CTD5 – Leaving the Desert – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating – Discerning Hearts Podcast


Leaving the Desert – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating

In this episode, Deacon James Keating and Kris McGregor explore Lent’s significance, urging introspection and acknowledgment of sin. Deacon Keating highlights society’s loss of this sense, attributing it partly to psychology’s influence.

This reminds us of personal responsibility and freedom in recognizing sin; especially cultural desensitization to sin, emphasizing intentional conscience formation through spiritually grounded fellowship. They advocate for gentle yet firm engagement on moral issues to foster genuine community within parishes.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. Lenten Self-Reflection: How can you deepen your introspection during Lent to identify areas of sin in your life?
  2. Responsibility and Freedom: Reflect on how you balance acknowledging external influences with taking personal responsibility for your actions.
  3. Desensitization to Sin: How can you guard against societal desensitization to sin, especially in media and cultural norms?
  4. Intentional Conscience Formation: In what ways can you intentionally cultivate a spiritually grounded fellowship to form your conscience?
  5. Engaging on Moral Issues: How can you engage in conversations about moral issues with both gentleness and firmness, guided by love?
  6. Fostering Community in Parishes: What steps can you take to foster genuine community within your parish, where faith is shared and nurtured collectively?

An excerpt from “Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion”:

“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, Ph.D., is a professor of Spiritual Theology and serves as a spiritual director at Kenrick Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, MO.

Check out Deacon Keating’s “Discerning Heart” page

DWG1 – Guided by Grace – The Discernment of God’s Will in Everyday Decisions with Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Guided by Grace – “What am I to do?” The Discernment of God’s Will in Everyday Decisions with Fr. Timothy Gallagher

Fr. Timothy Gallagher and Kris McGregor focus on discerning the will of God in Christian decision-making, particularly through an Ignatian lens. Fr. Gallagher teaches us that Christians seek to make choices consciously aligned with God’s will, ranging from daily decisions to major life choices; and the importance of preparation through spiritual exercises such as examination of conscience, meditation, and prayer, which dispose the soul to discern God’s will.

Fr. Gallagher provides various scenarios to illustrate discernment principles. For instance, he discusses choices between morally good and bad options, emphasizing the importance of choosing what aligns with God’s will. He also delves into decisions between competing goods, where fidelity to one’s vocation guides discernment. Additionally, he explores the process of prayerfully considering factors, making decisions, finding peace, and learning from the outcomes.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Aligning Choices with God’s Will: How can I ensure that my decisions, whether small or significant, are consciously aligned with God’s will, reflecting a desire to live as a disciple of Christ?
  2. Preparation through Spiritual Exercises: In what ways can I incorporate spiritual exercises like examination of conscience, meditation, and prayer into my daily life to better prepare myself for discerning God’s will?
  3. Choosing between Morally Good and Bad Options: When faced with decisions between morally good and bad options, how can I find the courage to consistently choose what aligns with God’s will, even in challenging circumstances?
  4. Seeking Guidance from Church Teaching: How can I integrate the teachings of the Church, particularly in areas where societal norms may conflict with Christian values, to ensure that my discernment aligns with God’s will?
  5. Balancing Responsibilities within Vocation: Reflecting on Ruth’s situation, how can I discern between competing goods, ensuring that I prioritize fidelity to the duties of my vocation while also recognizing opportunities for service and growth?
  6. Prayerful Consideration of Daily Choices: In my daily life, how can I incorporate prayerful reflection and consideration of factors into my decision-making process, seeking God’s guidance in even the smallest of choices?
  7. Embracing a Disposition of Heart Like Mary’s: How can I cultivate a disposition of heart that mirrors Mary’s openness to God’s will, eagerly saying “yes” to whatever God asks of me, even when it involves sacrifice or difficult choices?
  8. Continuous Learning and Growth: How can I review my past decisions, both those that align with God’s will and those that may not have, in order to learn and grow in my ability to discern God’s will in future choices?

From The Discernment of God’s Will in Everyday Decisions:

Three Times in which a Sound and Good Choice May Be Made

The first time is when God Our Lord so moves and attracts the will that, without doubting or being able to doubt, the devout soul follows what is shown to it, as St. Paul and St. Matthew did in following Christ our Lord.

The second time is when sufficient clarity and understanding is received through experience of consolations and desolations, and through experience of discernment of different spirits.

