Servant of God Fr. Kapaun, Pray for Us – Chris Stefanick

Note from the Chair:

Chris Stefanick is an extraordinarily gifted individual whose work is helping to transform hearts across the country and beyond. I was honored to meet Chris in person for the first time last week, and was grateful to find in him the same warmth and good humor that characterizes his public apostolate. Here Chris provides us with some inspiration from the life of Servant of God, Fr. Emil Kapaun.   

Thank you for visiting, and enjoy! While you’re here, please consider leaving a prayer request for Br. Rex, and making a contribution to our Home for a Hermit campaign.


kapaunpipeServant of God Fr. Kapaun, Pray for Us

The Korean war was one of the most brutal conflicts in human history. Millions lost their lives in a three year span, many of them from the bitter cold. When the war ended in 1953, a group of American POW’s emerged from the darkness of a prison camp bearing an almost four foot high crucifix made from firewood, with a crown of thorns woven from radio wire. They wouldn’t leave the hell they’d survived without it. It was made by a Jewish POW in honor of the Catholic chaplain that men of every faith loved: Fr. Emil Kapaun.

Fr. Kapaun grew up in rural Kansas. He was baptized at the parish his parents were married in and eventually served as pastor there, but he felt the call to leave the comforts of home to become a military chaplain.

As a chaplain he was known for his intense devotion to the soldiers who he called, “my boys.” He traveled thousands of miles celebrating masses for them, often using the hood of his jeep as the altar.

On November 2, 1950, Fr. Kapaun was among a few thousand US soldiers overrun by 20,000 Chinese Communist soldiers. In the ensuring chaos he ran among fox holes, past the front lines, and into no man’s land to drag the injured to safety, comfort the wounded, and anoint the dying. He continued his work even after the call to evacuate.

He came upon one wounded soldier, Sgt. Herbert Miller, with an enemy soldier standing over him, aiming his rifle and about to pull the trigger. Fr. Kapaun pushed the soldier aside and picked Sgt. Miller off the ground. The communist soldier could have killed them both but stood there, stunned by the courage of the unarmed chaplain.

After the fighting ceased the captured soldiers were sent on a death march to a prison camp. Any person straggling or too wounded to continue was shot. For about 40 miles, he alternated between helping Sgt. Miller walk and carrying him. He also helped other men complete the march, picking them up when they fell and encouraging them to press on.

At the prison Camp Fr. Kapaun offered his clothes to the cold. He risked his life, somehow managing to sneak out to nearby villages for extra food for the men who were on starvation rations. He made a bowl to boil water to save them from dysentery, washed their clothes, and tended their wounds. It’s not just big stuff like starting a movement that makes someone a Saint. Sometimes it’s small acts of kindness in extreme circumstances.

He prayed Mass when he could and led the men in prayer services. On Easter he celebrated a prayer service and led the POW’s in songs of praise that erupted throughout the whole camp.

The guards hated him for the hope he brought to the prisoners. They tortured him, made him stand naked in the freezing cold, and “educated” him for hours on end about communism. When Fr. Kapaun got sick the guards seized their chance to be rid of him. They took him to a place the prisoners referred to as the “death house” to end his life. No one ever came back alive.

The prisoners were in tears as they carted him off, but he comforted them saying, “I”m going to where I’ve always wanted to go, and when I get there I’ll say a prayer for all of you.” The last image they have of him is Fr. Kapaun blessing the guards as he was taken to his death and praying out loud, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Fr. Kapaun is the most highly decorated chaplain in US military history. Nine of the men he had helped survive that prison camp were present when he was finally awarded the medal of honor in 2013, including Sgt. Miller, who he had carried through that 40-mile death march 63 years before.

No doubt, there are many stories like Fr. Kapaun’s that we’ll never learn of on this side of eternity: men who died far from home, who laid down their lives for their friends in the course of war. But when the story of human history is done, death, darkness, and evil don’t get the final word. The love of God does. That love burns bright in the hearts of the saints, illuminating even the darkest of places.

This article was originally published at

I get distracted when I pray. Does God stop listening?

Note from the Chair:

Dr. Kevin Vost is a good friend and was among the greatest sources of encouragement when my first book “Faith at Work: Finding Purpose Beyond the Paycheck” was released. In today’s guest post, Kevin shares his gift of encouragement with us all. I don’t know about you, but finding my mind wandering during prayer is nothing new. After reading today’s post, I hope you’ll join me in persevering. 

Thank you for visiting, and enjoy! While you’re here, please consider leaving a prayer request for Br. Rex, and making a contribution to our Home for a Hermit campaign.


I get distracted when I pray. Does God stop listening?

No, He doesn’t.  One of St. Thomas Aquinas’ questions in his masterful Summa Theologica is “Whether Attention is a Necessary Condition of Prayer?” His answer may be a bit of a surprise (and perhaps a relief):

“Purposely to allow one’s mind to wander in prayer is sinful, and hinders the prayer from having fruit….But to wander in mind unintentionally does not deprive the prayer of fruit.” (ST, II-II, Q. 83, a. 13).

Thomas lists three main effects of prayer: 

1) merit that comes from all acts inspired by the love of God, 

2) impetration (the production of petitions or requests to God), and 

3) the spiritual refreshment of the mind of the one who prays. 

For the first two effects, simply the initial intention to pray is sufficient, even if attention is lost, although one must have the initial intention. For the last, the immediate effect of spiritual refreshment of the mind comes only while paying attention. 

