All posts by Mike

Real Life Catholic: Happy Easter!

“He is not here. He is risen from the dead, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay!” (Matthew 28:6).

Bilbo finds a ring.

A group of children fall through a wardrobe into another dimension.

Snow White finds the love of her life. William Wallace loses his.

The old man in the sea hooks a monster fish.

Maximus is named Emperor by Marcus Aurelius.

Joseph loves Shannon.

Every story has one truth at its foundation. Without it, there’s no story.

There are over 450,000 words stretching from Tolkien’s Silmarillion to the end of the Return of the King. If you stood them on top of each other they’d probably tower over the Empire State Building. But if you remove the words: “bilbo found a ring” from somewhere around the 5th floor, they’d all come tumbling down. Without that, there’s no story. Orcs, Elves, Hobbits, Talking Trees…who cares?

There is one claim made by one faith.

Without it, the rest of the story of that faith doesn’t really matter. All of Jesus teachings, and his dying, wouldn’t matter. Actually, the rest of the story of the universe, and of your life wouldn’t make much sense either.

That one claim was made in a quiet cemetery in an outpost of the Roman Empire. It was carried on the trembling lips of a conformed harlot to a group of terrified fishermen. It was spoken in whispers. A secret too good to be true. Yet it was true. It is true. So true, in fact, that eyewitnesses died horrible deaths attesting to it. (You’ll find people who die for belief systems. Dying for an eyewitness testimony is vastly different than that!)

Within 300 years, this one true claim transformed the Roman Empire.

These three words continue to transform everything they touch, until the story of time is done: “He is risen.”

“Cinderella finds love.” The one truth is found somewhere in the story, but really, the whole story is found in that one truth.

The whole story of the universe, of human history, of Christianity, and of our own lives are found in these three words: “He is risen!”

This one truth is the proof that God is real. Love wins. And life is good.

And if that’s not true…who cares about the rest of the story?

Real Life Catholic: Sixth Sunday of Lent

The Way: A Real Life Journey: STEP 7: LOVE. EVERYONE.

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 22:34).

The love of God wasn’t proven when God created the world in Genesis 1. That happened about a thousand chapters later. “He proved his love by dying for us.” (See Romans 5:8).

The same is true for us. Love is easy until it’s tested. When it requires sacrifice, it’s proven.

It’s easy to love people until we meet…those people. It’s easy to love our enemies until we actually have enemies. Heck, it’s easy to be a parent until we have kids!

Authentic love demands that we speak the truth even at the risk of being crucified for it, because love doesn’t stand by silently as people fall into the darkness of sin. It calls us to open our hearts to those who disagree with how we see the world, even at the risk of being hurt by them. Love pushes us out of our comfort zones into places we’d rather not go to serve the poor. Love demands that we stop asking “how can my wife/parent/sibling be better” and start asking “how can I make my wife/parent/sibling the happiest in the world? Love demands death to self.

It’s enjoyable to love when it’s easy! Jesus said it himself. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors and sinners doing that?” Think about it: even Hitler was probably all smiles when he was playing golf with his closest friends! But God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Every. Single. Day. That’s how we’re called to love. The early Christians didn’t convert the world by words alone, but by their love in the face of pain.

The early Christians had it far worse than us. On any given Sunday one could go to the Roman Coliseum and see fellow believers being eaten by lions to the loud cheers of their neighbors. Worship and catechesis took place in secret.

They had good reasons to be angry! Very angry. They had every right to flee the world. But they didn’t. They spoke truth to power. They fought for their rightful place in society. They spoke out. St. Paul was as crafty as a lawyer when he was on trial. Christians engaged all levels of society from standing up for the dignity of the poor to St. Sebastian’s legendary face-to-face confrontation with the emperor, for which he was pierced with arrows. They didn’t budge an inch when it came to the evils of their day. Countless Christians faced death rather then offering a single pinch of incense as worship to the emperor.

But more than resisting the powers that be, they resisted the enemy within. They resisted the natural tendency to categorize the world as “us” verses “them.” For the saints, the only “us” was humankind, the only “them” was the devil and his legions. They weren’t like other prisoners when they were executed. They didn’t curse at those who tortured them. They forgave. The early Christians were able to engage the world as much with their love as with the truth. That’s why Christendom was born within 300 years of Christ’s death.

If they hadn’t followed the example of Jesus, who could dine with sinners and forgive his murderers, Christianity would’ve ended in the Coliseum as soon as the last Catholic was eaten for lunch.

“I say to you, love your enemies.”

Spend a minute reflecting on who it’s most difficult for you to love, and make a choice to do something concrete and generous for that person. And if it’s someone you can’t be in contact with for some reason, try a simple prayer, even if it’s through gritting teeth, “Lord Jesus, I ask you to bless (insert the person who hurt you most) in every way! Most of all with saving grace and the discovery of YOU.” Pray that daily until you mean it.

If you love like that, not only will you change the world, you’ll change. 

Real Life Catholic: Fifth Sunday of Lent


“He was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (John 8:10-11).

