November 2019 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – Then [one of the criminals] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”( Luke 23:42-43)
Archbishop Reflection – We’ve read these words so many times that it’s easy to miss their power. Here is Jesus using his last minutes of earthly life to show mercy to a dying criminal and to promise him life in heaven that very day. We may not like to admit it, but we have a tendency to insulate ourselves from entire groups of people — perhaps the poor, the homeless or the sick. Yet these are precisely the people with whom Jesus spent so much time. While the religious “upper class” often ignored or mocked Jesus, the poor acknowledged him as Lord and were transformed. May the unlikely words of a criminal — “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” — become our own urgent prayer.
November Goal – This month, I challenge you to ask God’s pardon and mercy by making a thorough examination of conscience and going to confession. I also challenge you to serve those in need individually or with your council through Faith in Action programs such as Coats for Kids or Food for Families.
Questions for Reflection – Are there habits in your daily routine which exclude or ignore those on the margins of our society? What are some ways, large or small, that you can increase your efforts to help the poor and the needy? How does going to confession help us to imitate the penitent thief, and what can we learn from his prayer?
October 2019 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
Archbishop Reflection – We live in the age of the selfie, in what the writer David Brooks has called the culture of “the Big Me.” Such a culture constantly urges us to “exalt” ourselves, but as Christians we need to be radically different by striving for humility. This means coming to terms with our pride, our desire for “likes,” approval and recognition. As Mother Teresa put it, “It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent.” Surrounded by the message to exalt ourselves, may we instead seek to humble ourselves and demonstrate real love to others.
October Goal –This month, I challenge you to kneel before a crucifix each morning and ask Christ to give you the gift of humility. I also challenge you, in this month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to pray the rosary (either as a council through the Faith in Action Rosary program or as an individual) for an increase in humility.
Questions for Reflection – What are some ways you can grow in humility? How can you strengthen your resistance to the lure of others’ praise and the sting of their criticism? Did the act of humbling yourself before Christ on the cross teach you anything about how to be humble?
September 2019 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?” (Luke 14:27-28)
Archbishop Reflection – In more than four decades as a priest and bishop, I’ve been involved with building a number of new churches and schools. We often start by “dreaming big.” Then reality hits: What are we willing to spend? Jesus is asking each of us a similar question about our life of faith. In our lifelong journey to become saints, are we regularly sitting down to consider the cost and fully prepare ourselves to pay it? My brothers, above all other things, may we always prepare to carry our crosses and give our entire lives to Christ.
September Goal –This month, I challenge you to learn more about the life of one of the martyrs and how he or she was prepared to pay any price to follow Christ. Second, I challenge you to participate in the Faith in Action Into the Breach program or read Into the Breach on your own with a particular eye toward how we can best prepare to carry our crosses.
Questions for Reflection – What cross is Christ asking you to carry in your life? Are you willingly taking up the cross and seeking to follow Christ or trying to avoid the cross? In what concrete ways can you imitate the martyrs’ total commitment to Christ?
August 2019 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”(Luke 12:35-37)
Archbishop Reflection – Semper Paratus — Latin for “always ready” — is the motto of the U.S. Coast Guard, but it also could serve as a motto for you and me in the Christian life. In this Gospel passage, Jesus calls us to constant vigilance. My brothers, whether it’s day or night, we cannot allow our perimeter to be breached by any of the powerful temptations to anger, possessions, lust or other sins. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us. You and I can recall someone whose sudden death reminds us that we do not know when we will be called to account. May our master find us vigilant on his arrival!
August Goal – This month, I challenge you to exercise daily vigilance through the time-tested practice of a simple examination of conscience at the end of each day before going to bed. I also challenge you to watch with vigilance with your council through the Faith in Action Holy Hour program, or by spending some time in eucharistic adoration on your own.
Questions for Reflection – Is looking at your phone the first and the last thing you do each day? In this age of distraction, are there ways you can sharpen your vigilance and focus to better pay attention to what is truly important? Did examining your conscience daily help increase your vigilance in your life?
