Pentecost Continues Today, Journey of Faith

Pentecost Continues Today, Journey of Faith

On this beautiful feast of Pentecost, we affirm that the Holy Spirit is alive in the Church.  Diverse Spirit-given gifts flourish in Christian communities across the globe.  Today we Catholics are privileged to live in a renewed Church, in a unique age of “a new Pentecost”!  Recall that just last year the Church rejoiced as she observed the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII in 1962.  Vatican II was only the 21st ecumenical council in the Church’s entire history.

A Spirit-inspired Pope.  Pope John XXIII, canonized a saint by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014, composed a prayer that the Council might be “a new Pentecost.”  His intentions for Vatican II became clear: spiritual renewal of the Church, pastoral updating (aggiornamento), and the promotion of Christian unity.  Many people were surprised that this “caretaker” pope (he was already 77 years old) would undertake such an enormous project. 

Vatican II extended through four sessions (1962-1965), bringing together some 2,500 bishops (12 Maryknoll bishops participated).  The Council produced 16 documents which capture its message of renewal for both the Church and the world.  Pope Francis continually promotes the Second Vatican Council and its dynamic vision of the Church.

Invoking Heavenly Assistance.  On Pentecost 1959 John XXIII established a preparatory commission; then on Pentecost 1960 he announced the structure of the preparatory period.  The Council formally opened on October 11, 1962, but exactly one week earlier on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi (October 4), the pope observed a “day of prayer for the Council.”  He also made a pilgrimage to Loreto and Assisi to implore Mary, “the first star of the Council,” and Saint Francis to intercede for this “great ecumenical meeting awaited by all.”

In Assisi John XXIII compared Vatican II with Pentecost; he prayed that the bishops would enter “the Council hall of Saint Peter’s Basilica as the Apostles and the first disciples of Jesus entered into the Cenacle [Upper Room].” 

  Implementing the Council.  When the first session of the Council concluded (December 8, 1962), Pope John spoke of his desire that “the acts of the Ecumenical Council meet with the generous and loyal response of the faithful.”  Indeed, the acceptance and continual implementation of Vatican II by everyone—clergy and lay faithful alike—remain urgent tasks today—60+ years after Saint John XXIII announced his launch of “a new Pentecost.”

According to the Spirit-inspired vision of John XXIII, when ordinary Catholics—you and I—fully accept the renewal of Vatican II, then and only then “will dawn that new Pentecost which is the object of our yearning—a Pentecost that will increase the Church’s wealth of spiritual strength and extend her maternal influence and saving power to every sphere of human endeavor.”  The words of today’s Gospel remain alive and urgent for us: “Receive the Holy Spirit….  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  We continually pray: “Come, Holy Spirit.”  Veni, Sancte Spiritus.

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Pentecost Sunday

Spirit of the living God

Who hovered above

the waters of Creation

and who descended on the Virgin Mary

making her the Ark of the New Covenant,

and who descended on the Apostles

thus birthing the Church,

and who transforms bread and wine

into the Body and Blood of Christ

at every Eucharist every day,

fall afresh on us who gather

in Christ’s name and at his command.

Renew our hearts and minds that we

might in turn renew your Church

all the better to bring the gospel

of Jesus Christ to every person on earth.

Purge every stain of sin from us

that nothing might mar the image and

likeness of God in which every person

was made.

Lead us, O Spirit of the living God,

where you would have us go

to those most in need of your truth,

grace and peace.

Help us remain true to the laws of Christ

and heal the wounds of division that separate

all the Christian Churches from one another that together

we might enter God’s kingdom here and in the world to come.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Mission: Keeping Jesus’ Memory Alive, Journey of Faith

Mission: Keeping Jesus’ Memory Alive, Journey of Faith

As we celebrate the feast of the Ascension today, we are reminded that the task of Christians is to preserve the dynamic, enriching, and salvific memory of Jesus.  Mission permeates the entire New Testament; some important mission texts are simply listed here: Matthew 28:16-20 (today’s Gospel); Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:45-48, 10:1-16; John 20:19-23, 13:12-15; Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 4:2-5.  All these passages contain Jesus’ “mission commands.”

