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Married Life in Regnum Christi: Making the Kingdom Present

Thy Kingdom Come!

REGNUM CHRISTI

GENERAL DIRECTIVE COLLEGE

 

June 16, 2023

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

 

To all members of Regnum Christi, Legionaries of Christ, Consecrated Women, Lay Consecrated Men, and lay members

 

Dear friends in Christ,

 

Greetings on this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a feast so meaningful to all of us and a reminder that we are called to put him at the center of our lives.

 

We want to share the publication of the essay Married Life in Regnum Christi: Making the Kingdom Present with you.  It was prepared by the Life and Mission area of the General Directorate, and it seeks to deepen the experience of this sacrament in the heart of our spiritual family. The purpose of this document is to offer all members, both married and unmarried, some reflections on marriage and how it relates to the charism of Regnum Christi. It is currently available in pdf format (English and Spanish) and audiobook podcast, and will soon be available in print.

 

The essay consists of three parts:

 

  • The first chapter develops a reflection on the sacrament of marriage, the domestic church, how marriage is an effective sign of Christ’s love for his Church, and the presence of the Kingdom of Christ in the world.

 

  • The second chapter is on the relationship between the sacrament of marriage and the charism of Regnum Christi. This chapter seeks to express how the charism of Regnum Christi is a gift for married people, helping them to discover their own identity as cultivators of the Kingdom of Christ and learn to live their communion with Christ more deeply, as the foundation of conjugal spirituality. It also contemplates the gift that marriage is for Regnum Christi and for the world since marriage is a luminous witness of Jesus Christ’s love for union and charity among the members of the family (cf.  SRCF, 6) and a school of masculinity and femininity in reciprocal communion. It also explains the characteristic virtues of marriage: unconditional love, sacrificial self-giving, the capacities for listening and forgiveness, kindness, patience, understanding, service, and shared prayer. All of these are valuable witnesses and aids to the other vocations of Regnum Christi.

 

  • The third chapter presents some practical guidelines on the relationship between marriage and the way of life proposed by Regnum Christi. It offers a visualization of how sections and localities can go out to meet married couples, providing them with the support and means necessary to facilitate the experience proposed.

 

Although marriages, and married life itself, have been present in the life and mission of Regnum Christi in different ways since its inception, this essay seeks to mature the ideas, proposals, and experiences that have existed in this core area of life in recent years, as the result of a long process of discernment and reflection. Thus, enlightened by the richness of the Church’s Magisterium, it seeks to offer guidance looking towards the future and encouragement for us to continue deepening our experience of this reality. We hope that this reflection will help us to value the gift of marriage even more and motivate us all to welcome and accompany each other vocationally so that, as a spiritual family we may help each other to live fully our baptismal vocation as witnesses of Christ’s love.

 

With our prayers and commending everyone to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,

 

The Regnum Christi General Directive College

 

 

          

 

 

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New RC Prayer Book Available in Paperback

The new RC lay members prayer book, Lord, Teach Us to Pray, is now available for purchase in the Regnum Christi Online Store.

The new prayer book is also available online, on the RC English App, and in audio book podcast format.

The publication of a new prayer book has been a constant request from many lay members and formators even before the approval of the Statutes. In this sense, Lord Teach Us to Pray reflects a path of renewal that began before 2019 and seeks to promote and give continuity to the renewal, incorporating new fruits. In addition, we hope that the next steps in the renewed prayer of the consecrated branches allow us to grow in some prayers and practices that are common to all vocations of Regnum Christi.

In an interview on the ‘what’s new and why’ of the new prayer book, Álvaro Abellán, a lay member involved with the commission that created the new prayer book, shares, “The main reason for this update is offered by the title. Lord, Teach us to Pray expresses the request lay members of Regnum Christi make to the Lord to renew our prayer and our life through dialoguing with him, living and praying as he did. In addition, we have confirmed established elements of our prayer tradition and have incorporated elements of the renewal of the charism that we see in many places, localities, and members of Regnum Christi, in order to make them available to all. There are also other reasons, linked to this, such as adapting the prayer book to the charismatic expression in our statutes and incorporating various requests that we have received during the last few years from many lay people and formators.”

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A Cyclist’s Spirituality – A Book by Fr. John Bullock, LC for Catholics with a Passion for Cycling

 Recently, Fr. John Bullock, LC, published his book A Cyclist’s Spirituality – Spiritual lessons learned from riding a bike. “I have had a strong interest in cycling since I was 14 years old. … I participated in some local races in my teens and I wanted to become a professional cyclist but my knees put an end to that dream…” comments Fr. John in an interview with the Regnum Christi International Communication Office.