 Jesus was alone with her. Her accusers left her. And they are imperfect. Jesus, the only one who is perfect, and the only one who by rights really could accuse her—He stays behind. He doesn’t accuse her. He comforts her. He forgives her. And then He gives her a mission: He sends her out to be a witness to mercy. It changed her life. God has given us mercy. Isn’t it time we give it to others? That’s hard to do, isn’t it? But really, I think it’s most hard to do when we don’t receive the mercy of Jesus for ourselves! Harsh judgment of others usually starts deep within—when our own self-perception is formed by negative events in our lives rather than the love of God.

Scripture calls the devil “the father of lies.” Lies about who we are tend to slip into our lives in a million different ways:

  • Bullying tells us “you’re weak.”
  • Molestation tells us “you’re worthless.”
  • Verbal abuse tells us “you’re unlovable.”
  • The self-abuse of sin tells us “you’re no better than your worse mistake.”

All lies, from the father of lies.

Jesus said, “I am the truth.” He also said, “the truth will set you free.”

The woman caught in adultery bore the name: whore. Until a man stood between her and her executioners. “Let anyone without sin cast the first stone!” One by one they walked away. “Is there anyone left who condemns you? Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Peter bore a name: unworthy. He fell to his knees and said “Depart from me Lord. I’m a sinful man.” Jesus saw something more in Peter than he saw in himself. “Come follow me. You’ll be a fisher of men.”

St. Paul was a persecutor of Christians. In one of the simplest, most heroic acts in early Christian history Ananias, who had been hiding from Paul, went to pray over him. He didn’t say “Saul, you murderer.” He said, “Saul, my brother, our Lord sent me.”

Forgiven. Fisher of Men. Brother.

What have you named yourself?

The truth is we have a God and savior who thinks you’re worth dying for. When you hear false identities whispered in your ear, replace them with your real identity: Loved. I don’t mean that figuratively. I mean it literally. Look in the mirror and speak the truth. “I am beautiful.” “I am good.” “I am redeemed.” “I am a daughter/son of God.” “I am loved.”

Don’t wait for me to do that for you. Preach the truth to yourself. Then you can preach it to others.

Real Life Catholic: Fourth Sunday of Lent


“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).

We define “big deal” in all the wrong ways. We think we’re not big deals unless we get a million likes on an Instagram post. We think the work God calls us to is not a big deal unless it’s on a big stage. We confuse things that are widely noticed with things that are very important because we measure things with man’s ruler rather than God’s. The “size” of our impact isn’t important. People are important! The one lost sheep is all that matters to the shepherd. The prodigal son is all that matters in the world to the father.

John Paul II wasn’t a Saint because he preached around the globe. He was a Saint because he was an authentic witness everywhere he went. He loved speaking to the masses, but that’s only because he loved each person. “I don’t like the word ‘crowd,’ which seems too anonymous” he wrote, “I prefer the word ‘multitude.”

In 1983 after his appointment as bishop of Duluth, Bishop Brom got to meet with Pope John Paul II for what he thought was the first time. John Paul, looking pensively at Brom’s face said, “I think we have met before.” Brom assured the pope that they’d never met. (People usually remember whether or not they’d met a pope!)

Some days later the secretary to the Holy Father approached Bishop Brom and said, “Don’t argue with the pope, he remembers when he met you.”

“When?” Brom asked.

“In November of 1963 outside the Church of the Gesu in Rome.”

The memory flashed back to the meeting he had with a polish cardinal when he was a young seminarian. “How can he do that?” he asked. The secretary explained that for John Paul to meet another person is to encounter God.

John Paul II was effective at reaching millions because only one person mattered to him: the person in front of him. For John Paul II, every person was the prodigal son. The lost sheep. The woman at the well. The apostle in the making. The presence of God in his midst.

Being an evangelist does not mean you have to change jobs. It means you have to change your priorities and values. It means you perceive the infinite value of every soul, starting with the people in your own family. It means you share in the thirst Jesus had on the cross for each and every person to know his love. When that happens you no longer go on to the football field as an athlete, or into your office as a computer programmer, everywhere you go, you go as an ambassador for the King of heaven and earth.

You’re kind of a big deal. And so is every soul God puts within your reach. Remember that and you’ll change the world.

Real Life Catholic: Third Sunday of Lent

The Way: A Real Life Journey: STEP 4: USE WORDS


A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why should it exhaust the soil?’” (Luke 13:6-7).

Florence was lying on her death bed. She’d been a faithful wife, devoted mother, and finally, a loving grandmother to my wife. And for some reason that tortured her conscience in secret, she had confided in my wife years ago that she thought she was going to hell.

Her son, my father-in-law, is a good man, but an agnostic.

So there I was at her death bed. It’s not one of those times you want to rock the boat. That voice in my head told me, “Let her die in quiet. Don’t risk conflict with your father-in-law. Don’t risk upsetting her.” But I knew I had to ignore that voice.

I leaned in close and said, “Jesus was crucified with two thieves. One rejected him. The other said ‘Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He hadn’t done much good throughout his life. But that’s all it took for Jesus to say ‘This day you will be with me in paradise.’ Florence, that can be you. You just have to receive the mercy of Jesus.” The following day she was received into the Catholic Church, and the day after that she went home to our Lord.

