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Our friend Alexis Walkenstein never disappoints during her visits to Call Me Catholic, and neither does the subject of her new book “Ex Libris Fulton J Sheen”. What an amazing story of his influence in her life and her devotion to his powerful intercession. He is a saint for our time! Adopt the Venerable Fulton Sheen as your patron and watch the miracles unfold.

Thanks, Alexis, for your thought provoking conversation!

Check out Alexis’ blog; or, contact her about doing a Fulton Sheen retreat for your parish or prayer group at







Originally broadcast on 7/28/18


ROME (CNS) — A practical first step toward holiness — as well as for assuring peace in one’s family and in the world — is to pray for a person who has caused offense or harm, Pope Francis said.

“Are you merciful toward the people who have harmed you or don’t like you? If God is merciful, if he is holy, if he is perfect, then we must be merciful, holy and perfect as he is. This is holiness. A man or woman who does this deserves to be canonized,” the pope said Feb. 19 during an evening parish Mass.

“I suggest you start small,” Pope Francis told members of the parish of St. Mary Josefa on the extreme eastern edge of the Diocese of Rome. “We all have enemies. We all know that so-and-so speaks ill of us. We all know. And we all know that this person or that person hates us.”

When that happens, the pope said, “I suggest you take a minute, look at God (and say), ‘This person is your son or your daughter, change his or her heart, bless him or her.’ This is praying for those who don’t like us, for our enemies. Perhaps the rancor will remain in us, but we are making an effort to follow the path of this God who is so good, merciful, holy, perfect, who makes the sun rise on the evil and the good.”

The day’s first reading included the line, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy,” and in the Gospel reading, Jesus said, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

“You might ask me, ‘But, father, what is the path to holiness?’ ‘What is the journey needed to become holy?’ Jesus explains it well in the Gospel. He explains it with concrete examples,” the pope said.

The first example, he said, is “not taking revenge. If I have some rancor in my heart for something someone has done, I want vengeance, but this moves me off the path of holiness. No revenge. ‘But he did this and he will pay.’ Is this Christian? No. ‘He will pay’ is not in the Christian’s vocabulary. No revenge.”

In people’s everyday lives, he said, their squabbles with their relatives or neighbors may seem a little thing, but they are not. “These big wars we read about in the papers and see on the news, these massacres of people, of children, how much hatred! It’s the same hatred you have in your heart for this person, that person, that relative, your mother-in-law. It’s bigger, but it’s the same hatred.”

Forgiveness, the pope said, is the path toward holiness and toward peace. “If everyone in the world learned this, there would be no wars.”

Wars begin “with bitterness, rancor, the desire for vengeance, to make them pay,” he said. It’s an attitude that destroys families and neighborhoods and peaceful relations between nations.

“I’m not telling you what to do, Jesus is: Love your enemies. ‘You mean I have to love that person?’ Yes.”

“’I have to pray for someone who has harmed me?’ Yes, that he will change his life, that the Lord will forgive him,” the pope said. “This is the magnanimity of God, of God who has a big heart, who forgives all.”

“Prayer is an antidote for hatred, for wars, these wars that begin at home, in families,” he said. “Think of how many wars there have been in families because of an inheritance.”

“Prayer is powerful. Prayer defeats evil. Prayer brings peace,” the pope said.

As is his custom for parish visits, Pope Francis began this three-hour visit to St. Mary Josefa by meeting different parish groups, including children, who were invited to ask him questions.

One asked how he became pope and Pope Francis said when a pope is elected “maybe he is not the most intelligent, perhaps not the most astute or the quickest at doing what must be done, but he is the one who God wants for the church at that moment.”

Pope Francis explained that when a pope dies or resigns, like Pope Benedict XVI did, the cardinals gather for a conclave. “They speak among themselves, discuss what profile would be best, who has this advantage and who has that one. But, above all, they pray.”

They use their reason to try to figure out what the church needs and who could provide it, he said, but mostly they rely on the Holy Spirit to inspire them in their choice.


WASHINGTON (CNS) — Each Oct. 3, on the eve of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, his followers around the world mark his “transitus,” or passing, from this world into eternal life.

Sometimes there’s a re-enactment of the physical death of the popular saint and sometimes a habit is laid out on something that looks like a stretcher called a bier, reminding those present of Francis.

The moment of his death can touch on the somber as much as the Franciscans, popularly known for their joy, can make it. But in Washington this year, St. Francis was very much alive to those gathered at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land as many spoke of a revival of sorts taking place in the Franciscan order and one they owe to the world’s most famous Jesuit of our day.

“We have to acknowledge a renewed Franciscan spirit in our world precisely because of this new Francis who has shaken up the church, shaken up the world and hopefully shaken up all of us,” said Franciscan Father Tom Washburn, referring to Pope Francis during the ritual known as the transitus.

Ottoniel Perez, a Third Order Franciscan from Silver Spring, Maryland, said the pope certainly has given an “impetus” to the Franciscan order because of his “Franciscan touch.”