July 2019 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
Archbishop Reflection – Imagine yourself in Martha’s shoes. While your seemingly lazy sister Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, you are the one preparing and serving the food, setting the table and making things happen. And then, all of a sudden, Jesus chides you and compares you unfavorably to your sister. Jesus’ words can strike us as harsh. Wasn’t Martha doing a good thing by serving our Lord? Yet if we are honest, we recognize that it’s all too easy to get caught up in busyness doing good things and all the while miss the opportunity to encounter Christ. By God’s grace, may we hear these tough words from Jesus, resist this tendency to busyness and strive to choose “the better part.”
July Goal – This month, I challenge you to spend five extra minutes sitting before the Lord before or after Sunday Mass. Second, I challenge you to participate in the Faith in Action Sacramental Gifts program or pray for those receiving the sacraments, that they might choose “the better part.”
Questions for Reflection – If it were you with Jesus that evening, would you have been more likely to be a “Martha” or a “Mary”? What does it mean to choose “the better part”? How did spending a few extra moments with the Lord before or after Mass affect your encounter with Christ in the Eucharist?
June 2019 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – Jesus said to his disciples, “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John. 14:23B – 26)
Archbishop Reflection – Try putting yourself in the disciples’ shoes at hearing these words at the Last Supper. They probably felt frustrated, anxious, and confused. Perhaps they even sensed that their days with Jesus in his earthly body were drawing to an end. This month, we will celebrate Pentecost and train our focus on this promise which Jesus made to each one of us: that He would never leave us; that He would send the Holy Spirit as our guide, advocate, and helper. Your body is in fact a temple of this same Holy Spirit. As disciples of Jesus and beloved sons of the Heavenly Father, let us be known as men who are constantly drawing closer to the Holy Spirit and unlocking the Spirit’s power in our lives.
June Goal –This month I challenge you to deepen your relationship with the Holy Spirit by praying the words “Come, Holy Spirit” as you begin your daily time of prayer, your workday, or an activity at home. Secondly I challenge you to invite a friend or family member (who is not active in their faith) to join you at Mass or at Adoration.
May 2019 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – Jesus said, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
Archbishop Reflection – “I give you a new commandment: love one another,” we hear in the Gospel reading. We’ve heard this saying of Jesus before, but do we personalize it this and truly know it to be true? Statistically, we as Catholics in America today are not renowned for loving one another to the point that we risk sharing our faith with others. One recent poll found that only 6% of Catholics characterized sharing their faith as a “high priority.” But Jesus invites us to do more. He does not call the equipped; he equips the called. And each one of us is called to love one another in the most profound way—by caring about others’ eternal well-being.
May Goal – This month I challenge you to invite one person out for coffee, to your home, or an event at your parish. Tell them what you enjoy about the Catholic faith. Secondly, if they have been away from the Catholic Church, invite them back. If they are not Catholic, ask them if they would consider joining. Either way, be welcoming and nonjudgmental when they give their response.
April 2019 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” ( Luke 24:30-32)
Archbishop Reflection – A “fire in the belly,” passion, a drive: these are some of the ways we talk about others who can summon a deep, inner motivation and who make a difference. My brothers, can we say the same about our inner drive to go deeper in our Church’s teaching? Do our hearts “burn within us” and cause us to daily familiarize ourselves with the riches of our faith? Do we have a fire in the belly to be the kind of men who don’t stand silent at the water cooler when we hear our Church’s teaching denigrated by colleagues? In order to lead with faith we need to know our faith. We can’t give what we don’t have. By God’s grace, may we each become disciples whose “hearts burn within us.”
April Goal – This month I challenge you to deepen your desire to have a heart ‘burning within you’ for new knowledge of the Church’s teaching and doctrine. Invest five to ten minutes a day reading the Catechism or other resource, watching a Catholic talk online, or taking advantage of a local formation opportunity. Secondly I challenge you to talk with a brother in Christ about what you’re learning.