Jesus’ Ten Mission Commandments.  Mission is for all of Jesus’ disciples—all baptized Christians.  Jesus gives us clear and specific instructions: (1) Missionary evangelization begins with God’s initiative, with Jesus’ choice.  Recall Jesus’ words: “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (Jn 15:16).  (2) Mission is not a personal or individual project.  Jesus sends his messengers out in pairs.  We understand that mission is a community endeavor of the Church; as followers of Jesus “we’re in this together” for a more effective witnessing.  (3) Recall that “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”  This was true in Jesus’ time and remains true today.  We turn to the Lord in prayer, asking for additional harvesters.

(4) Next, Jesus gives a brief, yet direct instruction: “Be on your way.”  Do not delay!  Don’t wait to start until all the details are in place and the perfect mission plan has been formulated.  Go, and go now!  (5) Remember that you will face many challenges; you will be like lambs in the midst of wolves.  Recognize that some people will welcome your message, while others will reject both you and your very mission.  Persecution for the faith is nothing new in Christianity.  (6) Jesus advises his missionaries to “travel light.”  Don’t let material “stuff” weigh you down and get in the way of your ministry of preaching Jesus’ Good News.

(7) The missioner is to extend Christ’s “mercy and compassion” to all (theme of Pope Francis’ 2015 visit to the Philippines).  Find like-minded people of peace; work closely with them.  (8) Be humble and accept what is offered in terms of food and accommodations.  Be content with the hospitality extended to you.  (9) Reach out to the sick and needy you encounter.  Recall Pope Francis’ advice to go to the margins, the peripheries, to the excluded in society.  (10) Make the announcement of Jesus’ Kingdom message your central emphasis; proclaim that “the reign of God near.”

Concluding Reflection.  As Christians we carry on the mission ministry that Jesus gave us.  We can be inspired by the well-known saying of Saint Teresa of Avila: “Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world.  Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.  Yours are the hands with which he is to bless others now.”

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Seventh Sunday of Easter

Ascension Sunday

Glory to Your resurrection, Lord Jesus,

that calls us to rise to new life in you.

Like the Apostles who stared up

into the sky when you ascended,

help us to wait patiently for your return

by doing good works of mercy

and forgiveness here on Earth.

We stand on your word, Lord Jesus Christ,

risen and ascended into heaven,

that you will not leave us orphaned here

but will remain with us in Spirit and in the

breaking of Bread in Your Name.

Until you return in glory, Lord,

may we never turn to other gods

to fill our now empty hearts

that long for your presence in our world,

but may we seek and find you in each tabernacle

no less than each person.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

A Truly Special Anniversary, Journey of Faith

A Truly Special Anniversary, Journey of Faith

Today’s Scripture readings all speak of God’s continuing and abiding presence with us.  The first reading narrates how God remains with the people of Samaria as they receive the Holy Spirit.  Next, the Apostle Peter speaks of Christ’s presence in people’s hearts.  In the Gospel Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, assuring his followers: “I will not leave you orphans” (Jn 14:18).  God’s loving presence has been shown to us in numerous ways.  Personally, since today is Mother’s Day, I think of how we have experienced genuine love from our dear parents.

Two Saintly Parents.  Since this year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-2023), I recall how her parents filled her with overflowing love.  Saints Louis and Zélie Martin were the first married couple canonized together in the history of the Church.  This took place on October 19, 2015, which is the same date that their daughter Thérèse was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 1997.

There are many interesting facts about the lives of Saints Louis and Zélie.  Originally, both attempted to enter religious life, but both were rejected.  Louis became a watchmaker and Zélie learned the trade of lacemaking.  They would eventually meet and be married on July 13, 1858 in Alenḉon, France.  They would have nine children, four of whom died as infants or small children.  The five who survived to adulthood would all enter religious life.

Numerous Challenges.  At the age of 45, when Thérèse was only four years old, Zélie died from breast cancer.  The family then moved to Lisieux, France to be near Zélie’s family.  After suffering from strokes and cerebral arteriosclerosis, Louis was placed in a mental hospital for three years.  When he was able to return home, his daughter Céline (the only one to have not yet entered the convent) cared for him until he died at the age of 70.

Wonderful Lessons.  These saints have much to teach us.  First, God is to have priority of place in all things.  Both Sunday and frequent daily Mass, as well as other religious practices, were essential parts of the Martin household.  Louis and Zélie shared these religious values with their daughters; they put God first and chose to rely on God’s loving providence.