Pope Francis focuses, Perez said, on the lifestyle that many Franciscans, lay and religious, study and practice: a care for creation, a focus on mercy and the poor, and the importance of community. Those are values that go against the modern secular culture, which emphasizes individualism and the material, he added. But if you look closely, there’s something about the values laid out by the original Francis that are making a comeback, Perez said.

Certainly, something about Francis called out to Michele Dunne of Washington.

“These values of poverty, humility, simplicity … these things resonated,” said Dunne. They were “the perfect antidote in a city like Washington, D.C.,” because it can be a place for those obsessed with power and money, she told Catholic News Service. Dunne is hoping to profess her vows as a Third Order Franciscan sometime this year. Third Order Franciscans, also known as tertiaries, are lay Catholics who make vows, participate in community activities and prayer, as well as good works.

Though she was involved in the life of the church, Dunne said she was looking for a different way to live out her spiritual life and she began reading about lay movements in the Catholic Church, but something about the Franciscan spirituality called to her. Francis, she said, even in the 13th century could see “how laypeople could live these values. I was fascinated by this. I was attracted to a life that combined prayer and service. It’s not one or the other.”

Lay Franciscans, like Perez and Dunne, are involved in activities such as helping Christians in the Holy Land, they may help out in a community garden, tending to crops that will be donated to the poor, they can help cut grass as well as provide other services to religious communities; some serve the hungry and poor in soup kitchens and some will tend to the physical and spiritual needs of marginalized communities.

Perez said that following Francis, for him, took him from being focused on a career as an architect, longing for his name to be known, to one that helped him see that serving others and focusing on others, particularly the poor and marginalized, was more important. Instead of becoming an architect, he went to work for the Catholic Church in ministry, then worked with Latinos in prisons, helping them and their families, and now works with youth.

Focusing on others is “a challenge all the time,” Perez said, but studying about the Franciscans, “it woke something inside me … my life had meaning.”

Father Jim Gardiner, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement, said some in the general public find comfort and sweetness in the cute and popular notion of St. Francis surrounded by birds or other animals, but if you study his life and think about it, “he was subversive, really, in terms of the values of the world. He wanted to turn the world upside down.” That message is one that is affecting a modern world that finds itself surrounded by a reality and values that may not be as great as they seem, he said.

“Deep down inside, they’re uncomfortable with the superficiality of today, the ramped-up consumerism, the racism, the stratification of society,” Father Gardiner said. The spirituality Francis set out offers freedom from that, he said.

Francis fought for the poor, for peace in a time of war, and he dealt with the Catholic Church scandal, Father Washburn said to those gathered for the transitus ritual in Washington.

The church of 13th century, in which Francis found himself, “was rocked by sin and immorality all around,” said Father Washburn. “And yet today, we don’t remember that time for its scandals. We remember it for the great period of holiness that it gave birth to.”

He reminded those gathered that in 2013, Franciscan Father Michael Perry, the leader of the Franciscan order, said: “It’s clear that Pope Francis has ushered in a new Franciscan moment in the church. We now have a Jesuit pope with a Franciscan heart calling us back to ourselves. If we don’t embrace this Franciscan moment, then we might as well all go home.”

So, this is the time to examine, Father Washburn said, what it means to be Franciscan in the modern age and what Pope Francis, in his embodiment of the Francis, the original, is calling followers, and even admirers, to do.

“Eight hundred years later, this new Francis, our Holy Father Pope Francis, wants to propose it to us again, and if we follow where he wants to lead us, not in word, but in action, we will again change the church and change the world, if we first, again, change our hearts,” Father Washburn said.


Mother MacKillop is Australia’s first native-born saint and its patron. The oldest of eight children of Scottish immigrants, Mary began working with children as a governess. With encouragement from a priest-adviser, Mary founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the continent’s first religious order, to open schools and orphanages for poor children in rural areas and to serve the aged and friendless by setting up women’s shelters.

She took the name Mary of the Cross, and survived episcopal opposition, disrespect and even excommunication. The order received papal approval in 1888, and her 2010 canonization in Rome drew thousands of pilgrims from Australia, where she is considered a national heroine.


SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) — Some thought this day would never arrive. Others hoped and some always knew it would.

On May 23, the Catholic Church, beatified Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, of El Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980 while celebrating Mass, just a day after pleading and ordering soldiers to stop killing innocent civilians.

“Blessed Romero is another brilliant star that belongs to the sanctity of the church of the Americas,” said Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, during the ceremony in San Salvador. “And thanks be to God, there are many.”

While those who persecuted him have died or are in obscurity, “the memory of Romero continues to live in the poor and the marginalized,” Cardinal Amato said.
His homilies often pleaded for better conditions for the poor, for a stop to the escalating violence in the country and for brotherhood among those whose divisions ultimately led to a 12-year conflict.

He’s not a symbol of division but one of peace, Cardinal Amato said.

