July 31, 2013



Exodus 34:29-35

Today marks the conclusion of the 30-day retreat at IPF. The Spiritual Exercises are a gift from Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who the Church venerates in memorial today.

Exactly ten years ago I myself made the 30-day retreat. During the Spiritual Exercises I came to know the person of Jesus Christ in a way that was far beyond my expectations. I met His mother and fell in love with her, consecrating my heart, my life, and my priesthood to her. The 30-day retreat was a game-changer. It saved, healed, and restored my priesthood. It taught me how to pray. It revealed to me my deepest wounds. It shed light on the darkness of my sin. It brought me out of fear into the freedom of a son of God.

During those sacred days I had two companions who walked with me every step of the way: Francis of Assisi and Ignatius of Loyola. We spoke to each other as one man speaks to another. We laughed. We sang. We prayed. We spent hours around a campfire which lives within my depths of my spiritual senses. We looked at my life ... my history ... my strengths ... my weaknesses. And ... from birth to death to resurrection we accompanied Jesus through the stories of the Gospels.

I don't know what kind of priest I would be today if it weren't for Ignatius of Loyola ... nor am I convinced that I would still be a priest today, for the temptation of grass greener on the other side of the fence would certainly have continued to sing to me. Today is one of the most important days of the year for me, for today we celebrate the life of a man who without I would be lost.

Many people ask me about Ignatius, Ignatian spirituality, and the Jesuits. Many people, especially seminarians, say things like: "I like Ignatius, but I am not a Jesuit." Here's the thing: there is a profound distinction between Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit spirituality. Jesuit spirituality is most apt for the members of the Society of Jesus (S.J., Jesuits). Their spirituality is grounded in Ignatius, but is really more about the Constitutions that founded the religious order.

On the other hand, simply put Ignatian spirituality is "finding God in all things." The brilliance of Saint Ignatius is that he found God in all things: in his prayer, in his ministry, in the excitement of spiritual direction ... but also in the ordinary monotony of administrating the fastest growing religious order of his time.

Most of us remember Saint Ignatius in the images of his recovering from surgery where "his eyes were opened just a little". Most of us remember Saint Ignatius in the images of the cave in Manressa, Spain where he learned about the spiritual life and wrote the Spiritual Exercises. However, did you know that Saint Ignatius spent most of his priesthood in a dusty apartment on the Via degli Astalli in Rome? Saint Ignatius spent the last 18 years of his life as the founder and Superior General of the Jesuits. That means he spent the last 18 years of life as an administrator: he wrote letters, he dealt with personnel issues, he negotiated with the Church. And ... yes ... Saint Ignatius was a master of finding God in the midst of all of that.

As the one of the most gifted spiritual directors in past 2,000 years, Saint Ignatius gave us the most often used blueprint for retreats. Saint Ignatius would certainly encourage you to "get away" for retreat and receive deeper intimacy from God. However, if Saint Ignatius were to speak to you today he say this: find God in the midst of your ordinary life. Saint Ignatius would remind you that God is in changing diapers, God is in paying bills, God is in trying to stay married, God is in sitting in traffic, God is in your marriage, God is in your family ... God is in your ordinary.

Happy Feast day. Yes, today I want to celebrate Saint Ignatius ... and believe me, you want to celebrate Saint Ignatius. Here's the good news ― God is in your ordinary. Don't look for Him in far off places ... don't look for Him in fantasy or the future ... right now ... in the present moment ... in your life ... God is in your ordinary, in every detail of your life.

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013


Today, the 169 seminarians conclude their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will take their oral exams assessing their mastery of the material on the Liturgy. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises conclude the program today ... fittingly enough on the Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Today they conclude their "Transition Days", learning how to talk about the retreat with others. ... Flying home tomorrow ... looking forward to returning home to Thibodaux on Saturday. See you all this weekend.


"[The Church] invites us to live our ordinary life as a journey of holiness, that is, of faith and friendship with Jesus continually discovered and rediscovered as Teacher and Lord, the Way, the Truth and the Life of man."
― Angelus Address, January 15, 2006


July 30, 2013



Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-9,28

Today we continue with the story of Moses. Over the past few days, we have entered the famed burning bush. We've recounted the miracle at the Red Sea. Yesterday, we heard once again the story of the ten commandments. Today, we read of Moses speaking with God "face to face, as one man speaks to another." (Exodus 33:11)

Shocking. Unheard of. Absolutely, radically mind-blowing. In Moses' day there were many gods. The Jews were the only people on the entire planet who had a God ... who encompassed everything ... and who ... get ready for this ... actually engaged in a relationship with humanity. Of all the nations on the earth, only the Jews actually believed that God spoke to them, that God desired them.

"We cannot identify who we are unless we answer the question of the meaning of life, where we come from, and where we are going. I have come to describe the human identity in the following way: We are loved-nothings. This simply means that if God did not love us, we would not exist. In other words, our existence is not necessary for the continuation of the universe. In fact, creation would get along quite nicely without us. The heavens, the environment, and all living things would suffer no loss if we were not here. We are, however, quite dependent upon creation. Driven by the power of our 'fat relentless egos,' we look upon ourselves as indispensable to the created world when we, in fact, are not." (1)

"If we are not necessary, then why do we exist? ... We exist because God loves us. If God didn’t love us, we would not be here. This is an astoundingly liberating revelation. We are not needed, but desired. Who would not prefer to be desired, to be wanted simply for being oneself? In fact, our falling in love with one another hints at the divine romance between God and ourselves. That is where our joy comes from: We find another who has already found us. We thrive on being loved for who we are. Like the kind of beloved we all crave, God loves 'just because.'" (2)

We are desired. Let that penetrate. Let that invade. Let that rattle your boxes and categories. Invading our deepest-seeded fears that we are alone is the truth that the Father created us simply because He desired us. Stop for a moment and consider how this should reorient your entire existence.

