience with ourselves, as well as with ohters who are also in the midst of conversion, becomes the key virtue to cultivate.  God knows we are on the right track once we embrace such a conversion, and so being gentle on ourselves is not a sign of laxity or weakness of will, but a sign of wisdom.

Of course, the start of a moral conversion can be dramatic and jumpstart a change, but over the long haul of life, the heart of a person must be fully cooperative;  otherwise, the person will not adhere to the moral truth for long.”

Deacon James Keating, PhD, the director of Theological Formation for the Institute for Priestly Formation, located at Creighton University, in Omaha, is making available to ”Discerning Hearts” and all who listen, his series of programs entitled “Crossing the Desert”.


IPF logo small ROHC#6 Deacon James Keating – Heart of Hope part 6 from Resting On the Heart of Christ

For more information on the “Institute of Priestly Formation” and for other material available by Deacon Keating, just click here


Check out Deacon Keating’s “Discerning Heart” page

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, a master in teaching the faith with Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts

Mike Aquilina offers us deep insight on the life of St. Cyril of Jerusalem.mikeaquilina

More on St. Cyril of Jerusalem from

Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 27 June 2007

st-cyril-of-jerusalemSaint Cyril of Jerusalem

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our attention today is focused on St Cyril of Jerusalem. His life is woven of two dimensions: on the one hand, pastoral care, and on the other, his involvement, in spite of himself, in the heated controversies that were then tormenting the Church of the East.

Cyril was born at or near Jerusalem in 315 A.D. He received an excellent literary education which formed the basis of his ecclesiastical culture, centred on study of the Bible. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Maximus.

When this Bishop died or was deposed in 348, Cyril was ordained a Bishop by Acacius, the influential Metropolitan of Caesarea in Palestine, a philo-Arian who must have been under the impression that in Cyril he had an ally; so as a result Cyril was suspected of having obtained his episcopal appointment by making concessions to Arianism.

Actually, Cyril very soon came into conflict with Acacius, not only in the field of doctrine but also in that of jurisdiction, because he claimed his own See to be autonomous from the Metropolitan See of Caesarea.

Cyril was exiled three times within the course of approximately 20 years: the first time was in 357, after being deposed by a Synod of Jerusalem; followed by a second exile in 360, instigated by Acacius; and finally, in 367, by a third exile – his longest, which lasted 11 years – by the philo-Arian Emperor Valens.

It was only in 378, after the Emperor’s death, that Cyril could definitively resume possession of his See and restore unity and peace to his faithful.

Some sources of that time cast doubt on his orthodoxy, whereas other equally ancient sources come out strongly in his favour. The most authoritative of them is the Synodal Letter of 382 that followed the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381), in which Cyril had played an important part.

In this Letter addressed to the Roman Pontiff, the Eastern Bishops officially recognized Cyril’s flawless orthodoxy, the legitimacy of his episcopal ordination and the merits of his pastoral service, which ended with his death in 387.

Of Cyril’s writings, 24 famous catecheses have been preserved, which he delivered as Bishop in about 350.

Introduced by a Procatechesis of welcome, the first 18 of these are addressed to catechumens or candidates for illumination (photizomenoi) [candidates for Baptism]; they were delivered in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Each of the first ones (nn. 1-5) respectively treat the prerequisites for Baptism, conversion from pagan morals, the Sacrament of Baptism, the 10 dogmatic truths contained in the Creed or Symbol of the faith.

The next catecheses (nn. 6-18) form an “ongoing catechesis” on the Jerusalem Creed in anti-Arian tones.

Of the last five so-called “mystagogical catecheses”, the first two develop a commentary on the rites of Baptism and the last three focus on the Chrism, the Body and Blood of Christ and the Eucharistic Liturgy. They include an explanation of the Our Father (Oratio dominica).

This forms the basis of a process of initiation to prayer which develops on a par with the initiation to the three Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.

The basis of his instruction on the Christian faith also served to play a polemic role against pagans, Judaeo Christians and Manicheans. The argument was based on the fulfilment of the Old Testament promises, in a language rich in imagery.

Catechesis marked an important moment in the broader context of the whole life – particularly liturgical – of the Christian community, in whose maternal womb the gestation of the future faithful took place, accompanied by prayer and the witness of the brethren.

St.-Cyril-of-JerusalemTaken as a whole, Cyril’s homilies form a systematic catechesis on the Christian’s rebirth through Baptism.

He tells the catechumen: “You have been caught in the nets of the Church (cf. Mt 13: 47). Be taken alive, therefore; do not escape for it is Jesus who is fishing for you, not in order to kill you but to resurrect you after death. Indeed, you must die and rise again (cf. Rom 6: 11, 14)…. Die to your sins and live to righteousness from this very day” (Procatechesis, 5).

From the doctrinal viewpoint, Cyril commented on the Jerusalem Creed with recourse to the typology of the Scriptures in a “symphonic” relationship between the two Testaments, arriving at Christ, the centre of the universe.

The typology was to be described decisively by Augustine of Hippo: “In the Old Testament there is a veiling of the New, and in the New Testament there is a revealing of the Old” (De catechizandis rudibus 4, 8).

As for the moral catechesis, it is anchored in deep unity to the doctrinal catechesis: the dogma progressively descends in souls who are thus urged to transform their pagan behaviour on the basis of new life in Christ, a gift of Baptism.

The “mystagogical” catechesis, lastly, marked the summit of the instruction that Cyril imparted, no longer to catechumens but to the newly baptized or neophytes during Easter week. He led them to discover the mysteries still hidden in the baptismal rites of the Easter Vigil.

