Thursday, October 19, 2023


September 28

There are dozens of devotions to Mary, but one that has grown in popularity among the Catholic faithful in recent years has an interesting and unusual title: Mary, Undoer of Knots.

The devotion is centered on an image of Our Lady untying a series of knots in a long wedding ribbon. The devotion originated with a troubled marriage on the brink of divorce that was restored to health through Our Lady’s intercession. This event was afterwards memorialized in a painting of the Blessed Mother serenely untying the knotted wedding ribbon which represented the couple’s marital disharmony.

This devotion has become famous around the world because it is a favorite of the Holy Father, Pope Francis. It has now taken root among the faithful as an efficacious means of turning to Mary’s intercession for life’s most difficult problems. We give her our “knots” so that she can unravel them.

God’s providence never leaves us without a remedy; in His loving mercy, He always gives us what we need when we need it. He sees the bad state of our souls, the poor quality of our relationships, and the harmful condition of our societies—and this is not how He wants us to live. Christ died to set men free from sin, so that we could be properly ordered, so that we could be in right relationship with Him and with one another, living in peace and justice. When we go astray, individually or collectively, He always points to a path that will lead us back to Him. The way that He leads us back to Himself is the same way that He came to us: through His Mother.

Christ is so good that He not only wants us to return to Him, He also wants to heal the woundedness we incurred while living outside His will. He knows that we have reaped a tangled mess on account of our own sins and the sins of others. Who better to set things in order than His good and wise Mother? Just as a child goes to its mother with a hopelessly-tangled mess of knots, so too we go to Our Lady.

Mary Undoer of Knots is the devotion that reminds us that we are at war in the battle for our souls and our families. She will take our knots—which are made up of everything that is not the will of God for our lives—and unravel them one by one.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023


Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason

Signs of a Pure Heart
Lyndol Lyons

A pure heart is one of life’s most valuable possessions and can make people feel loved, wanted, and safe.
It doesn’t mean not having any faults, but rather without any hidden intentions. It’s not about always being right or perfect, but rather about doing your best to do the right thing. It also means that when you do wrong or act unkindly, you regret it and know that you need to change for the better. A pure heart is something to aspire to – so here are 21 signs that show if yours is pure! Let’s dive in.

1) Always being honest
Being honest is one of the most important qualities to have. It’s important because it sets an excellent example for people around you and shows that you’re trustworthy. The more honest someone is, the more likely it is that they’re a good person overall. Honesty isn’t just about what you say – it’s also about what you do. If someone has an issue with honesty, they might not be able to keep their promises or obligations to others. That means if someone says they’ll do something for you but then doesn’t follow through, there’s probably something wrong with them. If you find yourself constantly having to forgive someone for being dishonest with you, try giving them the benefit of the doubt one last time before moving on from them for good!

2) Not judging others
It’s always refreshing to meet someone who doesn’t judge others. They’re able to have a genuine, authentic conversation with people without any judgment. This person will be the one who listens when they’re needed most, offers advice when they’re asked for it, and doesn’t make you feel like there’s something wrong with you when you need their help. If you find yourself in need of some love or encouragement, this person won’t hesitate to offer their support, and this is another substantial telltale sign of having a pure heart!

3) Not having a one-size-fits-all solution
Ever noticed that you understand how unique is your relationship? The truth is that no relationship has a one-size-fits-all solution. My own experience is that most relationship advice from friends and family just ends up backfiring. My own struggle with being sincere with my partner last year led me to try something new.

4) Choosing your words wisely
A pure heart is a gift to be shared with the world. One way that a person can show a pure heart is by choosing their words wisely. We all know how easily we can let our emotions get the best of us and try to defend ourselves when someone says something we don’t like. Whether it’s an insult, a disagreement, or honest feedback, it’s easy to get flustered and lash out in response. But if you want to signal that you have a pure heart, one good way is by choosing your words wisely. Even if you feel like the other person is wrong and they should apologize, you should always choose kindness and love over anger. Yes, it might be hard at first to control your emotions and say something nice back. But ultimately, this will help build relationships with others while also protecting your own purity of heart.

5) Talking less and listening more
One of the most important ways to show that you have a pure heart is by listening to what others have to say. People can’t help but open up to someone who listens well. People will often tell you their deepest secrets if you’re a good listener because they know you won’t judge them. A pure heart means that you’re willing to give people your time and attention without worrying about what’s in it for yourself. This doesn’t mean that you always need to agree with what is being said, but listening can be an act of compassion. It may be hard at first, but practicing the art of listening will make you a better friend. You’ll be able to hear more of what they are trying to tell you, and your conversation will be richer because of it! Listening is one of the most critical life skills, and it’s something that everyone should practice at least once or twice every day. You’ll be amazed by what your ears pick up when listening attentively!