In a message sent Saturday on the occasion of the beatification, Pope Francis said that Archbishop Romero “built the peace with the power of love, gave testimony of the faith with his life.”

Proof of that is the shirt he died in, soaked in blood, after an assassin’s single bullet took his life. Eight deacons carried the blood-stained shirt, now a relic, to the altar in a glass case. Others decorated it with flowers and candles during the Saturday ceremony. Several priests reached out to touch the case and later made the sign of the cross.

In a time of difficulty in El Salvador, Archbishop Romero knew “how to guide, defend and protect his flock, remaining faithful to the Gospel and in communion with the whole church,” the pope said in his message.” His ministry was distinguished by a particular attention to the poor and marginalized. And at the time of his death, while celebrating the holy sacrifice, love and reconciliation, he received the grace to be fully identified with the one who gave his life for his sheep.”

The event, at the square of the Divine Savior of the World in the capital city of San Salvador, saw the attendance of four Latin American presidents and six cardinals including: Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, of Honduras; Leopoldo Brenes, of Nicaragua; Jaime Ortega, of Cuba; Jose Luis Lacunza, of Panama; Roger Mahony, of the U.S.; and Italian Cardinal Amato, as well as Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, postulator of Archbishop Romero’s cause.

Their excitement couldn’t have been greater than that of those like Father Estefan Turcios, pastor of El Salvador’s St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Soyapango and national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in El Salvador. Before El Salvador’s conflict, Father Turcios was imprisoned for defending the rights of the poor. Archbishop Romero helped free him.

“There have been people inspired by Romero for 35 years. How do you think they feel right now?” asked Father Turcios.

But just as he has devotees, Archbishop Romero has had detractors.

After his death, the Vatican received mounds of letters against Archbishop Romero, Archbishop Paglia, has said. And that affected his path toward sainthood, which includes beatification. But three decades after his assassination, Pope Benedict XVI cleared the archbishop’s sainthood cause.

In February Pope Francis signed the decree recognizing Archbishop Romero as a martyr, a person killed “in hatred of the faith,” which meant there is no need to prove a miracle for beatification. In general two miracles are needed for sainthood — one for beatification and the second for canonization.

Father Turcios said by studying Blessed Romero’s life, others will discover all the Gospel truths that led him to defend life, the poor and the church, and do away with untruths surrounding his legacy.

During the country’s civil war that lasted from 1979 until 1992, some Salvadorans hid, buried and sometimes burned photos they had taken with or of Archbishop Romero, because it could mean others would call them communists or rebel sympathizers and put their lives in danger.

Though he still has some detractors, Father Turcios said, the beatification can help others understand the reality and truth that others have known all along: Archbishop Romero “was loyal to God’s will, was loyal to and loved his people and was loyal to and loved the church,” he said.

One of the offertory gifts during the Mass May 23 was the book “De la locura a la esperanza” or “From Madness to Hope.” A document generated during the peaceaccords that ended the country’s 12-year war.

It chronicles some of the greatest human rights atrocities committed in El Salvador during the conflict, including the killing and rape of four women religious from the U.S., the killing of priests, catechists, as well as massacres of unarmed civilians — more than 70,000 died in all.

Priests, bishops and cardinals wore some form of a red vestment, signifying martyrdom. Their stoles were emblazoned with Archbishop Romero’s episcopal motto: “Sentir con la iglesia,” or “feel with the church,” also translated as “to think with the church.”

The ceremony culminated a week in San Salvador that saw pilgrims, mainly from Latin America, but also from as far away as Singapore and many from the United States, who wanted to celebrate the occasion. Flowers, music, tears and happiness flowed at San Salvador’s Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Savior, where the archbishop is buried. He is officially Blessed Romero, but to others he already is and has been “San Romero,” or St. Romero of the Americas.


Cyril lived when the Arian heresy was roiling Christianity. Raised and educated in Jerusalem, he was ordained by St. Maximus and succeeded him as bishop of Jerusalem around 350. His episcopate lasted until his death, but he spent 16 years in exile, turned out by emperors influenced by the Arian bishop of Caesarea who claimed ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Jerusalem. The Council of Antioch sent St. Gregory of Nyssa to investigate Cyril and his diocese. He reported that Jerusalem was rife with factionalism and Arianism, but that Cyril was orthodox. He is famous for his extant “Catechetical Instructions,” some of which consist almost entirely of carefully interwoven scriptural passages. Pope Leo XIII named him a doctor of the church in 1882.


Descended from a Danish military family, Oswald was educated by an uncle who was the archbishop of Canterbury, in England. He was a canon at Winchester Cathedral before becoming a priest and dean there. After continuing his studies and becoming a Benedictine in France, he returned to England and was named bishop of Worcester in 961. He founded monasteries, promoted scholarship, established a great musical tradition in Worcester, replaced secular canons with monks, and also administered the Diocese of York from 972 until his death. Devoted to the poor and revered for his sanctity, Oswald died after washing and kissing the feet of 12 poor men, his annual Lenten custom.