The third time is one of tranquility, when one considers first for what purpose man is born, that is, to praise God our Lord and save his soul, and, desiring this, chooses as a means to this end some life or state within the bounds of the Church, so that he may be helped in the service of his Lord and the salvation of his soul. I said a tranquil time, that is, when the soul is not agitated by different spirits, and uses its natural powers freely and tranquilly.

If the choice is not made in the first or second time, two ways of making it in this third time are given below.”


Father Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V., was ordained in 1979 as a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, a religious community dedicated to retreats and spiritual formation according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  Fr. Gallagher is featured on the EWTN series “Living the Discerning Life:  The Spiritual Teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola”. For more information on how to obtain copies of Fr. Gallaghers’s various books and audio which are available for purchase, please visit  his  website:   frtimothygallagher.org

For the other episodes in this series check out Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s “Discerning Hearts” page

BTP13 – Heaven In Faith: Day 7 Prayer 1 by St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts Podcasts

Episode 13 – “Heaven in Faith”  Day 7 Prayer 1  – “God chose us in Him before creation, that we should be holy and immaculate in His presence, in love.”

In this episode, Dr. Anthony Lilles and Kris McGregor discuss the rich teachings of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, particularly focusing on the concept of contemplative prayer and its transformative power. They delve into Elizabeth’s writings, highlighting her emphasis on the Holy Trinity and the inner life of God as foundational to understanding prayer and dealing with sin.

Elizabeth’s teachings invite listeners to slow down, make prayer a priority, and enter into the loving gaze of God and the primacy of contemplation in the Christian life, wherein believers are called to behold and participate in the eternal love and harmony of the Trinity. This contemplative approach transcends mere intellectual understanding and involves a deepening relationship with God through faith and love.

The ancient understanding of truth is something to behold rather than solve; the transformative nature of encountering the truth of God’s love. They discuss how contemplative prayer helps individuals confront their brokenness and sinfulness, leading to self-awareness and a deeper reliance on God’s grace for transformation and healing, and the profound gift of contemplative prayer in opening hearts to God’s presence, fostering spiritual growth, and enabling believers to live more fully in accordance with God’s love and truth.


From “Heaven in Faith: Day 7 Prayer 1”:

22. “God chose us in Him before creation, that we should be holy and immaculate in His presence, in love.”

“The Holy Trinity created us in its image, according to the eternal design that it possessed in its bosom before the world was created,” in this “beginning without beginning” of which Bossuet speaks following St. John: “In principio erat Verbum.” In the beginning was the Word; and we could add: in the beginning was nothing, for God in His eternal solitude already carried us in His thought. “The Father contemplates Himself” “in the abyss of His fecundity, and by the very act of comprehending Himself He engendered another person, the Son, His eternal Word. The archetype of all creatures who had not yet issued out of the void eternally dwelt in Him, and God saw them and contemplated them in their type in Himself. This eternal life which our archetypes possessed without us in God, is the cause of our creation.”

23. “Our created essence asks to be rejoined with its principle.” The Word, “the Splendor of the Father, is the eternal archetype after which creatures are designed on the day of their creation.” This is “why God wills that, freed from ourselves, we should stretch out our arms towards our exemplar and possess it,” “rising” above all things “towards our model.” “This contemplation opens” the soul “to unexpected horizons.” “In a certain manner it possesses the crown towards which it aspires.” “The immense riches that God possesses by nature, we may possess by virtue of love, by His dwelling in us and by our dwelling in Him.”“It is by virtue of this immense love” that we are drawn into the depths of the “intimate sanctuary” where God “imprints on us a true image of His majesty.” Thus it is, thanks to love and through love, as the Apostle says, that we can be holy and immaculate in God’s presence, and can sing with David: “I will be unblemished and I will guard myself from the depths of sinfulness within me.”

Elizabeth of the Trinity. The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity, vol. 1 (featuring a General Introduction and Major Spiritual Writings) (Elizabeth of the Trinity Complete Work) (pp. 103-104). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. Reflecting on Prayer Priority: How does Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity’s emphasis on the richness of prayer challenge your own priorities in daily life? Are there competing demands that hinder your ability to prioritize prayer?
  2. Contemplation of the Trinity: Consider the concept of the Trinity as presented in the podcast. How does understanding the inner life of the Trinity deepen your appreciation of God’s love and inform your prayer life?
  3. Embracing the Mystery: In what ways can you shift your perspective on the concept of mystery, moving away from a desire to solve or conquer it, towards a posture of beholding and embracing its beauty? How might this shift impact your spiritual journey?
  4. Encountering Truth: Reflect on the ancient understanding of truth discussed in the podcast. How does this perspective reshape your approach to seeking truth in your life? In what ways can you allow truth to illuminate and transform your heart?
  5. Confronting Brokenness: Consider the idea of confronting brokenness and sinfulness in prayer. How do you currently engage with your own brokenness and weaknesses in prayer? How might you deepen your reliance on God’s grace for transformation and healing?
  6. Priority of Contemplation: Reflect on the notion of the primacy of contemplation in the Christian life. How can you cultivate a deeper commitment to contemplative prayer amidst the busyness and distractions of daily life?