6) Looking out for others
One of the signs of a pure heart is looking out for others. People with a pure heart always put others first and are willing to go out of their way to make sure other people are taken care of. If you know someone who does this, let them know how much it means to you today. They deserve to hear your encouragement!

7) Accepting responsibility
A person with a pure heart will accept responsibility for their actions. If they do something they’re not proud of; they will own up to it and make sure to apologize. Even if the other person is the one who made them mad. The best way to know if someone has a pure heart is if they are able to admit when they make mistakes. If they can admit that they did something wrong and show genuine regret, then you know you’ve found a true friend. You see, love can be beautiful, but it can also be really painful. During a recent struggle over sincerity in my relationship, I did something unorthodox.

8) Doing things for the right reasons
A pure heart is always about doing things for the right reasons. If someone does something because they want to make a difference and not because they want to make money or try to get ahead, their heart is pure. The idea of having a “pure” heart can be defined as being selfless and caring more about others than yourself while also striving towards making positive changes in your life through actions that are kinder, gentler, and less selfish than those you would take otherwise. It’s often said that if we could all have this type of attitude, it would lead us into an era where there wouldn’t be any wars or violence; everyone just wants what’s best for humanity.

9) Being humble and having humility
A person with a pure heart is humble. They always try to look for the good in others instead of focusing on their own flaws. They don't brag about how awesome they are or what their accomplishments are. Instead, they look for the good in others and are willing to praise or encourage them when they see it. A pure heart is willing to praise others without expecting anything in return. This is a sign that someone has a pure heart and isn’t worried about what other people think of them. It’s easy to compare ourselves to others, especially those who have what we want. But the truth is, if we know how to be humble and grateful for all that we have, then we’ll never feel the need to compare ourselves with others. If you’re feeling bad, it may be time to take a look at your life and see how you might need to change your mindset. When we can humbly admit our vulnerabilities, we’re on track to living a more fulfilled and happier life because we’re not pushing ourselves down and others up. We all make mistakes, and we all have flaws—that’s what makes us human. A humble person is open-minded and willing to learn from others about themselves, which will help them grow as an individual.

10) Being accountable
Some people might think that they’ll never be forgiven if they make a mistake. But it’s not true! Everyone makes mistakes, and you’re not any less of a person just because you do. Allowing yourself to accept your mistakes will help you move on from them more quickly. When you forgive yourself for making a mistake, you can let go of that baggage and start fresh. Accepting your mistakes doesn’t mean that you’re giving up on what you’ve done wrong; it means that you’re accepting responsibility for your actions, striving to improve next time around, and taking steps in the right direction. You don’t have to feel ashamed about making an error in judgment; it’s part of life!

11) Empathy
One sign of a pure heart is empathy. When you walk into someone’s room, how do you greet them? Are you there to start a conversation, or are you just trying to finish one? Empathy is about understanding someone’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. This means that you’re able to see past your own perspective and align with the person in front of you. It takes courage to be open to someone else’s pain. But by being empathetic, we don’t needlessly cause somebody pain or make somebody feel like they’re not heard. It also helps us avoid miscommunication because by empathizing with somebody, we can better understand where they’re coming from and what they want from us.

12) Kindness
Kindness is Key! Are you kind to yourself and others? If not, it’s time to work on this area. Kindness is a sign of a pure heart. When we are kind, our perspective changes. We are less likely to judge people or make assumptions about them, which makes us more forgiving others' faults When we are kind, we see the good in people and lift them up. If there’s one thing you can do for yourself right now, it’s to practice kindness towards others and yourself. It will make you feel good inside and out. If you find yourself feeling goodwill towards others, that’s one sign that your heart is pure.

13) Love (of self and others)
A pure heart is compassionate and sensitive to the needs of others. It’s not about turning a blind eye to suffering; it’s about knowing that we all need love and finding ways to show compassion. This includes self-love. There are many ways you can show yourself love: eat healthily, take care of your body, exercise, and so on. But one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to learn how to forgive yourself. No matter what mistakes you’ve made in life or how many times you’ve done something wrong, it’s possible to move forward and learn from those mistakes if we’re willing to forgive ourselves and give ourselves a second chance.

14) Gratitude
If your heart is pure, you will always find something to be grateful for. Do you find yourself walking around with a complaining tone? Do you think of all the things that are wrong in your life and forget about the blessings? If this sounds like you, try being grateful more often. Gratitude opens up space for more positive feelings and thoughts like joy and love. Gratitude is a powerful way to fill up your heart even when times are tough. The more grateful you are, the easier it will be to stay positive when challenges come your way.