Secondly, this married couple exemplified that trusting in God and patiently enduring tragedies are not mutually exclusive.  As mentioned earlier, four of their nine children died very young.  Yet, they did not lose their profound faith.  Thirdly, Saints Louis and Zélie created a home environment that was open to vocation, whether marriage, religious life, or priesthood.  They lived their faith together as husband and wife and shared it with their children.

Our Prayer.  Lord, on this Mother’s Day we pray for all mothers, fathers, and families.  Thank you for our own families and your love and presence we have experienced through them.  Saints Louis and Zélie, pray for us!

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Sixth Sunday of Easter

Mother’s Day

Bless our families with your Presence,

Lord God, source of all grace and good.

You, who call all Christians to be

living witnesses to your love,

may our children find in our homes

sanctuaries of peace, happiness and love.

Through the intercession of Saints

Louis and Zélie Martin, parents of

St. Therese of Lisieux, let our families

nurture our children to answer

Your call to prayer and holiness.

Help parents to be examples of mercy,

children to be seekers of truth,

Brothers and sisters to find in each other

a source of help and mutual respect

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

A Truly Special Anniversary, Journey of Faith

A Truly Special Anniversary, Journey of Faith

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus saying: “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10).  Reflecting on this passage about the “fullness of life,” I am reminded of a special anniversary the Church is celebrating this year: the 150th anniversary of the birth of Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-2023).  This “little flower” has helped many appreciate what “fullness of life” can mean.

Brief Life.  Marie Franҫoise Thérèse Martin was born in Alenҫon, France on January 2, 1873.  When she was fifteen years old and too young to enter the Carmelite Monastery, she pleaded her case before Pope Leo XIII; eventually permission was granted.  Two of her sisters had preceded her in Carmel.  Her exemplary parents Zélie and Louis Martin, the first couple ever canonized together in the Church’s history, were declared saints by Pope Francis on Mission Sunday, October 18, 2015.  The final years of Thérèse’s short life were spent within the cloister of an obscure convent.  She died of tuberculosis on September 30, 1897, at the tender age of twenty-four.

Inspiring Autobiography.  Thérèse would have probably attracted little notice, except for her posthumously published autobiographical manuscript, The Story of a Soul.  This work, written out of obedience to her superior, describes her experience and deep insights into the spiritual life.  Essentially, the work is about the path to holiness in everyday life, to true “fullness of life.”  Thérèse was canonized on May 17, 1925, only twenty-eight years after her death.  On December 14, 1927, Pope Pius XI proclaimed her the principal patroness, equal to Saint Francis Xavier, of all mission endeavors. 

Saint Thérèse did not found a religious order and never went to the missions.  However, she understood that what is important in the Christian life is great love and not great deeds. Thérèse, the saint of the “little way,” developed a spirituality of ordinariness, in which one offers each moment and every deed simply and lovingly to God.  Her famous title, the “Little Flower,” derives from her self-image as only one among millions of ordinary, little flowers on the hillside, each giving its all in joy and praise to God.  Thérèse is a source of deep hope to millions; they find in Thérèse their own spirituality, their “doable” and “livable” pathway of daily sanctification. 

Inspiring Wisdom.  We listen to brief excerpts from Thérèse’s profound insights.  “We can never have too much hope in God.  He gives in the measure we ask.”  “I love my littleness and my poverty; it is my blind hope in His mercy; this is my only treasure.”  “Merit is not to be found in doing much or in giving much, but rather in receiving and in loving much.”  “I have always wanted to become a saint….  In spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint.”  Indeed, Thérèse’s “little way” is a pathway for all of us desiring the “fullness of life.”

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


St. Therese of Lisieux

Lord, through the example, inspiration and

intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux

show me the Little Way that leads to

holiness, simplicity, heaven and you.

Help me rejoice in the everyday and 

ordinary events of life, knowing your love and grace

meet me here and everywhere.

You, who fashioned distant galaxies

as well as lilies and hummingbirds,

open my eyes to appreciate your

power and handiwork all around me.

Help me to pray in silence and sound,

in thoughts, prayers and even in nothingness.

