"I have fought the good fight, 
I have finished the race,  I have kept the faith." 
Saint Paul

Amazing St Anthony personal story

by Julie Onderko on 06/30/17

I found it! Well my husband did. This bazar incident is a testament to the humility and help of St Anthony of Padua. 
Saturday I suggested with the hot weather that I give Tom a hair cut—basically it’s a buzz and I use our clippers (we have new clippers). I buzz him on the back yard so there is no hair to sweep up and in the spring, the birds and critters use the hair clippings for nesting material. But we couldn’t find the clippers. We searched and searched. I asked St Anthony to help us find the clippers and was mystified that they did not turn up—after all I did ask his help and St Anthony has always been very helpful. All we found was the old clipper bag that I had intended to throw out. So we assumed I must have thrown the wrong clipper bag away. No hair cut on Saturday for Tom.  
We did not use the air conditioner on Saturday even though it was very very hot. But by Sunday Tom decided that it was time to use it. Our air-conditioning unit is located on the side of the house—you know that side where there are no doors or windows and no one ever goes there. Anyway, he decided that it would be a good idea to clear the weeds away from the unit. Hidden down in the weeds were the hair clippers in their bag with the accessories! 
We have a theory. There is a beagle-looking dog that is small enough to fit under the fence on the side of the house where the air-conditioning unit is located. We find him in the back yard from time to time, and he runs back to that spot where there’s just enough room to squeeze under the fence, and makes his escape. We think that the last time I buzzed Tom with the clippers, that dog must have taken the clipper bag off the back patio but couldn’t get it under the fence, deposited it behind the AC unit, the weeds grew up around it and… well it’s a theory. 
And if we had, like sane people, decided to use the AC on Saturday when it was so hot, we would have found it the same day that we had searched and I sent up my prayer.  
Why did I mention St. Anthony’s humility? Well, he was quite a preacher and evangelist. Numerous miracles, including raising the dead, are attributed to him. Despite the numerous and sometimes very spectacular miracles he performed in his lifetime, he humbly takes his office as the patron saint of lost things very seriously. 
St. Anthony we love you!


by Julie Onderko on 01/05/17

But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. The divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity The Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: “Jesus,” “YHWH saves.” The name “Jesus” contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray “Jesus” is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him (CCC 2666). 

The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. When the holy name is repeated often by a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases, but holds fast to the word and “brings forth fruit with patience.” This prayer is possible “at all times” because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus (CCC 2668).


by Julie Onderko on 11/07/16

Most mornings at 5:10 a.m. Gus and I (Gus is my black lab) are meeting friends, Kathy and her dog Luke, at a woodland trailhead for a hike.  It’s still dark, so we wear headlamps as we traverse the rough path through the woods.  The goal–the top of the mountain—but we can only see one step at a time. 

We pray aloud and meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary as we hike.  Prayer allows us to see that we are on a spiritual journey.  We often pause, turn out our lights, and look up at a canopy of stars shining through the tall timber; it’s like our own cathedral. 

The changing seasons and different weather conditions add a beauty of their own to our cathedral; fog is a soft blanket of grace, city lights in the distance are our stained glass windows, and just before daylight during spring and summer, our cathedral has the most magnificent choir—the birds are busy announcing the coming of a new day and so we are gifted with “sacred” music. 

On life’s journeys, God gives us the angels with their superior intellect, and abilities, to be our companions, guides, and protectors.  It wouldn’t be prudent to set out into the dark woods without some protection. We have our dogs, with their superior senses of smell, hearing, and vision, as well as their instinct to protect. They are like the “angels” in our “cathedral.”

Yes we have stumbled over roots and fallen, or had a difficult time praying as we struggle to catch our breath near the summit.  We can get blind-sided too. Once after a storm, I was following Kathy up the trail and intently watching the lit area directly in front of me—after all, there were branches down and mud to deal with.  She saw a huge branch arched across the trail and ducked underneath (and assumed that I saw it too) but I walked right into it.  My forehead was no match for that sturdy limb and I was knocked to the ground. 

Life can be like that too.  We can be going along, doing what we are supposed to be doing, stepping out in faith and keeping our eyes on the path, when we will get hit with something hard and unexpected.  At times like this it is important to keep putting one foot in front of the other—one step at a time, even if that step is greatly modified or requires the help of others. 

