Get Brave

This past weekend would have been our third Brave retreat with the young adults. As the canceled weekend came and went, I think the theme of that retreat is more relevant than ever. I want to take a few moments to reflect on where we find ourselves, especially as we stare another round of lockdowns.

It can be scary out there. Uncertainty and hurt feelings left over in the political environment, the return to lock-down before Thanksgiving, the anxiety of wether or not your job will furlough you, and the ever present drumbeat of Covid contamination (among a litany of other fears) can wreak havoc on your emotional and spiritual health….

Fear not however! The message of the Lord is this, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:6-7.

In our first Brave retreat, we talked about being brave in a world of darkness. It can be hard to live life, especially a life of faithfulness. At Brave II, we broke open the story of Peter being called out of the boat and into the storm, to trust Jesus and call for help when we fall (Matthew 14:22-33). We know the Lord will be there with a hand but it is important to know to keep our eyes on Him, even when it seems impossible.

Be brave. Trust the Lord. Do not be anxious.

We’re always called back to relationship with Jesus. Use this time to do so. Even as churches return to live-streaming, your prayer life can flourish. Open scripture. Break out your rosary. Join the live-streamed Mass. Zoom with faithful groups. This whole era is a call back to prayer. Hear it. Respond. We’ll be back for Brave III when we can. When we do, we’re going to celebrate and give some praise. Until then… Be brave. Trust the Lord. Do not be anxious.


Adam Jarosz is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry at St. Gregory the Great and the owner of Righteous Co.. His vocation involves loving his wife Ani and two babies (and one on the way), Isabella and Wyatt.

He also enjoys being active outdoors, getting gym time in, and writing. Yes.. tacos too.

Be Not Afraid

This is a adaptation of a reflection I gave yesterday online for the parish. As I’ve been personally reflecting on the environment we find ourselves in, I’m drawn to the lessons of history to find a way through. Old Testament, New Testament, and history since, the Lord is always calling us to pray and fear not. A timeless lesson.

The Lord moves through history, after all it’s HIStory. I love history. Especially listening to podcasts about it. Right now I’ve been digesting What We Saw: The Cold War and my favorite over the years, Revolutions. There is so much to pull from the tides of history, lessons learned can save us heartache. What I would like to do here is highlight how the 20th century can reflect us in the 21st.

I’m going to start in 1917, just over 100 years ago. Our Lady appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal. The signs and wonders that came from her messages revealed three things I would like to highlight,

1. Recite the rosary everyday for peace in the world and for the end to WWI. However if people don’t continue offending the Lord there will be a second and more deadly war.

2. Establish a devotion in the world to her Immaculate Heart

3. Consecration of Russia, otherwise she will destroy nations and oppress the faithful.

The requests fell on mixed ears. People were already praying for the end of the Great War, so adding more was a natural inclination. Dedicating Russia? Fell on deaf ears and didn’t happen. Later that same year, the Tsar was overthrown and the Communist regime took power. We’ll set that aside for now, and let it simmer. Or fester if you will.

The very next year on November 11,1918, known then as Armistice Day or as we call it today, Veteran’s Day, ended World War I with much rejoicing. That is unless you were Germany in which you were saddled with crippling reparations that would later breed resentment and the rise of the Nazi’s.

Two years later however, we enter the decade of the “Roaring 20’s”! Life was improving as the modern era took hold with electricity, cars, and planes arriving across society. Literature like the Great Gatsby capture the imagination in this fast paced decade with flappers, prohibition, and high flying stocks. Interestingly enough we see the start of our own decade with memes and social posts reflecting the same title of the “Roaring 20’s” here and now.

What tends to happen when things go well in society? We get distracted. We get busy. We lose sight of our relationship with God. Materialism and hedonism tend to rule our time and imaginations. It isn’t the Lord that walks away from us but we who walk away from Him. During this time, people became distracted and didn’t hear the call from Fatima.

Black Tuesday, 1929. The market crashed. This launched a decade of poverty and desolation across the world. Food lines and high unemployment along with failing crops in the Dust Bowl are reflected in works such as Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath.