15) Generosity
One of the most important ways to know if you have a pure heart is through your generosity. If you’re generous with others, that’s a sign that you’re compassionate and loving towards people. To be generous, donate your time or money to charities or offer someone help when they need it. With such an attitude, you’ll be sure to make this world a better place for your fellow humans. By being generous, you can help others when they need it most. And the great thing about generosity is that it doesn’t cost anything! You can even help someone by just giving them your time and attention.

16) Humor
One sign of a pure heart is humor. This doesn’t mean you need to make jokes all the time or laugh at every opportunity, but it means that you will find joy in small things, like a funny TV show or a silly joke. Humor is an important quality to have because it helps us get through tough times. It also helps us enjoy life instead of dwelling on our problems. Having a sense of humor also makes others happy and allows us to share joy with others. So go ahead and laugh away your worries!

17) Compassion
Another sign of a pure heart is compassion. When you’re filled with compassion, you will show care and concern for others. You will be willing to do whatever it takes to help them, whether that’s giving them advice or offering your time as a listening ear. People who are compassionate don’t get angry when they see someone struggling with their problems. They understand that everyone has their own way of dealing with life and can’t be expected to deal with the same things as others. Compassion is the key to showing everyone kindness and understanding. You’ll feel better about yourself, and you’ll have more love in your heart for others. That’s a powerful combination!

18) Forgiveness
Have you ever noticed the difference between feeling good and feeling inadequate? And how sometimes, life just feels unfair? If so, then it’s probably time to take a look at your heart. It takes strength to forgive. It takes grace to let go of resentment. But it also creates space in your life for peace. Forgiveness is an act of self-love that can have far-reaching consequences. Forgiveness means letting go of anger and bitterness so you can live with peace and joy. You’ll be able to open up more fully to the world around you, rather than being stuck in the past. A pure heart is one that can find peace even through difficult circumstances. And forgiveness is what will get you there.

19) You want the best for others
When someone has a pure heart, they’re always rooting for you. They want you to succeed in whatever you do, and they want to be your friend. They’ll be there for you no matter what happens, and they’ll always be rooting for you. It’s hard to find someone like that, but if you’re lucky enough to find them, don’t let them go.

20) You’re not jealous of others
They know that your passion isn’t a threat to their own. If they have a passion of their own, they won’t try to take yours away from you. They respect it and admire it because it’s part of who you are. What do they think is the worst thing that could happen? That the two of you will become rivals? No way! If anything, they’ll be excited for you. You can tell them about your dreams and goals, and they’ll support you every step of the way.

21) You deal with conflict efficiently.
They don’t let conflict get in the way of your friendship. If there’s a fight that needs to be resolved, they’ll make it happen. They’re not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, but they do it in a peaceful way that doesn’t lead to tension or fighting. They know how to make you feel better even when things are tense, and they’re willing to make sacrifices if it means keeping the peace between you two.

A pure heart is both a gift and a goal. Pure Hearted people are kind and generous with others without ulterior motives. It means that they show their love by practicing selflessness, and they want others to benefit and see the joy of living!

Sunday, October 15, 2023


On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide
for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice
wines, juicy rich food and pure choice wines.
Isaiah 25:6-10a 

Four years ago, on my 75th birthday, my good friend Christina Lee Brown hosted a fabulous birthday party for me at her hill top home overlooking the Ohio River. Over 75 friends and acquaintances attended this to-die-for birthday party. It was, by far, the best birthday party I have ever had in my entire life for many reasons. Growing up I could have never imagined such an event! 

It was "heavenly" on many fronts. The weather was perfect, the beautiful food was delicious, the best bourbon and wine flowed freely, and the big crowd was representative of my broad variety of friends. Believers, unbelievers and everything in between were there. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics and atheists were there.  They were black, white, yellow and brown.  They were rich and they were poor. They were from the city and the were from the country. I was able, that day, to taste a "bit of heaven" on my 75th birthday. Someday I hope to experience forever that even better "mountaintop banquet" in heaven that our first reading talks about today. 

Did you know that in the scriptures, heaven is compared more to a fabulous banquet than any thing else? How better to describe an idea like “heaven” to a bunch of people who were always on the edge of starvation than an “all you can eat buffet!” Not just a cheap Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast, but a gourmet, all you can eat, buffet!  Our first reading from Isaiah compares heaven to a “feast of rich food and  choice wines,” then Isaiah adds, “ juicy rich food and  pure choice wines!”

