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Beauty from Ashes

June 23, 2015


One year ago on Wednesday was the worst day of my life – the day we found out we lost Mary Claire.

In the midst of a terrible, emotional experience it seems like you remember nothing.  But, over the course of the next year, memories trickle back.

I’ll never forget the nurse trying to find a heartbeat, trying to stay positive and let us believe that, surely, everything was going to be ok.  Our worst fears were realized in that tiny body slumped in the corner of the sonogram screen, her perfectly formed body mocking us, leaving us to wonder what went wrong (we eventually learned it was an umbilical cord accident).

Mary Claire was our fifth child.  We were blessed to have four near-flawless pregnancies before her.  The day we found out that she was born into heaven was our sixteen week check up – the exciting one – the one where you can first get a reliable read on the gender.

I took off work and we sent the other kids to friends’ houses for the morning.  They were beyond excited to have us home so they could find out whether baby number five would tilt the scales in the direction of the boys or girls (we have two of each).  It took a while that morning for Michelle and I to split up and collect the kids from their various locations.  We sat them down on the couch, trying not to cry as we let them know what had happened.  It was awful. Nothing prepares you for sitting in front of our your children to let them know that they are not going to get to meet the sister (or brother) they were so excited to hear about when you left the house a few hours earlier.  I never imagined what it would be like to have to be the one to introduce my children to real, substantial loss.  The older kids sobbed uncontrollably.  The two “little” ones cried as much in confusion as anything.

The next few days were as challenging as any I remember.  I hardly slept, expecting that at any moment Michelle would deliver the remains of our daughter.  We cried a lot. We prayed a lot.  And we both shared a sense of peace in the midst of horrendous pain that this little life was filled with great meaning, even if we couldn’t see anything but hurt in that moment. Family came and friends rallied around us.

Even as we dealt with our loss spiritually and emotionally, we were faced with all the unpleasantries of dealing with it physically.  It doesn’t take long before the conversation with medical providers turns from one of a baby to one of “tissue” to be removed. A good friend summed it up well when he said, “at every turn you just want to yell at people and say, dammit, that’s my baby you’re talking about!”

I understand that the goal is to help people compartmentalize and deal with medical realities, but I couldn’t help but feel like everything turned cold.  God bless the woman from the hospital who called, just hours after we found out that Mary Claire was lost, to let me know that payment would be due in full before we checked in a few days later.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I lashed out at her.  I know she was just doing her job, but no phone call has ever made me more angry in my life.

“Ma’am, I understand this isn’t your fault, but this phone call really sucks,” I told her, “I can’t imagine a less compassionate or more dehumanizing way of dealing with people than this.  I hope you’ll pass that message along to whoever thinks this is the proper way to deal with people in a time of loss”

“I know,” she said, “it’s the part of my job I hate the most.  I’m very sorry.”

We shared a moment of mutual understanding, and then I began reading my sixteen digit credit card number to her.

In the midst of all the difficulty and challenge, there was one bright spot.  Through friends we learned about a funeral home and cemetery that had special services for families like us.  After a few phone calls, I reached a man named Jimmy Shields at Our Lady of the Rosary cemetery.  He connected me with Gabriel’s funeral home in Georgetown.  After “the procedure,” Gabriel’s would pick up Mary Claire’s remains, dignify them, and deliver her in a small casket to the gravesite at Our Lady of the Rosary – where small 2×3 foot plots were available in a remembrance garden.  All of these services were offered to us free of charge.

We made the arrangements and, after some discussion, Michelle and I agreed that we’d love to be surrounded by friends when we interred our daughter a few days later.  I made one simple post on Facebook:

On Tuesday, Michelle and I learned that baby #5, Mary Claire Williston, was born directly into Heaven.

It has been a hard week, but we will celebrate her brief life in a small service at 9:30a.m. on Saturday at Our Lady of the Rosary Cemetery in Georgetown, Texas.

All are welcome.

That Saturday, about 50 friends and family members showed up to stand by our side as we celebrate Mary Claire and laid her to rest.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Michelle and I started getting beautiful messages from people who attended the service that day, and even from a few who couldn’t be with us.  They shared not just condolences, but testimonies of the way that their lives had been impacted by Mary Claire’s.  People shared with us deep and profound truths God had showed them through our suffering. They told us about how Mary Claire had forced some things to the surface of their own hearts and how they experienced great healing as a result.  Time and time again, people thanked us for being so transparent with what we were experiencing.  The first laughter that really entered our lives again after the loss of Mary Claire was the crying sort of laughter of disbelief in the way that God was magnifying Mary Claire’s life through the impact she had on others.