Raise my mind to heavenly realms

even as my feet are firmly on the ground

that your reign spread over all the earth.

May each breath I draw me ever

closer to you by drawing me ever closer

to my friends, family and all people

who seek to walk in your ways and

live your love and truth .


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Our Journey to Emmaus, Journey of Faith

Our Journey to Emmaus, Journey of Faith

The narrative from Luke’s Gospel of the journey of two disciples to Emmaus is well known and loved (Lk 24:13-35).  We can imagine the scene: two men are walking; they are dejected, sad, and overwhelmed by recent events.  Jesus, their dear friend and presumed messiah, met with a terrible end: an ignoble death by crucifixion on Calvary.  There is nothing else to do: leave Jerusalem; return home to Emmaus; begin life all over again.  That chapter of life has been permanently closed!

As the two dejected pilgrims walk in sadness, a stranger joins them and asks the subject of their conversation.  They are in disbelief, and Cleophas wonders how the man could not possibly know about recent events in Jerusalem, in particular, the death of Jesus.  The disciples express their profound disappointment, noting that they had hoped that Jesus would liberate Israel.  Yes, they had hoped, but all such messianic expectations are now a thing of the past, gone forever.

Jesus’ “Pastoral” Approach.  We observe that Jesus seeks out his grieving disciples; he walks with them, listening to their story.  Then, he assists them by shedding light on their experience, drawing on the insights of Scripture—from Moses and all the prophets.  Although they had heard these biblical narratives frequently, they were still slow to believe.  Jesus even upbraids them, calling them “foolish men” who are “so slow to believe the full message of the prophets.”

By now they have reached Emmaus.  When Jesus shows his intention of going on further, the disciples press him to stay with them for the night.  Then, at the evening meal Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and shares it with them.   Finally, their eyes are opened; they recognize that this friendly stranger is none other than Jesus himself!  What a stupendous discovery!

Reactions of the Disciples.  Their “blind” eyes are opened.  They admit to each other that their hearts were on fire as they listened to Jesus on the road.  They knew it was Jesus though the Eucharistic action of taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing.  Surprisingly, they retrace their steps and return to Jerusalem to share their “Jesus-alive” experience.  Significantly, they undertake this perilous seven-mile journey in the dead of night!  Two difficult Jerusalem-Emmaus journeys on the same day!  No waiting until the next day to share this astounding news!

Sharing the Emmaus Experience.  Admittedly, we often seem to blindly walk without hope, burdened by our problems and disappointments, failing to recognize that Jesus is actually journeying with us.  We need the proclamation of Scripture and the celebration of the Eucharist (the two parts of the Mass) to open our eyes to recognize Jesus’ presence!  This “Jesus-experience” will lead us to proclaim Him to others—even in the night darkness of our contemporary world.  We seek to enflame others’ hearts with the good news that Jesus lives! 

Succinctly stated, the disciples’ Emmaus experience is truly our own experience as missionary disciples!

James H. Kroeger, M.M.



Forgive us for fleeing, Lord Jesus,

when your death on the cross robbed

our souls of hope, our minds of peace.

We had so wanted to believe you were

the one to restore God’s reign in

our sad and broken world.

Forgive our blindness, Lord Jesus,

when we refused to recognize you

in the fellow pilgrim on the way.

Yet oh, how our hearts burned within us

when our mysterious companion

opened the scriptures to us and showed

it was not all some terrible, tragic mistake.

As darkness descended and evening fell,

we invited you to abide with us.

And then at table you blessed and

broke the bread and opened our eyes

to the earth-shattering truth:

Jesus Christ Crucified and buried

is risen from the dead as he said.

Overflowing with irrepressible joy

and heedless of the danger

we run back to our friends still fearful

announcing the Dawn of a new day.

Alleluia! Amen!

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

An “Easter Candle” Story, Journey of Faith

An “Easter Candle” Story, Journey of Faith

With deep faith and courageous hope, Saint Maximilian Kolbe endured the extreme horrors of Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi concentration camp in Poland.  He proved that self-giving love and compassion can thrive even in extreme darkness and cruelty.  His heroic life inspired other prisoners, giving them hope that kindness and self-sacrifice were possible—even in Auschwitz.  This “factory of death” functioned from 1940 until 1945; studies demonstrate that between 1.1 and 1.5 million people perished there.