We would like to thank Miriam Gutierrez for providing “the voice” of St. Elizabeth for this series

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles


Anthony Lilles, S.T.D., has served the Church and assisted in the formation of clergy and seminarians since 1994. Before coming to St. Patrick’s, he served at seminaries and houses of formation in the Archdiocese of Denver and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The son of a California farmer, married with young adult children, holds a B.A. in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville with both the ecclesiastical licentiate and doctorate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome (the Angelicum). An expert in the writings of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church, he co-founded the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation and the High Calling Program for priestly vocations. He also founded the John Paul II Center for Contemplative Culture, which hosts symposiums, retreats, and conferences. In addition to his publications, he blogs at www.beginningtopray.com .

St. Cyril of Jerusalem – The Doctors of the Church with Dr. Matthew Bunson – Discerning Hearts Podcast

St. Cyril of Jerusalem – The Doctors of the Church with Dr. Matthew Bunson

  • Born: 313 AD, Caesarea Maritima, Israel
  • Died: March 18, 386 AD, Jerusalem, Israel

Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses St. Cyril of Jerusalem, recognized as a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1883. St. Cyril, born around 315 AD, witnessed Jerusalem’s transformation into a Christian center under Constantine the Great and his mother, St. Helena.

Despite his humble and moderate nature, he faced challenges, including being falsely accused of supporting the Arian heresy by Bishop Acacius. St. Cyril’s time as Bishop of Jerusalem was marked by jurisdictional disputes and three exiles due to political and theological conflicts.

His enduring legacy lies in his catechetical lectures, particularly his mystagogical teachings on baptism, Eucharist, and prayer, which hold relevance for modern Christian formation and the new evangelization. St. Cyril’s gentle approach to dialogue and his commitment to orthodoxy amid controversy serve as a model for fostering unity and understanding within the Church.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Recognition as a Doctor of the Church: How does the late recognition of St. Cyril as a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII reflect a broader emphasis on Eastern Church figures and early Church history during that time?
  2. St. Cyril’s Background and Early Life in Jerusalem: Reflect on the significance of St. Cyril’s upbringing in Jerusalem amidst its transformation into a Christian center under Constantine the Great and St. Helena. How might this context have influenced his faith and teachings?
  3. Challenges and Controversies Faced by St. Cyril: St. Cyril faced false accusations and political conflicts, particularly regarding the Arian heresy and jurisdictional disputes. How did his response to these challenges demonstrate his commitment to orthodoxy and unity within the Church?
  4. St. Cyril’s Contributions to Catechesis: Consider the format and content of St. Cyril’s catechetical lectures. How do his teachings on baptism, Eucharist, and prayer provide a framework for Christian formation and ongoing spiritual growth?
  5. The Significance of Mystagogy and its Relevance Today: Reflect on the importance of mystagogical catechesis, particularly in post-baptismal formation. How can the Church reclaim and integrate this aspect into contemporary catechetical programs?
  6. St. Cyril’s Approach to Dialogue and Unity: St. Cyril’s moderate and gentle nature allowed him to engage in dialogue and seek unity within the Church despite theological differences. How can his example guide us in fostering understanding and reconciliation in modern-day theological debates?
  7. The Sacred Context of St. Cyril’s Teachings: Visualize St. Cyril delivering his catechetical lectures in the sacred setting of Jerusalem. How might the historical and spiritual significance of this location have influenced the delivery and reception of his teachings?
  8. Personal Reflection on St. Cyril’s Legacy: Reflect on the enduring impact of St. Cyril’s life and teachings. How does his example inspire us to deepen our own faith and engage in the mission of the Church today?

For more on St. Cyril and his teachings:

St. Cyril of Jerusalem – Catechetical Lectures

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI  General Audience 2007:

“Taken 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.”

For more visit Vatican.va


For more from Dr. Matthew Bunson, check out his Discerning Hearts page.

