Read Any Good Books Lately?

Have you ever read a book that changed your life?

 No, really, think about it. Has there ever been a novel that told a story so captivating and thought provoking it changed the way you look at the world? Or a memoir that inspired you so much that person became your role model? A work of non-fiction that intrigued you so greatly it ignited a new passion in that subject?

Books do this to us all the time and all sorts of books influence us.  They change our perspectives, broaden our horizons, inspire us, teach us new things, give us new ideas. Every time we open a book we risk changing our world.

I was in middle school when I first read "To Kill a Mockingbird." It opened my eyes to all kinds of things I’d never given much thought: racism and prejudice, the South and our American history, and how it takes a lot of courage to do what you know is right when it isn’t easy. Plus, it made me realize there were good books outside the young adult shelf .

Good books can change our lives.

Some of our library books that influenced me - including The Long Loneliness.

Some of our library books that influenced me - including The Long Loneliness.

In college I was assigned "The Long Loneliness," the autobiography of communist-reporter-turned-Catholic- social-activist, Dorothy Day. I was inspired by her work to put Catholic social teaching into action, her care for the poor and striving to grow in holiness, and her understanding that community, other people, are the most important things in life. I wanted to go find a nice Catholic Worker commune to live on right then. But that would have been reckless, so I started learning all I could about Catholic social thought, how the Church works for justice, and cares for the poor. Eventually I did do a service year with a Catholic organization which had huge impacts on my faith and my life. All because I read this book.

If good books can change our lives, good, holy books can change our eternal lives.

As Christians we know the Bible is a living book that continuously works to change our lives, but as Catholics we know that other works also help us to learn about our faith and explore different aspects of our lives as disciples of Christ.

And that’s why we started a library here at Saint John Paul II Parish.  The library at the Parish Office Center is stocked with books (and CD’s and DVD’s) on all aspects of our Catholic Faith: books on spirituality and prayer, stories of saints and other interesting Catholics, information on theology and understanding our faith, great works of fiction, and much more. All these books are here to help you better understand your faith, and grow in your relationship with God. If you ever doubt that reading a book can help with these things, I’ll leave you with these quotes from people much smarter than me:

“When we pray we speak to God. When we read, God speaks to us”  - St. Jerome (347 – 420)

“There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.”  - John 21:25



The Parish Library is located in the Parish Office Center on Carla Drive, and is open during regular office hours, Monday – Thursday  8:30 am – 4:00 pm, Friday 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.


Leave a comment if a book has ever changed your life or if you are excited to check out the new library!

#WhyWeMarch: What is the March for Life All About?

The March for Life in Washington DC.

The March for Life in Washington DC.

Two weeks ago, I joined two other parishioners and nearly 400 others from our diocese to attend the March for Life in Washington DC. If you have ever had a chance to attend a March for Life you know what an incredible experience it is. However, if you have not, it may sound like a strange event, even a contradiction. A religious pilgrimage culminating in a political protest? An event prompted by the horror of legalized abortion, yet attendees will say how much they enjoyed it? Well, yes, it is a weird thing, but is there any normal way to respond the reality of abortion? Anyway,  I wanted to share some of my experiences from the March . 

First of all, it is a pilgrimage, and pilgrimages usually have a sacrificial nature to them. One has to give something up to go or will encounter suffering on the journey. In the case of this ' pilgrimage for life' people miss school or work, sit on long bus rides, give up their beds at home for simple accommodations,  rise early and go to bed late, march in the often cold and sometimes wet weather, and generally give up what they would normally do for three days. This is significant, because as Catholics, we believe that the sacrifices we make really do make a difference. God recognizes them as an offering to Him, while at the same time they serve to make us more Christ-like ourselves.   