Heroic Love of Neighbor.  Maximilian’s final act of Christian service came on July 30, 1941.  Auschwitz had the rule that if anyone escaped from a cell-block, ten men would be consigned to an underground bunker and starved to death.  One man from Kolbe’s Cell-block 14A went missing (later it was discovered that he had drowned).  The commandant selected ten men to die.  One of them, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out: “My poor wife and children!  I will never see them again.”  Father Kolbe volunteered to take his place.  The commandant asked who he was.  Kolbe replied: “I am a Catholic priest.”  Kolbe’s offer was accepted. 

All ten were thrown into the starvation bunker.  To console them and ease their suffering, Kolbe led songs and prayers each day.  After two weeks four remained alive.  Needing the cell for more victims, the four were put to death by an injection of carbolic acid on August 14, 1941.  Franciszek Gajowniczek survived and returned to his wife; he lived to be 95 years old, though his children had perished during the war.  Pope John Paul II canonized Kolbe on October 10, 1982 in Saint Peter’s Square.  Along with other Auschwitz survivors, Franciszek Gajowniczek, wearing his striped prison uniform, was present at the moving ceremony (as was this writer who was in Rome for studies).    

Bearing Paschal Witness.  Today, when one visits the Auschwitz concentration camp and goes to the underground starvation bunker, one sees the paschal candle prominently displayed in the middle of the cell.  What a moving sight!  The Easter candle, symbol of Christ’s own death and resurrection, touches the core of Christian faith—your faith, my faith, the faith of Father Kolbe.  To pray (as did this writer in 2007) at the very site of the death chamber of Cell 18 where Kolbe manifested such profound self-giving inspires deep hope.  The “Saint of Auschwitz” genuinely lived the Gospel: “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).    

As already noted, the scene at the Auschwitz concentration camp places the paschal candle at the heart of life—with all its ugliness and yet with all its heroic Christian witness.  Jesus’ missionary-disciples place the crucified-risen Jesus at the center of life—with all its joys and sorrows.  Today on “Divine Mercy Sunday” and always, be a “paschal candle,” radiating the light of the risen Christ!  Serve the needy poor and those in distress, giving without counting the cost.      

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Mercy Sunday

Burn brightly in the darkest corners

of my heart, O Pascal Candle of new life!

shine with the glow and glory of sacrifice

that transforms wounds into healing,

sorrow into heavenly joy and

death into eternal peace and mercy!

O happy fault! O necessary sin of Adam

that drew down from highest heaven

so great a savior, redeemer and friend!

God grant me the courage to offer myself

for the happiness, healing and faith of all,

that the name of Jesus be praised and

the holy Gospel proclaimed in every

land by every tongue.

O Lord, enkindle in my repentant heart

the flame of devotion to your Reign

that the gates of hell collapse before

Your Word and peace and justice

Spring up where once evil, sin and darkness

ruled and ruined many souls.

May your mercy draw all the world

to your Sacred Heart now and evermore.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Easter Encounters, Journey of Faith

Easter Encounters, Journey of Faith

Allow me to tell you about a unique celebration of Easter from the Philippines, where I happily served as a missionary for over five decades.  Filipinos celebrate a ritual, known locally as the “meeting” (encuentro); it dramatizes the encounter of the risen Lord and his mother Mary on Easter morning. 

Popular Pageantry.  Here is how this country-wide popular ritual unfolds.  In the early morning darkness, two processions proceed through the town streets.  An all-male group follows the statue of the risen Christ; the women follow the sorrowful mother (mater dolorosa).  The sober, sad mood of Good Friday dominates the two processions.  Both groups, praying and singing, emerge into the town square where additional crowds are waiting.  They approach the arch of “meeting.”  The first light of dawn is breaking.

A white-clad angel is lowered ever so carefully from the arch.  She intones the Regina Caeli Laetare, Alleluia (Queen of Heaven Rejoice, Alleluia).  As the angel choirs break into their Easter chants, the lead angel removes the black veil and reveals Mary’s joyous face.  Mary meets her risen Son—to the wild, yet prayerful, enthusiasm of the expectant crowd.  Then the Eucharist is celebrated; the faithful hear the Gospel proclamation to become, like the first disciples, witnesses of the risen Lord.

