5 Saints who loved the great outdoors

Pope John Paul II (center, in red boots) prays with a group of skiers before heading down a slope in this 1984 file photo. The pontiff, who enjoyed skiing in his native Poland before his election, was able to slip away to ski only a few times as he led the worldwide church. (CNS photo from the Vatican) (Feb. 10, 2005)

On this feast of Saint John Paul II, here is my latest post on Aleteia:

…Many saints had a great love for the outdoors and took any opportunity to enjoy nature. Here are five such examples in hopes that it will inspire us to spend a little more time with God’s creation, appreciating the world he has created for us.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Frassati loved the mountains. He once wrote to a friend, “With every passing day I fall madly in love with the mountains; their fascination attracts me.” Frassati loved to climb and ski with his friends, often seeking out the highest peaks. During his short lifetime, Frassati was a member of the “Italian Alpine Club and climbed the Gran Tournalin (3,379m/11,086ft), the Grivola in the Val d’Aosta (3,969m/13,022ft), Mon Viso (3,841m/12,602ft), the Ciamarella (3,676m/12,060ft), the Bessanese (3,532m/11,588ft)” and other smaller peaks.

He is probably most well known for a phrase he wrote on the back of a photograph of him climbing a mountain: Verso l’alto (“toward the top”). After his death it became a phrase associated with his constant desire for sanctity and reaching for the goal of eternal life.

Saint John Paul II

In 1954, Father Karol Wojtyła was awarded a “Bronze Badge for Hiking Tourism” by a local organization in Poland. Wojtyla won this badge for hiking on foot on multiple occasions during that year, totaling 166 km (103 miles). More than half of these excursions were completed during the winter (November 1 – March 31).

Throughout the remainder of his life, John Paul II would go hiking, skiing and kayaking with groups of friends as a priest, bishop, cardinal and pope. He even sneaked out of the Vatican to ski and did so at least 100 times!

Needless to say, John Paul II loved the outdoors.

Saint Hubert

Appointed Bishop of Liège in 708, Hubert is more widely known for his conversion story and a legend regarding a vision he saw while hunting a deer. During his youth, Hubert spent his days hunting, even skipping out on Church services.

On Good Friday one year, while the faithful were attending services, Hubert pursued a magnificent stag. After drawing close to it, the animal turned and, as the legend narrates, he saw a crucifix between its antlers, and heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord, and lead a holy life, you shall quickly go down into hell.” Hubert then prostrated himself and said, “Lord, what would Thou have me do?” God said in return, “Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you.”

Hubert sought out Saint Lambert, who instructed him and set him on the pathway to sanctity. Saint Hubert is regarded as the patron saint of hunters and is also known for promoting ethical hunting practices, treating animals as part of God’s creation.

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Are Ouija boards an ‘Origin of Evil’?


Here is my latest article on Aleteia regarding the use of Ouija boards and the upcoming movie Ouija: Origin of Evil:

….What is so sinister about the Ouija board?

The premise of the Ouija board is that a living person can communicate with a soul or spirit and the spirit will communicate back by spelling out answers on the board. Many children (and adults) will play this game saying they don’t “believe” in it and think that one of their friends is playing a joke on them when the pieces move on the board. It is often viewed as a “spooky” game to be played in a dimly lit room in the basement during a teenage sleepover.

On other occasions adults, unable to deal with the departure of a loved one, use the game in hopes of communicating with a deceased relative.

While someone using the board may not have the intention of calling a demonic spirit, the act of using the Ouija board is a form of divination (discovering hidden knowledge through supernatural means) and is very real.

To make an analogy, you may not “believe” there is someone on the other line of the telephone and may talk in it, thinking no one is listening, but the fact is that someone is listening and can communicate back.

We too often forget that there is much more to this world than meets the eye. There do exist angels, demons, spirits and souls and they can have an impact on our life. It is simply not possible to use the Ouija board as a game, as the very action of using it has profound spiritual consequences beyond our control.

