A Living Sacrifice Posts

“Then Jacob rent his garments, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.” – Genesis 37:34

In one week’s time, we will begin the Holy season of Lent. We will all come forward, and in a gesture that is both solemn and biblical, we will have ashes sprinkled on our heads. The words spoken to us as the ashes are sprinkled are sobering: “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.” “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”

As we prepare for this moment we would do well to pray and meditate on a few things. First, that we are going to die. Some of us, sooner than later. All of us, the powerful and the lowly will all face that moment when our heart will stop beating, our breath cease, and our body fail to function. At that moment we will stand before the Just Judge. There will no longer be any excuses, no hiding, no evasion, for the Just Judge knows everything. He knows our inmost thoughts, our secret sins, he knows us through and through. In that moment we will stand, completely naked, before He who is the truth.

Our state in that moment will decide our eternal fate. It will be either heaven or hell. In that moment our fate is sealed forever. There is no going back. No repentance, only the stark reality of truth.

And then our bodies return to dust. The bodies we once pampered and treated kindly will decay, and turn to dust.

This reality should make us think.

Which leads to the second thing we should pray and meditate on. Given the reality that we must all die, and given that we do not know when, we ought to always be in readiness for that moment. Lent is the perfect time to prepare. We should ask ourselves what we would do if we were, like Jesus, to die on Good Friday. The answer to that question is what we should do for lent. Our Lenten program should be a forty-day preparation for death.

This should include, at the very least, the following ten things:

  1. A good, brutally honest confession. Remember, there is no hiding, excuses, or evasion at our judgment.
  2. Make reparation for our sins. This can take the form of prayer, fasting, or almsgiving.
  3. Get to know our Lord more deeply. If we only talk to Jesus occasionally, we run the risk of him saying to us, “I never knew you.” The best way to do this is daily prayer and reading of the gospels. For prayer, it would be ideal to spend at least a half hour a day, preferably in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. For scripture reading, ten minutes a day reading one of the gospels would be ideal.
  4. Forgive those who have offended us, and ask pardon from those we have offended.
  5. Say the things that we need to say before we die.
  6. Pray the Rosary every single day. After all, if you aren’t praying the Rosary every day, you’re not on our Lady’s team. We want to be on her team.
  7. Wear the Brown Scapular constantly.
  8. Pray daily to the patrons of a happy death, St. Joseph and St. Benedict.
  9. Meditate frequently on the passion and death of the Lord.
  10. Receive Holy Communion as frequently as possible.

Certainly, you may have more things to add to your Lenten program. In fact, you should. Things particular to you and what you need to do to prepare for death.

Since I have a terminal disease for which there is no cure, this is all very real to me. But, the reality, dear reader, is that you might die before me, so, memento mori, remember your death. Then prepare.

“And Jesus said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

Yesterday was a tough day. When you have ALS tough days are bound to come. It all started when I was preparing for a visit from a dear friend from my seminary days in St. Louis, MO. We had not seen each other for quite a while, so I was looking forward to a nice chat. The only way to carry on a conversation these days is by using my eye gaze computer. I type with my eyes, and it does the talking. It’s my only way to communicate. Without it my speech sounds like gibberish. So, when the computer started acting up, I became growingly frustrated. Here, a friend had traveled numerous hours to visit and I wouldn’t be able to talk to him. Nor could I properly explain to my sister how to adjust the computer so it might work better.

This frustration about not being able to communicate led to tears on my part and on the part of my sister. It’s hard for those around me to not be able to fix things for me, and to see me suffer and know there is nothing they can do to help. This all is very much their cross as well as mine.

One of the blessings of the day came next. My friend offered one of the most devout and beautiful Holy Masses I have been to in a while. The chanting, the bits and pieces of Latin, the feast day, the readings, and the sermon all conspired to make for a stunning expression of the love of God. It too was accompanied by tears.

After Holy Mass we got the computer working well enough to chat. It was good to catch up with an old friend and to talk about spiritual things.

Later on, we had similar difficulties with the computer, which led to further frustration and anger on my part. It is incredibly, incredibly frustrating for me to not be able to properly give instructions or to ask for what I need. When that happens, I tend to shut down. I want to go to bed, not eat, and just lie there. If I’m honest, part of that tendency lies in not wanting people to see me have a breakdown. So, pride once again rears its ugly head, and God applies the remedy by allowing me to breakdown, cry, and be vulnerable when I would rather appear strong. After assuring my sister that it isn’t her fault when I become so frustrated and angry, and after a good cry, I began to slowly feel better.

