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.

When Prayer Feels Wasted – a reflection with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts


From Dr. Anthony Lilles’ blog “Beginning to Pray

There are times when prayer feels wasted.  We cry out from the very depths of our being begging to be heard, sometimes in tears, sometimes in desperate plight, sometimes with an overwhelming sense of personal unworthiness.   Sometimes, when some sign of Divine Providence is most sought, our voices echo in lifeless silence.

In these moments, those who doubted our faith or considered us hypocrites, they feel themselves vindicated – sometimes with glee, sometimes with hidden sorrow.   Here, the seemingly unanswered prayer mysteriously resounds in their hearts too.  Behind the derision one faces for having dared to believe, there is also a painful solidarity with the whole of humanity.   For every prayer that seems unanswered reaffirms a sense of alienation, of rejection, of unbearable misery in the heart of every man and woman since Eden.

In the story of salvation, the most contemporary doubt in the Father’s love is just another manifestation of this primordial reality.   Christian prayer does not avoid this common human condition – it boldly enters this poverty to fill it with something new.  If it humbly accepts all forms of mockery before the mystery of unanswered prayer, it is to offer this too as a living sacrifice to the Living God.

For the Christian, the tired sorrow of unanswered prayer has been made open to an explosive beatitude.  The Word of the Father made this painful cry His own when He implicated Himself in our sin.  In this, the Suffering Servant found a way so that we would not have to suffer our plight alone – our wounds are healed by His.

His last wordless cry of abandonment revealed His life’s project: He dared to offer with love to the Father His every breathe and heartbeat from first to last so that every human hardship might be completely enveloped in divine mercy.   Now, by faith, His project can become our project.  Because His offering to the Father was perfect in love, the Savior of the world fills our dying weakness with the secret freshness of new life whenever we offer it to Him with even the tiniest effort of solidarity.  When prayer seems unanswered, the One who cried to the Father for love of us from crib to Cross is allowing us an opportunity to share in the salvific work of His own prayer.

Like the myrrh, the tears and the kisses that once anointed the feet of Jesus, prayer wasted on God for our brothers and sisters, for spouse and children, and even for ourselves, always takes on cruciform proportions – dimensions that extend from one horizon to the other, from height to depth, from what is visible to what cannot be seen.   If such prayer weeps over abandonment, disappointment, frustration, injustice, inadequacy, failure, voids and weakness – such prayer also boldly cleaves with gratitude to the invincible hope that none of this can separate us from that astounding love revealed by the Risen Lord.

Dr. Anthony Lilles is the author of “Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden”Hidden-Mountain

The Story of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity with Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts

Mike Aquilina offers the compelling story of the St. Perpetua and her great friend and sister in the faith, St. Felicity.

From CNA:

Saints Perpetua and Felicity were martyrs who died for the faith around the year 203.

St. Perpetua was a young, well-educated, noblewoman and mother living in the city of Carthage in North Africa. Her mother was a Christian and her father was a pagan. In terms of her faith, Perpetua followed the example of her mother. Despite the pleas of her father to deny her faith, Perpetua did the very opposite, and fearlessly proclaimed it. At the age of 22, she was imprisoned for her faith. While in prison she continued to care for her infant child and put up with the tortures designed to make her renounce her faith. Perpetua remained steadfast until the end. St. Perpetua was sacrificed at the games as a public spectacle for not renouncing her faith.
St. Felicity was a pregnant slave girl who was imprisoned with St. Perpetua. Little is known about the life of St. Felicity because, unlike Perpetua, she did not keep a diary of her life. After imprisonment and torture, Felicity was also condemned to die at the games. Only a few days before her execution, Felicity gave birth to a daughter who was secretly taken away to be cared for by some of the Faithful.

The feast of these Saints is March 7.

IP#201 Dr. Lawrence Cunningham – The 7 Deadly Sins on Inside the Pages

I so enjoyed my conversation with Dr. Lawrence Cunningham.  In his book, “The Seven Deadly Sins: A Lawrence-CunninghamVisitor’s Guide“, Dr. Cunningham draws from the wisdom of  the mystical desert fathers.  He offers us insight on sloth, envy, gluttony, greed, anger, lust and pride – how they were first identified as the “deadly”sins, what they might look like in today’s world, and how corresponding virtues can counter their destructive tendencies.  A fascinating read!