Further, Thomas describes three kinds of attention we can bring to vocal prayer: 

1) attention to the words so we say them right, 

2) attention to the meaning of the words, and 

3) attention to the end or goal of the prayer—that is, God. 

Here, only the third is essential. Thomas notes that even the slow-witted who can’t remember or understand the words of certain prayers are still able, within their limits, to raise their thoughts to God. Further, even among the learned and holy, “this attention, whereby the mind is fixed on God, is sometimes so strong that the mind forgets all other things…” (ST, II-II, Q. 83, a. 13). 

So, to put it in a Thomistic nutshell, no one is more aware than God of the limitations of our human nature, fleeting attention and all. God appreciates the fact that we try to pray, even when our wandering minds go astray!

Dr. Kevin Vost is the author of several Catholic books, including, The One-Minute Aquinas, (Sophia Institute Press, 2014), from which this post was adapted.  Dr. Vost drinks great drafts of coffee while meditating mirthfully on Thomistic tomes in the company of his wife, two sons, and two dogs, in Springfield, Illinois.  Kevin can be found online at

The Power in a Mother’s Prayers! – By Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

Note from the Chair:

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is among the most gracious people I know. It was through reading one of her books that I finally memorized the Memorare. She even sent me the miraculous medal I wear around my neck every day. Perhaps it was through her friendship with Bl. Mother Teresa, but Donna-Marie seems to have internalized the love of Christ in a way that causes her to radiate that love and concern for others almost instinctively. Hers is truly an apostolate of encouragement, and we’re privileged to feature her guest blog post today.

While you’re here, please consider leaving a prayer request for Br. Rex, and making a contribution to our Home for a Hermit campaign.

Thank you for visiting, and enjoy!


The Power in a Mother’s Prayers!

By Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

     Pope John Paul II gave us some poignant words to ponder. He told us that prayer is related to our very humanity and the first condition for authentic freedom of spirit. Specifically, he said, “It should never be forgotten that prayer constitutes an essential part of the Christian life, understood in its fullness and centrality.  Indeed, prayer is an important part of our very humanity; it is ‘the first expression of man’s inner truth, the first condition for authentic freedom of spirit’” (Pope John Paul II, Address at the Mentorella Shrine, October 29, 1978).

     How can mothers improve their prayer lives? How can we come closer to Our Lord? Is it possible for a busy mother to do so? We learn in John’s Gospel that in order to deepen our relationship with Jesus, we must meet Jesus at the “well” for living water on a regular basis so that our thirst will be satiated. We are told: “But those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). 

     I believe that we discover that “well” in prayer; whether it be before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, within the Sacraments, or within the walls of our “domestic churches” where we are busy raising our families.

     As Christians, we are also instructed: “Pray constantly…always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (1 Thess. 5:17; Eph. 5:20). How does a mother in the trenches with diaper changes, feedings, sick children, and overfilled laundry hampers pray constantly? 

     Well, a faithful mother finds that she absolutely needs to develop a deep prayer life for strength and guidance for rearing her family along with her husband within a culture that constantly undermines and contradicts their Christian beliefs. 

     It’s challenging and even really difficult to do while feeling battered by the culture, but in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we are reminded to, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” The Catechism tells us that, “Every joy and suffering, every event and need can become the matter for thanksgiving which, sharing in that of Christ, should fill one’s whole life” (CCC no. 2648).  

     Consequently, we see that we can and should make use of the unlimited occasions throughout our daily lives for giving thanks in prayer; every joy, event, and suffering, can become opportunities for prayer—and grace! 

     In short, we can transform our daily lives into powerful prayers, even while we are so busy with our mothering. We do this by beseeching our Lord for His grace and blessings, asking for guidance and giving thanks—always! 

     Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “We must make our homes centers of compassion and forgive endlessly.” This is a challenging task for a worn out mother, yet it surely is the secret to happiness in our families. We must consistently give with love and forgiveness to know authentic peace in our hearts and to see God at work in our homes.

     Once we admit to ourselves that our family is a huge work in progress and that while we are called to holiness, our Lord knows full well that we don’t have glowing halos hovering over our heads (yet!); we’ll calm down and get with the program. We’ll work hard but not be so hard on ourselves and we’ll realize that every single thing that happens throughout our days is an opportunity for grace.

Food for the Soul

     Mothers, as we know have been entrusted with the care and nurturing of their children. However, equally as important as the food for their children’s stomachs is the food for their souls. Sadly, there are mothers all around our world who neglect to feed this spiritual hunger in their families. Let’s pray for them. Let’s be a loving example to them. In order for a mother to form her children in the faith and in prayer, she must be sure to form it within herself first. She must draw closer to God through a deep and constant prayer life. 

     A mother may struggle to find specific dedicated prayer times throughout her busy days because she is at the service of her children who constantly need her attention in one way or another. Throughout her mothering, she may not have much opportunity to break away from her routine. Since a mother fully realizes that her days are filled to capacity with the care of others, she finds that she should dedicate her entire day to the Lord beginning the first thing in the morning; offering all of her prayers, works, joys, and sufferings as her morning offering to God and asking that they become a means to her salvation and of her family, as well. 

     She then knows that she has offered her Lord everything—craziness and all, and has asked Him to bless every part of it. Her day has then started off on the right foot. She realizes that there might not be many occasions, particularly when her children are very young and requiring a lot of hands-on care, when she can get down on her knees to pray, hence she offers to God all of her many loving acts of service to her family from where she has been called to serve from the heart of her home. Of course, she also strives to find those other moments—the contemplative ones, but she learns to be content with what our good Lord gives her. He knows what is best.