 

Who is Fr. John Bullock, LC?

I grew up in Houston, Texas, and I am an only child. My mother is originally from Austria and my father, now deceased, from Texas. They met in Houston and I lived there for most of my childhood.

Since I was 11 years old, I remember thinking about the priesthood, but I didn’t discover the Legionaries of Christ until shortly after college. I entered the Legion in 1992 in Cheshire, CT, but since I can speak German, I did my novitiate in Germany, later I did my humanities studies in Salamanca (Spain), and my apostolic practices in Germany and Poland.

I was ordained in 2002, and have worked in California, Cincinnati, and now in Houston. I have worked with youth, in a university, and in Regnum Christi ministries. I can say that I love my faith, my priestly vocation as a Legionary at the service of the Church, and my entire Regnum Christi family. I like working with people, and I love riding my bike.

Where did the idea of equating spirituality with cycling come from? And why cycling and not athletics, swimming, or some other sport?

I have had a strong interest in cycling since I was 14 years old, initially desiring to tour Europe. However, my interest quickly turned to racing. I participated in some local races in my teens and wanted to become a professional cyclist. Eventually my knees ended that dream, but the passion for cycling continued.

Once I got into the Legion, I thought riding a bike was to be a long-lost love. But 12 years ago, I tried to ride a bike again, and to my delight, I was able to ride a bit. Now I try to ride my bike regularly, around 3 times a week.

Not everyone can cycle, right? Do you think that cycling is a sport that anyone can do? And applying it to spiritual life, how do you associate this aspect of sports discipline, for example, with prayer?

I do believe that anyone who wants to can ride a bicycle; but cycling as a sport is growing primarily in the United States. Many people have been infected with this passion for cycling, be it mountain or road. You don’t have to formally compete to be an avid cyclist. Around here you see people of all ages riding bikes and many do it with passion and dedication.

From my perspective, two millennia ago Saint Paul already saw the connection between sports and the spiritual life, pointing out that our spiritual journey, like a foot race, implies a goal, an effort and the need for discipline (cf. Cor 9, 24-25). I think the comparisons are innumerable. This book shares some spiritual insights gleaned from a cyclist’s point of view, covering topics such as bike fit, drafting (when a rider saves energy by trailing another rider in a low pressure zone), crashes and accidents, and other aspects.

Is the book aimed at a specific audience? Is it for an ordinary Christian, those who only go to Mass on Sundays, or for those who already have a specific journey or a vocation in the Church?

While I’ve heard a number of non-cyclists say they’ve liked my book, the primary audience is avid cyclists. Statistically speaking about 23% of those cyclists in the United States will be Catholic. The hope is to help those people who are passionate about cycling to see the connection with the faith. Most of these people will be lay people, but I have also received a positive response from some of my fellow Legionaries of Christ.

In your pastoral dealings with people, what difficulties do you see in the spiritual life that prevent serious work, discipline, or creating the habits needed to live a spirituality?

I have worked pastorally with people of all ages, and I have noticed that a great obstacle to living the faith is a lack of discipline. There is a lack of consistency in the life of prayer, in a life program and even, sometimes, in the experience of the sacraments. This subgroup, passionate cyclists, will have no problem with willpower. You can’t be a serious cyclist without the willpower to train regularly. Here the underlying issue will be to awaken that same passion for faith as they have for cycling.

What would you say to those who say they simply don’t have time for the spiritual life, or who see it as something outdated?

When someone experiences the love of Jesus Christ through prayer, Eucharistic adoration, or some other spiritual or human experience, then the motivation will come from within the person, from the heart. And you find time to spend with the person you love, without excuses.

The book A Cyclist’s Spirituality – Spiritual lessons learned from riding a bike by Fr. John Bullock, LC is available in paperback and kindle format, and can be purchased here.

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A Boat Priest: How escape and survival led to the priesthood

“Why did God spare my life and not the lives of others?”

“What does he want from me?”

These are the questions that Father Chan Dinh, LC, asked himself when he was just a young child living in a Thai refugee camp, and they are the same questions that would ultimately lead him to giving his life, many years later, to the priesthood through the Legionaries of Christ.

When Fr. Chan was only 8 years old, he and his family attempted a harrowing escape from his home country of Viet Nam across the Gulf of Thailand. The escape had been planned in secret by Fr. Chan’s mother, along with his older brother, who owned a small fishing boat; his mother would escape later only once all her children had safely fled the country. In the middle of the night, Fr. Chan and one of his brothers met other relatives who were also fleeing Communist Vietnam, and the group of about 20 people canoed out to the fishing boat that would ultimately enable their escape.