Easter Experience.  The foregoing description of the Easter pageantry in the Philippines is, in fact, eminently faithful to the Gospel narratives; it follows a common five-point pattern that describes the “experience” of meeting the risen Lord.

(1)  There is a mood of sadness, fear, and despondency.  For example, Mary Magdalene weeping; the Emmaus disciples are returning home disappointed.

(2)  The initiative for the encounter comes from Jesus; he comes to Mary, but she thinks he is only the gardener; Jesus “the stranger” walks with the Emmaus disciples.

(3)  There is a greeting of peace and reconciliation.  Jesus says to his disciples: “Peace be with you.”  He personally calls Mary Magdalene by her name.

(4)  The high point comes in the moment of recognition.  The Emmaus disciples recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread; Mary addresses Jesus as “Rabbuni” (Teacher); John exclaims to Peter: “It is the Lord.”

(5)  A mission command from Jesus follows: “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.”  “Go, make disciples of all nations.”

Our Experience.  This five-point biblical pattern, found in the Filipino celebration, is a paradigm of our own Christian experience.  We often walk in darkness, failing to recognize Christ’s presence among us; he calls us by name to acknowledge his living presence; we need Word and Sacrament (the Eucharist) to heal our blindness; when we recognize that he is risen and alive, we are impelled into mission to announce the Good News to all.

Easter Greeting.  Indeed, Easter is all about meeting the crucified-risen Lord and keeping his personal presence alive in our lives.  May you continue to have a deep “encounter” with the risen Lord!

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Easter Sunday

My tears of sadness and broken heart

echo throughout the ages from Jerusalem

to my sorrowful home where the absence

of loved ones and departed friends

overshadows any hope of joy returning.

As the first rays of the new day break

through the darkness of endless night

an Angel in dazzling white asks:

“Why seek the living among the dead?”

Mary Magdalene’s mournful plea

resounds and echoes in my empty heart:

“Have you taken the body of my Lord?”

and then, against all hope or reason,

I hear a stranger call my name

pronouncing it full of love as no one else.

“My Lord! My Savior! My God!”

I would cling to you forever if I could.

But you, O Risen Jesus, have a mission

for me, your most humble and unworthy

disciple and servant: “go to my brothers

and sisters and share the Good News.”

Make me then your witness Lord,

to the ends of the earth no less than

to my family and friends.

Let my life be my proclamation:

“Jesus is risen! Jesus is with us!”

come, let us encounter him in our service

to others and in the Breaking of Bread.”

Alleluia! Amen!

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Imitating the Kenosis of Jesus, Journey of Faith

Imitating the Kenosis of Jesus, Journey of Faith

Today on Palm Sunday as the second reading, the Church gives us a beautiful Christological hymn from Saint Paul.  Philippians 2:6-11 speaks about the kenosis, the “self-emptying” of Jesus.  While maintaining the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus, Paul says that Jesus voluntarily condescended and “emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave” (v. 7); he did this in profound humility and freely accepted death on a cross.  God the Father has exulted Jesus through the resurrection: Jesus is Lord and Savior of the world. 

Voluntary Acceptance of Suffering.  Turning to the Apostle Paul, we note that he preached the Gospel by his life and example.  We know that vulnerability and acceptance of the cross authenticate mission.  In imitation of Christ who gave himself up to death—even for sinners (Rom 5:8), Paul considers his suffering for the sake of the Gospel as a participation in the sufferings of Christ (2 Cor 1:5-7).  Paul saw himself sharing in Christ’s kenosis (Phil 2:6-11) as he endured suffering.  Writing to Timothy, he says: “… join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling” (2 Tim 1:8-9). 

Paul recounts his numerous trials in the service of the Gospel; he mentions his imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks, travels, robberies, hard labor, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, and nakedness (cf. 2 Cor 11:23-27).  Paul notes, “I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake.  For it is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).  Can we like Paul say: “May I never boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14)?

Genuine Leadership.  In a 1977 book entitled Servant Leadership, Robert Greenleaf sought to describe the characteristics of an authentic leader, coining the term “servant leadership.”  However, in the eyes of this world, “servant leadership” is a contradiction in terms.  Why?  Because so often in this world, servants do not lead, and leaders do not serve.  Not so in the world of Jesus!