Occasionally, we have been our own worse enemy and sabotaged our prayer because we got distracted and started talking about all kinds of unimportant things.   Just like in everyday life, we get back on track and begin again “…Hail Mary, full of grace…” one step at a time.    

Along life’s journey, God gives us companions, encouragement, and a host of beautiful gifts—like an outdoor cathedral, a good friend, and a loyal dog—everything we need to make the trip, including the faith required…if we ask for it.  But He doesn’t illuminate our entire path.  Rather, He often allows us to see only one step at a time.  Steps 2, 3, 4 and so on, are usually not illuminated for us until we get to them—we simply are not ready beforehand. 

Our goal?  Heaven.  Our part?  Taking one step of faithat a time. 

CBB Interview with Julie Onderko

by Julie Onderko on 06/24/16

CBB Interview with Julie Onderko

julie_onderko_interview_spotlightJulie Onderko has been married for 34 years to Tom. They belong to Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie, Oregon. They are blessed with three grown sons and five grandchildren. Julie’s past experiences include being a stay-at-home mom, a free-lance writer, a youth minister, and a real estate broker. Currently, she is the Director of Faith Formation at The Madeleine Parish in NE Portland, Oregon.

She holds a bachelors degree in Theology and is currently enrolled in the Graduate School of Theology at the Augustine Institute.

Julie is the founder the apostolate, CATHOLIC FINISH STRONG. She is a speaker for the apostolate and offers a variety of presentations and retreats and can be contacted through the website: CatholicFinishStrong.org

Michele interview Julie about her book Discover Your Next Mission from God.

MICHELE:   I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the lives of some of the more obscure saints, blesseds, intercessors – such as Margaret Clitherow, Josephine Bakhita, Roger, Wrenno, Jan Tyranowski and Franz Jagerstatter, how did you discover them or how did they find their way to you?

JULIE ONDERKO:  This almost goes without saying, but I prayed asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit as to which saints should be included.  I also asked my guardian angel and all the saints that I had come to know and love to help direct me.

Saints, blessed, venerables, and servants of God would come across my path in one way or another and peak my interest—perhaps it was a quote I read or some tidbit I heard on the radio. Often, in learning about one saint, I would be introduced to someone previously unknown to me.  This was the case with John Paul II and Jan Tyranowski.

When I thought the book was done and ready to turn in, I experienced an incredible miracle through the intercession of Saint Joseph.  Previously, I really did not know too much about him.  But again, one of the other saints led me to him—Saint Teresa of Avila.  She promoted devotion to Saint Joseph and encouraged people who did not believe in his intercession to “try” him (in some translation the word is “test”).  I came across her quote at a particular time of very serious need.  So I did as she suggested and asked Saint Joseph to intercede.  The miracle healing that resulted was undeniable!  That is why Chapter 11 features our Spiritual Father—Saint Joseph.

MICHELE:  The Litany of Humility, and your explanation of humility as the “essential ingredient” in seeking God’s will and discovering our mission was one of my favorite parts of your book.  How would you feel about writing an entire book to dedicated to exploring humility?

JULIE ONDERKO: I am certainly open to it.   If God wants me to write a book exploring humility—I will do it.

MICHELE: Another part of your book that really spoke to me was the section on St. Therese of Lisieux… I have read a great deal about St. Therese and her “Little Way” but I have never read anything similar to the way you explained it as a “private affair.”

 “God’s will in our lives-our mission- sometimes is a very private affair.  It may seem as if nothing supernatural is happening when spiritual battles are waged and souls are won for God, but He knows.  What if our mission is to be a prayer warrior and spend much of our time interceding on behalf of others?  That mission is not going to be obvious to others.  And it is the same if God has asked us to unite our pains, sorrows, and trials with His Passion to save souls.”

I was amazed at the question “What if our mission is to be a prayer warrior and spend much of our time interceding on behalf of others?”  I have never read that anywhere (and I read A LOT!)….  I am wondering if you could speak to that in more detail, because for many years I believe that has been a significant part of God’s mission for me- so much so, that in many ways I lead the life of a cloistered, contemplative nun while being a wife, mother and grandmother.

JULIE ONDERKO: What I mean by a “private affair” is that our mission may not be apparent to others.  In the convent where St. Therese lived, the other nuns did not realize the extent of her sanctity.  Those closest to her (in proximity I mean) did not see it.  So in this way it was “private.”  Yet she embraced her mission and after her death it became public and we are all privileged to know it and share in her “Little Way.”  Many people live holy lives in total cooperation with God’s will and no one realizes it. In heaven these holy souls will know the fruit of their missions!