Thousands of Vietnamese people attempted to flee their country in the same way, and many of them did not survive. The fishing boats were often not seaworthy to begin with, or were overcrowded, being far too small for the number of passengers aboard. Boats that did manage to survive the hazardous conditions and dangerous storms were confronted by another very real and omnipresent threat to the unprotected boats; pirates frequently came aboard to steal what little valuables the refugees had managed to bring with them, often raping and killing the people on board before leaving the pillaged boat to sink without a trace.

After three perilous days at sea, the boat that carried Fr. Chan and his family arrived in Thailand, only to be looted by pirates when they arrived to shore. But as grateful as Fr. Chan was to have safely escaped from Vietnam, he knew that many of his relatives, including 15 of his cousins, had not. This awareness is what prompted him to ask the question that would ultimately inspire and shape his priesthood: “Why did God spare my life, and what does he want me to do with it?”

“These questions were prayers that I spoke to God often,” recalls Fr. Chan. “Little by little, I discovered the reason why God spared my life: to become a Legionary priest.”

After fleeing from Vietnam, Fr. Chan lived for months as a refugee in Thailand and the Philippines, before receiving definitive asylum in the United States, where he was eventually reunited with his mother and his siblings. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics at Cal State University in Los Angeles, and then joined the Legionaries of Christ in Cheshire, Connecticut. He is currently working towards obtaining his Master’s degree in Spiritual Theology in Rome, while stationed as a priest in Brazil.

It was here in Brazil where Fr. Chan decided to turn his remarkable life story into a book, called A Boat Priest: A True Story of Escape, Survival, and Vocation. In sharing the story of his escape and survival, and how this led to his vocation as a Legionary priest, with parishioners in various parishes throughout Brazil, Fr. Chan was encouraged by them to put the story into writing. After working as a missionary in Brazil for 14 years, Fr. Chan felt prompted to move forward with the book in a definitive way; while meditating on the Gospel of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, Fr. Chan felt the Holy Spirit not only confirming to him that this was the right moment to write his autobiography, but also enlightening him on the theme and outline of the book. This was on February 2, 2020, and the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that began the following month gave Fr. Chan the space to begin the work of putting his story to paper.

Fr. Chan’s hope for the book is that it will help readers not only to understand the suffering that the Vietnamese people – and many others around the word – have endured at the hands of atheist communist regimes, but also to have an appreciation for the value of things like health, family, freedom, and faith, none of which Fr. Chan has ever taken for granted. “I hope that readers will appreciate their liberty, opportunities, and the freedom they have to practice their Catholic faith,” says Fr. Chan, “and I hope that young people can use my testimony to discover the plan of God for their own lives.”

And indeed, Fr. Chan’s book is already having an impact. He recently received a message from a 35-year-old man whose mother had given him a copy of the book:

“I am so deeply inspired and intrigued by your journey, your faith, and your dedication to Christ. I’ve questioned/lost my faith for almost 15 years. I still don’t know where I stand at the moment, but reading your book brings me closer to something. Thank you for writing the book.”

The book is dedicated to Fr. Chan’s mother, Maria Tam Dinh, to whom he owes his faith. Born into a Catholic family in North Vietnam in 1937, Maria went on to marry and have nine children, of which Fr. Chan is the youngest. Widowed at the age of 39, when Fr. Chan was only eight months old, Maria always woke at 5:30 AM and took her nine children to daily Mass before leaving for the rice fields where she worked every day, rain or shine. Unable to receive an education, she nevertheless possessed great wisdom, knowledge, and the virtue of courage to fight for the liberty of her family, all of which she attributed to an ardent life of prayer. “My mother, a widow, put her faith and trust in God to help her make courageous decisions that many others couldn’t make. Despite difficulties, sufferings, and separation from her family member for over 22 years, she knew that Divine Providence was never lacking.”

Fr. Chan’s book will soon be available in the Regnum Christi store! Watch your RC This Week Newsletter for details to come!

 

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New Book of Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas

Fr. Nikola Derpich, LC, has had the seeds of his new book, The Liturgy Day by Day,  in his heart and mind for a while. They date back to when he first discerned the call to enter the seminary of the Legionaries of Christ in the mid 1990’s, “One of the first preachers I heard in the Legion taught me that some insights we receive from preaching are like time-release capsules. We hear the Word of God, but sometimes it is only over time that we start to understand it and apply it in our lives. Other insights strike a chord almost immediately, and we perceive the Lord is speaking to us, to our situation. The idea that blossomed into The Liturgy, Day by Day series of homiletic reflections started the year I completed my doctorate, 2015. After a long academic writing project, entailing years of focus and research, I wanted to write something simpler that would nourish my ministry and also nourish others: a simple homiletic thought on each liturgical day, mostly based on the readings of the day, but drawing from the liturgical season too.”