As a pilgrimage, Mass and prayer are at the center of everything on the trip. Bishop Cistone celebrated Mass before we departed, and our "bus leaders" and the priest on our bus, Fr. Jose, lead us in prayer as we traveled, including saying the Rosary.  As we traveled, we also got to know our fellow pilgrims. It is encouraging, especially to young people, to find that there are many other people their age who are just as 'into' their faith as they are- or even more so 

The next morning we left early  to get to a rally and Mass before the actual March. On the way our bus leader encouraged us to open to the Holy Spirit throughout the day, to participate actively in all the experiences we would have, and to be attentive to what God might be saying to us or how he might act in our lives.  This is one of the interesting aspects of the  pilgrimage: that we are not only praying and protesting to end abortion but we are also called to remember that building a culture of life starts inside of ourselves, and thus our actions on a daily basis are part of building a culture where all life is respected.   

The entrance procession at Mass before the March.

The entrance procession at Mass before the March.

The theme of the rally was "Life is VERY Good" Through the speaker before mass, and the homily, we were reminded of God's love for life - unborn children and us too. God loves everyone He has created, not because of anything you have done, or your talents or abilities, but just because He made you. The Mass was con-celebrated by four bishops and dozens of priests, assisted by scores of deacons and seminarians for the several thousand pilgrims gathered in the arena. It is incredible to experience a Mass this large - that many people worshiping together and praying for the same cause. After Mass we headed downtown for the March itself. 

The March for Life begins on the National Mall, goes up Pennsylvania Avenue, past the Capitol Building, and ends in front of the Supreme Court.  As the March begins people flood the streets from the Mall and the side streets, and marchers continue to arrive off buses and up from the Metro well after the March begins.   

Marchers carry signs with sayings such as "Defend Life", "Life Counts" "We will abolish abortion" "Peace begins in the womb" "Save the Storks"  and very  often, "We are the Pro-Life Generation" (Perhaps this is the most appropriate too, since the majority of participants are of a certain generation - the young. High schoolers and college students, as well as other young adults are present in droves.) Marches also carry banners representing their parish, school or college, process images or Our Lady of Guadalupe, beat drums, and start chants on megaphone. Others carry nothing but rosaries. 

Further along you see people with closer connections to the pro-life cause: signs stating that the holder was conceived in rape, and others that thank  birth parents for choosing adoption over abortion.  Then on the last corner of the March and right in front of the Supreme Court building are women, and men, from the Silent No More Awareness  Campaign, witnessing to the regret they have for abortions they were involved in.     

The Diocese of Saginaw group on the steps of the National Basilica.

The Diocese of Saginaw group on the steps of the National Basilica.

There were an estimated 400,000 people in attendance at the March this year  (our diocese group was one - one thousandth of the total!)  so as you can imagine, the March takes several hours. We returned to where we were staying that evening for praise and worship music and a Q &A with Bishop Cistone. The following day we were able to go sightseeing before concluding our pilgrimage at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for Mass.  

The March for Life is both a lament of the deaths of the 56 million children killed through abortion in the US since 1973, and a "feast of life" as marchers joyfully and prayerfully walk through DC.  I encourage you all to consider attending  in the future. I know I am planning to be there next year!   

Have you ever attended the march of life or another Pro-Life event? Share your experience!

The Virgin of Guadalupe

One of the most unique aspects of our  Catholic faith is the great diversity of the devotions one may chose to celebrate. These acts  of popular piety that honor or remember, for example, the Virgin Mary, saints, apparitions, or miracles, are made available to us by the Church, and we can choose to observe whichever strike us particularly and aide our faith.  

One of the most popular devotions, in the Americas at least, is that to the Blessed Virgin Mary, honored as Our Lady of Guadalupe . It is believed the in the year 1531 the Virgin Mary appeared on a hill outside Mexico City and the events that followed lead to several miracles and the conversion of a great number of Aztecs to Christianity. Thus, Catholics in Mexico and of Mexican descent are often particularly devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe, but heritage is by no means a limit. 

 Parishioners of St. John the Baptist parish had a tradition of honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe by celebrating her feast day, December 12. In recent years, as our former parishes clustered and combined their religious education programs, it became a tradition that the celebration would be led by the children and catechists on the Wednesday nearest her feast. The faith formation program at St. John Paul II Parish, decided to continue  this tradition. We will be holding our Our Lady of Guadalupe Celebration on Wednesday, December 10 at 6:00 pm at the St. John the Baptist church site and I want to extend an invitation to all in our parish!  