MICHELE:  Along that same line… the chapter entitled “Embrace Your Mission-at Any Age” brought out some great points about the elderly or the infirmed still being capable of serving God.  I like where you said “What if our mission is to do nothing?”  in reference to them.  What a great insight!  

I know many old and/or ill folks who think their lives are over – if they only understood the honor and dignity that is theirs and the important role they could have to serve as an intercessor through their prayers and offering up their pain.  Any further comment or suggestion on how to convey this message to them?  They could be doing so much even though it looks like they are doing nothing!

JULIE ONDERKO: Often those who are aging and suffering do not unite their pain with the redemptive work Jesus did on the Cross. Bishop Fulton Sheen lamented the “wasted suffering” when he would pass by a hospital. He knew that some of the most important work for the salvation of souls could be done from a hospital bed.  We are invited to share in the redemptive work of Christ with our own suffering—what an amazing privilege!

I highly recommend Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to the Elderly.”  It is short and easy to read and very encouraging. In this personal letter, the Pope shares much of himself in an effort to connect with those who are aging and feeling less useful in life.  This short read helps us to see our part in God’s plan regardless of age or ability.  We all have our mission, even when (or especially when) we are dying.

MICHELE: Time for our signature ending CBB question. This is a blog about books. What books are currently on your bookshelf to read?

JULIE ONDERKO: Onward Catholic Soldier: Spiritual Warfare According to Scripture, the Church and the Saints by John LaBriola

Autobiography of a Hunted Priestby John Gerard, S.J.

My Other Self: Conversations with Christ on Living Your Faith by Clarence Enzler

Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems: From Anger, Boredom, and Temptation to Gluttony, Gossip, and Greed by Fr. Joseph Esper

"The Church Still Needs You"

by Julie Onderko on 03/13/16

       My brother in law, Mark Onderko died recently after a long battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. During the increasingly debilitating months as the disease progressed, he could have felt useless but he did not.  He united his suffering with the redemptive work of Jesus’ Cross—taking the concerns for his friends and family right to the heart of Jesus.  Mark used his suffering for perhaps the most important work he would ever do! 

       Mark’s death got me to thinking.  In this day and age where the value of a person’s life is often measured by how much they can do and even by how much they are able to “enjoy” life—many are made to feel like they are a burden or even disposable.  Venerable Fulton Sheen used to lament the wasted suffering in hospitals.  If only the patients realized the enormously spiritual value of their suffering when united with the Cross of Christ.  If we are alive, we still have work to do—especially when we are dying. 

       For those persons who feel they have lost their usefulness and especially to the elderly, the sick and the dying, Pope John Paul II had this to say, 

       The Church still needs you…She (the Church) appreciates the services which you may wish to provide in many areas of the apostolate; she counts on the support of your longer periods of prayer; she counts on your advice born of experience, and she is enriched by your daily witness to the Gospel.

         In Pope John Paul’s Letter to the Elderly, he emphasizes that all the phases of life have their particular character and that every phase (even the dying phase) is a meaningful preparation for eternity. In the letter, he recounts the different periods of his life, drawing lessons from his own personal history. 

         Just as John Paul reached out to the many different groups in his lifetime (the youth, families, women, etc.), he writes this particular letter to the elderly with a deep desire to connect with them:  

       As an older person myself, I have felt the desire to engage in a conversation with you.  I feel a spontaneous desire to share fully with you my own feelings at this point of my life, after more than twenty years of ministry on the throne of Peter and as we await the arrival, now imminent, of the Third Millennium.  Despite the limitations brought on by age, I continue to enjoy life.  For this I thank the Lord.

         Let’s hope and pray that whether we are young or old, rich or poor, gifted or challenged, healthy or infirmed, we will be able to truthfully say with Pope Saint John Paul II and Mark Onderko, It is wonderful to be able to give oneself to the very end for the sake of the kingdom of God!

God Became Man

by Julie Onderko on 12/29/15

Christmas is a Season not simply one day. Enjoy Christmas music, gift giving, decorations, celebrations with friends and family but especially celebrate the intense reality that God became man to share in our nature to save us and elevate us in His nature. What an awesome, priceless gift!