In the midst of completing his doctorate, and ever since then, Fr. Nikola has been busy. The native Californian was ordained in Rome in 2006. He taught theology at the university level from 2009-2021 in New York, Rhode Island, and Rome. From 2017-2020 he was also a part-time Associate Pastor at St. Brendan the Navigator, a large, vibrant parish in Cumming, Georgia.  Fr. Nikola currently works in Durham and Raleigh, North Carolina, where, in addition to helping at local parishes, he serves the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ as Territorial Prefect of Studies, and work on projects for RC Spirituality Center as well as other writing and academic projects.

He has also published two other books. Maximizing the Mass (2020), which offers a meditative walkthrough of the Mass from Entrance to Dismissal, as well as meditations on the Eucharistic Prayers and their Prefaces, prepares people to participate more actively in the Mass by delving deeper spiritually into the prayers we recite and hear every Sunday, every Mass. Says Fr. Nikola, “You will never pray or live the Mass the same way.”  In 2021 he published The Kingdom of Christ, History, Theology, Life, which is also available in Spanish. A collaboration of 14 contributors including priests, consecrated people, and laity, it includes studies on topics such as the history of the Feast of Christ the King in the 20th century, the devotion to Christ the King of the Spanish and Mexican martyrs of the 20th Century, the Kingdom of God and of Christ in Sacred Scripture, and many more facets of the Kingdom of Christ.

As he kept busy working in all of these areas, he still found time to write The Liturgy, Day by Day.  Volume One was published in kindle and paperback format on October 11, 2022.  This first volume of the series focuses on the Advent and Christmas seasons. From the First Sunday of Advent to the last day of the Christmas season, it will help readers welcome Our Lord into the manger at Bethlehem, and into their hearts.

Fr. Nikola plans to publish the next volume for Lent and Holy Week in time for Lent 2023, and the following volume for Easter by mid-2023.  Sharing his hopes for the book, Fr. Nikola says, “The thoughts shared in this series have often been my springboard for deeper reflection on the Word of God, making connections between Scripture passages that I had never considered before. I hope they give you some food for spiritual thought. I hope the book gives the reader some food for spiritual thought. I always envisioned them for the reader, but I know the Lord spoke to me through them as well, for which I am grateful.”

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The Source and Summit of Leadership

Before he became a priest, Fr. Nathaniel Haslam, LC, had other goals in mind: he planned to be a CEO, the founder of a Fortune 500 company, and a billionaire. It was with these lofty ambitions that Fr. Nathaniel graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York with a degree in electrical and mechanical engineering and began his engineering career at Xerox, but just over one year later, he would be leaving his visions of corporate success behind to enter an entirely new life, that of a Legionary priest.

But for Fr. Nathaniel, joining the priesthood did not mean completely leaving behind the theme of leadership, which had so intrigued him from a young age and had led him in the beginning to pursue a career in engineering. “When God called me to the priesthood, it fascinated me that there was a congregation of priests dedicated to forming Christian leaders and apostles,” says Fr. Nathaniel, who, during his years in Rome, founded and directed the International Leadership Semester, a certified college leadership study abroad program at the Universita Europea di Roma. While there, he also helped organize and coordinate the first ever Vatican Executive Summit in June of 2011 in the Vatican Gardens, where 50 top international executives and economic leaders were invited to discuss the challenges of financial crisis and business ethics in the light of faith.

For the past ten years, one of Fr. Nathaniel’s main roles has been as the chaplain for the Lumen Institute, an apostolate founded in New York in 2005 by a group of business leaders and Legionary priests that forms Christian leaders to illuminate with the light of Christ the circles in which they live and work; over the past two years, Fr. Nathaniel has served as Lumen’s national chaplain as well. Fr. Nathaniel shares the story of one man whom he had met through his role as chaplain of the Lumen Institute; for this man, who has been a member of Lumen for five years, his faith was important to him, but like so many, he had divorced it from his day-to-day business dealings. Thanks to the grace of God and several years of spiritual direction through Lumen membership, as well as the peer-to-peer monthly meetings, he grew to allow Christ to be the center of his leadership:

“One of the most beautiful ways this man brings Christ into secular society is through the invitation of prayer. He is one of the most networked and connected individuals I know, and frequently meets successful business leaders for dinner. In every opportunity, he asks people if they would mind him saying a prayer to begin the meal. The responses he receives are almost always a grateful ‘yes,’ even from non-Christians. This is a simple but powerful example of a leader bringing his faith into the secular world.”