If you are unfamiliar with the story of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it's one worth reading; it begins in the early 1500's as conquistadors from Spain, along with Franciscan missionaries, were arriving in the area that is today Mexico. The missionaries were having very little success in preaching to the native Aztecs, whether because the Aztec people did not understand or because they were resentful of the Spanish. They did have a few converts, including a man named Juan Diego. On December 9, 1531 he was walking to morning Mass when a beautiful woman appeared on Tepeyac Hill, outside Mexico City  and began speaking to him in his native Aztec language. She asked him to go to the bishiop and tell him she wished a church to be built on that site in her honor. Juan Diego recognized her as the Virgin Mary and went immediately to the bishop. Bishop Zumárraga listened to the man's story, but did not put much faith in it and sent Juan Diego home. 

On his way, he again met the woman on Typeac Hill. He asked her to find someone more important  for this mission but she replied "You must understand that there are many more noble men to whom I could have entrusted my message and yet, it is because of you that my plan will succeed. Return to the bishop tomorrow... Tell him that it is I myself, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, who am sending you." 

Juan Diego again did as she asked and this time the bishop asked him to bring back a sign of the truth of the apparition. Once again she appeared to him on his way home and he told her of the bishops request for proof. She told Juan Diego to return in the morning for it. However, Juan Diego arrived home to find his uncle very ill, and he had to stay home the next day to care for him. The following day, his health worsening, his uncle asked Juan Diego to go get a priest. Juan Diego hurried to do so, and avoided Typeac Hill fearing that he would again meet the apparition of Mary and she delay him. 

Of course, the Virgin Mary appered in his path anyway. When he explained his rush to find a priest for his uncle she told him she had already visited him and healed him. She instructed Juan Diego to gather flowers - Castilian roses that were blooming despite the December cold - and bring them to her to arrange in his tilma, a cloak made of cactus fibers. These would be the sign Juan Diego would bring to the bishop and was  not to let anyone see them before Bishop Zumárraga 

When Juan Diego was finally allowed to see the bishop he opened his tilma to show the sign he'd been given.  The bishop and his assistants looked shocked - then fell to their knees. Juan Diego was confused until the bishop took his tilma from him and showed him the front. On it was an exact image of the woman who had appeared to him.    



Just as shocking to them as the miraculous appearance of the image was the fact the Virgin Mary did not appear as a European as normally depicted, but as a pregnant Aztec princes. The image also used symbols the Aztec people would have recognized to show her triumphing over their gods, but yet pointing to one even greater than she.  

The  miracle even more convincing than the tilma itself is the mass conversion of the Azetc people to Catholicism in the wake of Mary's appearance to Juan Diego. As news of the image spread nine million people converted within the next 10 years - that's a rate of almost 3,000 a day! 

To this day the tilma is venerated in the  Basilica of Our lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Though it is over 400 years old the tlima, which normally would have lasted about 20 years, has not deteriorated at all. Many scientific studies have been done on the image itself, and it has been found that it was not made by any known human paints or dyes. Many other miracles have been attributed to the image and the intercession of Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe throughout the years, and the Basilica that houses the image is one of the most visited religious sites in the world.   

Today, we honor St. Juan Diego on December 9 and Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. We name her the patroness of the Americas, and patroness of the unborn.           

Please do join us for our Our Lady of Guadalupe Celebration on Wednesday, December 10 at 6:00 pm at the St. John the Baptist church site. The children and catechists will lead us in a celebration, and we will continue to celebrate with Mexican food and a piñata in the church basement!

The Immaculate Conception

Today, December 8, we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This may also be one of the most misunderstood feasts of the Church year. The Immaculate Conception is when Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother, who tradition calls St. Ann, without the stain of Original Sin or, immaculately. Catholics believe that Mary was chosen, even before she was conceived, by God to bear his Son and so he preserved her from the stain of sin that has been passed down top all mankind from our first parents Adam and Eve.  