     A mother will undoubtedly grow in holiness as she strives to keep her heart and mind lifted to Heaven whenever she is able, while she is going about her duties in the home. A mother strives to find the opportunities for her dedicated prayer time, as well as being sure to dedicate her entire day to the Lord so that all of her actions will be blessed and a means to her sanctification and for the sanctification of her family. 

Amazing Sanctification Opportunities

     I love that mothers are provided by God with an amazing opportunity for sanctification for their families. Being obedient to our state of life and lovingly responding to the needs within our vocation can work miracles—all by God’s amazing grace!

     Perhaps we can learn from St. John Vianney, Cure of Ars, who so beautifully and passionately expressed his love for God in a prayer he wrote. 

I love you, O my God, and my only desire is to love you until the last breath of my life.  I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you, than live without loving you.  I love you, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love you eternally…My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it to you as often as I draw breath.

     His words give mothers a cause to pause and ponder. Can we also courageously and with complete trust, offer every breath for love of our Lord?  Yes, I believe we can!

     Love is the certain source of prayer; whoever draws from it reaches the summit of prayer. (Adapted from CCC 2658) When a mother’s heart is burning with love for her God and her family, she too can ask our Lord if her every breath can become a prayer of love to Him. She can ask if her acts of loving service within her family can be transformed into prayers of love to Him.

     We learn about a parent’s dignity and mission and very specific responsibility to guide their children in the faith from Familiaris Consortio.

By reason of their dignity and mission, Christian parents have the specific responsibility of educating their children in prayer, introducing them to gradual discovery of the mystery of God and to personal dialogue with Him: ‘It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and the office of the sacrament of matrimony, that from the earliest years children should be taught, according to the faith received in Baptism, to have a knowledge of God, worship Him and love their neighbor.

     Mothers should call upon the grace from the sacrament of matrimony which is available for asking! Our Lord will provide much grace to facilitate the lessons in prayer within the walls of the home. A mother can and should pray in her children’s presence. She can offer little prayers of aspiration to our Lord and His Blessed Mother as she feeds her infants and cares for her children. They will learn by her example. As they grow, she teaches them to bless themselves with the Sign of the Cross and encourages them to enter into a dialogue with Jesus and His Blessed Mother. These will be the formative building blocks of prayer instilled in her children’s hearts that they will draw upon throughout life.

Transforming and Hopeful Domestic Prayer

     There are three areas in which Christian mothers develop their prayer lives: 1) They need to shape a strong prayer life of their own, 2) Teach their children to cultivate their own personal prayer lives, 3) As well as to encourage and facilitate family prayer. A mother needs a well-built foundation of personal prayer to stand strong at the center of the heart of her home where she cares for her family. She should teach her children to pray each day, encouraging them to pray with her as well as on their own. They will learn that prayer is a very beautiful thing – it is a conversation with God! Family prayer is necessary to keep the family unit intact. Blessed Teresa always said, “A family that prays together stays together.”

     There may be times throughout the tapestry of motherhood when a Christian mother might be required to trust in our Lord’s mercy and His promises while she relates to St. Monica’s pleadings in prayer for her wayward son, Augustine. Even when a very strong foundation of prayer is laid down in the family, our older children may go astray temporarily, getting side tracked off the narrow path; searching to find their own way. 

     It is then when we double up on our prayers and sacrifices and trust that our Lord hears the prayers of a faithful mother and that the words to St. Monica from her bishop regarding her son, St. Augustine apply to all mothers. “God will never turn His ear from a woman of all those tears.” We should know that the foundation of prayer that we have built for our children will undoubtedly remain with them, holding them up “and leave an impression that the future events in their lives will not be able to efface,” as Pope John Paul II has told us. 

     We must never give up on hope! We must be faithful in prayer for our families always! Our Lord is counting on us. A mother’s work for the sanctification of her children is never finished until all of her children are safe in Heaven!  She prays constantly for them, no matter how old they are. She prays for them even after she has gone to her Heavenly reward where her prayers are even more powerful. Amazing!

     Let’s meet Jesus at the well of prayer often.

~Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, EWTN TV Host and author of nineteen books, including: Catholic Mom’s Café: 5-Minute Retreats for Every Day of the Year, Mother Teresa and Me, and The Miraculous Medal: Stories, Prayers, and Devotions learn more here: 

Guest Post from Sarah Reinhard: The Bells Draw Me Back

Note from the Chair:

Sarah Reinhard is a self-described “Catholic wife and mom who has a bit of an obsession with reading, horses, and things geeky.” This may be true, but she’s also an extremely gifted writer, with several books to her credit and a fantastic blog, Beyond that, she exudes the authenticity of someone whose experiences – combined with a wonderfully quirky sense of humor – make for consistently good reading. We’re deeply grateful to have Sarah as our guest blogger today.   

While you’re here, please consider leaving a prayer request for Br. Rex, and making a contribution to our Home for a Hermit campaign.

Thank you for visiting, and enjoy!


Bells calling you to prayer sure seemed like a good idea. So good, in fact, that I’ve had my phone set to remind me for a couple of years.

It’s a ringtone I’ve learned to explain in different ways.

“Oh, it must be time to think about dinner!”

“Ah, yes, this is what we work-at-home moms do, lest we lose track of time!”

“Mind if I pause for a minute? I just need to say thanks to God.”

Truth be told, I don’t use that last one much. In part, because I’m a wimp. And in part because I’ve learned to just silence the alarm without explanation.