The Father created us because He desired us. He gazes upon us because He desires us. The Father loves us because He desires us. The Father tirelessly pursues us because He desires us. Yet, far too often we trudge through our prayer time silently assured by past unrelated grief that "nothing is going to really happen when I show up to pray." The perceived aloneness crescendos in the silence and many of us dread our prayer time because we fear facing their daunting perception that we are not desired.  Thus, many of us "fill up" our prayer time with devotionals or other pious spiritual disciplines fearing silence "because nothing is going to happen if I’m quiet." The core fear feeding the cloaked isolation is "I’m alone. I am not desired."

"Since we live in the tension of being loved-nothings, we sometimes emphasize one pole of this identity over the other. We can be guilty at times of thinking we are only 'loved' or only 'nothing.' ... To focus on being loved is good, but, without an awareness of the rest of our human identity, our life becomes too self-centered. Alternately, ruminating about the nothing side of our identity can lead us to slip into despair or self-hate. This equally distorts reality. Yes, we are not necessary, but we are loved! ... All sin arises from thinking either that we are everything or that we are nothing. When I act out of these incomplete and distorted visions of the human identity instead of out of the creative tension of being loved-nothing, I sin." (3)

We are all loved-nothings. Our existence is not needed, it is desired. However, how many of us base our identity off of what we do or how we are received by others? How many of us base our self-worth off of whether or not we are needed? Driven by an American lie of performance driven identity, too many of us believe our identity is determined by whether or not we are approved of or thought well of. Thus, many of us fear that we are not loved.

We are all loved-nothings. We are all nothing without God. We are all loved by the very God who created us. And, we were all created by God simply because He desired to do so.

(1) James Keating, Ph.D., Pure Heart, Clear Conscience, pg. 18
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid., pg. 19

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013


Today, the 169 seminarians conclude their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about how the Liturgy is a part of the overall life of the diocesan priest. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises concluded the retreat Sunday. Today they continue their "Transition Days", learning how to be with God in the midst of whatever they do.


"Life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose (cf. Genesis 1:28)!"
― World Youth Day, Sydney, Australia, July 17, 2008


Brice Higginbotham, a seminarian from our own Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, speaks about his experience last year at the Institute for Priestly Formation and its impact on his formation and discernment.

Click here to support The Institute for Priestly Formation

© The Institute for Priestly Formation, 2012

July 29, 2013


Readings at Mass: Monday of 17th Week of Ordinary Time

> Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Martha, the sister of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead (John 11), and Mary, who chose "the better part" by sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). In the Gospel reading at today's Mass the Church gives us the option of reading one of these two stories. The famous account in Luke 10 places Saint Martha busy in the kitchen while her sister Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. This story has many interpretations, the most common reminding us of the balance between the contemplative and active lives, listening to God and serving God.

Therein, Fr. Robert Baron has a more detailed understanding of Luke 10 explained to us two weeks ago through his audio sermon. There, he reminds us of the culture two thousand years ago. Back then teachers would often sit as they taught. In fact, even today every Catholic Cathedral has a special chair in the sanctuary where only the Bishop sits. Why? Because it represents the chair where the official teacher of the Faith sits. For us to find Jesus in the posture of sitting tells us that Jesus was teaching.

Two thousand years ago the Jewish culture was very different from the culture here in the U.S. or in the West in general. Essentially, men and women had very different "roles" in society. We see this throughout the Gospel. For example, Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-42). What's unique about Jesus' conversation with her isn't just his speaking to a Samaritan (which was taboo), but that Jesus was speaking to a woman in public. Semitic culture had clear boundaries of what women did and what men did. In fact, when the Jews worshipped at the local synagogue women weren't allowed in. It was the men alone who entered the synagogue, the women listened through a grill that separated the two.

With this clear cultural boundary between men and women as the backdrop you can certainly understand Martha's flurry as she sees Mary doing the unthinkable: sitting literally at the feet of Jesus. And, with that as the background, we can certainly understand Jesus' response: "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." (Luke 10:41-42)

So, what's the better part? Mary has chosen to listen Jesus. Mary doesn't want to simply watch Jesus, she wants to follow Jesus. She doesn't simply want to watch Jesus, disengaged from the person of Christ, she wants to get close to Him ... to hear Him, to see Him, to follow Him closely. Symbolically, as Mary chooses to break cultural boundaries, Jesus acknowledges that all people are called to follow Jesus. Regardless of what is accepted or not accepted we are all called to follow Jesus. Saints and sinners ― we are all called to follow Jesus. Rich and poor ― we are all called to follow Jesus. Those who have their lives together and those who are struggling ― we are all called to follow Jesus. The "better part" of living is not being busy about the things of the world, but being busy about following Jesus.