We all know that Satan’s motto is: “Non serviam.  I will not serve.”  And, those who are under Satan’s spell will tend to “Lord it over others” and “Make their importance felt.”  We need to have the attitude of John the Baptist, who said: “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).  I can only effectively act in imitation of Jesus if I learn the kenosis of servanthood.  In this way, we become authentic models of Christ’s call to generously serve our neighbors, following Paul’s exhortation: “Have this same mind in you that was in Jesus” (Phil 2:5). 

An Invitation.  Friends, during our Holy Week journey, we endeavor to deeply appreciate Jesus’ call to kenosis, voluntary self-emptying, genuine humble service.  We recall the oft-quoted words of Pope Francis: “Let us never forget that authentic power is service”! 

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Palm Sunday

Jesus, Messiah, Savior, Son of God!

with palms and songs of Hosanna

I welcome you into my heart,

and my soul as Lord of my life.

Accept my faults and weaknesses

and fill the void in my heart to overflowing

with your boundless grace and

unconditional love.

Bless my emptiness that it may be

a fitting receptacle of your Spirit.

you who emptied yourself that you might

enter fully into our world of longing and

help me never to be satisfied

with anything less than your love.

I offer you my past, with its wounds;

my present, with its failures and disappointments;

and my future with its uncertainties.

Give me only your love and your grace

and let these be enough for me.

Let me drink fully from the wellspring

of your mercy and make up

with my sufferings whatever is lacking

for my deliverance and salvation.

May the radiance of your Cross

dispel all darkness and doubt

that I might join the saints and angels

in singing your praises forever.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Emerging from Our Tombs, Journey of Faith

Emerging from Our Tombs, Journey of Faith

Today, on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we hear the astounding story of the resurrection of Lazarus.  There is a marvelous amount of detail in this Gospel account!  We learn so much about Jesus, his person, his mission, his compassionate heart.

Authentically Human.  This narrative reveals Jesus’ genuine humanity.  It shows his deep friendship with Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary.  His human emotions are revealed; the Gospel notes that he “was troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions.”  Then, “Jesus began to weep, which caused the Jews to remark, ‘See how much he loved him!’”  Yes, Jesus wept!  Indeed, Jesus is genuinely human, fully sharing our humanity!    

Vatican II expressed the mystery of God-made-man in a beautiful, poetic way: “For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every person.  He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice, and loved with a human heart”.  Though divine, Jesus was totally, fully, completely human.

Solidarity in Suffering.  The Gospel tells us that when Lazarus fell ill, “the sisters sent word to Jesus to inform him, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’”  Jesus departs for Bethany.  He is met by Mary who says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would never have died.”  Troubled in spirit, Jesus approaches the tomb of Lazarus, who had been dead for four days.  He asks that the stone covering the tomb be removed.  Then Jesus calls out loudly, “Lazarus, come out!”  Suggestion: Allow your imagination to recreate this scene and reflect upon it!

Opening our Tombs.  Pope Francis, reflecting on this Gospel passage, offers some profound insights.  He notes: “Christ is not resigned to the tombs that we have built for ourselves with our choice for evil and death, with our errors, with our sins.  He is not resigned to this!  He invites us, almost orders us, to come out of the tomb in which our sins have buried us.  He calls us insistently to come out of the darkness of that prison in which we are enclosed, content with a false, selfish and mediocre life.”

Francis continues: “It is an invitation to let ourselves be freed from the “bandages,” from the bandages of pride.  For pride makes us slaves, slaves to ourselves, slaves to so many idols, so many things.  Our resurrection begins here: when we decide to obey Jesus’ command by coming out into the light, into life….  Jesus’ act of raising Lazarus shows the extent to which the power of God’s grace can go….  There is no limit to the divine mercy offered to everyone!”

Imploring Mary’s Assistance.  Pope Francis, concluding his “resurrection of Lazarus” reflection, turns to Mary.  “May the Virgin Mary help us be compassionate like her son Jesus, who made our suffering his own.”  Mary, assist us to become “a reflection of God’s love and tenderness.”