I remember my grandma telling us stories of the Great Depression and living frugally her whole life. She would share tales of being out in a field in Springville as a kid, picking beans to bring home a little money for the family. I was a witness to one of the last times she, my mom, and aunts canned for the last time. I never liked canned tomatoes. A skill obtained from the time that was necessary. I wouldn’t know where to start today, never needed to because you can just grab it at the store. Stores never fail.

One of my grandma’s favorite scripture quotes, that has since become one of mine as well, is Psalm 91. Fittingly it seems to fit times such as these as the Lord is always reaching for us. Hard times always seems to be an opportunity for us to hear him more clearly.

Thankfully the Great Depression eased. Only for the price of the second Great War. The Great Depression fueled resentment in Germany as normal people carted wheelbarrows of marks for bread. The rise of the Nazi’s fed off of this and seized power from a weak and unsupported republic. The Soviets consolidated their power and crushed dissension in their motherland.

World War II killed over 75 million people. People raised in this age knew fear. They knew anxiety. Real fear was marching into a death camp or staring down the hull of your landing craft approaching Omaha beach. Fear was wondering if your loved one was coming home or if you were coming home in a pine box.

The world went from World War II straight into the Cold War, marking peak of the communist, atheistic, Soviet regime behind the Iron Curtain. The Nazi’s were notorious for a methodological and industrial process in exterminating over 11 million in camps that I had the honor of walking in myself. The Soviets however. Over 27 million perished because of their reign, inside the motherland and reaching across the world. The close ideological brethren in China, killed over 45 million in the Great Leap Forward.

Fear and anxiety now covered the world because of the reaches of the Atomic Age. Rocketry and splitting of the atom was sure to deliver a sun at anyone’s doorstep within twenty minutes of the press of a button. Only thing you could do was pray and hide under the desk.

Headlines from this era consisted of the Berlin Airlift, The Korean War, Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the brutal Vietnam War. From the Bolshevik takeover in 1918, atheistic Communism, started in Russia, claimed over 100 million lives.

In the midst of all the fear and evil in the world, there was certainly hope. With great fear comes the Hope and Love of the Lord. In desperate times comes great Saints who rise to the occasion not because of some chemical or program but cause of great faith. Just to highlight a few humble 20th century Saints below who lived a relationship with the Lord and let Him guide them in dire times…

  • 1930’s, Sr. Faustina shares the message of the Divine Mercy, along with that is the famous image and chaplet of the Lord. She passed away from an illness, tuberculosis, in Poland at 33 years old, the Jesus year, just before the outbreak of the War in Europe.
  • 1941, Fr. Maximillion Kolbe gives his life in place of a father at the death camp at Auschwitz, Poland.
  • 1978, Pope John Paul II in his inaugural address, stared down the communist leaders in Poland and the Soviet Union and told the people to “Be not afraid!” as he led the Poles and the world in faithful fortitude.

Since the failure of consecrating Russia in 1917, the Church rallied and not only consecrated Russia but the world. By 1989, the iron grip of the Soviets was spent and outmatched. In the end, they couldn’t stomp out the flame of faith and hope. The hope for peace prevailed. By the power of prayer, martyrdom, and the blessings of ingenuity of the free world, the predicted Russia terror was over.

Now we as the free world are asked by Saint John Paul II, “Yes free, but free to do what?”

We’re just twenty percent into our own century but by this time in the last, those Saints were already walking, working, and living out a mission. They were youth and young adults. Who are the Saints of the 21st? They could be you. You just have to decide to be one. It starts with an invitation of the Lord. Difficult times gives us pause and a chance to reflect on our relationship with Him. How do we heed the call to prayer? More time. Less distractions. Clarity. He has only been calling for us for all of history. HIStory.

I’ll leave one last reflection below, just simply an except from Saint John Paul II’s inaugural address I referenced earlier. I think you may find hope and a timeless relevancy in it…

“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “what is in man”. He alone knows it. So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.“ JPII – inaugural address October 22, 1978


You can follow his work at stgregsym.org and righteousco.com.

Church, Get In The Game

Church, we need to get in the game.