What are you busy about? What has your attention? What do you spend most of your energy focused on? While we are called to live in the world, we are not to be of the world. Whose voice do you listen to most often: the world or Jesus? Who has more influence in your life: the way of our American culture or the teachings of Christ? Who are you following: yourself or Jesus?

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013


Today, the 169 seminarians continue their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about how the Liturgy propels us into service. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises concluded the retreat yesterday. Today they will begin their "Transition Days" designed to foster integration of the retreat and assist in their transition "back home".


"Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so 'on his own', or to approach the life of faith with kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus."
― World Youth Day, Madrid, Spain, August 21, 2011


Fr. Michael Delcambre from the Diocese of Lafayette speaks about his experience of the Institute for Priestly Formation and its impact on his priesthood.

© The Institute for Priestly Formation, 2012

July 27, 2013

July 25, 2013


Readings at Mass: Feast of Saint James, Apostle

> 2nd Corinthians 4:7-15
> Psalm 126: 1-2a,2b-3,4-5,6

Today we celebrate the Feast day of one of the Apostles ― Saint James. There were two Apostles named James: one was called James "the Greater" and one was called James "the Less" ... believe it or not they received these nicknames probably because today's James was taller than the other James (nothing mysteriously fancy there, eh?) We know nothing of Saint James' early life. He was the brother of John, the beloved disciple, and probably the oldest of the two. His father was Zebedee, a fisherman, and his mother was Salome, one of the women who followed Jesus.

The Scriptures tell us much of Saint James. He and his brother John, the beloved disciple who wrote the Gospel of John, had a special relationship with Jesus. Peter, James, and John saw things the other Apostles didn't: the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark, 5:37), the Transfiguration (Luke, 9:28), and the Agony in Garden (Matthew 26:37). But, perhaps most interesting was James' strength of personality. In Mark 3:7 James is referred to as a "son of thunder". He was born in Galilee, in northern Israel, a fishing village renowned for men of passionate personalities, benevolent generosity, and fierce anger. James had a similar personality to Saint Peter, for they were born in the same town, grew up together, and were both brash fisherman.

James had a bold personality ... to say the least. When a small Samaritan town rejected Jesus' message, James' passion led him beg Jesus to "reign down fire" and annihilate the village. (Luke 9:51-56) On the other hand, James' own mother begs Jesus to grant that her own sons "sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom". (Matthew 20:21) Yea ... that's pretty bold.

Funny thing about Jesus ... He sure did intentionally surround Himself with interesting people. Peter, James, and John had a privileged place within the deepest of inner circles, the Apostles. While John was more mild mannered and humble, Peter and James had lots of fire in them.

Most of think that once we follow Jesus we'll be fixed. After all we read stories of Jesus exorcizing demons, giving sight to the blind, and raising the dead. We read accounts of the prodigal son coming home after a life of sin. There's the Samaritan woman telling everyone about this man that knew her sins. We even celebrated Mary Magdalene's conversion on Monday. Through it all, we erroneously deduce that we, if we are going to follow Jesus, must become neutered of all personality deficiencies. Especially when we desire healing of our deepest wounds, we assume that once we are healed we'll be fixed ... we'll thus have those personality traits that are meek, mild, and ... boring.

Listen to me: Jesus doesn't want to fix you. Jesus yearns for our healing, not our fixing. To be healed is to have all aspects of our life in relationship with Christ. To be healed is to have every aspect of our heart filled with light: the pain is filled with love, the isolation filled with communion, the fear and shame filled with relationship. That's healing ... and yes, Jesus does want that. However, once we are healed we'll still live in a fallen world. We'll still need a Savior. We'll still need to wake up everyday and beg for God's help like an addict wakes up every day and begs for sobriety.

Jesus surrounded himself with two men, Peter and James, who had fiery personalities. However, because of relationship with Christ their passion formerly expressed in anger was eventually expressed in zeal for the Gospel. Jesus didn't want to fix their passion, he wanted heal their hearts and channel their anger into zeal for the Truth of Christ. Jesus didn't want to fix their passion, he wanted heal the root of their anger and heal their hearts so as to channel their passion into zeal for the Truth of Christ. Jesus didn't want to fix their strength, he wanted heal the root of their wanting to be in control and heal their hearts so as to channel their desire for control into thirst-filled dependency for Christ.

You and I will always have our "stuff" ... we'll have our personality quirks and the many other things we may not like about ourselves. However, when our hearts are in communion with Christ, our grasping at sin will decrease because the former energy propelling us toward sin is now directed toward God.

Stop trying to force God to fix you. Instead, let God into your heart. Draw close to Him. Bring everything into relationship with Him. The same energy that propelled the greatest sinners toward sin is the same energy that propelled those former sinners into saints. Direct your energy to Jesus and He won't fix you ... He'll do better than that ... He will transform you.

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013


Today, the 169 seminarians continue their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about how Liturgy connects to the moral life. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises are on day 27 of the 30-day retreat.


"The Lord has a plan for each of us, he calls us each by name. Our task is to learn how to listen, to perceive his call, to be courageous and faithful in following him, and when all is said and done, to be found trustworthy servants who have used well the gifts given us."
― Homily at Vespers, Basilica of Saint Anne, September 26, 2006

July 24, 2013


Readings at Mass: Wednesday of 16th Week of Ordinary Time

Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15
Psalm 78:18-19,23-24,25-26,27-28

What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday God split the Red Sea in one of the most dramatic displays of provision and promise. Today, the Israelites are complaining ... again. In Exodus 14:21 God split the sea in two. In Exodus 16:3 the Chosen People don't think that was enough: "The Israelites said to [Moses], 'If only we had died at the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our kettles of meat and ate our fill of bread! But you have led us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of famine!'"