We marveled at how the services that were offered to us through Our Lady of the Rosary and the Gabriel’s funeral home were not just a blessing to us,  they were the conduit through which we could offer her life to bear witness to others.

“If one little life could have so much impact,” I began thinking, “what would happen if burial of miscarried children became the norm?”

I sat on this thought for about nine months.  I watched as friends around the state experienced similar loss but struggled to find burial options.  One evening, I told Michelle what had been on my mind – “what if we formed a non-profit organization that sought to take what’s done in Georgetown and expand it around the state of Texas?”

She smiled in what seemed like disbelief.

“We have to do that…” she said.

This brings us to one year later.  One year ago we found out that our Mary Claire was born into heaven.  Today we announce that The Mary Claire Project is born into the world.

event-brite-logoWe’ve been busy over the last couple of months, jumping through all of the hoops to get organized in the State of Texas and recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)3 organization.  But we’re finished with all of that we’re ready to get to work, expanding the access of families impacted by miscarriage or stillbirth to low or no cost burial options.

To get this work underway, we’re looking to raise at least $25,000 in the next two weeks. In the next six months, it’s our goal to create a new, reliable source of caskets for grieving families (taking the burden off the 70 year old man who currently makes them for the Georgetown offering), expand the offering to at least one additional cemetery and partner with at least one additional funeral home to assist families in proximity to that cemetery.

Of course, our longer-term goals will be much loftier.  We’re working on a number of other sources of funding to sustain the work of The Mary Claire Project, but we need your help to get started.

Please take a few moments to prayerfully consider giving to The Mary Claire Project or sharing our story with your social media contacts and encouraging them to give.

Michelle and I believe that The Mary Claire Project must exist in the world.  Please help us make this dream a reality with your tax deductible gift!

Click here to learn more and to support The Mary Claire Project.

“Like” The Mary Claire Project on Facebook.

Visit our website.

Remembering Who(se) We Are

June 15, 2015

clear vision of a sunset

Last week on This Pilgrim’s Progress, I began pondering the question- “why don’t Catholics evangelize?”  This week, I begin a series of posts reminding Catholics (and all Christians, really) what evangelism means. Popes John Paul, Benedict and Francis have all spoken about the necessity of a “new evangelization.” To understand what this means and the role we play in it, we have to look back at the first evangelization – the good news of Jesus Christ as it was shared with the whole world.

A few years ago, my grandmother began developing the telltale signs of dementia. She asked the same questions repeatedly and told the same stories over and over. Although doctors were able to slow the process, it didn’t take all that long before her mind effectively betrayed her.

For a time, my grandmother would call my dad and aunts. She would tell them wild tales about where she was going on vacation or which long-deceased relatives had been by to visit her. There were times when we were almost joyful that she believed these scenarios to be legitimate, but there was also great sorrow as we watched her continually lose her orientation to reality.

That’s the thing about the dementia that’s fascinating. It’s my understanding that, by and large, people don’t forget who they are. They forget the circumstances in which they live. They disconnect from reality and lose sight of how they fit into that reality.

With this comparison in mind, I put forward the notion that humanity is, in many ways, suffering from a form of dementia.   It isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around almost since the beginning.

In the book of Genesis, there’s a familiar story about a man, a woman, a snake and a piece of fruit. But before we even get to the snake part, there are a few brief moments of perfection.  God created the man, then put him back into a deep sleep.  The man wakes up, looks upon the newly formed woman and says, “this one, at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!”

You couldn’t imagine a more perfect scene than this.  There are two people in existence and they have a perfect relationship with one another.  And, not only do the man and woman have a perfect orientation towards one another, they also have a perfect orientation towards God.  They know they are His creation.  They know they were made for complementarity with one another. They have perfect grasp of who they are and the reality in which they live with one another.

Of course, all of this is about to change.  When the man and woman eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, suddenly their relationship towards one another becomes very muddy. They now think they need to hide from God.  Their orientation to all reality has been compromised. And we’ve all been living an effort to reorient ourselves, to overcome our spiritual dementia, ever since.