So does my prayer count, even if it’s a two-second “Hey God, gotta go!”?

The idea behind setting up the alarms was one that was inspired by a friend’s book mentioning the Ignatian practice of a daily (and through-the-day) examen. I adapted it to a three-time-a-day grateful prayer, which was inspired by a different friend’s morning tweeting. This friend begins each morning with a #gratefultweet (that’s the hashtag). I started doing it and it’s become a different sort of public prayer for me.

Saying thanks for muddy footprints, wet doggy fur, and spilled Kool-Aid isn’t easy some days. It’s even hard to actually accept the grace to be grateful for things like unexpected hospital visits, difficult relationships, and another fast food dinner.

And yet, when my 5:30 bell rings, I’ll turn, however briefly, to God. He may not see the whites of my eyes (much) or hear a whole lot from me. I may be up to my elbows in dinner prep, homework help, and chore duty. All the same, that bell will ring. And it will draw me, once again, to my Source.

Sarah Reinhard is a Catholic wife, mom, writer, and coffee-chugger who’s online at

Sacred Silence: More Than Mere Absence of Sound – by Matthew Leonard

Note from the Chair:

Today’s guest blogger is another good friend, Matt Leonard. Matt is a remarkable young author, speaker, and all-around great guy. He’s the Executive Director of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, along with being a husband and father. His rigorous writing and speaking schedule have given rise to rumors that he seldom sleeps, perhaps due to a finely-tuned diet of beer and chocolate – except during Lent. We’re excited to have Matt as our guest blogger today.  

While you’re here, please consider leaving a prayer request for Br. Rex, and making a contribution to our Home for a Hermit campaign.

Thank you for visiting, and enjoy!


In this day and age, we’re conditioned for distraction and noise. Music or chatter greets us at the grocery store, the mall, even the gas station.  You can’t even walk into an elevator without hearing a bad orchestral version of the Backstreet Boys. (Does a good one actually exist?)

Why does society feel the need for constant diversion and noise? Because silence is scary.  In silence we’re confronted with ourselves. It forces us to peer inside and be honest. We’re looking in the mirror.

Silence is also sacred. That’s why most people immediately lower their voices when entering a beautiful church. The knowledge of who dwells there demands awe and reverence, which naturally translates into silence. Even the most beautiful piece of classical music is normally out of place in an adoration chapel.

But silence is something more than no sound. We must quiet our interior selves, too. If you haven’t noticed, our minds love to wander all over the universe even when we’re “quiet.” Distraction from within is just as problematic as exterior disturbance.  That’s why silence must be cultivated in every area of life.

Don’t forget that the sights and sounds we take in are food for the imagination, so it’s vitally important we guard what we allow to enter it. It’s hard enough to focus when innocent distractions abound. It’s downright impossible to move into the presence of God if your mind is picking through the trash you recently dumped in. So don’t forget to take out the garbage, and in the meantime…shhh…keep it down.

Matthew Leonard is an internationally known speaker , Executive Director of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author of “Prayer Works! Getting a Grip on Catholic Spirituality.” You can learn more about him at

“We Want God” – On the Ways of Christian Prayer – by Mike Aquilina

Note from the Chair:

Today’s guest blogger is a dear friend, Mike Aquilina. I got to know Mike many years ago, shortly after becoming Catholic, at the recommendation of a mutual priest friend (Fr. Rocky Hoffman, now Executive Director of Relevant Radio). Little did I know how dramatically I would be inspired through Mike’s friendship – in fact, most of my own writing has come into being through Mike’s gentle yet persistent encouragement. He is a wonderful writer, a faithful husband and father, and a great friend. 

While you’re here, please consider leaving a prayer request for Br. Rex, and making a contribution to our Home for a Hermit campaign.

Thank you for visiting, enjoy!


“We Want God” – On the Ways of Christian Prayer

By Mike Aquilina

More than a million people crowded the apparently godless public square of the capital city of communist Poland. It was June 1979, and they had gathered to see the recently elected Polish pope, John Paul II.

Someone shouted, “We want God,” and soon the chant was taken up by the million voices: “We want God. We want God. We want God.”

Those voices were speaking not only for Christians persecuted under communism. They were speaking for everyone. St. Augustine said it well, more than 1,500 years ago: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

We want God. But how is that desire satisfied? How do we have God?

We have him through a relationship, and that relationship is expressed in prayer. In fact, prayer is the relationship, as we see in all the basic definitions of prayer.

In the first millennium, St. John of Damascus defined prayer as “the raising of the mind and heart to God or the asking of good things from God.” St. Teresa of Avila simplified the matter, saying prayer was simply “conversation with God.” Closer to our own time, St. Therese of Lisieux referred to it as “a surge of the heart … a simple look turned toward heaven.”

All relationships are defined by communication — talking and listening. But the forms of communication vary according to the circumstances of the people who are conversing and their level of intimacy. Spouses communicate by spoken words, written notes, gestures, facial expressions, silence, and lovemaking. Friends have their own range of personal expression that is proper to their relationship. So do co-workers and neighbors.

Those of us who “want God” need to pray in the ways that work for the divine-human bond, and we need to grow in prayer through all the years we have on earth.

Our relationship with God is a matter of constancy. St. Paul said we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). He was echoing Jesus, who taught that we should pray “always and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

They seem to be asking a lot. It’s hard enough for many of us to finish a Rosary without interruption, never mind to keep it going nonstop, all day, every day. But if we return to those classic definitions, we see that neither St. Paul nor Jesus is asking us to do that. In fact, Jesus tells us not to do that: “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7).