One example of how this game can invite an unwanted spiritual presence is the case of a 13-year-old boy who was introduced to the Ouija board in 1949. This boy became possessed by a demon and underwent a month-long exorcism by Father William Bowdern, SJ. These events inspired the 1971 book, The Exorcist, which was put on screen in 1973. The current Fox miniseries is also inspired by the book and film adaptation.

Unfortunately, this case is not isolated and there have been countless others over the years. Exorcists have repeatedly warned against using Ouija boards, and explain how “demons will masquerade as departed loved ones as a means of gaining possession.” Even paranormal investigators are leery about using them, knowing what kind of spirits can be invited into a person’s home.

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Nine Days of Prayer with Saint John Paul the Great

john paul ii

**Below are links to the next days in the Novena

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9

Leading up to the feast day of Saint John Paul the Great on October 22nd, I invite you to join me in prayer to ask for his powerful intercession as well as learn something new about him each day.

Over the next nine days, I will post a prayer to John Paul II as well as a fact about him that many do not know about. Thus, we will join our prayers together to pray for all of our intentions and ask John Paul II to intercede for us.

Little Known Fact #1

  • During his Theological Studies in Seminary, Karol Wojtyla greatly desired to read the works of St. John of the Cross in the original Spanish language. He mastered the language very quickly and was even asked by the Spanish instructor to assist him in translating a Spanish text that was to be read over the Polish new radio a few hours before it would be broadcast.

Novena Prayer

O Holy Trinity,
we thank you for having given to the Church
Pope John Paul II,
and for having made him shine with your fatherly tenderness,
the glory of the Cross of Christ and the splendor of the Spirit of love

He, trusting completely in your infinite mercy
and in the maternal intercession of Mary, has shown himself
in the likeness of Jesus the Good Shepherd
and has pointed out to us holiness
as the path to reach eternal communion with You.

Grant us, through his intercession,
according to your will, the grace that we implore, [state your intention here]
in thanksgiving that he has been numbered among your saints.

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5 Things you need to know about Archangels


Check out my latest article on Aleteia about the mysterious archangels, Michael, Gabriel & Raphael:

…To help you understand more about these mysterious beings that God created, here are five things you need to know about archangels:

1) Archangels are the second lowest “rank” of angels

Traditionally, angels are divided into what is called “nine choirs.” This hierarchy is based on nine names of ranks of angels that are found in Sacred Scripture.

Saint Gregory the Great listed these “choirs” in a homily:

“We know on the authority of Scripture that there are nine orders of angels, viz., Angels, Archangels, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominations, Throne, Cherubim and Seraphim…” (Hom. 34, In Evang.)

2) Archangels are entrusted with delivering important messages to humans

The lowest ranks of angels are the ones we are most familiar with as they are the ones who communicate or interact with us. Saint Michael is believed to be the angel who delivered God’s divine inspiration to St. John in the Book of Revelation and is known as the protector of the Church, guarding her from evil. Saint Michael is most widely known for his role in expelling the rebel angel Lucifer from heaven.

Saint Gabriel is first mentioned in the Book of Daniel and helps Daniel in his mission on earth. Later on Gabriel appears to Zachariah and the Blessed Virgin Mary, delivering the greatest message ever, that God meant to Incarnate and set his tent with us.

Saint Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Tobit, to heal Tobit and deliver Sarah from a demon. Raphael accomplished both acts, disguised as a human, guiding Tobias along the way and instructing him on what to do.

– Read more at Aletiea

Could a large ship really be built from all the relics of the True Cross?


On this great feast of our faith, here is my latest article on Aleteia:

September 14 is known as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and celebrates the glory of the cross of Christ by which we have been saved. It is also a day that commemorates the “Finding of the True Cross” by Saint Helena (Constantine’s mother) in the year 326, and ever since that day relics of the true cross have been distributed around the world.

Small relics of the cross can now be found in great cathedrals as well as the humblest of country churches, and at one time individuals also claimed to possess relics. The prevalence of these relics prompted John Calvin to quip, “if all the pieces that could be found were collected together, they would make a big ship-load.”