Flash forwards a couple of thousand years to the scene in which the angel of God visits a young woman named Mary. He calls her into the divine drama, promising that she will bear a child, though he is a virgin.   And, with her holy “yes,” she regains her orientation to God and others.

Late in the first chapter of Luke, we receive a song, or “canticle” (Luke 1:46-46) of Mary, in which she sings of her new found knowledge of where she fits into the eternal plan of God.  She sings of God’s faithfulness throughout all of human history of the role to which God has called her, saying “from now on will all ages call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).

With this divine interaction, Mary recognizes the role she now plays in eternity – she is reoriented to her divine purpose. And, while it sounds fantastic and impossible, this same recognition should be the expectation for every man and woman who call themselves Christians.

As recipients of the grace and love poured out by Jesus on the cross, we have a role to play in eternity. Like Mary, we are called into the eternal drama. It is only when we forget the privileged place we have in this drama that we fail in our role to be active for God.  Because of sin, we often underestimate our roles, thinking we’re just not cut out for eternal good.  We think that holiness is simply out of the question (more on this next week).

The challenge for each of us is, first, a reawakening, a new realization that we are a part of the kingdom of God. We are a part of the eternal Church and we have a role to play in eternity.  God has called us to action and given us, through Christ, the means to answer the call.

If we are to be active participants in a “new evangelization” we have to start by asking God what role He wants us to play. Who are the people in your life who need extra compassion and love? What words of truth are you called to speak into the lives of others? Ask God these questions and, like Mary, be ready to say yes and find yourself in the midst of the eternal, divine drama.

Mary’s faithfulness echoed throughout eternity and we are called to similar faithfulness and obedience.  The only question that remains – Are you ready to answer the call?

3 Reasons Catholics Don’t Evangelize

June 2, 2015

Close-up of Priest collar

This week, I received a good reminder.

It’s not something I should need to be reminded about, but it’s something I forget nonetheless.

The reminder came in the form of a homily posted online from Fr. Michael Schmitz entitled, “Make Disciples – What’s the Point of Church?” It was reflection upon the “great commission” at the end of Matthew’s gospel, in which Jesus commanded his apostles to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

As a church, Fr. Mike reminded me, our success or failure can be judged squarely on this one qualification – are we making disciples?  As individuals we face the same measure of success or failure – are we making disciples with our lives?

There’s an entire post I could write here about how we often see disciple-making as a role for “the church” – by which we mean the priests and staff on the payroll.  And this is exactly where we fail, by thinking even for a moment that “the church” means anything other than you, me and all of us working together to progress the Kingdom of God on earth.  We tend to embody a “that’s not MY job” kind of attitude when it comes to disciple-making.  “After all,” we think, “isn’t that what RCIA is for?”

By my estimation, there are a couple of reasons why we Catholics are so quick to shirk our responsibilities in this arena.

We feel woefully unprepared.  
Let’s be honest, Catholic Christianity is kind of a hard to explain in all its grandeur.  When I was a minister in the Baptist tradition, we had the sharing Jesus thing down pretty well.We’re all sinners who stand in need of God’s grace.  

Jesus, God incarnate, came to earth to walk among us and, ultimately, dispense God’s grace by giving his life on the cross.  The good news (or Gospel) of Jesus Christ is that he didn’t stay dead, he rose again to conquer death. You and I now access eternal life through his victory.

Here’s some more good news for Catholics.  Those few sentences make up the foundational “value proposition” for Catholics as well.  Sure, there are other doctrinal issues of importance but, until or unless someone accepts these foundational truths, the Holy Spirit can’t begin to move in their minds and hearts towards other truths.

There is a lot of emphasis on apologetics in the American Catholic Church.  And, yes, it’s important to help people understand why we believe what we believe as Catholics.  However, there is a whole world filled with people around us who don’t know or understand the basic need they have of Christ (I’ll bet you even know a few).  There are people everywhere who simply need to be loved and told they have value.Rather than hiding from the world because we don’t feel equipped to answer every objection, let’s take the foundational truth of the gospel of Christ into the world around us.

We’re afraid of being hypocritical.
It’s easy to hide from our responsibilities as disciple makers by maintaining that we simply aren’t good enough to do so.  “I don’t have it all together,” we say to ourselves, “so how can I possibly tell other people they need to be religious?”The truth of this matter should point us back to point number one.  None of us is really “good enough” to share the gospel.  None of us really even has it all together.  But as sharers of Jesus’s goodness, we’re up to the task.