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

The Fifth Sunday of Lent – Building a Kingdom of Love with Msgr. John Esseff – Discerning Hearts Catholic Podcast

The Fifth Sunday of Lent – Building a Kingdom of Love with Msgr. John Esseff

For the fifth Sunday of Lent, Msgr. Esseff and Kris McGregor discuss the Lazarus story from John’s Gospel, emphasizing belief in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit’s role in baptism. Msgr. Esseff reminds listeners the need for a deep spiritual journey in the RCIA process, not just education. They reflect on the creed’s affirmation of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power and hope for a renewed understanding of the Church’s holiness.


Discerning Hearts reflection questions for this episode:

  1. Belief in Jesus Christ: How does the story of Lazarus reinforce the importance of belief in Jesus Christ as the resurrection and the life?
  2. Role of the Holy Spirit in Baptism:  What role does the Holy Spirit play in the baptismal journey, according to Msgr. Esseff’s teachings on the podcast?
  3. Depth of Spiritual Journey in RCIA:  Reflecting on the dangers of an overly educational approach in the RCIA process, how can we ensure a deeper spiritual journey for those preparing for baptism?
  4. Renunciation of Sin and Examination of Soul: How does the podcast suggest that the examination of the soul and renunciation of sin are integral parts of the baptismal journey?
  5. Affirmation of the Creed and the Holy Spirit: Discuss the significance of the creed’s affirmation of the Holy Spirit’s role in revealing sin, driving out death, and sanctifying believers.
  6. Hope for Renewed Understanding of the Church’s Holiness: In what ways can we foster a renewed understanding of the Church as holy, Catholic, and apostolic, as discussed in the podcast’s conclusion?

Taken from Gospel of St. John Chapter 11:

The Death of Lazarus

11 Now a certain man was ill, Laz′arus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Laz′arus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.”

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Laz′arus. 6 So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer[a] in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, “Our friend Laz′arus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Laz′arus is dead; 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Laz′arus[b] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles[c]off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary sat in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life;[d] he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying quietly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; 34 and he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Laz′arus, come out.” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him;

Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton.  Msgr. Esseff served as a retreat director and confessor to St. Mother Teresa.    He continues to offer direction and retreats for the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity.  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 Pope St. John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world, especially to the poor.   He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests, sisters, seminarians, and other religious leaders around the world.    

BTP12 – Heaven In Faith: Day 6 Prayer 2 by St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts Podcasts

Episode 12 – “Heaven in Faith”  Day 6 Prayer 2  – “If your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light”

In this episode, Dr. Anthony Lilles and Kris McGregor explore the concept of simplicity in prayer and faith, focusing on the teachings of Elizabeth of the Trinity. They discuss how simplicity in prayer leads to a purifying and illuminating effect on one’s faith, drawing from Jesus’s teachings on blessedness and purity of heart.

The importance of trust in God and the need to prioritize contemplative prayer in one’s life. Take caution against relying on techniques or methods that may detract from the essence of Christian prayer, advocating instead for a simplicity that is rooted in devotion, attention to God, and obedience to His word.

Faith, grounded in simplicity and openness to God’s love, leads to the experience of eternal life both in the present and in the future.


From “Heaven in Faith: Day 6, Prayer 2”:

“If your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light.” What is this single eye of which the Master speaks but this “simplicity of intention” which “gathers into unity all the scattered forces of the soul and unites the spirit itself to God. It is simplicity which gives God honor and praise; it is simplicity which presents and offers the virtues to Him. Then, penetrating and permeating itself, permeating and penetrating all creatures, it finds God in its depths. It is the principle and end of virtues, their splendor and their glory. I call simplicity of intention that which seeks only God and refers all things to Him.” “This is what places man in the presence of God; it is simplicity that gives him light and courage; it is simplicity that empties and frees the soul from all fear today and on the day of judgement.” “It is the interior slope” and “the fountain of the whole spiritual life.” “It crushes evil nature under foot, it gives peace, it imposes silence on the useless noises within us.” It is simplicity that “hourly increases our divine likeness. And then, without the aid of intermediaries, it is simplicity again that will transport us into the depths where God dwells and will give us the repose of the abyss. The inheritance which eternity has prepared for us will be given us by simplicity. All the life of the spirits, all their virtue, consists—with the divine likeness—in simplicity, and their final rest is spent on the heights in simplicity also.” “And according to the measure of its love, each spirit possesses a more or less profound search for God in its own depths.” The simple soul, “rising by virtue of its interior gaze, enters into itself and contemplates in its own abyss the sanctuary where it is touched” by the touch of the Holy Trinity. Thus it has penetrated into its depths “to the very foundation which is the gate of life eternal.”

