The Sacred Heart of Jesus Who Leaves the 99


Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees and scribes:
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
(Luke 15: 3-5)

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!  That Heart that leaves the 99 to go in search of the one- that’s you…and me!  This is our gospel today!

So many know and love the hearts all these great speakers above… who are so near to that Sacred Heart of Jesus– (especially at Steubenville Youth Conference Time!)

They continue to endlessly spend themselves reaching our youth and all audiences who are at every step on the journey. (Even if they’ve lost their way and missed a few steps on that path back to God.)

They want to be like Christ and leave the 99!  And now want to show us how to do it in our own areas!

Their time with Christ in prayer and their teamwork with Ascension Press have moved them beyond all comfort zones to find the one who may need God the most.

And so they’re coming to us…from the stages of Steubenville Conferences, to the varied events around the world and now to the small parish groups in your town. Give a listen to the trailer here, and the see what Ascension Press’ message is to us today!

May God’s “Sacred Heart” Kingdom come by way of the Great and Good Shepherd, and our great speakers here with hearts filled with His Love!


Ascension Launches New Program to Engage Catholics
and Encourage Evangelization in 2019 and Beyond

The 99 is a three-part system for evangelization aimed at kick-starting a renewal
within parish walls and beyond.

Ascension has launched a new system for evangelization called The 99 to engage Catholics and encourage them to evangelize the Church, their communities, and the culture. The system is made up of three parts, each designed to help Catholics easily organize an effective, ongoing evangelization effort within their parish walls and beyond: a short series of “mission” videos, a leadership training component, and a book. Each draws on the expertise of a group of experienced evangelization experts to help inspire Catholic individuals and groups to “go out into the deep” and share the Gospel.

“Until recent decades, evangelization wasn’t something most Catholics talked about. Then when more of us finally did start talking about it, we quickly realized it was something we weren’t really sure about. We knew the information, but we weren’t exactly sure how to share it,” says Mark Hart, author of The 99. “At a time in our world when many are interested in ‘spirituality’ and finding meaning and purpose in life, why do we feel hindered or afraid to talk about God even with those close to us? That’s where The 99 comes in.”

The 99 Experience is the centerpiece of the program and features a short series of inspirational video presentations to bring Catholics together and spark prayer and conversation.The 99 Masterclass features a lineup of seasoned evangelists, who share their experiences and knowledge in the field of touching hearts. Aimed at equipping leaders to become more effective in reaching and engaging people where they are at, The 99 Masterclass features presenters such as Fr. Mike Schmitz, Fr. Joshua Johnson, Sr. Miriam Heidland, and Leah Darrow. The 99 Masterclass is also designed to prepare parishes to host The 99 Experience. The third and final component is The 99 Handbook, which is a short book that makes the case that a life of faith is necessary, reasonable, and rewarding. It serves as an ideal follow-up to The 99 Experience. The goal of the program is for Catholics to experience a deeper personal connection with Christ and to motivate them to begin sharing their story and their joy with those around them.

“We all want those in our parishes to know the Lord. How can we really introduce and re-introduce people to the love of God, to the mercy of God, to the answer, the solution, the Savior who is Jesus Christ, who we all need daily?” asks Mark Hart. “Anyone who works in ministry knows that the need always seems to exceed what you have. My hope is that you’re going to see this as not just another study or program, but something more, something that can kick-start a movement or renewal within your parish walls and beyond.”

For more information on The 99, please visit

The 99 is published by Ascension, the Catholic faith formation leader. Ascension has produced acclaimed study programs, books, and free content for over 20 years, and has helped over one million Catholics on their faith journey.

To request additional information on The 99 and/or to schedule an interview with author and presenter Mark Hart, please contact Carrie Kline at:

Happy Anniversary “Chosen”!

It’s a real gift to know you are CHOSEN.

My husband Tom and I taught Confirmation to 9th and 10th graders for over 10 years in our former parish. For our high school freshman and sophomores, sometimes “faith” was a tough sell. But our parish priest convinced us and honestly I believe it was his true genius to have a married couple teach teens together! We would spend time planning the sessions together and grew closer in the process.  (And I mean that even when we respectfully disagreed on how to present!  Dying to self was part of the deal for us both!)