I know, because of the nature of this disease, that there will be many more bad days, and new challenges will arise. It’s then that I have to remember that this is what I signed up for on the day of my baptism and again on the day of my ordination to the priesthood. I signed up to take up my cross daily and follow him. This is what I intend to do, although I may not do it well in practice. Every bad day I try to remember that the Lord renews his mercies each morning. He, nor our Lady will abandon me, or you.

Every bad day is also an opportunity to offer up much in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the many sins of mankind. It allows me to offer up my frustrations for the conversion of sinners. It allows me to offer my tears for my brother priests. When I fail in being humble, that too I can offer to the mercy of God to be burned up in the flames of his love.

Jesus, burning furnace of charity, may the flames of thy love burn out of me whatever is not thee. May it burn out of me pride, fear, anger, and bitterness. Replace them with humility, trust, peace, and joy in suffering. Let me never forget thy own suffering, and how it won salvation for all who will accept it. Give me the grace to suffer with you for the salvation of mankind. Amen.


In October of 2019 I was blessed to make a private pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal where Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children in 1917 with an urgent message for the world. It was a pilgrimage of many and great graces. I was able to offer Holy Mass at the very place of the apparitions, participate in the nightly candlelight rosary procession, pray at the tombs of St. Jacinta, St. Francisco, and Lucia, the three shepherd children, and offer the Traditional Latin Mass daily with the son of the owner of the hotel serving the Holy Mass.

I spent many hours praying in the Chapel of the Apparitions, and there I distinctly remember asking Our Lady of Fatima to make me a saint no matter what it takes. It was a prayer that would change the course of my life forever. Our Lady of Fatima would answer that prayer in a way I never could have imagined.

Frankly, I expected that prayer to be answered by making me strong and powerful. Maybe by making me a bishop of a large diocese. Maybe God would make me a preacher on the world stage. Maybe, just maybe, he would make me a cardinal or even Pope! Yes, I was that ambitious and full of pride, and it did a lot of damage to my soul. Maybe that can be a topic for a future post. Needless to say, I had quite an active imagination. But the point is that I never expected my prayer to be answered the way it was.

As scripture says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) How true it is! His ways are most certainly better than my ways, and I believe my time in Fatima was Our Lady’s way of preparing me to accept what God had in store for me.

On my last night in Fatima, I went to the sacristy as usual to prepare for the candlelight procession, and as usual I chatted with one of the volunteer sacristans who spoke very good English. He said to me something I will never forget, and which I believe was prophetic. He said, “I have been watching you all week, and I have never seen a priest as devoted as you. You came here alone, but now you do not leave alone. Our Lady goes with you.” He was right, Our Lady would accompany me home and be a constant support in my coming trials.

As I was driving through Minnesota on my way home from the airport, I received a phone call from my doctor’s nurse telling me the news that I likely had ALS. That diagnosis was confirmed in December at Mayo Clinic. I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is the answer to the prayer I prayed to Our Lady of Fatima. It’s as if Our Lady and Our Lord chose this exact disease to make me a saint. Let me explain.

I, as I mentioned before, am a prideful man, so Our Lord chose for me a disease that would humble me in every possible way. He saw I was ambitious, so he laid on my shoulder a cross that would force me to retire from active ministry. He saw I was a glutton, so he gave me a disease that would slowly take away my ability to eat. He saw I often went places I ought not go, so it was a disease that would take away my ability to walk that became my cross. He saw that I was given to gossip, detraction, and foul language, so he allowed ALS to take away my ability to speak. All this and more because he loves me and wants me to become free from sin! All this because of his mercy seeks to burn out of me every stain of sin! All this because he loves me enough to make me the saint he has always longed for me to be!

All this he desires for you too. He will choose for you the Cross that will most easily make you a saint, and a great one at that! But we would do well to ask our Lady for help. She will, as she did for me, soften the blow and prepare us to receive our cross. She is the most perfect of mothers. She will, if we give ourselves over to her as Jesus himself did, she will protect, defend, and console us. She will never leave our side. And when the moment comes, and we are called by Jesus to mount the wood of the Cross along with him, she will be there, at the foot of the Cross urging us on. And then, she stays. She will stay with us until we take our dying breath. Then, with St. Joseph, she will lead us to Jesus, the merciful and just judge.

So, let us not fear to give ourselves completely over to Mary. She has proven to be a good mother to Jesus, me, and if you will have her, you too! We would do well to consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart. She said at Fatima that her Immaculate Heart would be our refuge, so let us all rest in her heart.

As you can see, this whole journey began with, and hopefully will end with, our Lady of Fatima. May she be praised!