Elizabeth of the Trinity. The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity, vol. 1 (featuring a General Introduction and Major Spiritual Writings) (Elizabeth of the Trinity Complete Work) (pp. 102-103). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. Understanding Simplicity in Prayer: How does the discussion on simplicity in prayer deepen your understanding of its significance in the spiritual life?
  2. Trusting God in Prayer: Reflect on the notion of trust in God emphasized in the podcast. How can you cultivate greater trust in God in your own prayer life?
  3. Prioritizing Contemplative Prayer: Consider the importance of making contemplative prayer a priority in your daily life, as discussed in the episode. How can you adjust your schedule to prioritize silent prayer before God?
  4. Discerning Prayer Techniques: Evaluate your approach to prayer techniques or methods. Are there any practices you engage in that may detract from the simplicity and essence of Christian prayer? How can you align your prayer practices more closely with the principles discussed in the podcast?
  5. Obedience and Faith: Reflect on the relationship between obedience and faith discussed in the episode. How can you deepen your obedience to God’s word in your daily life, allowing it to transform your existence?
  6. Eternal Life in the Present: Consider the concept of eternal life as discussed in the podcast. How does the realization that eternal life begins in the present impact your perspective on your spiritual journey?

We would like to thank Miriam Gutierrez for providing “the voice” of St. Elizabeth for this series

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles


Anthony Lilles, S.T.D., has served the Church and assisted in the formation of clergy and seminarians since 1994. Before coming to St. Patrick’s, he served at seminaries and houses of formation in the Archdiocese of Denver and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The son of a California farmer, married with young adult children, holds a B.A. in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville with both the ecclesiastical licentiate and doctorate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome (the Angelicum). An expert in the writings of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church, he co-founded the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation and the High Calling Program for priestly vocations. He also founded the John Paul II Center for Contemplative Culture, which hosts symposiums, retreats, and conferences. In addition to his publications, he blogs at www.beginningtopray.com .

Ep. 2 – A Sister of St. Thérèse: Servant of God, Léonie Martin – Bearer of Hope with Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Discerning Hearts Podcast

A Sister of St. Thérèse: Servant of God, Léonie Martin – Bearer of Hope with Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Episode 2

A sister of St. Therese: Servant of God, Leonie Martin
Léonie Martin

Fr. Timothy Gallagher OMV
Fr. Timothy Gallagher

In this episode, we hear a little more about her younger sister, Marie Hélène, who died at the age of 5, as well three other siblings, Joseph Louis, Joseph Jean-Baptiste, and Marie Mélanie-Thérèse, who all died during infancy. We then begin to experience the challenges of Leonie’s education and the ability to interact with others appropriately.  What is the family to do?  How can her challenges be addressed in love?

We also here more from Léonie’s loving aunt, Zélie’s sister, Elise, now known as Sister Marie-Dosithée,  a member the Visitation Sisters.


Fr. Gallagher says, “Léonie’s life holds a very important story because she was the forgotten one; she was the one who was in the last place; she was the one who was less gifted than the others. Today we would call her a ‘problem child’, and we’ll see that she certainly was the source of great anxiety to her parents, especially to her mother, Zélie, who loved her dearly.”

As a child, Léonie suffered from severe illnesses and physical maladies that would plague her entire life. She also struggled with understanding social clues and interactions, and with behaving appropriately. Conventional educational models of the day failed to meet her particular needs, and she was labeled “developmentally delayed”. Yet those who knew her well described her as having a “heart of gold”.

Who was Léonie and what were her struggles? Why has her cause of canonization begun?  Father Gallagher, along with Kris McGregor,  answers these questions and explains why Léonie is “a bearer of hope” in this landmark series.