Indeed, since his ordination in Rome in 2010, Fr. Nathaniel has served over a thousand educational and business leaders, assisting them in leadership transformation to be men and women after the heart of Christ. And his new book, The Source and Summit of Leadership, is an overflowing and sharing of the many years Fr. Nathaniel has spent not only studying leadership, but also accompanying those men and women on their leadership journey. The book is also a response to the challenge to help all Catholics to embrace their call to develop their own leadership and to deploy it at the service of others. “Leadership is part-and-parcel of the Christian vocation,” says Fr. Nathaniel, “so none of us are exempt.”

This universal call of all Christians to leadership, regardless of status or position, is one of the main themes of Fr. Nathaniel’s book. An equally important theme is that leadership is not only a call, but a quality meant to be nurtured and developed. “Just as our baptismal gifts develop over time when we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, so too does our leadership capacity grow and expand. Integral formation (a hallmark of Regnum Christi members and the formation to which they commit) includes developing their leadership.” The Source and Summit of Leadership provides ample leadership knowledge and concrete actions to encourage readers to develop their “leadership muscles” and grow in their understanding of and capacity for leadership. The book also includes questions for individual reflection and group discussion to help readers explore the call, purpose, responsibilities, and transcendent nature of leadership to which every Christian is called.

Fr. Nathaniel is currently based in Houston, Texas, where acting as chaplain for Lumen is only one of his many ongoing roles. He also serves as the local chaplain for Legatus and Young Catholic Professionals, two organizations dedicated to serving and forming Catholic leaders.

As well, Fr. Nathaniel is beginning a four-year doctoral program in pastoral leadership, which he hopes will not only provide good personal enrichment but also possibly be a stepping stone to launch a new Catholic leadership institute! On top of this, in response to requests for another book, he plans to finish an autobiographical work which would highlight leadership lessons he has learned on his own life’s journey.

You can purchase Fr. Nathaniel’s new book, The Source and Summit of Leadership, as well as his first book, The Future of Leadership: Insights from the Writings and Speeches of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, on Amazon.

To find out more about Lumen Institute, or to check out Fr. Nathaniel’s monthly video on leadership, visit lumeninstitute.org.

 

 

 

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Art for God: Fr. Joseph Tham explores the harmony between heaven and humanity in his newest book

For Fr. Joseph Tham, LC, growing up in Hong Kong – where Christianity was, and still is, a minority religion trailing well behind Chinese folk spiritualities, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism – heightened his sense of belonging to the Catholic Church and his desire to respond to his baptismal call. It was this environment that allowed him to become more conscious of what it means to be a Catholic, more so than if he had been brought up in a predominantly Christian country. As a result, he was very much aware from a young age of the need to do something for Christ in his life.

When he was 15 years, old, Fr. Joseph immigrated with his family to Canada, and after high school, he began to pursue a science degree in mathematics, ultimately graduating from medical school and becoming a general practitioner. While still in medical school, Fr. Joseph felt a strong call to serve the suffering, in imitation of the God who had suffered for him. As a medical student, he began going on medical missions to Tanzania, Africa, and planned to become a medical missionary.

After graduation, Fr. Joseph worked as a general practitioner for four years, and was relatively satisfied with his medical career and the lifestyle that accompanied it, but he couldn’t help but wonder if God was asking something more. While treating the sick, it became apparent to Fr. Joseph that many of his patients were in need of not just physical healing, but spiritual healing as well. Fr. Joseph felt called to step away from his practice to follow God’s call, but the decision wasn’t easy. “I felt like the rich young man in the Gospel when I felt God’s call to sell all and follow him.”

In March of 1994, Fr. Joseph made a visit to the Legionary seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut, and it was then and there, during celebrations of the Feast of St. Joseph, that he decided to end his practice, tie up any loose ends, and attend the summer candidacy program in June. As the only son in his Chinese family, Fr. Joseph was expected to care for his parents in their old age and to carry on the family name, so his decision to become a priest was met with great resistance, particularly from his father.

Despite his family’s opposition, and his own temptations to return to his medical practice, Fr. Joseph was ordained a Legionary priest in 2004. Because of his background in medicine, he began to study bioethics, and in 2007 he obtained his PhD at Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome. Since then, he has taught bioethics in Rome as well as at the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy in Hong Kong. He also presents at conferences and courses, and is a prolific writer and editor of numerous articles and books on the topic of bioethics, and the important harmony that exists between the divine and the human.