You see, the heart of evangelism is not moral perfection.  The heart of discipleship is joy.  Joy, that while we stand in desperate need of God’s grace, we are recipients of that grace in Christ.  St. Paul put it this way, “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  This is cause for unspeakable joy.  This brings me to my final point.

We’re disconnected from the joy of the gospel. 
We’ve forgotten how badly we need Christ and how grateful we are to have him.Throughout the Gospels we see numerous accounts of men and women who share an experience with Christ and are immediately sent on mission.

Think of the woman at the well in the Gospel of John who ran into town and proclaimed, “I met a man who told me everything I had ever done (John 4).   Call to mind the blind man who Jesus heals.  Even when Jesus tells him not to share his experience with anyone, he can’t help doing so.

As Catholics, we claim to have a unique experience with Christ, receiving him in the true presence of his body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist.  We have no shortage of experience with Jesus and, as such, we should have no shortage of joy!  Of all the people on Earth living in 2015 we, then, ought to be overflowing with joy and sharing the gospel with those around us.

At every Mass the laity are urged, “go and proclaim the gospel of the Lord!”  Every experience we have of Christ in the Eucharist circles us back to the very commandment that Jesus gave his his disciples before ascending into heaven.

Therefore, let us go out to the world around us and share the good news of Jesus Christ to all.  Let us radiate our experiences with him in love.  Let us BE the gospel, while at the same time sharing the gospel with others.

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to explore what it means for Catholics (well, all Christians, really) to be people joyfully sharing the gospel.  Pope Benedict and his predecessor talked a lot about what it means to be living out a “new” or renewed evangelism.  We’ll be taking glimpses at scenes throughout the life of Christ, finding out what they meant in terms of the first evangelization of the world, and what they might be for us in the “new evangelization.”

Dear Emily – The Santa Letter

December 30, 2014


I failed in 2014.  A lot.  There’s no reason to enumerate my failures, only to make some sort of amends to a very small contingent of friends who used to read This Pilgrim’s Progress when I posted with consistency.

For anyone who has followed This Pilgrim’s Progress for a period of time, you know I publish an annual “wisdom for an x year old” post for our oldest daughter, Emily.  That didn’t happen in 2014.

The truth is, I wrote a letter.  Or, really, multiple versions of the letter.  But all of them were thrown away.  When it came time to write a letter, Michelle and I were still processing the loss of our 16 week old daughter in utero and I was simply unable to write without the emotions of that experience seeping into the letter.  It just wasn’t right, so I didn’t write it.

However, 2014 afforded me and Michelle the opportunity to write an entirely different kind of letter to Emily.  Due to a very serious barrage of questions, it came time to share the truth about Santa Claus.

I won’t try to explain the relationship between Santa Claus, St. Nicholas and the Williston family.  If I was describing it on Facebook, I’d simply post “it’s complicated.”  What matters is the kids are bought in.

Michelle and I talked a great deal about how to share the news.  Ultimately, we settled on a letter.  We started with the brilliant “Dear Ryan” letter that’s been floating around the internet for the last several years.  But we knew there was more we wanted to convey about faith.  So we wrote draft after draft and, a few days before Christmas, we shared the news.

The good news is, it went well and “team Santa” now has it’s newest member. After sharing the letter with a few friends, we felt like we should share it with all of you who might find yourself in a similar situation in the years ahead.

Thus, without further ado, I present to you the “Dear Emily” letter – Santa edition.  Feel free to take it, make it your own and use it as needed.

Dear Emily,

Lately, you have been asking a lot of good questions – grown up questions. One question you’ve asked – Is Santa Claus real? – is one we’ve been waiting to answer until we knew just how.

The short answer – yes, Santa is real, but not in the way that young children believe in him. St. Nicholas was a real man who loved God and understood the importance of sharing God’s love through giving to others. This is why his real life story has been passed down, eventually becoming the magical story we tell about Santa, Reindeer and everything else.

Mom and Dad fill your stockings, pick out gifts and make footprints in magic snow. We do this to help tell a story to help you understand things like generosity and love. And we do this to help kids understand that amazing things can happen when you believe in something you cannot explain.

All of the lessons we teach you in the story of Santa are lessons that, we hope, help you understand the TRUE story of Christmas – the story that the REAL St. Nicholas shared with his life and love – that the God of the universe stepped out of heaven and into the earth as a tiny child, eventually giving up his life for us with his death on a cross.