Jesus and St. Paul are talking not about talking, but about conversation; and in a loving relationship, conversation takes many forms. Old friends and long-married couples may communicate more by the raising of an eyebrow than mere acquaintances can say in hours of back-and-forth discussion.

Sometimes our prayer is the prayer of a simple gesture or glance. Other times it is important for us to use words. Still other times we cannot find the words, and it’s good that we can marshal the words hallowed by tradition.


There are many ways to consider prayer — many ways to divide it up for closer study.

One traditional way is based on the theme of our prayer (or our motive for praying). All prayers, the spiritual masters say, fall somewhere in these four categories, easily remembered by their initials, ACTS:

1. Adoration (“I praise you”)

2. Contrition (“I’m sorry”)

3. Thanksgiving (“Thank you”)

4. Supplication  (“I need” or “I want”)

The categories are not watertight, and they tend to overlap with one another and segue into one another. Gratitude for God’s gifts leads us to praise his power. Contrition should lead us to supplication, begging the grace of deeper conversion.

Another way to divide our prayer is by methods, or expressions of prayer. These fall broadly into three categories: vocal prayer, meditation, and mental prayer.

Vocal prayer is simply prayer that is “voiced,” usually aloud and usually with set formulas. Jesus taught us to pray the Our Father. Jews and Christians have always prayed the Old Testament Psalms. From Scripture and tradition, we learn the words of Christ and the saints, and we raise them as our own. Over the course of a lifetime we grow into the words of our vocal prayers, gradually acquiring their sentiments and insights.

Meditation is our prayerful reflection on the mysteries of faith. We can begin our consideration with a text from Sacred Scripture or some spiritual book. Or we can focus on an icon and ponder its details.

Mental prayer is conversational prayer: talking silently to God in the quiet of one’s mind, and listening to him. The Catechism calls it “contemplative prayer.”

Again, the categories tend to overlap. All prayer should involve the mind. When we use vocal prayer, for example, we don’t just “heap up empty phrases” (Matthew 6:7). We think about what we’re saying. We think about the divine persons we’re addressing. Similarly, the text for our meditation may be the words of a vocal prayer — the Hail Mary or Glory Be — considered slowly, phrase by phrase or word by word.


God created human beings out of dust, yet breathed into each of us a spiritual life (Genesis 2:7). We are composed of body and soul, and made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). The Catholic tradition engages the whole person in prayer, the body as well as the soul, the intellect as well as the emotions.

It is possible for prayer to be a simply mental act, as when we’re absorbed in thinking about God or begging him for something. But prayer is often physical as well as mental.

It is good for us, for example, to place ourselves in good conditions for prayer — a relatively quiet place, where our distractions and interruptions will be minimal. Silence the phone. Close the door.

It is good for us, too, to adopt a posture that lends itself to prayer. This will vary, depending on our circumstances. If we’re praying at home or in church, it may be helpful for us to kneel — a posture that would be inappropriate in the workplace. It can be helpful, too, to fold our hands in the way we associate with prayer.

These matters may seem like pointless minutiae. Does God really need us to hold our bodies in a certain way when we pray? No, obviously he doesn’t. But tradition hallowed these practices for a reason. They focus our attention on the task at hand. We discipline the body so that we can minimize distraction and give the mind over to prayer. The physical elements of prayer are for us, not for God.

And they are many, drawn from the rich teachings of the Bible. Like believers in every age — from Israel’s tabernacle to Constantine’s basilicas — we can pray with sacred images. We can use incense and bless ourselves with holy water. We can light a candle or burn incense. Even the simple fact of holding a prayer book can help us to remain mindful of what we’re doing.

Our relationship with God — like all our personal relationships — involve our whole person. When we meet a friend or acquaintance, we communicate not only with words, but also by the way we dress for the occasion, by the way we comport ourselves, by the places where we choose to meet. Such things matter when we meet God in prayer.

It is not only our souls that pray. We pray — with our bodies, too.


Jesus prayed this way. His prayer and his person were so united that they are practically indistinguishable. In his book Behold the Pierced One, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) said: “the central act of the Person of Jesus and, indeed, … his person is constituted by the act of prayer, of unbroken communication with the one he calls ‘Father.’” The Cardinal concluded: “We see who Jesus is if we see him at prayer.”

The eternal Son of God did not need to take flesh in order to pray. He has been communicating with the Father from all eternity. He assumed a human nature in order to show us how to live a human life.

He prayed always. He prayed without ceasing. But his prayer wasn’t a constant improvisation. It wasn’t just freeform. In fact, it took very specific forms. Jesus observed the liturgy of the Jews. He went to synagogue every Sabbath, and he made pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the major feast days. Sometimes he went off by himself to pray in deserted places; and sometimes he prayed in the company of his friends. He observed the solemn ritual meals of his religion. He read the Scriptures. He recited the Psalms. He fasted. He used the traditional morning prayer, “Hear, O Israel …”

Jesus led a sustained and disciplined life of prayer. He prayed spontaneously, but he also kept the pious practices that the Jews of his time had inherited from their ancestors. Again, he did not need to do any of this. He did it so that we could see what a life of prayer should look like.

Our prayer life, too, needs to take on a certain form, so that we’re living prayer as Jesus did, with its various expressions and themes and forms. To that end, spiritual masters advise us to develop a “plan of life” or “program of life,” a firm but flexible program that schedules our times of focused prayer amid the ordinary duties of work, family life, and social life.

