The Influence of Henri Nouwen

Recently, reading Henri Nouwen: His Life and Spirit, by Kevin Burns, I recalled how Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) impacted my life and spiritual development with his writings, most particularly by his idea of a what he called a “wounded healer.”

As a young Franciscan friar in the early 1970s, I was finding my way in life and in ministry. That was when I first encountered Nouwen’s work in pastoral psychology. What impressed me were his insights into human frailty and suffering. Nouwen believed that all personal problems, with their suffering and joy, could become a way for finding a greater awareness of how God works in the human spirit and, thus, a path to effective ministry. Let me explain by way of a personal illustration.

Follower of St. Francis: Father Peter F. Vasko, OFM

Image: Jerusalem around 1900.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus asks, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” If Jesus were on earth today, he may have also asked, “When the Son of Man returns, will he find any faithful in the Holy Land?” 

Take a Break from Social Media to Refocus


Whoever serves and gives seems like a failure in the eyes of the world. In reality, it is exactly in giving their life

that they find it. —Pope Francis

By all accounts and according to worldly standards, the Australian-born model Essena O’Neill had it made. She had built a career on social media, becoming an overnight Internet sensation with hundreds of thousands of followers and a nice chunk of change to the tune of several thousand dollars per selfie. With money and fame that went well beyond any nineteen-year-old’s wildest dreams, what could possibly be missing?

Muslim Awareness

 A report came out recently that showed a real deficiency among our colleagues in the Catholic press. The report, “Danger & Dialogue: American Catholic Public Opinion and Portrayals of Islam,” was conducted by the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University. Its principal author is Jordan Denari Duffner, a research fellow at the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. That understanding is a cause that's close to the heart of Franciscan Media.

Do Animals Go to Heaven?

Image: CIA de foto.

From time to time, I am posed with an interesting theological question: Do animals go to heaven? We’ve heard people with great sincerity say, “If my dear pet can’t be with me, then I can’t be there.” That sounds extreme, but we shouldn't criticize such strong emotions. Any of my readers who have owned pets will know this feeling well.

The Ministry of Confessor, According to Pope Francis

Image: CNS.

This spring I spent nearly a week with the friars who live at and minister in the great Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. During my stay I explored this modern church—consecrated in 1969—each day with my camera, photographing the contemporary artwork and striking architecture which helps the visitor come closer to the mystery of the Incarnation. 

Mother Teresa's Advice for Families

 Image: Sister Rose Clare Lee, left, regional superior of the Missionaries of Charity, joins other nuns in exchanging the sign of peace during a Mass of thanksgiving for the canonization of St. Teresa of Kolkata at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City Sept. 10. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Saint Teresa of Calcutta knew that love, compassion, and mercy begins at home. Family, she always maintained, was the cornerstone of holiness and goodness. The following text was written by Mother Teresa herself. 

Saint Francis: Our Model of Mercy


His name was Francis of Assisi, and he used to praise God the Artist in every one of God’s works. Whatever joy he found in things made, he referred to their maker. He rejoiced in all the works of God’s hands. Everything cried out to him, “He who made us is infinitely good!” He called animals “brother” or “sister,” and he exhorted them to praise God. He would go through the streets and byways, inviting everyone to sing with him. And one time when he came upon an almond tree, he said, “Brother Almond, speak to me of God.” And the almond tree blossomed.

God Is Our Cure for the 'Selfie-Syndrome'


“Time for another selfie.”

These words stopped me in my tracks as I was wandering through the aisles of my local Bed Bath & Beyond. They were painted on a piece of colorful canvas, sold as wall art in the home décor section. Dozens of other customers walked by the framed piece, not noticing it; their lack of interest seemed to me to be just one more sign that selfies have become engrained in our culture, our way of thinking, our way of living. That quote may seem innocent enough to some—just a cute and very up-to-date expression to hang in a young person’s college dorm room or new apartment. It’s anything but that, however.

Why We Pray the Rosary

Man Prays the Rosary on the street in Chicago
Image: John W. Iwanski.

You've probably heard the expression knock on wood. But what you might not know is that one derivation of this popular saying refers to one of our own Catholic traditions—the recitation of the rosary. The rosary was a physical representation of inner faith, and it was natural to touch it when you were in distress or pain. “Knocking” rosary beads together, people said, was a sure means to get an answer to your prayer!