By Church, I mean you and me, the Body of Christ. This means the faithful of course but I specifically want to address the youth and young adults out there. You’re not the Church of tomorrow, you’re the Church of today. Here is the field we are playing in and we need to get at it…

2019 A.D. in Buffalo, NY, the Church is taking a beating. Of course the Church has been through worse in history. Christians aren’t being fed to lions or lit on fire to illuminate the roads. But we have been better. What’s more, we can be better.

A few decades of erosion have been working on our foundation. Lack of engagement, uninspired faithfulness, relativism, and scandal have given our Church a weathered attitude. This is not the story of being Catholic. It’s time to snap out of it.

The Church which includes our parishes and Diocese as well as charities, schools, and ministries are sagging under the pressures. I want to use this moment of your attention to call you to arms. We can’t run from the fire, we need to run to it. 

It’s time to get in the game. Ask not what the Church can do for you, but what you can do for the Church. If we are the hands and feet of Christ, how are we moving? If our Body isn’t in motion, then we don’t move forward. 

Here is how you can help us win the fight for a better Church.

1. Pray: Make the time to get back into the pews (or chairs if the church is under repair) on Sunday. Be a part of the community prayer in the Mass. Show up, participate, listen, sing, learn, and reconnect. Pick up your bible and start with the Gospels or visit Jesus in Adoration. Pray for one another.

If you’re not registered at a parish and young adults are notorious with this, go to a parish and commit to the community. Stop bouncing around or leaning on the coattails of your parent’s registration. Belong and commit

Get in the game.

2. Time: There are plenty of roles that need to be done that just require some time and not a lot of training. Find them, commit to a time slot in a ministry that needs help. Greeters, core teams, catechists, money counters, Eucharistic ministers, and so on. Follow your strengths. Pick up the bulletin or look it up online and see a role that could use some hands.

Try things out. Find what clicks and stay long enough to be a leader and make changes if needed. Just don’t go in like a bull in a china shop. Be humble and learn from the role and the leader in place. 

Get in the game.

3. Talent: In addition to roles that need to be done, the Church needs your talent. You have skill. You’re good at that one thing. What is it? How can you use it in the Church? Ask someone how you can plug it in. Can you donate that skill? Can you apply that full-time?

Are you in banking or finance? Marketing and design? Build websites? IT? Barista and can make a good coffee? Set designer? Corporate trainer? CRM specialist? Chef? 

Get in the game.

4. Treasure: Yes the Church needs money to run. It especially needs funds to grow. I know, I know, you don’t want to pay for the scandal but let me put your mind at rest. 

Your donation in the envelope doesn’t go towards that. Upon This Rock doesn’t go towards that. Catholic Charities and Fund for the Faith doesn’t go towards that. The bishop sold his residence and some investments to do so. We’re also covered in insurance. If you’re running from the fire, it’s giving people on the front line less to work with. That’s us going backwards. 

Give your first fruits and be regular. Can you commit to 10% of your income? Shoot, can you commit to $20 a week? Lights need to be on, youth ministers need budgets, and the Church needs tools and people.

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered” Proverbs 11:25

Roll up your sleeves, get in the game, and let the Lord use you and your resources. Come with a servant’s attitude. Take a bit of that drive you have for school and workplace and bring it to God’s House. Give your first fruits of prayer, time, talent, and/or treasure. 

Collections and participation are down around the Diocese by 10-20% this year alone. The older generation that has been supporting the Church is dying off. Imagine what we would look like if we brought our talent and resources back into the game? Run to the fire. Take this to prayer with you. Ask the Lord how you can help. He’s knocking. 

The Discipline Series: Exodus – The After Effects

It’s been three months since we completed Exodus 90, the length it took to go through it. My intention was to write more through the experience. However I hit a wall hard. I had to dig deep about half way through to stay on task and some things dropped. The Exodus disciplines, grinding through work, challenges raising a toddler, and finishing writing a book drained me out. I made it to the finish line but the intensity fried me out. In someways it reminded me of a long term Tough Mudder, you keep going and it hurts but when you get to the end you realize how worth while it was.

Day 90 was glorious. Pentecost. Come Holy Spirit and the breakfast of a million calories. We celebrated making the rigorous journey by sharing our last Brotherhood gathering together over food and drink. There was a sense of relief. I never did get use to the cold showers through the long Buffalo winter.