My New Book Release

by Julie Onderko on 12/03/15

Dear Friends,

I am so pleased to announce the release of my book, Discover Your Next Mission From God; How the Saints Found God's Will and You Can Too.  Here is the write-up on the publisher's page (Sophia Institute Press) and a link to order your soft cover or electronic copy.  A lot of prayer went into this book and I believe inspiration.  I can honestly say that my intent was to write what the Lord wanted written.  Here is that write up,

"If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.”

—St. Catherine of Siena

God created each person for a specific purpose and with a specific mission. How do I find out what that mission is?

Every saint in heaven once asked this question. Their path to discovering God’s will was often frustrating and tedious, but their reward for perseverance is eternity in heaven.

In Discover Your Next Mission from God, author and retreat-leader Julie Onderko uncovers the lives of countless saints to show how they searched for — and ultimately discovered — God’s will for their lives. By reflecting on the decisions, circumstances, and ever-guiding love of God in the saints’ lives, you’ll come to a greater knowledge of how to see and live the plan He has for your life. 

You’ll learn how Maximillian Kolbe got God’s plan wrong before he got it right. You’ll read about St. Helena who persevered under the most challenging circumstances, including watching her son murder her grandson. You’ll discover how St. Andre Bessette found his calling to heal physical afflictions through devotion to St. Joseph.

Time after time, Julie shows us, God doesn’t call the holy and qualified. Instead, he calls sinners like you and me, lifts them up to greatness, and sets them out to do His will. 

Read these pages, and you’ll be armed with saintly strategies and examples as you begin the greatest adventure of your life. God is calling you right now, and He stands ready to fill your soul with the grace needed to achieve His mission for you on earth."

To order, click the link above.  

This humble work is dedicated to the Holy Family:

To Saint Joseph, my spiritual father?I am so grateful to him, and I love him so much.

To our Blessed Mother, Mary, through whom my consecration to her Son, Jesus,?has changed my life: I love her and?she is the best mom anyone could ever have.

And to our Lord, Jesus Christ, the God-Man and the absolute love of my life: because of Him, all things are possible.

Here I would like to publicly thank the people who helped me.  This acknowledgment is quoted from the book and it comes straight from my heart.

Although my husband, Tom, never wrote a word of this book, it simply couldn’t have happened without him. This is his book, too. His unwavering and often sacrificial support made it possible. Tom is a gift to me, and I thank God for putting him in my life.

What would I do without my spiritual director, Father Giles Dimock, O.P.? Father Giles provided the theological safety net required to ensure faithfulness to the teachings of the Catholic Church. His ability to get to the heart of any matter with clarity has been invaluable to me. I greatly appreciate the guidance I have received from this good and wise priest.

Close friends are family that you choose. Steve and Karen Timm are like my big brother and sister. Without Karen’s belief and confident insistence that I write this book, it is likely that I would have procrastinated indefinitely. And I cannot thank

Steve enough—an absolutely fantastic writer and the best word- smith I know. He taught me so much.

How can I adequately thank my dear friend and prayer part- ner, Rahles Goodell? Every writer needs someone with a nose for finding mistakes, and that was definitely Rahlie. Not only that: she’s really onboard with the mission that others benefit from the saints featured in these pages.

Father Theodore Lange was so very helpful with the chapter on Saint Joseph. Father Theo also supported my writing ministry with a blessing, “May Saint Joseph guard this labor of love.” I am deeply touched.

There are also several friends who have supported me, and I thank God for them. They listened, made suggestions, and encouraged me. And you know who you are!

I am eternally grateful for the heavenly connections made while writing this book. It has been a real adventure getting to know these saints; they have become my spiritual family. What an incredible blessing it is to have friends and family in high places!”



by Julie Onderko on 11/12/15

For those persons who feel they have lost their usefulness and especially to the elderly, John Paul had this to say, 

The Church still needs you…She (the Church) appreciates the services which you may wish to provide in many areas of the apostolate; she counts on the support of your longer periods of prayer; she counts on your advice born of experience, and she is enriched by your daily witness to the Gospel.[i]

         In Pope John Paul’s Letter to the Elderly, he emphasizes that all the phases of life have their particular character and that every phase is a meaningful preparation for eternity. In the letter, he recounts the different periods of his life, drawing lessons from his own personal history. 