One chapter removed from the miracle and Israel has already forgotten. One chapter ... that's it ... they forgot that quick.

Memory is important in the spiritual life. It's important for us to remember all that God has done for us. In fact, that's exactly why the Church has given us the Responsorial Psalm as such for the past three days: to help us remember the good that God has done.

When you and I struggle, either because of spiritual desolation or because we're being invited to "look" at parts of our life that need healing, we are often tempted to forget that God is faithful. In fact, when we struggle we are tempted to believe that we're alone ... and "we've always been alone" ... and "we're always going to be alone." This, of course, is a lie. God is faithful. Exodus shows us that. The entire Bible shows us that. Even our lives show us that. Thus, when we struggle, when we doubt, we are called to remember. 

Remember that you've struggled before and come out of it. Remember that you've doubted before and have been assured. Remember that you've been in need before and He's come through for you. When you can't see Him now, when you can't hear Him now, press into your intellect: remember everything He's done for you in your past ... certain that that God will come through for you in the future.

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013


Today, the 169 seminarians continue their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about how to overcome obstacles to receiving during the Liturgy. They will also learn more about the role of the Liturgy of the Hours in the life of the parish priest. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises are on day 26 of the 30-day retreat.


"The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope."
― Seek That Which Is Above by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

July 23, 2013


Readings at Mass: Tuesday of 16th Week of Ordinary Time

Exodus 14:21-15:1
Exodus 15:8-9,10,12,17

In today's first reading from the Book of Exodus we continue with the story of Moses, God's triumph during the Passover, and his liberating Israel from slavery. Yesterday we read of Israel's panic as they found themselves pinned against the Red Sea with no way out. Gripped in fear, they lamented to Moses: "Were there no burial places in Egypt that you brought us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?" (Exodus 14:11) Confident in the Father's promises, Moses responded: "Do not fear! Stand your ground and see the victory the Lord will win for you today. For these Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you have only to keep still." (Exodus 14:13-14)

God made a promise to Moses ... and God always comes through on His promises.

Today we read of God's triumph over the Egyptians as He splits the Red Sea in two: "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord drove back the sea with a strong east wind all night long and turned the sea into dry ground. The waters were split, so that the Israelites entered into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water as a wall to their right and to their left." (Exodus 14:21-22)

What a story. What a promise. What a God we have. God promised Moses and all of Israel that He would free them from their enemies. Against the greatest of odds requiring the most dramatic of miracles God came through on His promise. However, there is one significant detail we should not overlook. In Exodus 13:17-18 we read: "Now, when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the Philistines’ land, though this was the nearest; for God said: If the people see that they have to fight, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. Instead, God rerouted them toward the Red Sea by way of the wilderness road, and the Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt arrayed for battle."

That's right ... God purposely lead them to the Red Sea. He intentionally "rerouted" them toward the Red Sea. It seemed ridiculous to Moses. It seemed like a death trap to the Israelites. It seemed as if God had abandoned His promise. However, it was precisely because of the Red Sea that the Israelites were forced to depend on God. And, there, in the most unlikely of ways, and in the most unlikely of timing, God came through on His promise.

The last two weeks we've unpacked our need for healing. Inner healing is dependent upon one thing: God. Our ability to trust the vulnerability necessary for receptivity rests upon our trusting that God comes through on His promises. He promised us that He'd be with us. However, often times we can feel alone when you and I "go" to the places in our hearts that need healing. It's important to not give up. God knew exactly how to liberate the Israelites; however, His plan seemed crazy at the time. Likewise, God knows exactly how to free us, even if it seems as if God isn't doing anything. The key is to be patient. Keep showing up. Keep asking. Keep trusting.

Our God is a God of promises ... and God always comes through on His promises.

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013


Today, the 169 seminarians continue their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about how to receive more during the Liturgy. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises are on day 25 of the 30-day retreat.


"With God, even in difficult times or moments of crisis, there is always a horizon of hope: the Incarnation tells us that we are never alone, that God has come to humanity and that He accompanies us."
― Shrine of Loreto, October 4, 2012

July 22, 2013


Readings at Mass: Monday of 16th Week of Ordinary Time

Exodus 14:5-18
> Psalms 15:1-2,3-4,5-6

Today the Church celebrates the life of Saint Mary Magdalene. Who was she, really?

"Mary Magdalen was so called either from Magdala near Tiberias, on the west shore of Galilee, or possibly from a Talmudic expression meaning 'curling women's hair,' which the Talmud explains as of an adulteress. In the New Testament she is mentioned among the women who accompanied Christ and ministered to Him (Luke 8:2-3), where it is also said that seven devils had been cast out of her (Mark 16:9). She is next named as standing at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25; Luke 23:49). She saw Christ laid in the tomb, and she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection." (1)

Contrary to Hollywood's seductive "The Da Vinci Code" or the even more dangerous strands of post-modern Christianity, Orthodox Biblical research reveals Saint Mary Magdalene as the "sinner" in Luke 7:37-50. She who crawled to his feet weeping in the home of the Pharisee is she who stood by feet weeping at the Cross. Her love for Christ was pure, a love ignited by Christ's mercy ... a love that fueled her going all the way to the cross.