Looking ahead from that point, we all knew that we didn’t want to go back to the way things were before we started. While somethings would come back into daily rhythm we each had pieces we didn’t want back. I was slow to get back into electronics. I never would have guessed how much I used them as a crutch that killed my time and relationships. I completed writing a book and read more during the extra time. Not to mention connecting more creatively with Ani and Izzy. Working out, fasting, and watching my diet every day has greatly improved my physique.

Never had a better Lent too. I have never sacrificed like that before and the spiritual growth that came from it was excellent. Being in sync with the fasting Church made things easier. You felt the purpose behind it. Part of hitting the wall came from the transition from Lent to Easter then Ordinary Time. It became more difficult to explain and maintain focus after everyone else finished walking their Lenten fast. During Lent there was an excitement and general understanding from others. After? “You’re still doing that? Isn’t Lent over?” From Easter, 40 more days, “keep going”.

The Brotherhood consisted of some real warriors. A group of guys who fought through Exodus daily; praying with and for each other, sharing struggles, open to accountability, and our weekly Sunday gatherings consisting of exercise and conversation were a big highlight.

I would say the greatest piece I can walk away with from this experience, is the great appreciation of the Book of Exodus and how much of the Mass is reflected upon it. The daily reflections in our journey tying it all together helped me to see the greater picture between the Old Testament and the New; everything from Manna and the Eucharist, the priesthood, and how we build our churches. I highly recommend going through the Book of Exodus, even the tedious last leg of the book, and see it for yourself.

In the end, life has gone on but I can say that I have changed through the experience. Learning to say no to the things that seek our attention away from God and yes to Him Who is calling, is a powerful tool in your spiritual journey. With building a daily discipline of doing just that, you indeed become a strengthened instrument for the Lord.

In defense of! The Church in Scandal

“The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” ~ Matthew 16:18

Jesus told St. Peter when He handed over the keys to the kingdom that Hell wouldn’t prevail, not that it wouldn’t try. Nor strike hard when it would.

This is where we stand today. The Church is reeling from the arising of terrible scandal. The revelation isn’t just here in Buffalo and Pennsylvania, but it seems to have global implications as previously hidden abuse comes to light. If the abuse isn’t bad enough, hiding it is certainly salt in the wound. We have been let down. This has caused even the most stout of heart to shake in anger or fear. There are plenty of sources you can read with varying degrees of fairness to catch up. You should and will be angry. This has no room in the Church and should be cleaned out.

Here’s the thing though.

This doesn’t define our faith. The sins of others don’t make our identity. Our identity as Christians and the Universal Church is in Christ. As the faithful, we should take heart that the Kingdom the keys belong to when passed on to St. Peter is Jesus Christ led, Holy Spirit driven. I am reminded of God’s promise in Psalm 91,

Say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress, My God in whom I trust.” He will rescue you from the fowlers snare, from the destroying plague… Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, near you shall it not come. You need simply to watch; the punishment of the wicked you will see… He will call upon me and I will answer, I will be with him in distress.  ~ Psalm 91: 2-3, 7-8, & 15

No one is above sin. Everyone alive is susceptible to stain, even the holiest of holies. Scandal and failure of trust has afflicted us since the beginning and through Scripture; the Angel Lucifer, Adam and Eve, King David. Let’s take a look at one of the twelve Apostles who walked with Jesus on a daily basis. Judas learned first hand from Jesus, laughed with Him, ate with Him. Before his fall, he was one of the shepherds. Yet Judas still betrayed him. We wouldn’t leave Jesus because of the failings Judas.

Every other Apostle represented Christ well, even through their own human limitations. Jesus knew all of this. This is a story not hidden from Scripture for us to take note. The price to pay for free will is the option for failure. And we will at times in the most egregious ways, as we find ourselves today. We have a whole history on the failings of humans in the Church. In the end however, Christ moves forward from Judas to die on the Cross and become Resurrected. Likewise, the Church will move forward because Christ is with us.