Many mistakenly believe the Immaculate Conception to be when Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this idea comes from the fact that we will hear the story of Mary meeting the angel today at Mass, but that event is called  the Annunciation by the Church and celebrated on March 25 - nine months before Christmas.  


Perhaps there is confusion because the Immaculate Conception is a relatively new doctrine in the 2,000 year history of our faith. Though many have believed in the sinlessness of the Virgin Mary from the very earliest days of the church, the doctrine was not officially defined until 1854 by Pope Pius IX who speaking infallibly declared:   


The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.


Whatever the reason for the confusion, it is important we understand this doctrine, especially as Americans who celebrate Mary of the Immaculate Conception as the patroness of the USA. For that reason the bishops in our country decided that this feast is an Holy Day of Obligation  - a day we must attend Mass. Let us do so joyfully, thanking God for the gift his Son to us through Mary, and asking her intercession for the needs of our nation!

Mary, the Immaculate Conception, Pray for Us!


Holy Hour 101

As I'm sure you have heard by now, this Wednesday our parish will have the opportunity for an exciting spiritual experience! We will be hosting a Holy Hour with Bishop Cistone at our St. Matthew Church site at 7:00 pm. This may be a new experience for many of us, but everyone is highly encouraged to come.  


A Holy Hour, also called Eucharistic Adoration, is an opportunity to spend an hour praying before the Eucharist - the Real Presence of Jesus - which has been placed on the alter in a monstrance so that all can see it.  There is time for silent prayer and communal prayer during the hour, which will be presided over by the Bishop. 


The love of God and neighbor, the greatest commandment, is expressed in, and the fruit of, Eucharistic worship.
— St. John Paul II

Since Planning Tomorrows Parishes began, Bishop Cistone has been holding a Holy Hour each month at a different parish  to encourage Catholics throughout the diocese to pray for the success of the parish mergers and the future of our churches, as well as our own needs.  Eucharistic Adoration is not a devotion particular to churches in our situation of parish mergers, however. In fact, it is growing in popularity all over the country. So what's so great about it? Here are just  a few things: 


It's a chance to 'waste time with Jesus' 

By this I don't mean it's a waste of time, just the opposite! When we spend time with people we truly love and care about, it doesn't matter what we are doing or even if we do nothing at all. We are happy just to be with them, even if we're  'wasting time' together.  It is a great opportunity to be able to spend time with Jesus in this way having the time to tell him  whatever is on your hearts and listen to what he has to say to us as well.      


Jesus asks us to do it 

The idea of spending an hour with the Lord was not just a good idea someone had! It comes from the Gospels, when Jesus asks his apostles to keep watch with him one hour, while he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he was to die (See Matthew 26:36-46). We probably know that the apostles weren't able to stay awake with Jesus and pray, but his request still stands and it shows great love to the Lord if we can try to fulfill this request. 

The spiritual lives of our families are strengthened through our Holy Hour.
— St. Jophn Paul II

St. John Paul II was very devoted to the Eucharist 

We have beautiful quotes from our patron about the power of the Eucharist, and in particular the grace that praying in Adoration gives. He wasn't all talk though, he was known for spending long periods of time praying in front of the Eucharist -  every morning for over an hour before he said Mass and any other chance he could. He loved it so much, in fact, that while traveling, his aides would try to block chapels from his view and route him away from places where the Eucharist was reserved so he couldn't stop to pray and thus throw the schedule off! They often failed, however and the pope would arrive late for his next event!    


St. John Paul II was by no means the only saint with a devotion to the Eucharist. Many, many great Catholic saints and thinkers deeply loved spending time in Adoration as shown quotes like these: 

Each time you approach the Blessed Sacrament remember that Jesus has been waiting for you for twenty centuries for this personal visit from you.
— St. Josemaria Escriva
The Eucharist is the supreme proof of the love of Jesus. After this, there is nothing more but Heaven itself.
— St. Peter Julian Eymard
When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.
— Bl. Mother Teresa

Have you ever attended a Holy Hour or Eucharistic Adoration? What reasons would you add? What do you love most about it? Do you plan to be at our Holy Hour this week?