March 2019 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)
Archbishop Reflection – My brother Knights, here we encounter upon some of the most stunningly beautiful words in the entire Gospel: the reunion of the prodigal son with his father. As Jesus describes the scene, I invite you to put yourself in three different sets of shoes. First, imagine that you are the father, seeing your own flesh and blood, your son, coming home. Second, imagine that you are the prodigal son, expecting the worst, but finding that your father is moved with compassion. Third, imagine that you are the hard-working older brother, watching this reunion from a critical distance. Becoming the man we are means that we can learn from all three: embracing others with the mercy of the father; running to our heavenly Father like the Prodigal, and with the older brother, hearing the father’s words spoken to us—that “all that I have is yours’.”
March Goal – This month I challenge you to be like the Prodigal Father by making the first move: take the first step toward another person in your life to encourage or forgive them. Secondly I challenge you to prayerfully write a list of things in your life for which you are grateful.
February 2019 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.(Luke 5:10-11)
Archbishop Reflection – “They left everything and followed him.” My brothers, these words shock me every time I hear or read them. If we are honest, we have to admit how hard it is to leave everything to follow Jesus. After all, we are so good at taking stuff with us as we attempt to follow him—our pride, our possessions, our desire for power, more comfort and pleasure. We attempt to drag this heavy luggage along, or sometimes try to sneak little trinkets into our bags to take with us: maybe it’s our wandering eyes, our temper, a critical spirit, or our workaholism. But Jesus and his disciples travel lightly. He invites us to leave everything and follow him. Let’s experience this genuine freedom of being his disciple: a freedom which hits the open road with our Lord, free of everything that hinders us.
February Goal – This month I challenge you to join other Catholic men who are striving to “leave everything and follow him.” Join them for some time of prayer, fellowship and encouragement, possibly at a Knights meeting, for breakfast, or a drink after work. Secondly I challenge you to be open with a brother in Christ about some area of your life where you are facing challenges. “Leaving everything” means that we also need to leave behind our pretense and appearances, and meet each other as true brothers.
January 2019 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)
Archbishop Reflection – Think about it. Do you really see yourself as a beloved son in whom your Heavenly Father is well pleased? To be honest, most men, including this archbishop, go through seasons when we don’t seem to sense that our father is well-pleased. Maybe we see ourselves as self-made men who don’t owe our father anything. Maybe we did not experience love from our dad, and the very idea of being beloved is ludicrous. Maybe instead of Jesus’ actual words, we hear, “This is my wayward son, in whom I am much disappointed.” Yet we know that we are baptized into Christ and share in his identity as the beloved son. Being beloved sons is the bedrock of our identity. The plain fact is that your heavenly Father is well-pleased with you.
January Goal – This month I challenge you to hear the Heavenly Father saying these words—“you are my beloved son”—personally to you, and reflect on your identity in him. I recommend that you do so, if possible, in Adoration. Secondly I challenge you to spend time with someone who loves you unconditionally. Ask them why? Their answer should give you a small glimpse of God’s unconditional love for you.
December 2018 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. …Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Luke 1:39; 41-42)
Archbishop Reflection – “In great haste”: my brother Knights, these three words teach us volumes! Mary set out “in great haste”—and the rest is history. Mary is the first evangelist. With the incredible news of the annunciation, she wastes no time fulfilling the command to visit her cousin Elizabeth. My brothers, we know that so many things can weigh us down and prevent us from delivering the good news to others with that speed and urgency. The Lord knows our every sorrow, weakness, fear, or excuse. And yet He invites us to look to our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and call upon her intercession. May we be known as her reliable sons who likewise carry the news “in great haste,” leaving behind everything that impedes us.
December Goal – This month I challenge you to pray at least a decade of the Rosary daily. Secondly, we are often in situations in which faith topics come up and we choose to say nothing. This month I challenge you to engage in those conversations and share what you love about the Catholic Faith.