The story of Jesus is a story of God’s generosity- the way he gives us grace and love when we certainly don’t deserve it. It is about love – love that conquers death and forever opens God’s arms to us. And, it is about believing that God has a plan for our life, even when we do not understand. This is the story that the real St. Nicholas told. This is the story that the “magic” Santa Claus helps children to understand.

Eventually, kids stop believing in Santa, the made up story. This is part of life (even Susan, Edmund and Peter and Lucy couldn’t keep returning to Narnia forever). But we hope the lessons you learn will forever help you believe in the real lessons of Christmas – of God’s love that surpasses all understanding.

Now you know the truth of how Santa visits all of those houses. His “magic” lives in moms and dads who want to help their kids understand God a little bit better. Now you know and now you’re on Santa’s team to help others understand the same.

We are so proud of you and the young woman you are becoming. We love you now and forever.

Mom and Dad

Walter Mitty and the Dream in Us All

May 21, 2014

walter mitty

Oh the power of dreams.

Last weekend Michelle and I watched Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013).  I didn’t love the film, but this isn’t a review.  It was a reasonable piece of entertainment for a Saturday night.

Here’s what you need to know:

Walter Mitty is a dreamer.  Even in the middle of actual human interactions, he finds himself drifting off into his own elaborate fantasies.  In reality, he’s a mostly normal guy whose chief deficiency, it would seem, is that he hasn’t really lived.  He gets up. He goes to work. He comes home.  He balances his check book. He looks at his woefully deficient eHarmony profile.  This is about all there is to Walter Mitty.

There is an inciting incident in Walter’s life,  one that calls him out of his stupor and forces him to make a decision to begin living (the globe-trotting, jumping out of helicopter, and out-running a volcano eruption kind of living).  It’s dramatic, silly, beautiful and it speaks to something I think we all feel at some point or another.

We’re all looking for an invitation to wake up and start living.  We all want our lives to mean something more. No one wants to be ordinary.

The stuff of childhood dreams is never a 9:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. workday that breaks up hour-long commutes.  As children, we look at the world with boundless ambition and little understanding of the challenges that stand between us and our ambitions.  Some call this naiveté, others call it purity.

The true decisions of life are the ones that determine direction and trajectory.  They are the decisions that weigh risk and reward, opportunity and cost.  We are programmed to dream big, we are conditioned to decide small.

We embrace “good enough” as, well, good enough.  Extraordinary, after all, isn’t easy and “good enough” is sufficient to lay one’s head down at night with a mild feeling of satisfaction.

At some point, we stop creating our own story and start living the ordinary.  We distract ourselves by immersing ourselves in other people’s stories.  We watch television and movies, read books and fantasize about the extraordinary stories of others, while our own stories become more and more ordinary.  Soon, we’re convinced that the extraordinary only exists in the pages of literature and the luster of the screen.

As a Catholic, I think there is a tendency to do this with the Saints.  We read their biographies, marvel at their faith and think about how great it would be to be so holy.  Unfortunately, we often stop at the wishing and dreaming.

What it would take for you to be a saint?  Is it simply faith in Jesus relegated to Sunday mornings?

When I was in Rome a few years ago, I was struck for the first time to pray for sainthood for myself and for my family.  Many evenings, as we gather around the living room for evening prayers with the kids, I pray that prayer again.  But I’m mindful that asking for sainthood in prayer and dreaming of the kind of holiness enjoyed by the saints isn’t enough.  The prayer and the dreams are, in and of themselves, a challenge to myself and to our family.  It’s a reminder that sainthood is cultivated in daily decisions for Christ.  It’s choosing the harder way that costs me something of myself.  It’s asking myself whether what I read or watch leads me closer to Christ.

It’s a reminder to choose to live in an eternal kind of way.


On #5

May 9, 2014

baby number 5

Brace yourselves…. another Williston is on the way.

That’s right, just a day after we celebrated the second birthday of our son, Nicholas, Michelle and I are proud to announce that our family is growing once again.  Baby Williston #5 is due to make his/her arrival in early December 2014 (just in time for a tax deduction, of course!).

I fully expect excitement and an outpouring of love for this little one-in-development and I also expect of few of you lurking in the shadows to mumble, “are they crazy?”

The answer – we might be – and we’re ok with that.  When we take a look around our home and the profound love that exists there, we can’t help but buy into the notion that another will only add a new and amazing dimension to our family.