Well, is it true? If we gathered all the relics of the true cross and put them together, would it build a wooden ship that rivals Noah’s ark?

Myth or fact?

First of all, we need to dig into what history tells us about the finding of the true cross.

Tradition relates (confirmed by the contemporary sources of St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, Rufinus, and Gelasius to name a few) that Saint Helena was inspired by God to travel to the Holy Land in search of the true cross of Jesus Christ. After Jesus’ death, the Jews hid the cross in a ditch, covering it with stones so that the early Christians would not be able to venerate it. In the years that followed, a pagan shrine was also built upon the same site in honor of the goddess Venus, most likely constructed during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian.

There were a handful of Jews who knew where the true cross was hidden and had passed down that information amongst themselves over the centuries. One such Jew, named Judas, felt compelled to tell Saint Helena where the relics of the true cross were buried.

They excavated the site and found three crosses; one was believed to be the true cross and the other two were from the thieves crucified on either side of Jesus. However, they didn’t know which cross Jesus was crucified on and decided to test them by bringing a terminally ill woman to the location and touching each cross to her. One of the crosses miraculously healed the woman, so that particular cross was enshrined in a church built in Jerusalem over the Holy Sepulchre and was believed to be the true cross on account of its supernatural properties.

Wanting to test the claim and see if it was true that all the relics of the true cross would build a massive ship, a French independent scholar named Charles Rohault de Fleury tracked down every surviving relic and published a scientific study in 1870 entitled Mémoire sur les instruments de la Passion…..

– See more at Aleteia

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Where Is Your Treasure?

 “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matthew 6:21).


There are 24 hours in a day, about 8 of those hours are spent sleeping, which gives us 16 hours for prayer, work, family time and recreation. Most of us are “slaves” of the workday and have no choice but to work 8 hours a day, leaving us 8 hours for prayer, family time and various hobbies.

How do we spend that extra time we have? What is the first item on the to-do list to “go” when something comes up during that time? Where are our priorities?

Or as Jesus would say it, “where is your treasure?”

Why do we bless seeds on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s birthday?


My latest article from Aleteia:

On September 8 the Catholic Church celebrates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In context, the date is exactly nine months after the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Connected with this particular feast is an ancient “blessing of seeds” that has taken place on this day for hundreds of years.

Farmers and other parishioners would arrive at Mass with their seeds or seedlings and the priest would bless them afterwards. It is a custom that takes as its biblical basis the command of God given to Moses, “Tell the children of Israel that when they enter the land of promise which I shall give them, they are to offer the first-fruits to the priests, and they shall be blessed.”

The traditional text of the blessing can be found in the Roman Ritual.

“Holy Lord and Father, almighty everlasting God, we ask and beseech you to look with merry countenance and fair eyes on these seeds and seedlings. And as you proclaimed to Moses, your servant, in the land of Egypt, saying: “Tell the children of Israel that when they enter the land of promise which I shall give them, they are to offer the first-fruits to the priests, and they shall be blessed”; so too at our request, O Lord, be merciful and pour out the blessing + of your right hand upon these seeds, which you in your benevolence bring forth to sustain life. Let neither drought nor flood destroy them, but keep them unharmed until they reach their full growth and produce an abundant harvest for the service of body and soul. We ask this of you who live and reign in perfect Trinity forever and ever.”

“Almighty everlasting God, sower and tiller of the heavenly word, who cultivate the field of our hearts with heavenly tools, hear our prayers and pour out abundant blessings upon the fields in which these seeds are to be sown. By your protecting hand turn away the fury of the elements, so that this entire fruit may be filled with your blessing, + and may be gathered unharmed and stored up in the granary; through Christ our Lord.”

The annual blessing of seeds on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a way for farmers to mark the closing of the summer harvest and the beginning of fall and winter planting. Before they engaged in such an endeavor, they sought the blessing of the priest to bring God’s protection on their actions. It was a way to recognize the power God has over creation and to place the following year’s growing season into his hands.

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