During some of the darkest times in our history is when great Saints have arisen to meet the challenges the Church has faced. While this may be a tough time for the faithful, we need not fear. God is with us. God is with you. The answer is not to walk away from Jesus in the Eucharist but to move closer. As Scott Hahn recently said, “It seems like a good time to pray like never before.”

While many of our shepherds have fallen, the vast majority of our priests are good. They are hurting through this as well, as Judas has sold them out too. While our trust in the priesthood has shaken, we need to remember that Peter, Andrew, John, and the others went on to Baptize, preach, forgive sins, heal, and build the Church. They gave their lives for Christ. Let’s not confuse Peter for Judas. Pray for them like never before.

Lastly, my friend Jeremy shared a quote that hits home for me from one of my favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien (author of Lord of the Rings) in a letter to his son about scandal, you can read commentary and the full letter here.

I think I am as sensitive as you (or any other Christian) to the scandals, both of clergy and laity. I have suffered grievously in my life from stupid, tired, dimmed, and even bad priests; but I now know enough about myself to be aware that I should not leave the church (which for me would mean leaving the allegiance of Our Lord) for any such reasons: I should leave because I did not believe, and should not believe anymore, even if I had never met anyone in orders who was not both wise and saintly. I should deny the Blessed Sacrament, that is: call our Lord a fraud to His face.

Stay strong faithful.

The Discipline Series: 1/3 through Exodus

We are over a 1/3 of the way through Exodus 90 and it has been a difficult journey through the desert for the guys. We’ve been shedding the distractions and toxins in our life and that doesn’t come without a cost. I noticed early that taking sugar out of my life was much more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Wasn’t expecting that all. I see sweets and all of a sudden I’m jonesin’ for it. While prepared for temptations, that was least expected. I’ve resisted.

I also noticed that by getting rid of distractions like TV and apps on the phone I’ve had to reconnect with the world around me. From my journal on day four,

“What comes to mind today is the word, “presence”. I’m sitting at our middle school youth night and found myself wanting to look at my phone, no reason. Had I pulled the phone out I would have just been filling space. I realized I have been caught up in that. When a lull happens the auto reaction is to fill the space by staring at the phone. News, texts, social media notifications, etc. I would just mentally disappear. Check out. I’m detoxing now and opening my eyes to the moments I would automatically skip.”

I have since been stopping to smell the roses even in those little moments and lulls.

Also unexpected, anger and frustration has become sharper in my days. No longer resorting to distractions to dull away or forget issues, I am forced to take a head on approach to resolving problems that arise. Big and small. And it seems new. Almost like I forgot how to resolve conflict. Nevertheless, I am now solving problems as opposed to distracting myself.

I asked a couple of the other guys to share a few thoughts about the first 30. Bob writes on day eight in his journal,

“Temptation has started to set in, but not in the way I’d expect. It is such a pain to know how the enemy works and yet still fall for the same tricks. Yesterday was tough for me, I won’t lie. While I enjoyed the first weekly meeting with the Brotherhood, I was met with a lot of pain and torment (and no, I’m not talking about the P90X workout). It has come and gone since then, but a real sadness came over me, that thankfully was healed by going to Mass and Life Teen. I still have mixed feelings about the temptations in my mind. I feel helpless and powerless, but I suppose this is where God comes in. I fully recognize that in order for me to be changed, I have to allow God to do it, even if it means breaking me in ways I’ve never been broken before.

Bob continues,

As this day ends, I am reminded that even with the pain/frustration/loneliness/temptation I am beginning to be met with on this journey, there have been many victories so far that I ought to remind myself of and celebrate. It is by God’s mercy and grace that we have made it this far and will continue to progress.

Greg also contributes from day 18,

I struggle to be the lord of myself. I must come to terms with my human limitations and submit myself to the will of God or I stand to lose everything. The further from God I stay, the further from my true destiny I will be. Either a man governs his possessions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.

When I achieve something or something goes my way, how often do I puff out my chest and disregard the involvement that God had. I must submit to God and raise those around me up.

As you see, each guy is on his journey and is battling through. As we enter into the second third of our journey, we are building good habits, defeating old ones, and most importantly letting God heal and rebuild us into better men. St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us.