Today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. I have studied his work and read his questions and answers many times. I am challenged each day by the three paths to God of which he writes: truth, beauty, and goodness. 

But I find that I am distracted. 

Distracted with worry about the child whose fever is high and whose congestion convinces her she cannot breath

Distracted by the unedited chapters of my dissertation that await my approach when I find the time. 

Distracted by the news I fear may come in the next few days or weeks.

Distracted about the trip I take this week, missing work and family and having to navigate airports and luggage and parking.

Distracted about the unfinished lists in my head and on my desk.

Distracted by the people in front of me at Mass that show up late, chatter throughout, and then leave after Communion. 

Distracted that I cannot seem to focus in prayer. 

Distracted by bills that did not get paid this month.


So, in desperation, I turned to the good St. Thomas: “Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand.”

And it makes me wonder: is it a lack of faith that distracts me? If I understand that “faith is God’s work within us,” could I be so bold as to give my distractions over to God? Will any worry today fix any of these things tomorrow? Will the hope of change be enough or must there be a commitment to change, to act, to do something. 

If there really is nothing to be accomplished by worrying, why worry? 

Easier said than done. 

Perhaps, for now, I can simply ask St. Thomas to guide me, intervene for me, console me.

“Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen.”

St Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

Increase Our Faith

In this morning’s Gospel reading, we hear:

And the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

The consummate teachers, Jesus never really answers the question. Then again, the Apostles never really ask. No, they complain about not being able to do all the really cool things Jesus can do. (I imagine that water into wine thing turned some heads). They want faith and they do not ask, “Lord, how can we become more faithful.” They just command, “Increase our faith.”

It is not unlike what I hear at home sometimes. “When will we have dinner?” instead of “Is there anything I can do to help?” or “Why don’t I have any clean clothes?” instead of “Do you need me to switch washer and dryer?”

We have all been there. Demanding children or coworkers, chores that will not complete themselves, emails that just keep coming.

“Lord,” we cry. “Give me more time in the day. Take all these distractions from me.”

But, like Jesus, the distractions, the commands, the complaining, the whining – they are the work. Jesus answers the Apostle’s command to increase their faith by telling them that faith is not something that can be given, like a fish or a piece of bread. We do not give other’s faith. We show them our own. We teach by example. We accompany others so that they might understand that the joy we have comes from a relationship with a God who never lets go.

“Increase our faith.” Indeed.

“Watch what I do,” Jesus says. “Love like I do. Forgive like I do. Heal like I do. Speak of love and compassion and mercy and justice like I do.”

Then the trees and the bushes and the mountains and yes, even the people, will come to understand the power of your faith because that faith is not rooted in self, but in God.



Last week was spent in Orlando at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders, but more on that another time. Needless to say, sometimes when I travel and get stuck in a hotel for days on end, I lose track of days and this trip was no different. I spent the first few days at the annual meeting of the Leadership Roundtable and the following four or five days with other delegates from the Diocese of Bridgeport at the Convocation. It was Tuesday before I realized Five Minutes on Monday never went out.

This week would have been another forgotten week, were it not for the handy reminder I put in my phone last Tuesday.

Yesterday, I drove from our home in Connecticut to La Salle University in Philadelphia. The trip is supposed to take about three hours, but was extended when some clown didn’t realize the signs along the Merritt Parkway indicating the low clearance were supposed to be taken seriously and sheered off the top of his box truck, sending someone’s belongings all along the highway. What a mess. The distraction of the traffic gave me more time to sit in silence in the car. More time to pray. More time to think. More time to sing along or listen to podcasts.

For the next few days I will continue my doctoral studies at La Salle. Four friends will wrap up their coursework and take their oral comprehensives this week. We started together and, all things being equal, I would be taking my comps too. But life gets in the way and, like with many things in my life, I am behind. Maybe next year.

As I caught up with friends last night, we chatted about the many distractions that keep our lives and our studies from staying on track. Many of us are delayed in the program because of births and deaths or new jobs and family crisis. One has cancer. Another lost a job. One classmate is a Protestant Minister and just began new ministry with a new congregation. Distractions abound.

I am reminded from this morning’s Gospel reading that sometimes there is great beauty in the distractions. Were it not for the distraction of the woman touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak, she would not have been healed and Jesus would have arrived at the house of the official before the professional mourners. The distractions are the ministry.

My goal this week is to write a 25-page paper on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and its implications for faith formation in the United States. Between 21 hours of classroom instruction and conversation back in June and a dozen or so articles and books, my biggest hope is to write the paper in such a way that it’s not just a collection of quotes. If I work quickly, I will submit my paper Wednesday morning, go see family in Philadelphia, and head home.

Unless, of course, I get distracted.