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. Understanding Léonie’s Struggles: How does understanding Léonie’s early life struggles shed light on the complexity of human experience and the role of providence in shaping individuals?
  2. The Role of Family Dynamics: Reflecting on the dynamics within the Martin family, what insights can be gained about the impact of family relationships on personal development and resilience?
  3. Lessons in Patience and Trust: In witnessing the challenges faced by Léonie and her family, what lessons can we draw regarding the virtues of patience and trust in God’s providence, especially in the face of prolonged difficulties?
  4. Recognizing Hidden Qualities: Consider how Léonie’s story highlights the importance of looking beyond surface struggles to recognize the hidden qualities and potential within individuals. How can this perspective influence our interactions with others?
  5. Importance of Gentleness and Encouragement: Reflect on the transformative power of gentleness, encouragement, and belief in the goodness of others, as demonstrated in Léonie’s response to her aunt’s approach. How can these qualities be applied in our own relationships and interactions?
  6. Maintaining Hope Amidst Challenges: Despite repeated setbacks, Zelie Martin maintained hope for Léonie’s transformation. How does her unwavering hope serve as an example for us in times of adversity and uncertainty?
  7. Trusting in Divine Mercy: In Zélie’s conviction that only a miracle could change Leonie’s nature, how does her trust in God’s mercy resonate with the concept of seeking divine intervention in our own struggles and challenges?
  8. Lessons from St. Monica’s Example: Drawing parallels between Zélie’s perseverance and St. Monica’s prayers for her son, Augustine, how can we learn from the example of persistent prayer and hope in God’s transformative grace?

Leonie's parents - Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin

Marie

Pauline

Hélène (who died at the age of 5)

Céline

St. Thérèse

Léonie's Aunt and Uncle - Céline and Isidore Guérin

Léonie's Aunt - Sr. Marie Dosithée (Élise Guérin)

A resource used for this series

Images in this post of the Martin/Guerin family are used with permission from the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux website for strictly non-commercial use.  We encourage you to visit the website for more information on this remarkable family.


For more series Fr. Timothy Gallagher podcasts visit here

Father Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V., was ordained in 1979 as a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, a religious community dedicated to retreats and spiritual formation according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  Fr. Gallagher is featured on the EWTN series “Living the Discerning Life:  The Spiritual Teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola”. For more information on how to obtain copies of Fr. Gallaghers’s various books and audio which are available for purchase, please visit  his  website:   frtimothygallagher.org

BTP11 – Heaven In Faith: Day 6 Prayer 1 by St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts Podcasts

Episode 11 – “Heaven in Faith”  Day 6 Prayer 1  – “To Approach God, We Must Believe”

In this episode, Dr. Anthony Lilles and Kris McGregor discuss the importance of faith in prayer and the true nature of encountering God. They reflect on the writings of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, particularly focusing on the disposition required to receive the Eucharist and the essence of living faith.

Faith is not about achieving a certain psychological state or feeling good, but rather it is about communion with God. Regardless of whether one feels God’s presence or not, faith connects the soul with the substance of God himself. Faith allows access to God, transcending any technique or method. While techniques like the Jesus prayer or the rosary are beneficial, they are secondary to the access to God through faith.

The Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus, highlights that faith is a gift that ignites a deep desire for God in the soul. This desire for God surpasses any human effort or technique. Faith is also seen as a journey guided by love, leading believers into the heart of the Father.

Encountering God in prayer is encountering a person, not just an abstract idea or feeling. This encounter fills every void and stands behind all jubilation. It is described as a dance where believers learn the steps through techniques but ultimately surrender to God’s lead, allowing His presence to pierce their hearts.

We are reminded of the centrality of faith in prayer, emphasizing a trust-filled relationship with Jesus as the key to experiencing God’s exceeding love.


From “Heaven in Faith: Day 6 Prayer 1”:

“To approach God we must believe.” Thus speaks St. Paul. He also says, “Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” That is “faith makes so present and so certain future goods, that by it, they take on existence in our soul and subsist there before we have fruition of them.” St. John of the Cross says that it serves as “feet” to go “to God,” and that it is “possession in an obscure manner.” “It alone can give us true light” concerning Him whom we love, and our soul must “choose it as the means to reach blessed union.” “It pours out in torrents in the depths of our being all spiritual goods. Christ, speaking to the Samaritan woman, indicated faith when He promised to all those who would believe in Him that He would give them ‘a fountain of water springing up unto life everlasting.’” “Thus even in this life faith gives us God, covered, it is true, with a veil but nonetheless God Himself.” “When that which is perfect comes,” that is, clear vision, then “that which is imperfect,” in other words, knowledge given through faith, “will receive all its perfection.”

Elizabeth of the Trinity. The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity, vol. 1 (featuring a General Introduction and Major Spiritual Writings) (Elizabeth of the Trinity Complete Work) (p. 101). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.