Enlightened by the light of a deeper faith by virtue of Baptism, the neophytes were at last able to understand these mysteries better, having celebrated their rites.

Especially with neophytes of Greek origin, Cyril made use of the faculty of sight which they found congenial. It was the passage from the rite to the mystery that made the most of the psychological effect of amazement, as well as the experience of Easter night.

Here is a text that explains the mystery of Baptism: “You descended three times into the water, and ascended again, suggesting by a symbol the three days burial of Christ, imitating Our Saviour who spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (cf. Mt 12: 40). Celebrating the first emersion in water you recall the first day passed by Christ in the sepulchre; with the first immersion you confessed the first night passed in the sepulchre: for as he who is in the night no longer sees, but he who is in the day remains in the light, so in the descent, as in the night, you saw nothing, but in ascending again you were as in the day. And at the self-same moment you were both dying and being born; and that water of salvation was at once your grave and your mother…. For you… the time to die goes hand in hand with the time to be born: one and the same time effected both of these events” (cf. Second Mystagogical Catechesis, n. 4).

The mystery to be understood is God’s plan, which is brought about through Christ’s saving actions in the Church.

In turn, the mystagogical dimension is accompanied by the dimension of symbols which express the spiritual experience they “explode”. Thus, Cyril’s catechesis, on the basis of the three elements described – doctrinal, moral and lastly, mystagogical – proves to be a global catechesis in the Spirit.

The mystagogical dimension brings about the synthesis of the two former dimensions, orienting them to the sacramental celebration in which the salvation of the whole human person takes place.
In short, this is an integral catechesis which, involving body, soul and spirit – remains emblematic for the catechetical formation of Christians today.


CTD#5 – “Leaving the Desert” – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating

Episode 5 -Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion – “Leaving the Desert”.  Keating-2

“Celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation is, for many Catholics, a most daunting prospect.  This sacrament has been the source of many jokes, composed perhaps by persons seeking to reduce the level of stress they feel regarding one of its main components:  naming personal sin.

The naming of one’s own sin to oneself and to a priest is self-revelatory to the point of evoking anxiety.  Initially, it can be true that some level of apprehension may accompany this sacrament, but over time  with regular celebration of this form of worship, anxiety diminishes.  Most positively  the sacrament of reconciliation promotes truthful self-knowledge regarding sin in the context of Christ’s saving presence.  Once someone experiences both the naming of sin and the reception of God’s mercy in this sacrament, he or she actually begins to celebrate this sacrament and see it as a great gift from Christ and his Church.”

Deacon James Keating, PhD, the director of Theological Formation for the Institute for Priestly Formation, located at Creighton University, in Omaha, is making available to ”Discerning Hearts” and all who listen, his series of programs entitled “Crossing the Desert”.


IPF logo small ROHC#6 Deacon James Keating – Heart of Hope part 6 from Resting On the Heart of Christ

For more information on the “Institute of Priestly Formation” and for other material available by Deacon Keating, just click here


Check out Deacon Keating’s “Discerning Heart” page

IP#160 Dr. Kevin Vost – Three Irish Saints on Inside the Pages

It was a delight to talk once again to Dr. Kevin Vost.  In his new book Three Irish Saints: A Guide to Finding Your Spiritual Kevin-VostStyle, he brings forward of 3 incredible saints who can help us bring about a greater awareness of ourselves, as well as bringing us closer to our relationship with God.  Dr. Vost is psychologist and physical fitness expert who examines the lives of these three great saints, reveals their gifts and virtues.  He then explores the question:  Are you a thinker, a doer, or a lover? Included is a a simple self-test to find out which spiritual master you are most like.   I was well aware of St. Patrick, knew much about St. Brigid, but was knew nothing about St. Kevin, but the list really doesn’t stop there, Dr. Vost brings the lives of other Irish saints as well.  A fun and fascinating read.

You can find the book here

Be sure to check out Dr. Vost’s other “Inside the Pages” discussion:

IP#33 Dr. Kevin Vost – From Atheism to Catholicism on Inside the Pages


IP#204 Gregory Erlandson – Papal Election 2013 and the “American Moment” on Inside the Pages

The New Evangelization, during this Year of Faith, has experienced an incredible moment with the Papal Conclave convened to elect the 265th successor to St. Gregory-Erlandson-2Peter!  We had a chance to talk with someone on the ground covering this historic moment first hand…Gregory Erlandson.  As Publisher and President of the Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Greg brings incredible insight on what is occurring at this historic moment having spent years in Rome reporting on the activities of our universal Church.  In our conversation, we discuss the unprecedented numbers of  media outlets from around the world covering the event and what that might mean for the New Evangelization.   Is there an “American Moment” occurring at this conclave as some suggest, and if so, what could this unexpected influence have on the Papal Election and the Church around the world?  Gregory Erlandson, besides being one of the wisest (as well as nicest) men I know,  is truly a balanced seeker of truth and a master communicator of the beauty offered by our Catholic faith…no hype here, but always with an encouraging call to deeper prayer and trust.

osv1From Greg’s blog posting at the OSV Blog:

So, what are the chances that we will have an American pope? If the forecasts are correct (a big if), and if the received wisdom is at all wise, the American options become more likely if the first ballots do not signal a clear front-runner – Cardinals Angelo Scola, Odilo Scherer and Marc Ouellet perhaps – capable of winning two-thirds of the votes.

What dramas play out in the Sistine Chapel and in the conversations taking place back in the cardinals’ “hotel” we may not find out for months, but Vatican observers, for perhaps the first time ever, are not discounting the Americans, and that in itself is a big deal.