When God changes your life you'll do almost anything to say thank you. The beauty of the reality of Saint Mary Magdalene reveals this: the depth of our following Christ is often the depth of our experiencing personal transformation because of Christ. And, the depth of our experiencing personal transformation because of Christ is often the depth of our being honest with, and vulnerable to, the person of Christ. Thus: following Christ > flows from being transformed by Christ > flows from being honest with, and vulnerable to, the person of Christ. There's a direct relationship.

Last week the story of Moses invited us to be honest with our past. May I say reverently that last week was not an easy week for many of us on the journey. However, we stand encouraged today that transformation is possible. Saint Mary Magdalene witnesses for us where we are "to go" with our hearts, our shame, and our sin. We are to go to Jesus.

This week we'll patiently and reverently unpack God's plan for our freedom. However, today lets' rest in He who is leading us. Let's rest in Christ. Go to the Lord today. If you are aware of sins that are buried in your past, go to the Lord. If you, like Saint Mary Magdalene, are aware of your need for forgiveness, go to Jesus. If you desire freedom and complete transformation, go to Jesus.

God is ready ... you're heart is ready ... today ... right now ... with everything in your life ... go to Jesus.

(1) http://www.ewtn.com/saintsholy/saints/M/stmarymagdalen.asp

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013



Today, the 169 seminarians continue their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about how the Liturgy transforms us and draws into communion with God. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises are on day 24 of the 30-day retreat.


"Let us not hesitate to rediscover the friendship of God lost by sin; encountering the Lord, we experience the joy of his forgiveness."
― General Audience, Ash Wednesday, February 21, 2007

July 19, 2013


Readings at Mass: Friday of 15th Week of Ordinary Time

Exodus 11:10-12:14
Psalm 116:12-13,15-16,17-18

In today's first reading at Mass we read some of the most sacred text within the Jewish roots of our Catholicism. Today we read of the Passover preparation. In fact, what happens in the Passover is so very important, God tells Moses "This month shall stand at the head of your calendar." All things shall revolve around this. All things shall be marked by this. At head of the calendar, all time shall be determined by this. In addition, God says to Moses about the Passover: "This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution." It shall be perpetually remembered ... forever ... in this life and eternity.

The dramatic preparation for the Passover is given to Moses in great detail. There is no gray area as to how God wants His people to prepare. There is specific detail in the 18 verses outlining the Passover meal in preparation for the event of Passover. Why? There are so many stories of the Old Testament that seem to have such strange detail. Why? Why all the detail? Because when something is really important to us we want to make sure others get all the details. Likewise, when something is really important to God He wants to make sure we get all the details.

God gives Moses strict instructions for the Passover because their freedom is a big deal. God will act in dramatic fashion: haste-eaten unleavened bread, blood on doorposts, the death of each first-born son. God is not simply intervening. God is unleashing the full weight of His glory for the liberation and freedom of His cherished Chosen People.

With that as an introduction, let's review the week. Fear is a part of life, especially our lives. We are often afraid of the things buried in our past. The key to peace is letting God take the initiative in our life. We can trust Him because He only wants to enter our fear because of His concern for us. And, when we let God enter God always brings freedom.

As mentioned in the post written for July 4th, there is a difference between "freedom from" and "freedom to". I can be free from fear. I can be free from shame. I can be free from my past. Only when I am truly free from can I be free to. Once I am free from the above I can be free to love ... free to give myself to God ... free to receive from God ... free to love others. Freedom from that which holds me back always precedes my being able to be free to do.

God longs for our freedom. The whole reason we retell the ancient stories of the Old Testament is so that we can relive the truths contained in those ancient stories. God acts triumphantly through the Passover so that His people might be free to be in relationship with Him. Likewise, regardless of your past ... regardless of your fear ... regardless of what's buried, God wants to free you from so that you might be free to let Him love you.

Freedom and healing are one. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI writes: "Whoever truly wishes to heal man must see him in his wholeness and must know that his ultimate healing can only be God’s love." (1) Healing is a process. It happens in relationship. In order for us to be truly free from our past we must entrust ourselves to Him who desires relationship.

Be not afraid ... our God is a God of freedom. If you need a little more help in what to do next, try praying with my homily from this past weekend. Let's keep praying for each other.

(1) Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, pg. 17

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013



Today, the 169 seminarians continue their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about how our "spiritual senses" help us receive the Liturgy. The 23 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises are on day 21 of the 30-day retreat.


"'Peace be with you' (John 20:21). These are the words of the Risen Lord. We hear them during each Mass, and today they resound anew, with the hope that each one of you will be transformed, becoming a sower and messenger of that peace for which Christ offered his life."
― Greeting, City Square, Guanajuato, Mexico, March 23, 2012


July 18, 2013


Readings at Mass: Thursday of 15th Week of Ordinary Time

Exodus 3:13-20
Psalm 105:1&5,8-9,24-25,26-27

In today's first reading at Mass we continue the unfolding story of the call of Moses. As with yesterday, there are elements of today's reading with which we are very familiar: we've heard Moses inquire about God's name, we're familiar with God's responding that He is "I AM", we remember God sending Moses to Pharaoh. However, as with so many Scripture passages there are seemingly hidden details today that animate the story with profound intimacy.