 


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. Understanding Faith in Prayer: How do the speakers define faith in prayer, according to the teachings of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity?
  2. The Gift of Encounter: Reflect on the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus. What does this story teach about the gift of faith and its role in deepening our relationship with God?
  3. Faith as a Journey Guided by Love: Discuss the concept of faith as a journey guided by love. How does this perspective reshape our understanding of prayer and our relationship with God?
  4. Encountering God as a Person: What does it mean to encounter God as a person in prayer, as opposed to simply seeking a certain psychological state or feeling? How does this perspective transform our approach to prayer?
  5. The Dance of Prayer: Explore the metaphor of prayer as a dance, where believers learn steps through techniques but ultimately surrender to God’s lead. How can we apply this metaphor to our own prayer lives?
  6. Trusting in God’s Love: Reflect on the importance of trusting in God’s love, even in the midst of challenges or uncertainties. How can we deepen our trust in God’s love through prayer and daily life?
  7. Applying the Lessons to Our Prayer Lives: How can we integrate the insights from this episode into our personal prayer lives? What practical steps can we take to cultivate a deeper, more trusting relationship with God?

We would like to thank Miriam Gutierrez for providing “the voice” of St. Elizabeth for this series

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles


Anthony Lilles, S.T.D., has served the Church and assisted in the formation of clergy and seminarians since 1994. Before coming to St. Patrick’s, he served at seminaries and houses of formation in the Archdiocese of Denver and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The son of a California farmer, married with young adult children, holds a B.A. in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville with both the ecclesiastical licentiate and doctorate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome (the Angelicum). An expert in the writings of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church, he co-founded the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation and the High Calling Program for priestly vocations. He also founded the John Paul II Center for Contemplative Culture, which hosts symposiums, retreats, and conferences. In addition to his publications, he blogs at www.beginningtopray.com .

CTD4 – The Desert of Sin – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating – Discerning Hearts Podcast


The Desert of Sin – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating

In this episode, Deacon James Keating and Kris McGregor discuss the concept of the “Desert of Sin”. They delve into the idea that sin, while providing some form of consolation, ultimately leads to spiritual emptiness and turmoil.

Dcn. Keating emphasizes the importance of patience in the process of personal and spiritual transformation, particularly in dealing with others who may not share the same level of spiritual fervor. He warns against the temptation to become impatient or frustrated when others do not respond as expected, stressing the need to trust in God’s timing for their conversion.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. Reflection on the Desert of Sin: How do we recognize the mirage of sin in our lives and understand its inability to provide true fulfillment? How can we invite Jesus into our “desert” of sin to offer us real life?
  2. Patience in Personal Growth: Reflect on the virtue of patience in your spiritual journey. How can impatience hinder our own progress and potentially lead to despair? How can we cultivate patience with ourselves and others as we strive for spiritual maturity?
  3. Living Virtuously in Response to God’s Love: Consider the idea that receiving God’s love should naturally lead to loving God in return through virtuous living. How can we demonstrate our love for God through our actions and choices in daily life?
  4. Role of Saints as Models of Holiness: Reflect on the lives of the saints as mirrors of hope. How can studying their examples help us understand the path to holiness and deepen our own relationship with God?
  5. Embracing Joy through God’s Love: Explore the concept of joy as a result of receiving God’s love. How does this joy differ from superficial happiness, and how can we experience it more fully in our lives?


An excerpt from “Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion”:

“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, Ph.D., is a professor of Spiritual Theology and serves as a spiritual director at Kenrick Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, MO.

Check out Deacon Keating’s “Discerning Heart” page

BTP10 – Heaven In Faith: Day 5 Prayer 2 by St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts Podcasts

Episode 10 – “Heaven in Faith”  Day 5 Prayer 2  – “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood, remains in Me and I in him.”

In this episode, Dr. Anthony Lilles and Kris McGregor discuss the profound eucharistic themes in Elizabeth’s reflections, emphasizing the transformative power of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. Elizabeth portrays this communion as an intimate exchange where Christ’s love and generosity invite us to surrender fully, allowing Him to purify and consume our beings with His grace and presence.

Dr. Lilles highlights the significance of preparing oneself for receiving Holy Communion, engaging deeply with the liturgy, and being open to the transformative encounter with Christ’s presence. He also connects this to the broader spiritual life, illustrating how our union with Christ in the Eucharist fuels our capacity to love and give of ourselves in all aspects of life.