         Just as John Paul reached out to the many different groups in his lifetime (the youth, families, women, etc.), he writes this particular letter to the elderly with a deep desire to connect with them.  

As an older person myself, I have felt the desire to engage in a conversation with you.[ii]   I feel a spontaneous desire to share fully with you my own feelings at this point of my life, after more than twenty years of ministry on the throne of Peter and as we await the arrival, now imminent, of the Third Millennium.  Despite the limitations brought on by age, I continue to enjoy life.  For this I thank the Lord.[iii]  

         Let’s hope and pray that whether we are young or old, rich or poor, gifted or challenged, healthy or infirmed, we will be able to truthfully say with Pope Saint John Paul II, 

It is wonderful to be able to give oneself to the very end for the sake of the kingdom of God! [iv]

[i] John Paul II, Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II To the Elderly. Rome 1999 (13).

[ii] Ibid., (17).

[iii] Ibid., (17).

[iv] Ibid., (17).

I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created.

by Julie Onderko on 11/05/15

I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created. I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has. Whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.

God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission — I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for his purposes, as necessary in my place as an archangel in his — if, indeed, I fail, God can raise another, as he could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught.

I shall do good. I shall do his work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, though not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain. He may prolong my life; he may shorten it. He knows what he is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me — still he knows what he is about.[i]

[i] John Henry Newman. Everyday Meditations, Kindle Edition. Sophia Institute Press, 2013, Kindle Locations 182-194.


St. F.austina guides us regarding our speech and the use of our tongues

by Julie Onderko on 10/19/15

St. F.austina guides us regarding our speech and the use of our tongues

“Humiliation is my daily food.  I understand that the bride must herself share in everything that is the groom’s; and so His cloak of mockery must cover me, too.  At those times when I suffer much, I try to remain silent, as I do not trust my tongue which at such moments, is inclined to talk for itself, while its duty is to help me praise God for all the blessings and gifts which He has given me.  When I receive Jesus in Holy Communion, I ask Him fervently to deign to heal my tongue so that I would offend neither God nor neighbor by it.  I want my tongue to praise God without cease.  Great are the faults committed b the tongue.  The soul will not attain sanctity if it does not keep watch over its tongue.” (92) Faustina from her Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul

Quotes from Saints and Popes to Inspire

by Julie Onderko on 10/08/15

Remember that dear friend who always sends inspiring quotes to me (and others) daily through text messaging?  Well here’s a few more.  These words have meant so much to me that I am compelled to share them.

“Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs, or anything else-God is in this person’s life.  You can, you must try to seek God in every human life.  Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow.  You have to trust God.  The heart grows hard when it does not love.  Lord, give us a heart that knows how to love.” Pope Francis

“Spread love everywhere you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” Blessed Mother Teresa

“You cannot argue or study or reason or hypothesize or whip yourself into faith.   Faith is a gift of God.  When anyone instructs you in Christian doctrine, he does not give you faith.  He is only a spiritual agriculturist tilling the soil of your soul, uprooting a few weeds and breaking up the clods of egotism.  It is God who drops the seeds. ‘For by grace you are saved through faith and not of yourselves, for it is a gift of God.’” Bishop Fulton Sheen

“Do not become impatient with God because He does not answer your prayers immediately.  We are always in a hurry, God is not.  Circumstances must not control you, you must control circumstances.  Do something to them!  Even the irritations of life can be made stepping stones to salvation.  An oyster develops a pearl because a grain of sand irritated it.  Cease talking about your pains and aches.  Thank God for them! An act of thanksgiving when things go against our will, then thousands acts of thanksgiving when things go according to our will.” Bishop Fulton Sheen

The month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary.  Mary appeared to St. Dominic in 1206 after he had been praying and doing severe penance.  “since the prayers of the Rosary come from such excellent sources from our Lord Himself, form inspired Scirture and from the Church, it is not surprising that the Rosary is so dear to Our Blessed Mother and so powerful in heaven.” Saint Dominic

“Mary simply says this to Jesus, ‘They have no wine.’ She does not ask for anything specific, much less that Jesus exercises His power, perform a miracle and produce wine.  She simply hands the matter over to Jesus and leaves it to Him to decide about what to do,  In the simple words of the Mother of Jesus we can see her affectionate concern for Her people, that maternal affection which makes Her aware of the problems of others.  We see her heartfelt goodness and Her willingness to help.  This is the Mother that generations of people have come to know.  To Her we entrust our cares, our needs and our troubles.  Her maternal readiness to help, in which we trust, appears here for the first time in Holy Scripture.” Pope Benedict (I just love this. I have never really thought about the fact that She did not tell Jesus what to do but simply pointed out Her concern!)