The Servant of God Father John Hardon, S.J., observed that such a program is a mark of seriousness about prayer. We all presumably have good impulses, but they often fade before we can act on them. A plan of life represents our commitment to draw nearer to God every day. It gives our “resolution a form of permanency … characterized by a certain degree of constancy and even regularity.”

Some people avoid routines of prayer because they would like their relationship with God to be marked by spontaneity. But spontaneity and regularity are not mutually exclusive. Jesus’ life included both ritual prayer and extemporaneous prayer. The formulas of traditional prayer give us words and phrases that perfectly express the conditions of our own souls and the circumstances of our lives. But those words won’t occur to us unless we have made them our own through repetition.

As Father Robert Barron likes to say: prayers lead to prayer. The prayers of the tradition become, over time, the raw material of our most individual and heartfelt pleas to God.


The Church’s life, down the centuries, is like a great laboratory of the spirit. Every generation proposes new prayer forms, new styles and forms of devotion, and they are tested and proven by the lives of the saints. When men and women are canonized and beatified, we can say for certain that their program of prayer “worked.” We know that it was, for them, a path to union with God, first on earth and later in heaven.

We want God, and so we are wise to follow the paths worn smooth by these holy people. Reading the lives of the saints, we can identify certain elements in common. It’s in our best interest to make sure that these elements are part of our own personal plan of life.

Mental prayer. Friendship subsists on a diet of conversation. So does marriage. Prayer, too, is a relationship; and it cannot continue if it is starved for conversation. We will never have intimacy with God until we are regularly speaking with him and listening to him. For that we need a stretch of quiet time — at least twenty minutes a day, and it needs to be twenty consecutive minutes. Why? We need a few minutes just to withdraw from the world of the senses and adjust our concentration. Then we need time given just to silent listening. This is uncomfortable at first, since it doesn’t work like bodily hearing. The soul has no nerve endings, so we don’t register words and sounds. But sometimes we realize, weeks later, that at a certain moment God spoke to us in our prayer and changed something in us. Until we are making time for mental prayer, we have hardly begun to pray.

Holy Mass. This is the prayer prescribed by Jesus for the Church. He charged us all to “do this” in remembrance of him. In Holy Communion, we receive him into ourselves and share his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We should pray the Mass — and not just attend it. We should know the parts of the Mass — from the Sign of the Cross to the final blessing — as well as we know the rooms of our home. Knowing the parts, we should have a deeper understanding of the whole — the logic of the liturgy, the drama of its unfolding. The Mass is so comfortable and so customary for Catholics that we can easily forget what an astonishing gift it is. We should do what we can to make it more prayerful: showing up a little early and easing into our prayer, staying a little afterward and offering thanks, dressing up for the occasion, using a missal. We should at least be attending Mass on Sundays and holy days. That’s the Church’s basic requirement. But we should go more often if we can — daily if possible.

Confession. The saints and the popes advise us to “frequent the sacraments,” and there are only two sacraments we can receive frequently. The Eucharist is one. Confession is the other. We should go at least monthly. Several decades ago, it was common for practicing Catholics to go once a week. Confession builds many virtues (humility, fortitude, self-knowledge) even as it rids us of the ravages of vice. God gains nothing when we confess our sins. He already knows what we’ve done. But he wants us to take responsibility for our actions and to submit our lives to the discipline of his Church. When we do, he gives us the grace to overcome bad habits and resist temptations. We also receive the benefit of the counsel of a priest. There’s no downside to sacramental Confession. If you’ve found it difficult in the past, it may be that you’re going too seldom. Confession is a form of prayer that gets easier and more rewarding with more frequent practice.

Scripture. God reveals himself to us in the pages of the Bible. Both the Old and New Testaments are records of his action in history. It is an epic story of mercy promised and delivered. Through the stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Moses, David and the prophets — and especially in the Gospels of Jesus Christ — we come to see the pattern of God’s involvement in every human life. We come to discern God’s will for our own lives. If it’s true that “we want God” — if we’re serious about it — we must go to find him where he has revealed himself. We should read Scripture, prayerfully and meditatively, for at least a few minutes every day. We need not read great quantities of text, but we should read deeply and ask God for light on every word.

Fasting. To fast is to refrain from food or drink as an act of prayer. Jesus fasted, and so did the Apostles. Our Lord assumed that we, too, would fast. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said, “When you fast …” — not if, but when. He spoke of fasting as a form of prayer, and he said that certain demons could be driven out only by prayer and fasting. It is customary for Christians to practice some form of fasting on Fridays (the traditional form is abstinence from meat). The Church requires a more rigorous fast on two days every year, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We should also find ways to make small acts of self-denial every day, offering those for the sake of others. St. Paul said, “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 1:24). Our small inconveniences become redemptive when we offer them in union with Christ. Modern spiritual writers have extended the notions of fast and abstinence to other pleasures: games, TV, surfing the Web, entertainment. Weakening our attachment to these things can only strengthen our bond with God.

Marian Prayer. From the wedding feast at Cana we learn that the Blessed Virgin Mary is omnipotent in her intercession. There she persuaded Jesus to perform a miracle, even though he himself said the time wasn’t right. We want our companions in prayer to have that kind of persuasive power. In St. Luke’s Gospel we learn that all generations shall call Mary blessed; and in our Marian prayer we fulfill that prophecy. The ages have given us a wealth of devotions to Mary, kaleidoscopic in their cultural diversity. We can chant the Salve Regina or sing it in English as “Hail, Holy Queen.” We can look East to the Akathists of the Byzantine Church. We can pray the ever-popular Memorare again and again, for all the intentions on our list. The most popular Marian prayer by far, however, is the Rosary. The Rosary is perhaps the most commonly used form of meditation. We count the prayers on beads as we ponder the events of Jesus’ life. Mary illumined these mysteries for the evangelists, for St. John and St. Luke. She will surely illumine them for us as well.