For example, did you catch why God sent Moses to Pharaoh to begin with? "Then you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him: 'The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent us word. Permit us, then, to go a three-days’ journey in the desert, that we may offer sacrifice to the Lord, our God.'" Pharaoh doesn't resist letting the Israelites go forever. Initially, Pharaoh wouldn't let them worship God. God wants their worship, He wants their hearts. He wants Israel to be free, but He wants them free to worship Him. (cf. Exodus 3:18)

Or, did you catch this little detail? "so I have decided to lead you up out of the misery of Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey." God cares about their misery. God is not uninvolved. He is not distant or cold. He sees what's really going on. He sees their misery. (cf. Exodus 3:17)

And, this one's my favorite: "Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and tell them:  The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has appeared to me and said: I am concerned about you and about the way you are being treated in Egypt". God is concerned. Wow.

Everything that unfolds from here on out is because God was concerned about His people. God's relentless intervention with Pharaoh: all because God was concerned about His people. The miracle of the Red Sea: all because God was concerned about His people. The wandering in the desert, the ten commandments, and the triumphant leading a Chosen People to a Promised Land: all because God was concerned about His people.

There is a deep fear with the things buried in our past that once God takes the initiative He will judge us and reject us, thus leaving us trapped forever in our misery. However, we see today in Exodus a God who is concerned for His people. That's why He intervenes; that's why He takes His initiative ... because God is concerned about me ... God is concerned about us ... God is concerned about you.

Be not afraid. Let Him come close. Today, again today, take some time and allow God to enter into your heart. Ask Him to enter into anything buried in your past. And, be not afraid ... He enters only because of His concern for you.

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013



Today, the 169 seminarians continue their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about the mystery of the Liturgy and the celebration of the Liturgy. The 23 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises are on day 20 of the 30-day retreat.


"The more we open ourselves to God...the more He renders us able, through His presence, to live every moment in life in the peace and certainty of His loyalty and His love. However, this means leaving behind ourselves, and our own plans, so that the Word of God might be the guiding light for our thoughts and actions."
― General Audience, December 19, 2012


July 17, 2013



Readings at Mass: Wednesday of 15th Week of Ordinary Time

Exodus 3:1-6:9-12
Psalm 103:1-2,3-4,6-7

In today's first reading at Mass we continue reading about the life of Moses. In Exodus 3:1 we read: "Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian." Moses has moved on. Running from his past, hoping that his secrets stay buried there, Moses moved east of Egypt to the land of Midian. There, Moses married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro, the priest and prince of Midian. Moses is simply going about his business, trying to live life with his past buried behind him.

Eh hem ... God had other plans. "Leading the flock across the desert, [Moses] came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There an angel of the Lord appeared to him in fire flaming out of a bush." (Exodus 3:1-2) Today's famous story of the burning bush is probably one of the most well known stories of Scripture. Many of us focus on the bush and how it wasn't destroyed. Many of focus on Moses and how he took off his shoes. Many of focus on God pronouncing His name as "I AM". However, none of this would have happened unless God takes the initiative. Notice "an angel of the Lord appeared to him." God appears to Moses, not vice versa. God pursues Moses, not vice versa. God takes the initiative. 

The Church teaches: "The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man." (1) God always takes the initiative, it is our's to receive it.

Many of us, like Moses, want to move on with life, especially when we are afraid (Monday) of the stuff buried in our past (yesterday). Left to our own fear most of us would try to manage life on our own. However, because God desires us infinitely more than we could ever desire Him, God constantly reaches out to us. God relentlessly takes the initiative to draw us close to Him.

Moses could have never imagined that God would reach out to him. Moses could have never imagined that God would speak to him. Moses could have never imagined what his life would turn into once all that happened. Moses didn't know how to live in real freedom, that's why he ran away to Midian. Likewise, when you and I admit that we do have things buried in our past, things that bind us in unfreedom, we often don't know what to do. We don't know how to move on. We don't know how to get the freedom we long for.

Here's the good news. God is a lot better at this freedom thing then we are. God's a master of freeing people ... after all look what happened to Israel through Moses. Just as he freed the Israelites from the Egyptians, God wants to free you.

The good news is that God is taking the initiative in your life. If you're willing to let him into the things you've buried in the past God will bring freedom. Ask Him ... beg Him ... allow Him to come into your life. Ask Him to take the initiative and start the process of your healing.

(1) Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2022

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013



Today, the 169 seminarians continue their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about the action of the Holy Spirit within the Liturgy, as well how to connect the mystery of the Transfiguration and the Liturgy. The 23 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises are on day 19 of the 30-day retreat.


"While he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him" (Lk 15: 20) and, full of joy, had a feast prepared.
 How is it possible not to open our hearts to the certainty that in spite of being sinners we are loved by God? He never tires of coming to meet us, he is always the first to set out on the path that separates us from him."
Angelus Address, September 12, 2010


July 16, 2013



Readings at Mass: Tuesday of 15th Week of Ordinary Time

Exodus 2:1-15
Psalm 69:3,14,30-31,33-34

In today's first reading at Mass we are introduced to the life of Moses in the second chapter of the Book of Exodus. In the early verses we read of his birth and how he came to live amongst the Egyptian royalty. However, the story quickly shifts into Moses' adult years.