Tom’s entire career has been in education of high schoolers, and I learned so much about how to “be” with them by watching him smile, talk to them with genuine interest and patiently wait for their attention.  He had an ease of conversation with them, knew how to engage them, and was willing to be comfortable with unexpected changes.   I had a real  and comprehensive knowledge of the material and a love for teaching catechetics.  The material was familiar, and so important to me, that having the chance to share it with my parish family was exciting.

Our Confirmation program was on a two year cycle. Our DRE and parish priest were very open to what programs we would use.  Having studied a lot of Theology of the Body, we jumped at the chance to teach Ascension Press’ TOB for Teens.  Then, when CHOSEN came out, we made another request and were given the go- ahead to make that the second year of our program.


Our youngest son was in the class for 2 years.  He remembers the videos being so relatable.  Real people. Real stories.  Real good humor.  Small group discussions gave the teens time to sort through the topics, and think through the themes. Ascension found a way to get the best speakers of our day, on film, to talk to millions. Those teens came to know that these speakers cared a lot about God, but even more, wanted their viewers who were preparing for Confirmation to find the peace and joy of that relationship too.

And so I celebrate with Ascension on their 5th anniversary! I celebrate the conversion of many young hearts to God and to His Church.  I’m thankful that Tom and I were CHOSEN by God to teach it and I thank all at Ascension Press for helping teens know what a gift it is that they too have been CHOSEN- by God!

Read more about this exciting program and it’s great effect on the young people of our Church here….

Groundbreaking Confirmation Program Celebrates 5th Anniversary, Half a Million Teens’ Lives Touched

Ascension’s Chosen Program Has Formed Over Half a Million Teens and Looks Towards Bright Future Ahead of 5th Anniversary of the Program


West Chester, PA, May 21, 2019 – More than half a million teens have gone through Ascension’s Chosen program, and ahead of the 5th anniversary of the Confirmation program, Ascension and the creators of Chosen celebrate the inspiring achievements and success of the program.


Chosen stemmed out of a dire need in the Church for better catechesis and stronger faith formation, especially for those preparing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. More than half a million Catholics receive the sacrament of Confirmation every year, but when studies showed that nearly half of those would leave the faith within five years – nationally renowned speaker Chris Stefanick, professor Ron Bolster of Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Ascension joined forces and decided to do something about it.


“We knew there needed to be a new program that would better prepare young Catholics, and Catholics of all ages going through the program, to live out their faith in the world – and would engage them and encourage them to take their faith deeper, “said Chris Stefanick, co-author of Chosen. “Because of my background working with young people and Ron Bolster’s experience teaching catechetics, we had a pretty good idea of what the program needed to look like, but we ended up spending an entire year working on the content, based on the RCIA model, and then another four years working with facilitators, presenters, writers, and media experts – to make sure that the program was the best it could be, before launching it in May 2014.”


A  key to Chosen’s success in keeping teens engaged is the stunning video series featuring 12 leading Catholic presenters such as Jason Evert, Jackie Francois Angel, and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers. They discuss the faith on location throughout the U.S. and internationally — including New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Nashville, Rome and Florence. Chosen: Your Journey Toward Confirmation includes the video series, a student workbook, and guides for leaders, parents, and sponsors, along with extensive online resources. In 5 years, Chosen has been adopted by thousands of parishes and dioceses and has had incredible results.


“Since its release in 2014, Chosen has touched the lives of 500,000 students, more than 200,000 parents, and almost 200,000 sponsors. It’s amazing what God does when you see a need, and you take a leap of faith to fill that need – incredible things happen,” Stefanick continued, “We are so proud of what Chosen is and what this program has accomplished in five short years. Ultimately, it’s beauty that draws the heart. And when people hear the Gospel in a language that they can understand, it changes their lives. We can’t wait to see how this program continues to touch people’s hearts and lives for many years to come.”


For more information on Chosen, please visit:

 To request additional information on Chosen and/or to schedule an interview with one of the presenters, please contact Carrie Kline at:

What people are saying about Chosen:

“Chosen speaks to youth in their language, from their culture, and with the enduring love of Jesus Christ. Chosen is a thoroughly Catholic confirmation program from the heart of the New Evangelization. Chris Stefanick and his collaborators have combined experience, wisdom, and the best tools of contemporary media to develop a compelling and comprehensive catechesis that strives to form lifelong disciples for Jesus Christ.”