“The conflict of Hell cannot be maintained by men, even the most clever.  The Immaculata alone has from God the promise of victory over satan.” Saint Maximilian Kolbe

“May the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always smile on your spirit, obtaining for it, from Her most Holy Son, every heavenly blessing.” Saint Padre Pio

Remain Strong in Adversity

by Julie Onderko on 09/30/15

            We all have challenges and sometimes they seem to never end.  Sometimes we can feel a little sorry for ourselves or even exasperated about the adversities in our lives.  It was no different for me the other day.  That evening I randomly opened up the Diary of St Faustina, “Divine Mercy in My Soul.” My eyes went to these words,

            “Pure love is capable of great deeds, and it is not broken by difficulty or adversity.  As it remains strong in the midst of great difficulties, so too it perseveres in the toilsome and drab life of each day.  It knows that only one thing is needed to please God: to do even the smallest things out of great love—love and always love.  Pure love never errs.  Its light is strangely plentiful.  It will not do anything that might displease God.  It is ingenious at doing what is more pleasing to God, and no one will equal it.  It is happy when it can empty itself and burn like a pure offering.  The more it gives of itself, the happier it is.  But also, no one can sense dangers from afar as can love; it know how to unmasks and also knows with whom it has to deal” (140). “But my torments are coming to an end.  The Lord is giving me the promised help” (141).  

Pope Francis Homily 9/26

by Julie Onderko on 09/26/15

Here is the full homily Pope Francis was slated to give at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, as translated by the Holy See:

This morning I learned something about the history of this beautiful Cathedral: the story behind its high walls and windows. I would like to think, though, that the history of the Church in this city and state is really a story not about building walls, but about breaking them down. It is a story about generation after generation of committed Catholics going out to the peripheries, and building communities of worship, education, charity and service to the larger society.

That story is seen in the many shrines which dot this city, and the many parish churches whose towers and steeples speak of God’s presence in the midst of our communities. It is seen in the efforts of all those dedicated priests, religious and laity who for over two centuries have ministered to the spiritual needs of the poor, the immigrant, the sick and those in prison. And it is seen in the hundreds of schools where religious brothers and sisters trained children to read and write, to love God and neighbor, and to contribute as good citizens to the life of American society. All of this is a great legacy which you have received, and which you have been called to enrich and pass on.

Most of you know the story of Saint Katharine Drexel, one of the great saints raised up by this local Church. When she spoke to Pope Leo XIII of the needs of the missions, the Pope – he was a very wise Pope! – asked her pointedly: “What about you? What are you going to do?”. Those words changed Katharine’s life, because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman, by virtue of baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond, as best we can, to the Lord’s call to build up his Body, the Church.

“What about you?” I would like to dwell on two aspects of these words in the context of our particular mission to transmit the joy of the Gospel and to build up the Church, whether as priests, deacons, or members of institutes of consecrated life.

First, those words – “What about you?” – were addressed to a young person, a young woman with high ideals, and they changed her life. They made her think of the immense work that had to be done, and to realize that she was being called to do her part. How many young people in our parishes and schools have the same high ideals, generosity of spirit, and love for Christ and the Church! Do we challenge them? Do we make space for them and help them to do their part? To find ways of sharing their enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all in works of mercy and concern for others? Do we share our own joy and enthusiasm in serving the Lord?

One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world. This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life.

“What about you?” It is significant that those words of the elderly Pope were also addressed to a lay woman. We know that the future of the Church in a rapidly changing society will call, and even now calls, for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity. The Church in the United States has always devoted immense effort to the work of catechesis and education. Our challenge today is to build on those solid foundations and to foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the future of our parishes and institutions. This does not mean relinquishing the spiritual authority with which we have been entrusted; rather, it means discerning and employing wisely the manifold gifts which the Spirit pours out upon the Church. In a particular way, it means valuing the immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make, to the life of our communities.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for the way in which each of you has answered Jesus’ question which inspired your own vocation: “What about you?”. I encourage you to be renewed in the joy of that first encounter with Jesus and to draw from that joy renewed fidelity and strength. I look forward to being with you in these days and I ask you to bring my affectionate greetings to those who could not be with us, especially the many elderly priests and religious who join us in spirit.