That short list hits only a few of the most essential elements of a plan of life. Catholic tradition gives us many other devotions and methods to choose from.

— Devotion to Divine Mercy, which spread in the second half of the twentieth century, has become a staple of the prayer lives of millions of people.

— Praying the Liturgy of the Hours is a daily requirement for priests and religious sisters and brothers. Also called the Divine Office, the Hours represent the Church’s official set of daily prayers, based on a cycle of the Psalms. A growing number of lay people have taken up the practice.

The Jesus Prayer represents a way of meditating on the Lord’s name, praying it in a meditative way. Originating with the Desert Fathers, it has developed richly in the Eastern Churches.

Centering prayer is a term applied to a wide range of techniques for meditation. They tend to emphasize interior silence and draw from eastern and western monastic traditions. Some teachers have courted controversy by also employing methods from other religious traditions.

Labyrinths were mazes built into the floor plans of medieval cathedrals. As individuals walked the pathway, they prayed, meditated, and made their pilgrimage to “Jerusalem” at the center. Some modern churches have revived this practice, building labyrinths in prayer gardens.


We want God, and we want to develop the habit of seeking him in prayer. We do this by embracing the disciplines of prayer. We grow in love by actively loving every day, in small and intentional ways. The idea is to burn neural pathways so deep as to be almost ineradicable.

Forgive me if I end on a personal note. My mother was raised in a devout home, and she expressed her devotion through habits of prayer. She loved to read the Gospels and she kept a pocket New Testament for the moments when she could catch a break from the everyday work of raising seven children. She loved the Rosary, but she found it hard to find time to dedicate to it — so she often worked the beads with her left hand while she cooked and cleaned with her right. When she was forced to sit down — to nurse a baby, for instance — she seized the moments not for TV, but for prayer, at least until she dozed off. She longed to get to daily Mass, and she accomplished it intermittently. But when her youngest started school, she found it necessary to get a job, and her job made daily Mass an impossibility. There was one evening Mass every week, on Tuesday nights, and she rarely missed it.

This was the course of her life: looking for the next moment of prayer, and filling that moment in the anticipated way.

She was in her late eighties when she was felled by a stroke. When I first visited her bedside, she didn’t recognize me, her youngest son, but I could see that she still knew what to do when my sister handed her a Rosary. She could pray, because she had the habit, and the habit brought her peace through long years of her final illness.

I’m still working on the habits. I’m with Mom and with you: we want God.


Prayer Primer, by Father Thomas Dubay

Prayer for Beginners, by Peter Kreeft

The How-To Book of Catholic Devotions, by Regis Flaherty and Mike Aquilina

The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, by Daria Sockey


— Distractions? Lean into them. Ask God why these thoughts are arising. Pray for resolution of the problems that preoccupy you and your loved ones.

— Temptations? Ask your guardian angel’s protection if you’re tempted to impurity or despair. Ask God to heal your memories and give you hope for the future. Take your concerns to your confessor.

— Boredom? We are not good judges of our own progress. You may be moving forward even if you don’t “feel” like you are.

— Aimlessness? Find a good spiritual director. Even if your parish priest is too busy, there are priests who live for such opportunities. Call the local monasteries or an Opus Dei center.

Mike Aquilina is executive vice-president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the author of more than forty books. He has hosted nine series on EWTN and appears weekly on radio’s “Sonrise Morning Show.” He and his wife Terri have been married since 1985 and have six children.

When You Can’t Make Daily Mass, Pray Like JMJ

Note from the Chair:

It’s a privilege to have Shane Kapler as our guest blogger today. I first met Shane a couple years ago when he visited The Coming Home Network to appear on the Journey Home program. He is an extraordinarily insightful and gifted guy, obvious to anyone who reads his wonderful books. Shane is also among the most authentic people I know. He’s a humble and encouraging guy, and we’re grateful for his willingness to share his talents.

While you’re here, please consider leaving a prayer request for Br. Rex, and making a contribution to our Home for a Hermit campaign.

Thank you for visiting!


When You Can’t Make Daily Mass, Pray Like JMJ

by Shane Kapler

Our spiritual lives are centered upon Jesus’ sacrifice, made present in the Eucharist. A good number of you reading this, however, probably have schedules that keep you from attending Mass on a daily basis. It may come as a surprise to learn that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – and the majority of Jews at the time – found themselves in an analogous situation. They also arrived at an ingenious solution that you can make your own.

Jewish religious life was built around sacrifice; and the only place it could be legitimately offered was Jerusalem’s Temple. Every day, at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., its priests made the daily offering, or tamid. After the singing of a Psalm and the recitation of Judaism’s creed, the Shema, a lamb, cake of bread, and wine were offered on the altar. (Remind you of the Mass?) It was the heart of Israel’s spirituality, yet Jews such as the Holy Family lived too far away to take part except on special occasions. (Nazareth was approximately 70 miles from Jerusalem.)

At least two centuries before the birth of Jesus, the Jewish people adopted the practice of stopping, wherever they were, three times a day, to pray facing toward the Temple. They prayed at 9 a.m., and 3 p.m., as the tamid was being offered, and again around sunset when any remaining scraps were burned on the altar and the Temple gate closed. The people’s daily prayer joined them to the Temple’s sacrifices!