–       Most Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln

“Our catechists rave about bringing experts into the classroom through the videos so that their role is to focus on the candidates. I really think that the background webinar and the training videos are top notch [and] the downloadable resources will be a great time saver. Ascension always impresses me with their customer service. This time, with Chosen, it is over the top.”

–       Christine Pershey, Director of Faith Formation, Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus, Joliet, IL

“Before I started Confirmation, my friends and I didn’t really know what we were doing or what the point was. And then after we did Chosen we began understanding everything—and now we’re all on fire. I actually understand my relationship with Jesus, which is really good right now.”

–       Connor, Age 15

“I think the small groups really help me because I can talk about anything about my religion. I don’t have to feel so shut out when I ask questions about my faith because I know that they are just like me. They may not know the answers because they have the same questions that I do, but the teachers really help me figure out those answers.”

–       Molly, Age 12





Happy Feast of the Annunciation

I ask God every day to make me more like Mary.

The Scriptures over the last two days (the burning bush before Moses, the reference to the passing through the Red Sea yesterday, and today’s “God is with us” and “Behold,I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your will”) have united into a short but powerful prayer for me.

I believe that in order to be more like Mary,

I need to ask the Lord to help me “burn” in His “I AM” Presence,

and be overshadowed by waves of the Holy Spirit like a Red Sea of Mercy.

Only then is God with me.

Only then am I like Mary.

Burn in the “I AM” Fire of His Presence



Bathe in the Red Sea Mercy waves.



Be more like Mary.



Happy Feast Day!

Man as Bride

In Scripture, the analogy used most often to describe God’s love for humanity is spousal.  He is the Bridegroom and we, the Church, are the Bride.

I have always thought that this might be easier for women to understand than men. We “get” being brides.

How do men understand that they too, are brides?

 The key lies in receptivity.


silhouette of man and woman during sunset

The story of God creating the first man and the first woman can give some insight.  

“So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  The Lord God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman.  When he brought her to the man, the man said:, ‘This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called woman, for out of man this one has been taken.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two of them become one body.” (Genesis 2:21-24)

Man’s receptivity is here in these verses.  First, he is cast into a deep sleep, which symbolizes his vulnerability and deep trust of God. He rests in his loving relationship with Him.

Then, God ordains that it is the place in man which guards his heart- his rib, that should be taken out.  Now, man is open and vulnerable.  Now the one who will end his loneliness, the woman, has a place to enter his heart.

And he is open to giving it. He allows God to take it.

And it is from this very rib taken out, that she is built up.

She’s created from his offering to give up his guarded place.

She is alive because of him.

God uses what man has given up in trust- his sacrificial gift of his rib which makes him vulnerable- to create someone new who can give herself back to him!

When they first see each other- they are ecstatic! Finally, a place to be gift!  Finally a place to be gift and receptivity all at the same time.

And the giving and the receiving create union and love between the two.  

And together, even in man, they know how to be God’s bride.

Together they receive God’s gift of love and give it back.

Photo by Pixabay on





In my rich pride

I think it prudent to hide

The stuff in my old haughty heart

The mask is called fear

Of what vulnerability would make clear-

Of what’s broken and fallen apart


Heart of Jesus

You say, “Give it to me…

And then you will see

The hundredfold reward in its place”

“Press your wounds into Mine

Crushed grapes into wine

The risk will make room for the grace”

“Give me every last shred

Give me all that you dread

Follow me wherever I go”

My haughty heart’s gone

I’m free to belong

To the One Gift I risk all to know.

Sentinel Type Waiting

Today’s responsorial psalm is about waiting- some thoughts about the gift it can be….

Gifts Into Flame Ministry

“I trust in the Lord

My soul trusts in His word

My soul waits for the Lord

More than sentinels wait for the dawn” (Psalm 130:6)

Docility, St Thomas Aquinas tells us, is one of the integral parts in the discerning task of prudence (deciding the right thing to do).  It means knowing how to listen, so that we can be teachable.

Sentinels needed to be docile and ready- ready to listen. Yes for every stir or sound

’round the place of their guard. 

And night shift sentinels had an added challenge.  Darkness surrounded them.  They needed to be still to hear the slightest sounds.  They had to be prepared to receive the circumstances around them.

And as the night wore on, they tired as they waited.  They longed for those first rays of light on the horizon.  The promise that they might see and might be able to find…

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Two Roads of Worship

 There always seems to be that fork in the road.  And we’re given a choice, and a chance.