November 2018 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – Jesus said to his disciples, “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened … and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” — (Mark. 13:24, 32)
Archbishop Reflection – There’s an old country Gospel song with a catchy refrain that asks this question: “What would you do if Jesus came to spend the day with you?” As Advent quickly approaches, the Church invites us to ponder this question — and prepare our hearts and souls accordingly. We frantically prepare for Christmas, buying gifts and decorating our homes. But will we prepare our soul with the same sense of urgency, purpose, and care? Advent is a sobering time of reflection on the second coming of Jesus. “What would you do if Jesus came to spend the day with you?” Soon he will. May we meet him with open arms and pure hearts. This month’s challenge
November Goal – This month, recalling that we do not know the “day or the hour,” I challenge you to go confession, and make a commitment to go monthly thereafter as a means of maintaining vigilant care over your soul. Secondly, I challenge you in the coming month to forgive someone who has hurt you in some way.
October 2018 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – [The blind man] threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” (Mark 10:50-52)
Archbishop Reflection – Most of us can probably recall requesting a meeting with someone influential, and then reaching a point in that meeting where he or she looked us in the eyes and asked, “So, what can I do for you?” We most likely prepared for this moment, and we clearly stated our need or wish. Brothers, can we imagine the Son of God speaking our own name and asking, “What do you want me to do for you?” It seems extraordinary. Even unbelievable! And yet, this is exactly what Jesus invites us to do every day in prayer, reading and reflecting on Scripture, speaking to him about what is in our hearts. That’s a meeting you and I would not want to miss.
October Goal – When having a discussions with people this month (especially your family members), give them your undivided attention and do not look at your cell phones during the conversations. Secondly I challenge you to honestly attempt to answer Jesus’ question to you, “What do you want me to do for you?”
September 2018 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – ” “Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.’ (Mark 9:35)
Archbishop Reflection – When I was in seminary, I had a roommate who was an early riser. Every morning his loud alarm went off at 5:15, at which point he’d say the same thing: “Gladly, Jesus, gladly!” My comments went in a different direction. Let’s be honest. In a selfish, me-first world, it’s just as hard to hear Jesus say “the first shall be last” as it was to hear my roommate at 5:15. And yet, my brothers, Jesus calls us to be servants of all; to step out of our comfort zone and say “gladly!” as we go to serve others in our lives. ‘Gladly, Jesus, gladly!’
September Goal – This month I challenge you to become even more like Jesus, the “servant of all,” by making an act of charity for someone in your life from whom you have been distant, or whom you have wronged. Secondly I challenge you to prayerfully reflect on these words from Scripture: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (I Jn. 4:11).
August 2018 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – “Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.’” (January 6:67-69)
Archbishop Lori’s Reflection –I don’t know about you, but I can look back on moments in my life when Peter’s words have been personal and I have said to Jesus in prayer: ‘Master, to whom shall I go?’ I hope that you likewise have reached a point in your life where you know with certainty that there is nowhere to go but Jesus: not to power, to money, to sex, to alcohol, or anything else that can become a false “master” in our lives. My brothers, we have come to believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God, and our lives must bear evidence of this. Let us become men who, with Peter, can truly say, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
August Goal – This month I challenge you to make a daily examination of conscience, probing your heart to find the false “masters” (e.g., comfort, power, appearance) to whom you go. Take a few minutes before bed to review the day, including both your blessings and sins. Second, I challenge you to eliminate one of your vices and when you are tempted to participate in that vice pray, “Jesus I trust in you.”
July 2018 Supreme Chaplain’s Challenge
Scripture Reading – The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they have done and taught. He said to them “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while. (Mark 6:30)
Archbishop Lori’s Reflection – If we are honest, we know that we are not that good at coming “coming away… to a deserted place” to “rest a while”. In fact, over 80 percent of us check our smart phones even before brushing our teeth in the morning and spend time on them in the last hour before we go to sleep. Like the apostles, we focuson getting a lot done. But let’s imagine what would happen if we truly responded to he challenge of Jesus to “come away” to pray in solitude every morning, resting in His presence and holy Word. Jesus invites us to put first things first. Let’s take him at his word and make the changes we need to make.
July Goal – I challenge you to “come away” to a quiet place by praying at least five minutes a day. First thing in the morning before you check your electronic devises or turn on the TV. You will likely have stops and starts, but strive to be as consistent as possible. In addition, I challenge you to respond to Jesus’ invitation to “rest a while” by doing something truly restful on Sunday, the day of rest.