The discussion reveals how Elizabeth sees this communion with Christ as a pathway to experiencing the burning desires of His heart, urging us to open ourselves entirely to His love. This experience of divine love in the Eucharist is portrayed as an empowering source that enables us to face life’s challenges and to love others with Christ’s own love. Through this intimate union, we are called to become vibrant witnesses of Christ’s love, transforming our lives and drawing others into this mystery of divine intimacy and grace.


Catholic Devotional Prayers and Novenas - Mp3 Audio Downloads and Text 8

From “Heaven in Faith: Day 5 Prayer 2”:

Second prayer. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood, remains in Me and I in him.” “The first sign of love is this: that Jesus has given us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink.” “The property of love is to be always giving and always receiving. Now the love” of Christ is “generous. All that He has, all that He is, He gives; all that we have, all that we are, He takes away. He asks for more than we of ourselves are capable of giving. He has an immense hunger which wants to devour us absolutely. He enters even into the marrow of our bones, and the more lovingly we allow Him to do so, the more fully we savor Him.” “He knows that we are poor, but He pays no heed to it and does not spare us. He Himself becomes in us His own bread, first burning up, in His love, all our vices, faults, and sins. Then when He sees that we are pure, He comes like a gaping vulture that is going to devour everything. He wants to consume our life in order to change it into His own; ours, full of vices, His, full of grace and glory and all prepared for us, if only we will renounce ourselves. Even if our eyes were good enough to see this avid appetite of Christ who hungers for our salvation, all our efforts would not prevent us from disappearing into His open mouth.” Now “this sounds absurd, but those who love will understand!” When we receive Christ “with interior devotion, His blood, full of warmth and glory, flows into our veins and a fire is enkindled in our depths.” “We receive the likeness of His virtues, and He lives in us and we in Him. He gives us His soul with the fullness of grace, by which the soul perseveres in love and praise of the Father!” “Love draws its object into itself; we draw Jesus into ourselves; Jesus draws us into Himself. Then carried above ourselves into love’s interior,” seeking God, “we go to meet Him, to meet His Spirit, which is His love, and this love burns us, consumes us, and draws us into unity where beatitude awaits us.” “Jesus meant this when He said: ‘With great desire have I desired to eat this pasch with you.’”

Elizabeth of the Trinity. The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity, vol. 1 (featuring a General Introduction and Major Spiritual Writings) (Elizabeth of the Trinity Complete Work) (pp. 9100-101). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. Understanding Eucharistic Theology: How does Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity describe the relationship between Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and the believer’s transformation? Reflect on the reciprocal nature of this relationship. Discuss the implications of viewing Holy Communion as a transformative encounter with Christ’s love and presence.
  2. Personal Reflection on the Eucharist: How does the episode challenge you to prepare for and participate in Holy Communion more fully and consciously? In what ways can you deepen your understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life?
  3. Connecting Eucharistic Life to Everyday Living: How can the transformative experience of the Eucharist influence your relationships and daily actions? Reflect on the statement that Jesus “yearns for our love” and “aches to be loved by us.” How does this influence your perception of the Eucharist and your relationship with Christ?
  4. Mystical and Theological Insights: Discuss the significance of Saint Elizabeth’s emphasis on the Eucharist as an encounter that consumes and purifies the believer, transforming them into an icon of Christ’s love. How does the Eucharistic theology presented by Dr. Lilles and Kris McGregor deepen your understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and continual presence in the Church?
  5. Practical Application: After listening to the episode, identify one practical step you can take to enhance your preparation for and participation in the Eucharist. Share this with a group member or write it down as a personal commitment. Consider how you might help others in your community to grow in their understanding and reverence for the Eucharist. What actions or discussions could you initiate?
  6. Connecting with Scripture: Reflect on the scriptural basis of the Eucharistic themes discussed in the episode. How do the words of Christ at the Last Supper and other relevant scripture passages deepen your understanding of the Eucharist?

We would like to thank Miriam Gutierrez for providing “the voice” of St. Elizabeth for this series

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles


Anthony Lilles, S.T.D., has served the Church and assisted in the formation of clergy and seminarians since 1994. Before coming to St. Patrick’s, he served at seminaries and houses of formation in the Archdiocese of Denver and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The son of a California farmer, married with young adult children, holds a B.A. in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville with both the ecclesiastical licentiate and doctorate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome (the Angelicum). An expert in the writings of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church, he co-founded the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation and the High Calling Program for priestly vocations. He also founded the John Paul II Center for Contemplative Culture, which hosts symposiums, retreats, and conferences. In addition to his publications, he blogs at www.beginningtopray.com .