In Exodus 2:11 we read: "On one occasion, after Moses had grown up, when he had gone out to his kinsmen and witnessed their forced labor, he saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his own kinsmen. Looking about and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand." Moses is moved at the sight of the horrific slavery and compulsively reacts by murdering the Egyptian who was abusing an Israelite. To hide his act, Moses buries the Egyptian in the sand. However, what Moses thought was buried in his past soon taunts him. "The next day he went out again, and now two Hebrews were fighting! So he asked the culprit, 'Why are you striking your companion?' But he replied, 'Who has appointed you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?' Then Moses became afraid and thought, 'The affair must certainly be known.'" (Exodus 2:13-14)

Moses has something buried in his past ... literally. However, his past quickly catches up to him. His deepest fear is realized and others find out about his past. Moses runs. He flees to Midian. He runs away from what is buried in his past.

Pope Benedict XVI once said: "The ways of the Lord are not comfortable, but we were not created for comfort, but for greatness." (1) Yesterday we talked about fear ... and today we admit that many of us have things buried in our past. This week may not be comfortable, but remember: "The ways of the Lord are not comfortable, but we were not created for comfort, but for greatness."

Stay with me this week ... don't panic ... don't run ... trust the process ... we'll walk through this together.

On the journey of life many of us make mistakes. Many of us fail. Many of us fall. And, along the way, many of us grow ashamed of things in our past. Because of fear and shame, we, like Moses, bury those the shameful things of our past. We like Moses, spend a lot of energy "fleeing to Midian" in that we run away hoping that what's buried in the past will never be found out.

Here's the thing ... with this pattern we're never really free. Things may be buried, but they're not forgotten. Often times our memories whisper to us. Things that we've buried in our past often influence the way we really look at ourselves ... or look at God ... or influence the way we think God looks at us. Our deepest fear is that if anyone finds out, we like Moses, will be rejected and a failure.

Galatians 5:1 encourages us: "For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery." You don't have to run. You don't have to fear. You don't have to live enslaved to things buried in your past. Jesus has come ... for you. He has come "to bring glad tidings to the poor ... to proclaim liberty to captives ... recovery of sight to the blind ... to let the oppressed go free". (Luke 4:18)

Jesus has come for freedom. Jesus has come to bring you freedom. He wants to "bring glad tidings" in your poverty. He wants to "proclaim liberty" to where you are captive. He wants to bring "recovery of sight" in your poverty. He wants to let your "oppression" free. All for freedom. All for your freedom. "For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery."

You don't have to be afraid. I repeat: you don't have to be afraid.

What's buried in your past? Where are you not free. Trust the process, trust the Lord. Don't act compulsively like Moses did. Don't run, don't tell anyone your secrets. Simply talk to Jesus and ask Him to show you if there is anything buried in your past that has you unfree. And ... check back tomorrow as we walk together, letting the Holy Spirit guide where we go next.

(1) Address to March for Life pilgrims

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013



Today, the 169 seminarians continue their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about how the Church has entrusted as steward of the Liturgy, as well as learning how Mary models for us how to receive the Spirit as we should within the Liturgy. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises are on day 18 of the 30-day retreat.


"Out of love for us he (Christ) took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability, and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself. As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts… let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life."
― Radio Broadcast, 'Thought for the Day', BBC Radio, December 24, 2010

IPF will stream it annual "Friends Night" live over the web! Here's a look at last year's program ...

July 15, 2013


Readings at Mass: Monday of 15th Week of Ordinary Time

> Exodus 1:8-14,22
Psalm 124:1b-34-6,7-8

Ever wonder how the people of Israel became enslaved to the Egyptians? After all ... we know the story of Abraham before the slavery ... and we know of the story of Moses after the slavery. But, how did it happen? When did it happen? Well, welcome to today's first reading at Mass.

Here's a lighting fast recap. Abraham is picked by God to be the father of nations. Abraham gives birth to Isaac and Isaac gives birth to two sons: Esau and Jacob. Jacob eventually wrestles with God Himself and is renamed Israel (thus, the name of the nation), which means "He who struggles with God". Jacob has twelve sons (who will eventually be the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel). The eleventh of the sons was Joseph. Because his brothers were jealous of him, Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers ... and, you got it, he was eventually in the possession of the Egyptians. Because Joseph was anointed by God with the power to interpret dreams, Joseph rose to power and saved Egypt during a great famine. During the process, Joseph's father and brothers reunited with him and they all moved to Egypt.

Therefore, in today's first reading we read: "A new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt." The new king doesn't know the story that I just told you ... and therefore a new one emerges. The first lines of the Book of Exodus begin with: "[The king] said to his people, 'See! The Israelite people have multiplied and become more numerous than we are! Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase; otherwise, in time of war they too may join our enemies to fight against us, and so leave the land.' ... So the Egyptians reduced the Israelites to cruel slavery." (Exodus 1:9, 10, 13)

The Book of Exodus begins with a story of fear. The new king of Egypt is afraid of the Israelites. The new king doesn't know Joseph, or his loyal service to the Pharaoh, or the harmony with which they lived. All this new king knows is himself and what he sees in the present moment. He's afraid, and because he's afraid he enslaves the entire population of Israel. 