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Fifth Sunday of Lent

Mary, Mother of Sorrow and
Mother of Mercy, turn your gaze upon me

Who struggle here below to be true to 

The Way revealed by your Son

Through his life, teachings, Passion, Death

And glorious Resurrection.

Through his holy Incarnation he sanctified

All humanity, and by entering into

The human condition he revealed God’s Glory by weeping at the tomb

Of his friend, Lazarus, and calling him

Forth from the tomb to new life.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,

That Jesus might call us from our tombs

Of persistent sins, addictions,

Cruelties and indifference. Extend your Blessed hands of mercy and unbind us

From the bonds of unhealthy habits.

Set us free to live life to the fullest

Unfettered and free, in Jesus’ name.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Light for Blind Eyes, Journey of Faith

Light for Blind Eyes, Journey of Faith

As we read the scriptures during Lent, we should recall that the readings are specifically chosen to be a “catechesis” [faith instruction] for those who will be baptized during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday; we all renew our baptismal promises during that liturgy.  Thus, we ask: What is today’s Gospel (Jn 9:1-41) of the “man born blind” teaching us about our faith and the person of Jesus?

John the Evangelist.  This Gospel writer uses the word “semeia” to describe Jesus’ miracles.  These special deeds are “signs” pointing us to Jesus himself.  Today’s healing of the blind man is a sign of Jesus’ power; it is also a sign of Jesus’ compassion for the needy.  Truly, Jesus’ power is manifested precisely through his deeds of mercy.  Likewise, our acts of merciful compassion manifest God’s love flowing out to others through our lives of generous service.

Some of the Jews refused to believe that the blind man was actually healed by Jesus.  However, the man himself confessed his faith: “I do believe, Lord.”  Jesus added: “I came into this world … to make the sightless see and the seeing blind.” 

First Encyclical.  Reflecting on phenomenal gift of human sight or vision, this writer recalls that first encyclical of Pope Francis was Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), issued on June 29, 2013.  The following are some “points to ponder” drawn from Pope Francis’ spiritual wisdom.

“There is an urgent need, then, to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim.  The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence” (4).

► “Faith’s way of seeing things is centered on Christ….  Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing” (20, 18).

► “Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes” (26).

► “The Eucharist is precious nourishment for faith: an encounter with Christ truly present in the supreme act of his love, the life-giving gift of himself….  In the Eucharist we learn to see the heights and depths of reality” (44).

► “Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.  To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence …” (57).

► “Mother of Jesus, help our faith!  Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call….  Remind us that those who believe are never alone…. Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path” (60).

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Fourth Sunday of Lent

O radient light, O sun divine!

Of God the Father’s deathless face!

Who from the first moment of Creation

Rose up in splendor that all things might

Reveal and reflect your truth, your beauty,

Your majesty and your power.

Protect me from ego, pride and ignorance

That I might never again walk in darkness.

But let the glory of your resurrection

Dispel all evil and error in my mind.

O morning star of love and grace

Light the way I should go and

Bring me into fuller communion

With your saints and angels.

O Son of God and source of life!

May my life be a mirror of your love

To everyone I meet, that even in

The darkest valley of death and despair

Your Cross might conquer all sin

Heal all wounds and raise us all

To that kingdom where you live and reign

With the Father and Holy Spirit,

God, for ever and ever.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)


We are a Catholic Society of priests and brothers based in the United States. We are dedicated to missionary work overseas in over 20 countries. Additionally, we animate Catholics in the United States to follow their own baptismal call to share God’s compassion and love with the poor, the sick, and all those in need.


L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Fr. Lance P. Nadeau, Fr. James M. Lynch, Fr. Timothy O. Kilkelly, Fr. Juan Montes Zúñiga)

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is overseen by our General Council, led by Superior General Rev. Lance P. Nadeau, M.M.

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L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Our Co-Founders Father Price and Father Walsh)





(Africa) Education and Formation of African Clergy

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Africa Region will provide tuition assistance to African clergy, male and female religious at institutes of higher education or specialized training. Read More

Stories of Our Global Mission

The calling of a lifetime
The life of a Maryknoll missioner is challenging, fulfilling, and deeply rewarding. Follow your baptismal call to mission by sharing God’s compassion with the poor, the sick, and people most in need.