Of what did their personal prayer consist? It largely mirrored the Temple’s liturgy.  At the first and third times of prayer, they recited the Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD …” ; You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Dt 6:4-9; Dt 11:13-21; and Num15:37-41). At all three times of prayer they prayed the Eighteen Benedictions, a beautiful tapestry of blessing and petition.

St. Paul invites us Christians to unite our lives – our regular, busy lives of work and family – to Jesus’ sacrifice, made present in the Eucharist. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, for this is our spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1). United to Jesus, our every thought, word, and action can become an offering to the Father.  It is as simple as making our own daily (preferably morning) offering: “Jesus, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world.”

Further, we can mirror the Holy Family’s beginning and ending their day with the Shema, by beginning and ending ours with the Sign of the Cross. It is our Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds in miniature. Whenever we make it we proclaim our belief that it is through Christ’s Cross that we enter into the inner life of the Father, Son, and Spirit; and his grace can empower us to do so with all our mind, all our heart, and all our strength! (It is our Christian Shema.) The early Church also retained the Jewish practice of praying three times a day, but instead of the Eighteen Benedictions they prayed the Our Father (CCC 2767). Taught to us by Christ himself, it is the perfect prayer, encapsulating all others (CCC 2765; 2762).

So if you can’t make it to Mass, take a lesson from the Holy Family: pray a Daily Offering and have recourse to the Sign of the Cross and the Our Father (slowly, intentionally) at least three times in the course of the day. You would also be well-advised to invite Mary and Joseph to pray with you; if they were good enough for Jesus, they’re certainly good enough for you and me!

Shane Kapler is the author of Through, With, & In Him: The Prayer Life of Jesus and How to Make It Our Own and The God Who is Love: Explaining Christianity From Its Center.  He is online at

Are We Willing to Embrace a “Deeper Theology” for Women? – Guest post by Teresa Tomeo

Note from the Chair:

FLPH is deeply grateful to the many good Catholics who stand on the front lines of the new evangelization. Among them is a good friend, Teresa Tomeo. For the one or two people who don’t know Teresa, she is a syndicated Catholic radio show host, motivational speaker, best selling author, and all-around good egg. We’re excited to kick off our Home for a Hermit campaign with a guest blog post by Teresa, entitled Are We Willing to Embrace a “Deeper Theology” for Women?

Look for additional blog posts over the next several weeks from other terrific guest bloggers. While you’re here, please consider leaving a prayer request for Br. Rex, and making a contribution to our Home for a Hermit campaign.

Thank you for visiting, and enjoy!


Are We Willing to Embrace a “Deeper Theology” for Women?

By Teresa Tomeo

Where had I been all those years?  That was one of the nagging questions I asked myself as I found my way back to the Catholic Church.   How come I never heard growing up how Jesus was a true women’s libber; breaking the norms regarding the way men in His day related to and communicated with women?  Why, when gatherings focusing on the progress of women were making headlines at major events such as the 1995 Beijing Conference, weren’t women told that the then head of the Roman Catholic Church was also among the voices calling for “equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, and fairness in careers” among other things as John Paul the Second stressed in his Papal Letter to Women.  This document, which included great insights and teachings on Jesus, the Church, and the role of women, was released at the same time of the Beijing event.  But I didn’t hear about it until years later.

Maybe this is why Pope Francis in his first year as the head of the Roman Catholic Church around the world has been calling for a deeper theology of women.  He made the comments in his now-famous impromptu interview returning to the Vatican following World Youth Day events in Rio de Janeiro.

A church without women would be like the apostolic college without Mary. The Madonna is more important than the apostles, and the church herself is feminine, the spouse of Christ and a mother. The role of women doesn’t end just with being a mother and with housework … we don’t yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church. We talk about whether they can do this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of Caritas, but we don’t have a deep theology of women in the Church.”

The Pope reiterated this in an interview last week with an Italian daily newspaper.  Once again as in his previous comments, he didn’t say the Church is in need of a teaching or a theology on women. He stressed we needed a deeper theology of women.  Speaking from personal experience growing up Catholic I don’t remember doing anything more than barely sticking my toes in the water in terms of attempting to really understand the Church. Beyond a few basic tenets and the general understanding of the saints and Mary I knew very little about the Church I claimed to be a member of.  Partly my fault but also as Church leaders now readily admit, also the result of poor or no catechesis. As Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has stated so eloquently, “American Catholics need to realize that many in the current generation haven’t just been assimilated into the American culture but have been absorbed, bleached, and digested by it.”

As a result it was always about me. It took being knocked off my horse in both my personal and professional life before I started to take my faith more seriously and really attempt to understand and admittedly struggle at times with what the Church has to say about women as well as other core teachings; teachings I had ignored for most of my life. I had to ask a lot of questions, read Church documents, and study the Bible.   I found it freeing, utterly liberating no pun intended, when I finally understood that true equality between women and men doesn’t always have to mean sameness.   We were created in the image and likeness of God; equal but different.  Who knew?  You mean the Catholic Church has an entire body of teaching on women and role in the Church and society?  Go figure.

So in honor of the one year anniversary of Pope Francis’ election, why not discover the “deeper theology” of women through documents such as The Paper Letter to Women or Mulieris Dignitatem: On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.   Swim in the deep end of the faith pool for a while.  Maybe you’ll find as I did that the water is just fine.

Teresa Tomeo is a motivational speaker, best selling author, and syndicated Catholic talk show host. Her website is