""However, Fr. Joseph has taken an entirely new approach to presenting that harmony between heaven, earth, and humanity in his newest book, Art for God, Artworks and Spiritual Reflections. Besides being a former medical doctor, a Legionary priest, and a professor of bioethics, Fr. Joseph is also a sensitive artist of Chinese calligraphy, seals, and watercolor paintings. His new book explores the compatibility of the two cultures within which he was raised: Chinese tradition (including Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism) and Christianity and Catholicism.

One of the best examples of this compatibility is illustrated in a seal carving that Fr. Joseph created called “The Harmony Seal,” which depicts the incarnation of God. Chinese seals, typically carved out of stone and then dipped in red ink, have been used for over 2200 years to stamp important documents, contracts, and artwork, and have now become pieces of art in their own right. In Art for God, Fr. Joseph explains the significance of “The Harmony Seal”:

"" The Harmony Seal by Fr. Joseph Tham, LC

“The symbolism of this seal carving is taken from a traditional round shape design. The ancient Chinese words for ‘Heaven’ and ‘Man’ have the same root that looks like a stick figure of a human being. This design emphasizes that from Heaven, God becomes man in his incarnation. The kneeling posture of man represents God’s kenosis, the self-emptying of Jesus. When you look carefully, the three round dots symbolize the mystery in the Trinity. The partition of the seal is in the shape of a cross, reminding us that we are reconciled to God through the Paschal mystery. The circle is a symbol of unity and harmony. The circular seal is the size of the communion bread, the Eucharistic host that is the spiritual food that sustains us in our journey towards this ideal of universal harmony.”

“The Harmony Seal” was created by Fr. Joseph in the early months of 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and following months of social unrest in Hong Kong; for Fr. Tham, the division caused by these events demonstrated a need for reconciliation with nature and with God, and a return to harmony. He recently presented this and other pieces from his book in an exhibition at the Fringe Club, a contemporary art space in Hong Kong, in January of 2022.

""For Fr. Joseph, the art that he creates is always a representation of his relationship with God, and his book, Art for God, is a reflection of his artistic journey of painting, calligraphy, and seal-carving, and how his art informs and is informed by his faith. The book, therefore, is not simply a collection of art pieces, of which there are plenty, but also a spiritual diary; each creation is accompanied by a reflection on the inspiration or message behind the piece. And the thread that runs throughout all the art pieces and their accompanying reflections is one that runs throughout Fr. Joseph’s entire life: a story of how the influence of Chinese literature, poetry, philosophy, and spirituality resonates and dialogues harmoniously with his Christian faith.

Fr. Joseph believes that one the greatest ethical problems in today’s culture is the desire to own, consume, and to dominate, rather than to seek harmony with all things. “It is my prayer and my hope,” says Fr. Joseph, “that this book will elevate the spirit and touch that which is transcendent, that which is beyond, that which is our heavenly home, and that which is God.”

You can find out more about Fr. Joseph’s exhibit and his book Art for God, Artworks and Spiritual Reflections here, and purchase his book, which is written in both English and Chinese, at creationhub.ltd.

 

 

 

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God’s Carpenter: St. Joseph’s Life in Four Short Stories

When, on December 8th, 2020, Pope Francis released an apostolic letter titled “Patris Corde,” (“With a Father’s Heart”), inviting Christians all over the world to develop and nurture a relationship with St. Joseph, Father Simon Cleary, LC, heard the invitation loud and clear. Having always had a fervent devotion to the saint, he knew that he wanted to do something special to bring others closer to his patron saint, particularly in this year specifically set aside for encountering and honoring the earthly father of Jesus. He just wasn’t quite sure what that something special might be.

But one day, while Father Simon was contemplating the simple and holy life of St. Joseph, a scene formed in his head: St. Joseph wakes up suddenly in the middle of the night, an angel’s words still echoing in his ears, as has happened in his life several times before. “I was using my imagination to contemplate St. Joseph’s life,” says Father Simon, “and the small scene I pictured of his home life filled me with a consolation that I wanted others to experience, too.” It was then that Father Simon got the idea to write a book of stories that would bring detail to and animate the life of St. Joseph, a hard-working carpenter, a holy man obedient to God’s promptings, and a loving and devoted husband and father.

Father Simon made a call back home to New Zealand; while he was a student at the Legion of Christ’s minor seminary in New Hampshire, he had written two other short stories from the point of view of St. Joseph, which his mother had kept, and he had her send them to him at his new post in the Philippines. While these stories from his high school years needed, as Father Simon puts it, “total rewrites,” they provided a solid launchpad for what would become his newly published book – God’s Carpenter: St. Joseph’s Life in Four Short Stories.