Jesus started his ministry talking about the feast that awaits us in heaven! The very first miracle that Jesus worked, at the marriage feast of Cana, was not the multiplication of bread, the basics of life, but the multiplication of wine, the celebratory part of life! Based upon the size of the containers, commentators point out that the total new wine created by Jesus would been around 180 gallons. That is the equivalent of about 900 bottles. The last thing Jesus did was to establish the Eucharist so that we could dine, not only with him, but on him, as often as we want,  until he comes again to take us to his table in heaven!

By dining with so-called “sinners” and “outcasts,” Jesus sent the message that all of us, no matter how flawed we are, are created in the image and likeness of God and are loved by him! Because Jesus accepted them, enough to eat with them, the message these “sinners” and “outcasts” received from Jesus was that they too were acceptable to God!  One of my favorite parables, today's gospel, the parable of the wedding feast puts it very clearly.  In that parable, Jesus compares heaven to a royal wedding feast to which “the good and bad alike” are invited!  Being invited is not about our goodness, but about God’s generosity!

Nowhere in the gospels is this idea driven home more, than in the parables! (1) In one parable, God is compared to a shepherd who is so eaten up with love for his 100 sheep that he does something remarkable. Instead of being happy with 99 out of 100, he leaves the 99 obedient sheep out in the wasteland to go looking for the one lost sheep! Finding it, he calls in his friends and neighbors holds a party! (2) In another parable, God is compared to a woman. You heard me! God is compared to a woman! This woman has a headpiece made of 10 silver coins. It was probably her dowry for marriage! She loses one in the dust of her dimly-lit, mud-floored house! In a panic, she lights a lamp and scours the floor until she finds it! Finding it, she calls in her friends and neighbors and holds a party! (3) In another parable, God is compared to a father with two sons. One son gets lost, leaves homes and gets down with the pigs. The other son stays home, follows all the rules and does all that is expected of him. Even before the lost son comes home, even before he has time to give his well-rehearsed apology, the father runs down the road to met him, puts a gold ring and a fabulous robe on him, kills a fatted calf and throws a party. (4) In the gospel parable today, God is compared to the wedding feast of a king's son, where the good and bad alike are welcomed! The point of all these parables is this: God loves us no matter what we do or fail to do  and God has a special place in his heart for the hurting! This message caused rejects, sinners and outcasts to flock to Jesus likes bees to flowers on one hand, and angered the religious establishment to the point of frenzy on the other!  Because they believed God’s love was conditional, these religious authorities plotted and finally put Jesus to death for this revolutionary and dangerous new message!

If it is preached with clarity and conviction, this “good news” of  God’s unconditional love for all people, especially the lost and hurting, is just as powerful today as it was back then! When I was pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption, I preached this message to the outcasts and rejects of our day: street people, divorcees, gays, minorities of all kinds and people who have been judged, hurt and condemned by the church and society!  This message caused great numbers to flock to the cathedral from 67 zip codes to hear it! 

I could not have preached that message if I had not myself needed to hear it.  I preached it because I needed to hear it!  I have learned one thing in my 53 years as a priest: no matter how smart, materially blessed, how talented, how religiously orthodox or how well-connected, there is a wounded part of all of us that needs to be healed and needs to be loved. That is just as true of the Pope as it is of the saddest street person!  This fact reminds me of the movie, ON GOLDEN POND.  In that movie, Henry Fonda is an old man, frustrated with getting old and dependent. Filled with anger about his situation, he is demanding, hard-headed and mean-spirited. One day, after attacking his daughter, Jane Fonda, and leaving her in tears, her mother played by Catherine Hepburn, tries to console her by asking her to put it in perspective. She makes this beautiful insight into humanity, “My dear, if you care enough, you can look deeply and closely at him and behind all that, you will realize that he is doing the best he can!” 

My, friends, if God can see beyond our sins and weaknesses and see that person created in his image and likeness, surely we can do the same for each other! Most people, I believe, are doing the best they can!  We see externals. God sees into the heart.  The good news is that we don’t have to be perfect to be good enough for God! As Albert Schweitzer put it, "You don't have to be an angel to be a saint!"  

Lastly, let me add something that I add at every funeral.  If there is any unfinished business between you and the deceased, let it go! They did the best they could and so did you! It seems to be a natural tendency for the mind, at times like that, to think that it would have turned out differently if we had only done this or hadn’t done that! Let it go! You did all you could do! God has forgiven them. He has forgiven you. Now you need to forgive yourselves if there is anything left undone or unsaid! They are at peace! They are with God!  The lost sheep has been found! The lost coin has been retrieved. The lost child has come home! 

Let us start celebrating, even now, our entry into eternal life. God has “spread a table before us,” “a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy rich food and pure choice wines” - not because we deserve it, but simply because God loves us so much!