Fear and slavery go hand and hand ... per se. Of course, the entire human institution of slavery is built on fear; however, so too are our hearts. Where we live in fear we live unfree, we are enslaved to fear. Why? Most of us turn in on ourselves when we are afraid. When we are gripped with fear, most of us also assume we're alone, that God's not there. When we "feel" alone in our spiritual lives, we turn in on ourselves and try to figure it out, protect ourselves, or "just move on". However, in doing so, the fear doesn't go away ... it lingers unresolved, always whispering to us in our quieter moments, trapping us in isolation within. That's slavery: where you and I are unfree to be who we are in Christ.

History is forever altered in today's first reading, all because one man was afraid ... all because one man turned in on himself when he was afraid. What about you? How do you respond to fear? Trust the process, for God desires to do mighty deeds in your life this week. However, we have to start at the beginning in order for God to bring you freedom. So, be not afraid ... ask the questions: Where are you afraid? What are you afraid of? What's your response to fear?

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013



Today, the 169 seminarians in the Seminarians Summer Program are on a Day of Prayer. The day mirrors the schedule and discipline of their earlier 8-day silent retreat at the beginning of the summer and thus serves a one day retreat of sorts. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises are on day 17 of the 30-day retreat.


"Fear is a natural part of life. But there is also, and today above all, a more profound form of fear of an existential type that sometimes overflows into anxiety. It is born from a sense of emptiness that is linked to a culture that is permeated by a widespread theoretical and practical nihilism. (1) … we must allow [Christ's] presence and his grace to transform our heart, which is always subject to human weakness. We must know how to recognize that losing something indeed, losing ourselves for the true God, the God of love and of life is actually gaining ourselves, finding ourselves more fully. Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus already experiences in this life the peace and joy of heart that the world cannot give, and that it cannot even take away once God has given it to us." (2)
― (1) Angelus, June 22, 2008 and (2) Homily, Solemnity of Pentecost, May 23, 2010

Here's a clip that gives you a "first hand view" of what IPF is and does ...

July 14, 2013

Homily: Follow Me: Part 5

Follow Me: Part 5



No. 1: "Love of neighbor is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. … Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave."
— Deus Caritas Est, no. 18

No. 2: "Christ the Lord ... by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself"
— Gaudium et Spes, no. 22

No. 3: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. ... Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you"
— Isaiah 43:1, 4

No. 4: "What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want."
— Romans 7:15-19


No. 5: "With ever more accurate darts of love the Holy Spirit opens our consciences before God so that deeper and more effective healing can occur; at times his coming is so pure that it causes us to have pain and recoil at the level of intimacy God wishes his Son to achieve in our being. We recoil at our own needed medicine because it will bring about a change, and sin wishes no change to occur."
— Deacon Jim Keating, Ph.D., The Eucharist and Healing of Affection for Sin


No. 6: "Healing is an essential dimension of the apostolic mission and of Christianity. When understood at a sufficiently deep level, this expresses the entire content of redemption."
— Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, pg. 176

No. 7: "Two gestures are characteristic of Jesus’ mission: healing and forgiving. Jesus’ many healings clearly show his great compassion in the face of human distress, but they also signify that in the kingdom there will no longer be sickness or suffering, and that his mission, from the very beginning, is meant to free people from these evils."
— Blessed John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, no.14


No. 8: "God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all."
— 1st John 1:5


No. 9: "The root of sin is in the heart of man"
Catechism of the Catholic, no. 1853


No. 10: "The road from Jerusalem to Jericho thus turns out to be an image of human history; the half-dead man lying by the side of it is an image of humanity. Priest and Levite pass by; from earthly history alone, from its cultures and religions alone, no healing comes. If the assault victim is the image of everyman, the Samaritan can only be the image of Jesus Christ. God himself, who for us is foreign and distant, has set out to take care of his wounded creature. God, though so remote from us, has made himself our neighbor in Jesus Christ. He pours oil and wine into our wounds, a gesture seen as an image of the healing gift of the sacraments, and he brings us to the inn, the Church, in which he arranges our care and also pays a deposit for the cost of that care."
— Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, pgs. 200-201


Image A: Our hearts are wounded

Image B: Wounds are filled with pain

Image C: Pain is surrounded by fear

Image D: Fear is surrounded by lies

Image E: Lies are surrounded by vows


No. 11: "the refusal of communion imprisons [us] in isolation and division."
— Blessed John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, no.10


No. 12: "God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, God’s initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response."
— Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2567

No. 13: "It is this divine self-giving and the positive human response to accept such love that healing is known. Trust, vulnerability, rapt listening, integrity all precede the fullness of healing; otherwise God could incorrectly be seen as entering a magic relationship and not one of human freedom and fullness. We must present ourselves in such a way that Christ can enter our hearts with truth. And such a way of presenting ourselves is encapsulated in the virtue of humility."
— Deacon Jim Keating, Ph.D., The Eucharist and Healing of Affection for Sin


No. 14: "Whoever truly wishes to heal man must see him in his wholeness and must know that his ultimate healing can only be God’s love."
— Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, pg. 17

No. 15: "The healing occurs as the wound is acknowledged, the lies are unveiled, and the light of Jesus’ love reveals the Truth. This Divine love has to be received into a man’s wounds so that it can alter the external behavior from within."
— Deacon Jim Keating, Ph.D., Surrendering to the Healing Power of Christ’s Own Chastity

The Good Samaritan, Johann Karl Loth, c. 1676

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013