One of the biggest obstacles Father Simon faced when writing the book was time, or lack thereof – he and his team were determined to have the book out in time for the Feast of St. Joseph, on March 19th. Writing a couple of hours every night after his other duties were completed, Father Simon was able to finish the first draft by January. Regnum Christi members helped him find both a copywriter and a professional illustrator to design the book’s cover, and with encouragement from the team of Father Shawn Aaron, LC, the book was released on Amazon on March 5th, with a couple of weeks to spare. “There was no time for perfectionism or other worries,” says Father Simon. “I could have done more stories, but in the end, I had four stories that I felt gave a good picture of who St. Joseph was by his actions, and by the family he loved.”

Father Simon hopes that in these four stories, readers will find a man whom they can truly get to know, and with whom they can really identify:

“For St. Joseph, Mary was the Blessed Virgin – but she was also the love of his life. Suddenly, Mary becomes not just celestial to us, but also kind and human. And Jesus is both God and also the small child that Joseph holds. He knows he’s not worthy to hold Jesus or to have Mary, yet he also knows that he’s supposed to be there. It’s like when we say ‘Lord, I’m not worthy to receive you’ right before communion, yet we know we’re supposed to come to communion.”

This is why it was important to Father Simon that the stories be told from the point of view of St. Joseph, the only member of the Holy Family ever to have sinned, and the only one who must have felt, from time to time, unworthy. “Standing alongside St. Joseph, we can let ourselves feel weak and sinful, but St. Joseph reminds us that we are also surrounded by Jesus and Mary’s greatness,” says Father Simon. “No, we’re not good enough, but yes, Jesus really wants St. Joseph – and you – to be there next to him.”

This is the true fruit that Father Simon hopes readers gain from reading the book – a new or renewed friendship with St. Joseph that will ultimately lead to an increased love for his earthly wife and adopted son. “I hope that people can become friends with St. Joseph, because I think he is someone we can all grow to like,” says Father Simon. “If you like St. Joseph, if you walk alongside him, he will take you inside the Holy Family’s home. He will show you his wife, Mary; he will point out Jesus. So that’s the goal: make friends with St. Joseph, and he will help you love Jesus and Mary a little bit more and in a new way.”

And Father Simon has already experienced the fruit of this himself! Even though he’s had a life-long devotion to and relationship with the saint (Father Simon was consecrated to St. Joseph before he was even born!), writing the book gave him new insight into his patron saint, and a new point of connection with him. “I’ve always felt a kind of holy envy towards St. Joseph – he’s quiet and a laborer, while I can talk too much, and the tool in my workshop is a keyboard, not a hammer,” says Father Simon. “Writing the book, I grew in a deeper realization that that doesn’t matter so much. St. Joseph struggled with wondering if he was up to the task God had given him, and I do too. St. Joseph loved Jesus and Mary as real people before he understood the mystery behind them, and I’ve always found that I love Jesus and Mary more when I see them as real people, telling them about my day.”

Father Simon hopes that the stories presented in the book, which imagine what St. Joseph must have felt when he met Mary for the first time, when he heard about her pregnancy, or when he first laid eyes on the infant Jesus, will invite readers into a more intimate understanding of a man who is quiet and humble and, quite often, goes unnoticed. The book also includes a section that answers some of the most intriguing questions regarding St. Joseph, like “Why did he initially want to divorce Mary?” and “Did Mary make a vow of virginity, and if so, did St. Joseph know about it when they were betrothed?” In addition, the book includes the Prayer to St. Joseph that Pope Francis shares in “Patris Corde.”

As a Legionary priest, Father Simon has served as a missionary in Mexico, Italy, the United States, and Nicaragua, and is currently the chaplain to Mano Amiga Academy in Paran͂aque, Philippines, a school that provides the quality education, training, skills-development and support that underprivileged families need in order to break out of poverty. “It’s a beautiful mission,” says Father Simon, “with a lot of challenges bringing Jesus to very poor families, trying to keep the school open despite the world’s longest continual lockdown, and learning a new language!” Father Simon is also part-time chaplain to Sacred Heart Academy of Pasig, and preaches retreats in the Philippines, Australia, and his home country of New Zealand.

Is there another book in Father Simon’s future? “We’ll see what God wants,” is his reply. “For right now, my main adventure is making the schools I serve at thrive, and helping families draw closer to God. I am a priest first, and being a writer comes in distant second. I’m happy to drop writing to answer a call from one of my flock.”

You can purchase a digital or paperback copy of Father Simon’s book, God’s Carpenter: St. Joseph’s Life in Four Short Stories, on Amazon. The cost for the e-book is only $0.99 USD, but it will be free from March 17-21, in honor of the Feast of St. Joseph. Any donations made through the sale of the book will go directly to Mano Amiga Philippines to help foster a child being educated with faith and dignity.