What if I hadn’t said the uncomfortable? What if her Catholic grandkids and daughter-in-law hadn’t prayed by her bedside, and more importantly, shown her the love of Jesus for so many years? What if that priest hadn’t decided to drop in to the room of a non-Catholic the day after I shared the story of the good thief?

In some mysterious way, God has made the eternal destiny of others contingent on our response to his call to be witnesses, each in our own way.

We presume that the world will be offended whenever we share the love of God. And sometimes people are. But more often than not, we project our discomforts on others who wouldn’t mind us sharing about our faith any more than they’d mind us sharing about our favorite football team.

And if they knew the depth of our faith, frankly, they might be offended if we didn’t share it! The famous comedian and atheist Penn Jillette, reflecting on his respect for Christians who have tried to convert him said, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not evangelize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when it’s best not to speak. If we over-talk we might scare some people away. But there are also times in our lives when we’re called upon to speak up, to do something, and to let our faith “bear fruit.”

Pray for opportunities to share your faith. Pray for the right words to say. Then when the opportunity arises, just be yourself. It might be as deep as a death bed conversation. It might be as simple as a “God bless you” at the checkout counter.

There’s an overused saying that we should preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words. Words are often necessary. Use them.

Real Life Catholic: Second Sunday of Lent

The Way: A Real Life Journey: STEP 3: SHARE THE JOY OF LIVING

“Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:2-3).

A friend recently asked me how it is that all my kids (three of whom are teenagers) are so in love with their faith? What’s your “secret” he asked?

Before I share my answer, I have to clarify that if your kids have rejected the faith, it’s not your fault. Even God’s first two children rejected him. It’s that dang free will!

That said, here’s why I think my children, who I pray never reject our Lord, love him today: We don’t present Catholicism to them as an isolated topic. In my home, to love Jesus is to love life. To love life is to love Jesus. It’s all part of an openness to reality. People have been drawn to faith since the dawn of time through their experience of truth, beauty and goodness: God’s fingerprints on everything.

My kids see their parents pray with all our hearts. They also see me close my eyes and savor a good Trappist made beer. They see tears in my eyes when I read the Gospel to them, and when I listen to Irish music. Being passionately Catholic is all a part of being passionately alive.  

Do you let yourself experience the joy of life? Do you share it with others? If you do you’ll make your faith attractive without speaking a word. People will want to be what you are if you’re passionately alive.  

Jesus exploded with light at the transfiguration, but there was always an inner light about him that people could perceive. It drew people to him. It drew people to God.

If you want your faith to be contagious, then share the joy of living with your family and friends at the same time as you share the truths of the faith.

At the transfiguration, the disciples saw Jesus in a new way. They had perceptions and expectations of him, and then BAM! They saw him for who he was, not for what they were merely projecting on Him. So often people box us in to their caricatures of what it means to be a devout Christian. Don’t let them. Surprise them. BAM! Break through it all with your joy, your love, and the way you embrace all of life.

Easter Sunday: MASS “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

Pray40Days is a 40-day prayer experience led by Fr. Michael J. Denk. If you are visiting for the first time, scroll down to the first post and read the introduction.

Mass: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

Link to USCCB Sunday Readings

Sunday Mass Introduction

Before Mass

After Mass

© 2016, Fr. Michael J. Denk. All rights reserved. No portion of this content shall be reproduced without written consent. Contact:

DAY 40: Contemplative Prayer: Word – The Prayer of Jesus (John 17:1-26)

Pray40Days is a 40-day prayer experience led by Fr. Michael J. Denk. If you are visiting for the first time, scroll down to the first post and read the introduction.

Contemplative Prayer: Word – The Prayer of Jesus (John 17:1-26): Audio

Everyday Introduction: The 5 p’s of Prayer (optional)

Contemplative Prayer Introduction (optional)

Contemplative Prayer: Word – The Prayer of Jesus (John 17:1-26)

© 2016, Fr. Michael J. Denk. All rights reserved. No portion of this content shall be reproduced without written consent. Contact:

DAY 39: Lectio Divina: Thomas (John 20:24-29)

Pray40Days is a 40-day prayer experience led by Fr. Michael J. Denk. If you are visiting for the first time, scroll down to the first post and read the introduction.

Lectio Divina: Thomas (John 20:24-29): Audio

Everyday Introduction: The 5 p’s of Prayer (optional)

Lectio Divina Introduction: (optional)

© 2016, Fr. Michael J. Denk. All rights reserved. No portion of this content shall be reproduced without written consent. Contact:

DAY 38: Pray Like a Pirate: Jesus and Peter (John 21:15-19)

Pray40Days is a 40-day prayer experience led by Fr. Michael J. Denk. If you are visiting for the first time, scroll down to the first post and read the introduction.

Pray Like a Pirate: Jesus and Peter (John 21:15-19) Audio

Everyday Introduction: The 5 p’s of Prayer (optional)

© 2016, Fr. Michael J. Denk. All rights reserved. No portion of this content shall be reproduced without written consent. Contact: