Weekly Blog

What Church Could Be Once Again

Pre-COVID, what’s your experience of Church? Were the pews full? Do entire families attend? Is there a vibrancy?

Many of us are old enough to remember when the Parish was central to family life. As I recall, most of the people on our street attended my boyhood Parish. So did many more, who we got to bond with every Sunday as entire families. With the Masses full, we didn’t just jet out of the parking lot after, but engaged with other families, often around the donut table. Sacraments were flourishing. My parents would go to the New Years’ Eve and Valentine’s Day dances at the Parish with their many friends. There was the summer Parish picnic and other events throughout the year. Father used to come over for dinner and my parents would volunteer at the Parish.

For most of us, those memories are of the past. Christianity has suffered from dramatically decreasing numbers over the last several decades. This trend includes the Catholic Church, with Masses being much less crowded. In many Dioceses, some Parishes are closing or clustering. Statistically our numbers are way down, whether it’s the number of weddings, baptisms, or first communions. Add to that the reduced number of Priests and Religious Sisters. What is on the rise is the number of Parishes without a resident Priest, now 1 in 5 in the U.S., up five-fold over the last several decades.

What the Local Church Can Become

Imagine Parishes where Churches are full for every Mass. Parishioners participant in vibrant and engaging liturgies, in Parishes that are known for their hospitality. The number of volunteers at the Parish is only exceeded by those in small groups. There’s an atmosphere of “family ministry”, where programs not only exist for the entire family, but youth and adults of all ages, at all stations of life. In addition:

  • Religious Education classes are full, led by engaged teachers, who share the love of Christ with their students while providing strong Catholic orthodoxy in a compelling way.
  • With a culture of evangelization and discipleship, the RCIA program ushers in numerous people to the Church every year.
  • Based in a deep spirituality, there is a culture of generosity which includes Parishioners’ time, talents, and treasures, both within the Parish as well as providing service to the community.
  • Parishes are known for their outreach to those in need, attracting people to the faith, and accompanying their Parishioners in their spiritual growth.
  • Parishes are the center of activity for Parishioners and others in the community.
  • Not only are vocations to religious life no longer in short supply, but the elderly are cared for, marriages are thriving, and families are growing in holiness.
  • Significantly more people are living their faith, have hope, and know their purpose in life.

You think the above is a thing of the past, a pipedream? Think again. It can be done. Although they are not in significant number, there are Catholic Parishes, with strong Pastoral leadership, as well as non-denominational Churches, which are “re-envisioning Church” and renewing the spiritual lives of their Parishioners.

What Can We Do?

I don’t know about you, but the parents and grandparents I know who are actively engaged in their faith (me included) have one primary desire, in addition to pursuing our faith. That is passing along the faith to their kids and grandkids. Friends too. It’s Jesus’ desire too, giving us the Great Commandments and Great Commission.

Consistent with Vatican II and the New Evangelization, the laity are called to work with our Clergy, who cannot do it alone. Our Priests need support, assistance, and collaboration in revitalizing our Parishes, making them places of vibrant worship and missionary discipleship.

What do you see as your role? How can you help? What can you do? There’s a lot. Feel free to reach out to me. Happy to chat about it. We can have what we had years ago and to my way of thinking, it’s a pursuit worth pursuing. Amen!!!

As always, feel free to contact me at with comments, questions, concerns, challenges, or prayer requests.

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Remember…God made you for GREATNESS!!!

Mark Joseph

Weekly Blog

Week #6 – Life’s Tragedies

Hey *|FNAME|*,

This is the 6th of our 14-week free program, where we provide Lesson #6, on Life’s Tragedies. One of the most commonly asked questions related to faith is, “how can an all-loving God allow so much tragedy to take place?”

Not being a theologian or Scripture scholar, I’m not going to give you the theological answer, but one that is based on my experiences. Here it is….God allows tragedy to take place in our lives to bring us closer to Himself (God). Tragedy is what got me to intensely engage in my faith. It’s the thing that got most of my friends to engage as well.

Think about it…when things are going swimmingly well, when you’re “fat, dumb, and happy”, as they say, you think you’re doing just fine on your own. You don’t need anyone, much less God, with what most perceive as all His rules and restrictions.

We Want God in Tough Times

Instead, it’s times of tragedy when we determine that we can’t do it on our own. We know we need help. We often ache for someone to come along side us. That someone is the person of Jesus Christ.

I just heard the other day that prayer is up over 30%, with the COVID 19 pandemic. An article on Crux quotes Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, an associate professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, who said, “the rising interest in seeking information about “prayer” on Google skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when COVID-19 went global”.

I remember when 9/11 took place. Churches were packed and confession lines long, with people at abortion clinics and adult bookstores declining in number for a long period of time. When tragedy occurs, people seek God.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Tragedy Helps Us

I know these all sound like clichés…

  • God doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle
  • What doesn’t break us makes us stronger
  • God gives us the opportunity to make a ministry out of our messes

My wife and I sometimes kid around, saying it would be nice if we could eliminate a tragedy here or crisis there, from our lives. The fact is that it takes every experience we have to make us who we are. And I thank God for all of it, including the significant tragedies in my life, because I know I wouldn’t be who I am today, doing what I do, without having experienced them. Praise God!!!

Suggested Actions

So, what do we do about it? How do we handle the inevitable tragedy in our lives? Given my experience, I would suggest:

  • Think about the following questions, taking them to prayer:
    • How have the tragedies in your life shaped you?
    • Look for the lessons in what you’ve gone through…they are there; you just need to be open to them.
  • During your morning prayer routine this week:
    • Try to be in a place of gratitude, thanking God for everything that’s taken place in your life.
    • Concentrate on the positive. What positive thing from that tragedy would not be present in your life today?
  • Watch this Friday’s video on this same subject….it will be emailed to you.

Note: This isn’t easy stuff. I’ve been there. I promise you…as we work through these lessons and as you embrace the additional material, this “tragedy” piece is going to make more sense.

Please join us next Wednesday for Week #7 when we talk about our wounds and resentments. As always, please feel free to get to me with questions, comments, or concerns at

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph

P.S. Living in a place of gratitude means understanding that nothing happens by accident. The day I wrote this blog, my wife and I watched “I Still Believe” (Movie Trailer), a movie about singer-songwriter Jeremy Camp and his first wife. If you want to see a story about “why” tragedy and great hope, watch “I Still Believe”.


Week #1 – Being Overwhelmed
Week #2 – Earning the love of others
Week #3 – Lack of self-love
Week #4 – Fear
Week #5 – False gods, False happiness
Week #6 – Life’s Tragedies
Week #7 – Wounds, Resentments

Week #8 – Discovering God’s Love
Week #9 – Forgiveness and healing
Week #10 – Becoming the best Possible You
Week #11 – Path to Peace
Week #12 – Finding your Purpose
Week #13 – You were made for Greatness
Week #14 – True Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment

Weekly Blog

Three Things to Help Ourselves and Others in Time of Crisis

It was Monday, March 16th, that the President’s 15 Days to Slow the Spread of Coronavirus, went into place. It was the day after my wife and I went to Sunday Mass for the last time at our Parish (we now watch online). Since then Churches have closed across the country, as has almost everything else. With the exception of those serving in the essential services sector, we’re all at home. Many are able to work remotely, while some (into the millions) have lost their jobs due to the crisis.

We’re still not out of this thing. With what started outside of our country, the ripple effect is incredible. It would seem probable that there are parts of our country, our world, our way of life, that are going to change forever…something that wasn’t close to being on our radar earlier in the year, when things were humming along.
In watching the news, seeing what’s being posted, and talking to folks, there’s a lot of fear and anxiety out there. I can genuinely say that I’ve experienced neither, which I would attribute to my faith. What I’m absolutely amazed by is how everything flipped on a dime. The world has literally been turned upside down by Coronavirus overnight. It’s surreal. It’s nuts. It’s really unbelievable.

Photo by Charry Jin from Pexels

So, the question becomes what we can do for ourselves and others during these times. I’ve identified three things:

  1. Stay in a place of Gratitude
  2. Do what you can…don’t worry about the rest
  3. Help others

Stay in a Place of Gratitude
It was a year ago that I posted a blog titled, “Do You Need An Attitude Adjustment Too?”, which you can find here. Not wanting to be redundant, I want to stress the importance of gratitude in these times. BTW, a quick internet search will indicate how important gratitude is to us. Without question, we are currently facing challenging times. And at the same time, so many of us are so blessed. For me, I am so thankful for so much…

  • Starting with Jesus Christ as my Savior
  • Very close second is my wife and the relationship we have, followed by our children and their families, all incredible blessings to us
  • For my journey (everything that has occurred in my life, including the tragedy) and what God now has me doing in my life
  • For my upbringing, my loving parents, my brothers, and our broader family and friends
  • For everything that occurs in my daily life, the good (for obvious reasons) and the bad (for the lessons they teach me).

I don’t mean to drone on, but want to provide you with examples. We all have so much to be thankful for in our lives. We need to take account of these things daily, thanking God in prayer.

Image by Bongkarn Thanyakij from Pexels

Do What You Can…Don’t Worry About the Rest
I’m reminded of the Serenity Prayer, which I say daily:

God grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time.
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would like it.