One road leads here.  It’s called The Real Absence, and it’s crowded with travelers.

Monstrance Empty

Beautiful isn’t it?  Lots of shine, lots of gold.  Jewels and many rays of light.

On this road, Real Absence,  our eyes are focused solely on the world

and it’s destination leads us straight into nothing.

There is no One at it’s center…nothing to keep us grounded.  So we’re free to worship all that’s around it.

 Speedily we race to beat time, and to beat each other…like rays reaching out to grasp and possess.   With no Compass for a Guide, we’re taken in by all life’s golden distractions: material things, comforts and ease every kind, earthly pleasures and possessions,  even people that we idolize.

Restlessness resides at every jeweled twist and turn

as we worship along the road of Real Absence.

Nothing holds it together.  It’s center is emptiness. Real Absence.


But  today I chose the road less traveled.  

It lead me here. And it’s Name is The Real Presence.


At first glance, it might look like nothing new: same gold, jewels, and rays of light

…but wait.

Something, Someone seems to be holding it all together.

 Rays of light shine from Him, and once you find this Center,

you can’t keep your eyes off of Him.

Nothing outside of Him fills your heart like He does. You become still.

 You’re satisfied, purified, mesmerized.  The world and all its “bling”hold no attraction any more.  No more need for racing along twisted turns. Those on this road with you all have their hearts sent on Him.  No more competition or grasping. And somehow everything around Him makes more sense, and has it’s proper place.

So this is the road you just stop on.  He’s the journey and the destination.

He’s found you upon it.  And He will not lead you astray.  

Take the road less traveled today and see where it leads you in worship…

He waits for you to be under His Gaze and find peace in

The Real Presence.


Stone Rejected

Moses struck the rock in the desert

To quench an Israelite thirst

Even though their complaints rise, they grumble

Still He always loves first.

Christ comes to be, the True Rock Redeemer

Cornerstone builders reject

Spear-struck to pour out the Blood and the Water

For thirst He would never neglect

Sing out my soul in praise of this Rock

Draw near to drink and be still

Grumbling is over, desert long past

Now you are one with HIs Will!






Loss of Life in Lent

A Reflection on Luke 9: 23-25

“Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”


Show me how to lose my life

Let it enter Yours

Invitation- death to self

Your Heart an open door.

Contrary to my first response

To save myself from pain

Grant me the grace to take Your hand

To see this loss as gain

Here it is, my Lord, my God

My daily cross and strife

Within Your Heart I find myself

Loss becomes new life!

The Other Side of Ashes

It will be smeared on my forehead this Wednesday.

 That messy ash. That smudge to mark me.  As a follower of Christ.

Not to mention- it means the start of Lent.  The penance, the pruning, the picking up of crosses.

 All to be a follower of Christ.

Ashes there to remind me.  I’ll return to the dust.  This side of life is short. Better hope the smudge wears off before too many see.

I have to admit to being fooled into thinking that real beauty is only what is pleasing to the senses and  what looks good on the outside right now.  And not that those aren’t wonderful and good things:  The smell of a rose.  The sight of a beautiful face.  The mysterious landscape in a painting.

But sometimes life is messy.  And circumstances repulsive to me.  I don’t move toward them but run away…even from myself.  I don’t see beauty on my face  at all- just smudged on ashes on my face.  Just me returning to dust.

But I’ve also lived through too many Lents now.  I know how this works out.  I’ve seen those black ashes can become beauty….that smudge become my path to glory.

And it’s worth the work to push on through to the other side of ashes.

What’s on the other side of ashes?  Resurrection. Glory. Beauty. And Light. There’s only one way to do the work of black ashes into beauty.  Mostly I don’t “work” at all.  Surrender is the key….surrendering that mess to the One who came to transform it.

 Do I believe He can love me enough this year, to meet me here in ashes?

I do.  That’s what we say at a wedding.  I do believe He loves me.  I do believe He can transform this lowly body into a glorified one. (Phillipians 3:21)  I do believe He can take me to the other side of ashes.

40 Days will bring me there.  I wonder what He has in store for me this year.

 I wonder what the smudge will teach me- about Him, about myself and about others.

But more than anything else, I’ll wonder about the other side of ashes.

 Where I’ll see Him, me, everyone, and everything in radiant beauty and glory.

See you on the other side.