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A Free Lenten Cookbook: Nourishment for Body and Soul

“Fasting of the body is food for the soul.”

This quotation from St. John Chrysostom introduces the 2021 Lenten Cookbook, a free digital recipe book recently published by the Regnum Christi Calgary Formation Team.

This digital initiative out of Calgary, Alberta, Canada was originally borne from a need for connection; the Regnum Christi Calgary Women’s section longed for more activities and events that would bring its members together, even while COVID restrictions kept them apart. Since some of the Calgary teams had produced small cookbooks in the past, the Formation Team agreed that creating a larger, Lent-focused e-cookbook was a good fit, and members of the Formation Team each submitted a recipe (either original or adapted from another source). The digital cookbook includes recipes for a variety of fish and meatless dishes, like Easy Baked Salmon, Linguini with Clam Sauce, Black Bean Burgers, and Famous Carrot Soup. It also includes a prayer to say before and after meals, and quotes from Scripture and the saints.

One of the people on board this project is Richelle Tabelon, who has been a member of Regnum Christi since 2008; previously a Team Leader in the Calgary Regnum Christi section, Richelle just joined the Calgary Formation Team this year. Originally from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, Richelle completed her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan in 2002, and began her career in nutrition as a Registered Dietitian in Victoria, British Columbia, working as a clinical dietitian in pediatrics, heart health, geriatrics, digestive issues, and diabetes education. After a move to Edmonton, Alberta, she also worked at the Royal Alexander Hospital on medical and surgical wards. As well, she has volunteered in The Gambia, West Africa with the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, and served in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve for ten years.

In 2007, Richelle settled in Calgary, Alberta, where she now resides and works as a Registered Dietitian. Throughout her career, she has provided a wide variety of nutrition counselling services in preventative health, chronic disease, and emotional eating, developing skills and a passion for working collaboratively with psychologists and physicians regarding disordered eating, anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder recovery. “I have prayed for a career where I could incorporate my faith into my work, and helping support people with eating disorder recovery allowed me that opportunity,” says Richelle. “Eating disorder recovery requires not only physical healing, but also emotional and spiritual healing as well.”

As a Registered Dietitian, Richelle has a uniquely informed perspective on the concept of Lenten fasting and abstinence; for her, it is important to recognize that these are not simply arbitrary rules to obey on specific days or during particular liturgical seasons, but an invitation to grow in faith. “I have personally been drawn back to focus on the true meaning and purpose of fasting and abstinence during Lent,” says Richelle. “I don’t want to merely ‘follow the rules,’ but utilize these gifts that the Church has provided for us to be a means of deeper spiritual growth and a more intimate relationship with Jesus.”

For this reason, Richelle underscores the importance of continually examining our underlying intentions during periods of fasting and abstinence. “It’s important to make sure that fasting isn’t about trying to lose weight,” Richelle says. “As a dietitian, I’m quite sensitive to the fact that fasting and abstinence from food is not appropriate for everyone, but there are many ways to fast during Lent without using food.” Richelle encourages considering alternate, non-food forms of fasting if necessary, like giving up social media, unnecessary spending, or complaining.

Although the Lenten cookbook has only been out a week, the Formation Team has already received plenty of positive responses from those who have accessed it and tried out the recipes. “The cookbook was meant to be something fun for our members, because we often connect with food, and the COVID pandemic has limited this. A Lenten cookbook seemed like a great theme, as many people struggle with meatless or fish ideas during Lent (or the rest of the year),” says Richelle. “We have had lots of positive feedback already from our women’s section, and we keep hearing whose recipe they are trying next! The fun part is seeing who submitted the recipe, and you often end up thinking about that person while you are preparing the meal.”

Although the Regnum Christi Calgary Formation Team has not been able host in-person meetings and events due to the current COVID restrictions, its members have embraced the new opportunities and broader audience base that online initiatives, like the Lenten digital cookbook, have allowed. Their upcoming online event, called From Playboy to Adoration, will feature Julie Blatty, wife of famous screenwriter and The Exorcist author William Blatty, who will share the story of her conversion from Hollywood socialite to redeemed daughter of God. (To purchase tickets for this event on Thursday, March 18, click here.)

The Calgary Formation Team is already working on next year’s cookbook, and this time, they would love to incorporate recipes from Regnum Christi members from all over. To submit a recipe of your favorite fish or meatless dish for next year’s Lenten cookbook, email Richelle at [email protected]. To check out the recipes from this year’s Lenten Cookbook, click here. You can find more healthy recipes and posts about the intersection of faith, food, and fitness on Richelle’s website, faithfulleating.com.

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Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!