You can find the book here

“At a time when invective poses as ‘straight talk,’ and the rant replaces reasoned discourse, Lawrence Cunningham’s brilliant new meditation on the Seven Deadly Sins is pure gift. Moral confusion may be the defining weakness of our era, but here is a book that can lead us back to the light.”–Paula Huston, Author of Simplifying the Soul

The Biblical Basis for the Papacy … In Conversation with John Salza

This is such an interesting conversation Bruce and I had with author John Salza!  We discussed this time around, “The Biblical Basis for the Papacy”.  Fascinating.John-Salza

Biblical-Basis-for-the-PapcYou can purchase the book here

From the book description:

The Roman Catholic Papacy is the longest-living institution in the Western World – and at times one of the most controversial due to the basic doctrines of: Papal Authority, Papal Infallibility and Apostolic Succession. Drawing upon Old and New Testament Scripture, Tradition, and the words of the Early Church Fathers, author and noted Catholic apologist John Salza presents a comprehensive and compelling story of the office of the papacy from a biblical perspective. Arguments against the papacy are weighed and refuted in a charitable but convincing manner, making this a valuable resource for everyone intrigued or confused by the nearly 2,000 year old papal office – regardless of your faith background. Whether you are defending, questioning or exploring the Catholic Faith, this book provides the most concise and clear examination of the Catholic Church’s supreme teaching office as instituted by Christ, Our Lord and Savior.

BKL31 – REPENT and Surrender to Love…100% – Building a Kingdom of Love w/ Msgr. John Esseff

Msgr. John Esseff

Msgr. Esseff offers insights on the readings for the 4th Sunday of Lent.  It calls for 100% surrender to love.  Repentance is key… repentance 100% .

From the NAB  Gospel  LK 13:1-9

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them—
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!”And he told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’”

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.   



To obtain a copy of Msgr. Esseff’s book by visiting here


Be sure to visit Msgr. Esseff’s website “Building a Kingdom of  Love


IP#200 Thomas Craughwell – Popes Who Resigned on Inside the Pages

Thomas Craughwell in,  “Popes Who Resigned: Benedict Xvi and 13 Other Popes Who Retired (or Were Deposed)“, has once again proven why his writing is so fascinating and enjoyable. He never shys away from the uncomfortable fact. He presents the information with the peace and good humor which comes from the hindsightThomas-Craughwell afforded by history and a knowledge of a God who eventually brings all things into in order despite his earthly children’s  best efforts to mess things up. We can learn much from a particular moment or action of human behavior in the curse of human history, and with Thomas Craughwell’s keen eye not much is missed. In this particular case, we can rest assured that the Barque of St. Peter sails the seas of human history helmed by the Holy Spirit more than by the hands of man, otherwise it would of crashed on the seashore of time long ago.

The stories contained here are short and to the point, each representing a fascinating period in Church history. I appreciated his insights on the unique circumstances and personalities of Bl. John Paul Ii and Pope Benedict XVI, and why each chose the course they took in regards to their decisions to either remain or leave their role as Supreme Pontiff.

I am a big fan of Thomas Craughwell’s work…I wasn’t disappointed.

Popes-Who-ResignedYou can obtain the book here

From the book description:

On February 11, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI shocked Catholics and the world by announcing that he would resign from the papacy. It was the first papal resignation in 600 years, and it has caused Catholics the world over to scramble for answers. Now, in Popes Who Resigned, Thomas J. Craughwell answers those burning questions, including:

– Why did Benedict XVI resign… and why didn’t John Paul II?

– What does the Catholic Church teach about papal resignation?

– Who were the other popes that resigned, and why?

– And much more.

In these tumultuous times, Craughwell points even now to the rock that is the Catholic Church, digging into Canon law and Church history for answers. Popes Who Resigned is a must read for Catholics and non-Catholics alike who are trying to make sense of Benedict XVI’s resignation and what it means for the papacy, the Church, and the world.

IP#199 Tom Peterson – Catholics Come Home on Inside the Pages

What a delight to talk with Tom Peterson!  With a joyful enthusiasm fueled by his rich prayer life, Tom has become a compelling leader in the New Evangelization, especially in the United Tom-PetersonStates.  With his book ,”Catholics Come Home: God’s Extraordinary Plan for Your Life” , he expands his list of significant contributions to that effort  which have encouraged countless souls to embrace the gift of the Catholic faith.  Not only does he share his own powerful witness, but he offers practical catechesis to foster on-going conversion in the heart of the seeking soul and encouragement to all to share the Good News.  Excellent!


You can find the book here

Also check out Tom’s work at virtuemedia.org and CatholicComeHome.org

“We are in the midst of a New Evangelization; and I believe this book is a signal moment in its success. It is also a sign that will lead many folks back home to the family of God, which is Catholic Church.”
—Dr. Scott W. Hahn, author of The Lamb’s Supper and Signs of Life
“Catholics Come Home is a powerful sacramental, a means of grace. It is a willing, waiting taxi to take us home, to our home away from Home, the Catholic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.”
—Dr. Peter Kreeft, author of Handbook of Christian Apologetics