During these days of the World Meeting of Families, I would ask you in a particular way to reflect on our ministry to families, to couples preparing for marriage, and to our young people. I know how much is being done in your local Churches to respond to the needs of families and to support them in their journey of faith. I ask you to pray fervently for them, and for the deliberations of the forthcoming Synod on the Family.

Now, with gratitude for all we have received, and with confident assurance in all our needs, let us turn to Mary, our Blessed Mother. With a mother’s love, may she intercede for the growth of the Church in America in prophetic witness to the power of her Son’s Cross to bring joy, hope and strength into our world. I pray for each of you, and I ask you, please, to pray for me.

Trust When it is Difficult

by Julie Onderko on 08/27/15

From the Diary of St. Faustina, 

“One act of trust at such moments gives greater glory to God than whole hours passed in prayer filled with consolations.”  

The “such moments” that Faustina was referring to are those “dreadful sufferings” as she calls them.  When we suffer, when we are challenged, when things are not going well and life is full of uncertainty—that is when our small act of trust in Jesus is most potent!  When we distilled everything in this life down to what really matters now and for all eternity—it is our relationship with Jesus Christ.  We can trust Him.  

Sustaining Saint Quotes during times of trial

by Julie Onderko on 08/21/15

Dear friends, 

We all have trials and I have had my own lately. That accounts for my absence from Catholic Finish Strong. During this difficulty, a dear friend took it upon herself to send me daily words of encouragement. These words were prayers and quotes. I am sharing the saint quotes that I found particularly helpful. Texting a little thing like this to someone who needs to read it can be more powerful than we realize. I was on the receiving end and it was very powerful and sustaining. 

"Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you have tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do. " Pope Saint John XXIII

"Faith is to believe what you do not see. The reward of this faith is to see what you believe." St Augustine

"We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials." St. Teresa of Avila

"Start by doing what's necessary then do what's possible and suddenly you are dong the impossible." St Francis of Assisi

"A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love." St Basil

"Be what God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire." St Catherine of Siena

"God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful." Blessed Mother Teresa

Spiritual Warfare from St. Faustina

by Julie Onderko on 07/23/15

St Faustina at a Conference on Spiritual Warfare.  Jesus is speaking to her.  Each sentence could be a day's meditation!

Put your self-love in the last place, so that it does not taint your deeds. Bear with yourself with great patience. Do not neglect interior mortifications. Always justify to yourself the opinions of your superiors and of your confessor. Shun murmurers [gossip] like a plague. Let all act as they like; you are to act as I want you to.
My daughter, I want to teach you about spiritual warfare. Never trust in yourself, but abandon yourself totally to My will. In desolation, darkness, and various doubts, have recourse to Me and to your spiritual director. He will always answer you in My name. Do not bargain with any temptation; lock yourself immediately in My Heart and, at the first opportunity, reveal the temptation to the confessor.

The Saints on "The Angels," Their Experiences and Insights

by Julie Onderko on 07/16/15

The Saints on "The Angels," Their Experiences and Insights

Make yourself familiar with the Angels, and behold them frequently in spirit. Without being seen, they are present with you. -- St. Francis de Sales

Beside each believer stands an Angel as protector and shepherd, leading him to life. -- St. Basil the Great

When tempted, invoke your Angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped! Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him: He trembles and flees at the sight of your Guardian Angel. -- St. John

Here is the story in the words of Sister Turco, a close friend of Saint Bakhita who was captured in Sudan and sold into slavery as a young child.  Eventually she was bought by Italians who brought her to Italy and was eventually set free by the Italian government.    

Bakhita once told me that something happened after she and her companion escaped from their owner, on the very first night they spent in the forest.  While everything was dark all around them and they were hiding under some plants, she suddenly saw a beautiful figure take shape in the sky.  Surrounded by light, this figure was smiling at her and pointed out the way she should follow.  Without telling anything about this to her companion, she confidently followed the direction that this mysterious figure indicated.  In this way, she found the strength and courage to continue on, and thus they were saved from the wild beasts.  Near dawn the figure disappeared, and she did not see it again.