Trusting that He will make all things right,
If I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this world
And supremely joyful in the next.

We have very little control over much of our lives, i.e. Coronavirus. I believe strongly that the above prayer, including the first four lines, are indicative of the healthy way to live life. Do what you can and don’t worry about the rest.

Help Others
This one is obvious and we’re seeing examples of it everywhere. I, like you, could fill 13 pages with examples. Here’s a different slant though. Those who do mission work or ministry most often feel more served by those they’re serving than the other way around. In other words, it’s in those in need that we truly see the face of Christ, where we feel the love of Christ.

While serving others is not to be about us, we do benefit from it, which is a nice thing in these challenging times. Reading Scripture this morning, I came across Luke 8:39, where Jesus says to a man he just healed, “return home and recount what great things God has done for you”. Two things…first, be grateful. Second, another way to help others is to share the Gospel message, including your testimony.

Praying for all of us as we make our way out of this crisis. As always, should you have questions, comments, or concerns, please contact me at

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph

Weekly Blog

Three Benefits of Social Distancing

In listening to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, social distancing is staying at least 6’ away from others. A quick internet search indicates other examples as:

  • Working from home instead of at the office
  • Closing schools or switching to online classes
  • Visiting loved ones by electronic devices instead of in person
  • Cancelling or postponing conferences and large meetings

It turns out that social distancing wasn’t developed specific to Coronavirus, but instead has been a public health practice for years, for highly contagious diseases. A potential silver lining in the current health crisis is that people may gain positive habits, i.e. better hygiene, that prevent the spread of disease. This could help in relation to the flu and the common cold. We can hope.

Photo by Bongkarn Thanyakij from Pexels

Cyndi, my wife, and I have been taking all of this seriously. With the exception of our Sunday drives and occasional walks outside, we’ve now not left the house for 17 days. As empty-nesters, we don’t have the challenge of occupying the attention of or educating our kids. Both accustomed to working from home, we continue with our regular activities. And to be honest, being stuck together has helped us grow in our relationship (not that we were having issues…at least I don’t think so…I’ll have to ask her).

Speaking of relationships, I’ve come to say that with the advent of smart phones, although we’ve never been more connected, we’ve never been more isolated. Statistically very true, while we have fewer friends today than we did years ago, a number of stats are up, including those who are lonely, depressed, addicted, suicidal…and the list goes on. An interesting insight is that with so many people looking at their screens all the time, even in the presence of other people, you could argue that social distancing has been being practiced well in advance of COVID-19.

To me, there are three benefits to social distancing. Let’s see what they are.

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

Relationship Intentionality
Not only are Cyndi and I spending more time talking, but we’re being more intentional with talking to our kids, our mothers, and others. One example is my brothers and me talking and texting more often, not only about the crisis, but checking in on one another and our families. In addition to checking in with and having lengthier conversations with each of our kids, we did a 4-way FaceTime the other night, for an hour. We laughed with and at each other….just like being in the same room.

Time for Prayer
Although most people reading this blog understand the importance of their relationship with God, some (maybe a majority) struggle with prayer, including me. Always faithful to my rote prayer, it’s my quiet time with the Lord which is off and on. Starting a week ago this past Sunday, given the 1/2-hour commute to work I’m not making, I’ve forced myself to spend that 1/2-hour with God. It looks like this:

  • Rote Prayer – 5 minutes
  • Read and meditate on Scripture – 5 minutes
  • Thinking and praying for people in my life – 5 minutes
  • Thinking and praying about a current challenge – 10 minutes
  • Thinking and praying about my schedule for the day – 5 minutes

With the times above varying from day to day, my time with Jesus has been very meaningful and a great way to start each day. Assuming Coronavirus lasts long enough, I may just create a habit here.

Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash

Discipline to Exercise
Although I’ve always been an avid exerciser, I’ve stepped up my game during this time, as have many that I’ve spoken to. Being home all day, not having the opportunity to be out or walk around, is a real incentive. If you don’t have equipment in your house, a quick internet search can provide plenty of guidance (email me if you need some help). Taking a nicely paced walk can be good exercise too…good for the relationship too, just maintain your social distancing.

Doing the above is taking care of yourself the way God intended, all things that will make you healthier, including the spiritual, and happier.

As always, feel free to get back to me with questions, comments, or concerns at

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph

P.S. For resources that can help you on your faith journey, while practicing social distancing, you can go to The Upper Room.

P.P.S. While waiting for the crisis to end, you can pick what conference you want to go to this summer on the Steubenville Conferences page.

P.P.S. And if you’re looking to participate in a “virtual” small group so as to maintain your social distancing, check out Discipleship Quads.