Over the last several weeks, we have pondered what 5 means for and to us.  While I can’t capture all of Michelle’s thoughts, I humbly offer a few feelings that we’ve discussed.

  1. Some of the families I admire most are those that are joyfully growing. They are not afraid of having a full home.  They don’t outwardly fret about the future.  They look at the unique character of each of their children and, it seems, are inspired to find out what gifts the “next one” will bring to their home.If you know our kids, you know we already have a dreamer, a philosopher, a sprite and a charming little bruiser.What’s left?  I can’t wait to find out.
  2. After ten years of marriage and nine years of fatherhood, I still have a lot to learn.  Whatever course of life we pursue is(or should be) a lesson in self sacrifice.  In pursuit of love we must abandon selfishness and seek the true good of others.  And some of us need a few more invitations to “die to self” than others.Each and every one of our children is another gift urging us towards holiness.  They are asking me, even in moments of great frustration, to put aside myself and love unconditionally.  Occasionally, I even rise to the call.There are so many things I want in life.  There are so many things that I want to do with my time.  And few, if any, compare to giving our kids what they need to grow into extraordinary little people. It’s only when I lose sight of this reality that I begin to wonder if having a “big family” is crazy.
  3. There is this strange thing that often happens when you tell people you’re the parent of four or five kids.  I can’t tell you how often people stop, take a deep breath, look down at the floor and tell you how they wish they had more kids but couldn’t/didn’t for this reason or that.  It’s heartbreaking, really, how many people are on that side of the fence.Having kids is often crazy and overwhelming in the midst of daily life but I have never heard anyone say, “I really wish we hadn’t had all the kids we did.”  There is no one on that side of the fence.Society tries to tell us all about when  it is responsible and expedient to have a child. Yes, there is a call to responsible parenthood and all of us are called to prayerfully consider what that means for their family.  But, society often makes the mistake of labeling things that cost us something of ourselves as irresponsible.  This simply isn’t true.
  4. The other day, it occurred to the kids that our almost-two-year-old would be starting pre-school next year.“Mom will have all the kids in school,” they said, “what is she going to do all day?”“Well,” I said jokingly, “I guess we are just going to have another baby so that mom has something to do, huh?”The kids thought about it for a minute, shrugged their shoulders and agreed that was a good plan.  None expressed concerns about available resources.  No one cited a doubt in the capacity for love.  I don’t recall being asked, “where are you going to put another baby?!?”

    In a simple, childlike way, they understood – this is what family is all about.

Thank you, in advance for all of your prayers.  We can’t wait for you to meet baby Williston in late 2014.

Pope Francis is Destroying Me (in a Good Way)

December 5, 2013


Every day it seems there is another phenomenal story in the media about Pope Francis. It shouldn’t be so surprising to see someone act in such a Christlike manner and yet the actions of this man have caused the world at large to sit up and take notice.

Being a fairly outspoken Catholic, I’m often asked what I think about Pope Francis. People sometimes ask because they’ve heard of his seemingly endless charity. Others ask because they’ve heard media distortions of the Pope’s comments that lead them to believe that he is fundamentally changing Catholicism (clearly this guy bought that argument, sigh).

If I’m to answer the question honestly I have to point to how often Pope Francis challenges my heart. It’s like he shines a light on my soul, which is often more willing to engage in my faith from an armchair and a keyboard, not reaching out to the “least of these” around me. He puts my priorities in perspective and challenges me to stop holding on so tightly to the world. He reminds me what joy looks like and how fleeting many of our troubles really are. And it hurts in the best way possible. We all need to be destroyed a little bit (ok, a lot bit). We need to shatter the idol of self and turn our gaze outward. Once you see an authentic example of this, there’s just nowhere to hide.

While New Media has certainly helped spread the word of Pope Francis’s Christ-like deeds, it is the deeds themselves that have garnered the attention. There is a lesson to be learned from this for all of us engaging in New Media, and it is a message that spans the history of Christendom itself.

1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues* but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. 2 And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3

In this season of Advent, as the Church awaits the celebration of the birth of Jesus, I hope we look to the example of Pope Francis and understand that the world at large is also awaiting Christ in you and me. Pope Francis has showed us the way. Daily, he is teaching us what evangelism means. He, and the world, now await our hands and feet to follow his example and bring Christ into their midst.

“Go…” (Matthew 28:19).


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