After many years, when she was a nun and sacristan, without even recalling the earlier occasion in the forest, one morning as she was opening the little door to the rectory, she saw at her side a beautiful young man, radiant with light.  Surprised, she stopped, then recognized him and remembered.  She wanted to speak but felt as if her tongue had been nailed to the roof of her mouth, and the limbs became stiff.  The young man smiled at her and then disappeared.  “It must have been your guardian angel,”  I told her.  “Yes, I believe it was too” she replied.[i]

I bind to myself today the power in the love of the Seraphim, in the obedience of the Angels, in the ministration of the Archangels, in the hope of Resurrection unto reward, in the prayers of the Patriarchs, in the predictions of the Prophets, in the preaching of the Apostles, in the faith of the Confessors, in the purity of the holy Virgins, in the deeds of Righteous men. -- St. Patrick of Ireland.

[i] Bakhita: From Slave to Saint by Roberto Italo Zanini p. 53-54.


by Julie Onderko on 07/09/15

The Saints on Criticism

"God detests those who commend themselves. Let others applaud our good deeds.” -- Pope St. Clement I 

“It is a man’s duty to do his best to alleviate human enmities by kindly speech, not to excite and aggravate them by the repetition of slanders.” — St. Augustine

“Be as blind to the faults of your neighbors as possible, trying at least to attribute a good intention to their actions.” — Ven. Solanus Casey

“To criticize, to destroy, is not difficult; any unskilled laborer knows how to drive his pick into the noble and finely hewn stone of a cathedral. To construct: that is what requires the skill of a master.” — St. Josemaría Escrivá

"St. Peter Claver devoted his life to ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of black slaves in South America, and his efforts to secure better treatment for them resulted in bitter criticism from the slave owners. In response, he said, 'The humble ass is my model. When he is evilly spoken of, he is dumb. Whatever happens, he never complains, for he is only an ass. So also must be God’s servants.'” Esper, Fr Joseph M, More Saintly Solutions

 “Whenever you need to criticize, your criticism must seek to be positive, helpful, and constructive. It should never be made behind the back of the person concerned. To act otherwise would be treacherous, sneaky, defamatory, slanderous even, as well as utterly ignoble.” St. Josemaría Escrivá Esper,

“During mental prayer, it is well, at times, to imagine that many insults and injuries are being heaped upon us, that misfortunes have befallen us, and then strive to train our heart to bear and forgive these things patiently, in imitation of our Saviour. This is the way to acquire a strong spirit.” St. Philip Neri


Chosen Souls, from the Diary of St.Faustina (1556)

by Julie Onderko on 07/01/15

Chosen Souls, from the Diary of St.Faustina (1556)

The Lord gave me to know that, among His chosen ones, there are some who are especially chosen, and whom He calls to a higher form of holiness, to exceptional union with Him.  These are seraphic souls, from whom God demands greater love than He does from others… Such a soul understands this call, because God makes this known to it interiorly, but the soul may either follow this call or not.  It depends on the soul itself whether it is faithful to these touches of the Holy Spirit, or whether it resists them.  I have learned that there is a place in purgatory where souls will pay their to debt to God for such transgressions; this kind of torment is the most difficult of all.  The soul which is specially marked by God will be distinguished everywhere, whether in heaven or in purgatory or in hell.  In heaven, it will be distinguished form other souls by greater glory and radiance and deeper knowledge of God.  In purgatory, by greater pain because it knows God more profoundly and desires Him more vehemently.  In hell, it will suffer more profoundly than other souls, because it knows more fully whom it has lost.  The indelible mark of God’s exclusive love, in the soul, will not be obliterated. 


by Julie Onderko on 06/25/15

“Don’t be discouraged when you fall.... Your becoming discouraged and disheartened after the fall is the work of the enemy. . . . You will not do this, therefore, because the grace of God is always vigilant in coming to your aid.” — St. Padre Pio 

“You haven’t failed; you have gained experience. On you go!” — St. Josemaría Escrivá 

“If I succeed, I bless God; if I do not succeed, I bless God, for then it will be right that I should not succeed.” — St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

“We shall steer safely through every storm so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God.” -- St. Francis de Sales

“My confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing his designs. Our single endeavor should be to give ourselves to the work and to be faithful to him…” -- St. Isaac Jogues

“It is not the actual physical exertion that counts toward a man's progress, nor the nature of the task, but the spirit of faith with which it is undertaken.” -- St. Francis Xavier

“It is because of faith that we exchange the present for the future.” -- St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen