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On today’s podcast episode, host Rick Howick welcomes Lesa Truxaw to the program. Lesa has served the Diocese of Orange for close to 20 years; and, she brings a wealth of ministry experience to the table. Her title is “Director For the Office of Worship” at the Pastoral Center in the Diocese of Orange.

Our key area of discussion today is the proclamation made by Pope Francis that is of such great importance for 2021: “The Year of St. Joseph.”

What exactly does that entail? Tune in and find out!





Originally broadcast on 3/6/21


There once was a young boy in Italy named Giovanni who dreamed of serving the pope as a papal guard. He was enraptured by their stoicism and alertness, their loyalty and prowess. That is exactly what Giovanni wanted to do with his life, too. 

But Giovanni also was an epileptic. And time and again his condition and seizures forced him to curtail his dreams. 

It was epilepsy that forced Giovanni, a promising student, to leave Saint Michael’s School before he could properly finish. It was epilepsy that forced Giovanni to abandon his ardent dream of serving his sovereign and spiritual leader in the Papal Noble Guard. And while the actual reasons are not entirely clear, epilepsy may have contributed in Giovanni breaking off his planned marriage to a woman from Ireland…on the wedding day itself. 

There was another career path waiting patiently for the frustrated young man, but Giovanni worried that the priesthood, too, would be off limits. He confessed this fear to none other than the pope himself. Pius VII was no stranger to adversity: he endured imprisonment by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte, and lived to tell about it. The pope gave Giovanni some spiritual advice: “Renounce yourself and place yourself in the hands of the Madonna. Call out to her, ‘Save me!’ The Virgin of Nazareth is your future.” 

With his own mother, Giovanni followed the pontiff’s directive and made a pilgrimage to the nearby shrine of Our Lady of Loreto on Italy’s Adriatic coast. In prayer, he threw himself at the feet of the Blessed Mother. “Mother, behold your child. Sick, miserable, useless. I am the shame of my family and disgust to myself. I dedicate myself to you. Save me! Immaculata, make me clean!” 

Pope Pius VII gave a dispensation to Giovanni — epilepsy would not stop Giovanni from the priesthood. He was ordained at the age of 27. Shortly after his ordination, following his participation in a Vatican delegation to Chile and Peru, Fr. Giovanni was appointed director of the Hospice of San Michele in Rome. And in 1846, Fr. Giovanni was elected Pope Pius IX.  

On December 8, 1854, Pius IX declared as dogma the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, that the Mother of God was totally free of sin from the moment of her conception.  

Dr. Joseph Sirven, MD, associate professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, found the story of young Giovanni’s perseverance so inspiring he led a research team from the Mayo Clinic, Library of Congress, and Vatican Library to study how epilepsy affected the pope. The team’s findings were published in the paper, “Seizures Among Public Figures: Lessons Learned From the Epilepsy of Pope Pius IX.” 

“As a Catholic neurologist who specializes in epilepsy, I always read that Pope Pius IX had seizures and epilepsy; yet I did not know his story,” Dr. Sirven told Orange County Catholic.  “As I care for many patients who are looking for hope and inspiration, I decided to look into the story and publish what I learned on the journey. I was not disappointed.” 

Dr. Sirven believed defining the Immaculate Conception as dogma was the ultimate act of thanksgiving from someone who begged the Virgin Mary for help in overcoming his epilepsy. “I wanted to know more about the man who had seizures as a young person and yet become one of the most consequential popes in the history of the Church.” Indeed, aside from Saint Peter, Pius IX is the longest reigning pope (nearly 32 years). He was declared Blessed by John Paul II in 2000. 

“[E]pilepsy is known as the ‘sacred disease’ because many who have been afflicted describe the seizures at times in mystical language,” Dr. Sirven said. 65 million people globally have epilepsy. It is calculated that 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy during their lifetime. 

Dr. Sirven saw in the story of Giovanni a story of hope. “The prime lesson that I take away from this story is that diseases or conditions like epilepsy should not and cannot deter people from reaching whatever purpose is intended for them, including becoming pope,” he said. The neurologist concluded, “I am left with the phrase, ‘God works in mysterious ways.’”


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The South Korean president’s office said that when the president meets Pope Francis Oct. 18, he will pass on an invitation for the pope to visit North Korea.

The Vatican confirmed Oct. 9 that South Korean President Moon Jae-in would meet the pope Oct. 18 at the Vatican. The evening before the meeting, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, will celebrate a Mass for peace on the Korean peninsula in St. Peter’s Basilica, and Moon will attend.

Moon’s office told reporters that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, said his country would offer a “fervent welcome” to Pope Francis if he accepted an invitation to visit.

Quoting Moon’s spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom, the Korean Times reported: “President Moon suggested that Chairman Kim meet the pope, pointing out that he is very much interested in peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

The North Korean leader “promised Moon he would give a fervent welcome to the pope if he visited Pyongyang,” the North Korean capital.


On this episode of Call Me Catholic, it’s all Popes all the time.

Fr. Mitch Pacwa gives us a brief history lesson on 2000 years of the Papacy; and, German filmmaker Win Wenders discusses his recently released documentary on our current Pope, entitled “Pope Francis, a Man of His Word.”





Originally broadcast on 8/4/18


Last month I was riding my bicycle around our neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon. The late spring afternoon sunshine cast a golden hue on the green shrubbery. I was thinking about the usual things—work, home, family, God. My book about Benedict XVI, Father Benedict, had been out now for a few months, and following the diocesan book club event featuring it in April, it was time to look for a new project. But when you love someone, how can you simply excise them from memory?

There had been some minute controversy about what to call the first pope to resign in 600 years. Officially, it’s Pope Emeritus. But there exists an interview in which the retired pope said that if we had more strength he would have pushed the name “Father Benedict.” I don’t think he meant it literally, only to indicate that he was once again what he always had been—a priest, just like any parish priest in your hometown. Popes aren’t kings or presidents. They are not immortal or immune to human frailties. They are priests.

They are fathers.

How often are priests wished a “Happy Father’s Day” on the annual Sunday holiday in June? But as their title indicates, that’s exactly what they are—fathers to those entrusted to them. I believe this is what Benedict XVI meant when he suggested “Father Benedict”—I am and always have been a priest. I don’t need a fancy title. Just call me “Father.”

This Father’s Day marks the seventh without my own father. It dawned on me while biking the deceptively hilly Yorba Linda streets in May—two years after finishing the first draft of Father Benedict—that the title I chose for the book was two-fold: Benedict XVI as priest, but also Benedict XVI as father.

For it was holding vigil in the final days of my own father’s life at his hospital bedside in March 2011 when I broke open Benedict’s Light of the World, which my mother had on loan from the library. “Yes, I heard about this,” I thought, vaguely remembering the resounding negative reviews it got in the press—and yet in those days between the wrenching witness of suffering—a tangible encounter of crucifixion—and discovering the wisdom of Benedict XVI, reflecting the wisdom of the Church, something of a resurrection materialized: Catholicism suddenly became less a parallel abstraction to the realities of my everyday life than, simply, life itself.

My father’s final earthly gift when he died on March 19 was to introduce a new spiritual father—Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, whose namesake is that day’s feast—the Feast of St. Joseph. The personhood of St. Joseph as a foster father, living as a good father does by example became real: the hard working carpenter, obedient to the will of the Father, trusting his spouse, loyal to the Torah, and open to divine creativity, so influenced he was by his dreams (Mt. 1:20-21, 2:13, 2:19-20, 2:22).

Speaking that very day to at the conclusion of the annual Lenten retreat in the Vatican, Benedict XVI told the Roman Curia, “St. Matthew describes St. Joseph with one word: he was a ‘just’ man, dikaios, who lives in the word of God and does not experience the Law as a ‘yoke’ but rather as a ‘joy.’

“When one has experienced a great joy,” Benedict said elsewhere, “he cannot keep it to himself, he must pass it on to others.” That, in essence, is the theme of fatherhood: from earthly fathers who have guided us in our own life to spiritual fathers who offer us the Sacraments, each pass on the joy of life—zoë, as Benedict XVI pointed out in Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two—real life, life itself.

“Eternal life’ is life itself, real life, which can also be lived in the present age and is no longer challenged by physical death,” he writes in that masterpiece.

There is a line in the recent blockbuster, Wonder Woman, that struck me. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) hands Diana (Gal Gadot) his wristwatch. “I wish we had more time. I love you.” Too often we relegate our life to the bios—the period of physical time on this earth rather than the zoë, and suddenly what we thought was “all the time in the world” has vanished. “This is the point: to seize life here and now,” Benedict writes.

May we embrace the transcendent around us waiting to be discovered, in gratitude for the fathers in our lives—and those awaiting us in the life of the world to come.


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — More penance and prayers are needed to end the wars underway today and so many “absurd” conflicts, Pope Francis said.

Praying for all those affected by war and thanking those involved in humanitarian aid efforts, the pope also marked Mother’s Day May 14 by asking everyone to thank and pray to their mothers on earth or in heaven.

After reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with an estimated 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said, “Let us remember with gratitude and affection all mothers, including our mothers in heaven, entrusting them to Mary, the mother of Jesus.”

The pope also called for greater pro-life and pro-maternal support, saying “the future of our community requires from everyone, especially institutions, concrete attention to life and maternity.”

He also greeted those taking part in Italy’s “Empty Stroller” initiative, which called attention to the country’s low birthrate by parking hundreds of empty strollers near the Coliseum May 14. The Family Forum, which organized the initiative, said having a child is one of the main causes of poverty in Italy. The group wants the government to provide more help to families because “the children of today are those who will keep the nation of tomorrow standing.”

Before leading the “Regina Coeli” prayer, the pope mentioned his May 12-13 trip to Fatima and his canonization of Sts. Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto. The two shepherd children knew how to embrace their vision of Mary at Fatima and become models of Christian life, he said. They recited the rosary, offered penance and sacrifices for the end of war and for souls in need of divine mercy, he said.

“Today, too, there is a great need of prayer and penance to plead for the grace of conversion, to plead for the end of so many wars that are all over the world and that are increasingly spreading, as well as the end of absurd conflicts — big and small, that disfigure the face of humanity.”

After the reciting the noonday prayer, Pope Francis said his closeness and prayers were with all those affected by war and conflict, particularly those in the Middle East.

“Many innocent people are sorely tested, be they Christians, Muslims or minorities like the Yazidi, who are facing tragic violence and discrimination,” the pope said.

“I encourage the different communities to follow the path of dialogue and friendship to build a future of respect, security and peace, far from any kind of war.”


Just before traveling to Fatima and before Mother’s Day, Pope Francis spoke of Mary’s role as Jesus’ mother and how she is a model of the strength and courage many mothers show.




VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A priest who does not willingly embrace Christ’s cross and who does not try to lighten the burdens of his people is not worthy of the name, Pope Francis told 10 men he was about to ordain.

“A priest who perhaps has studied a lot of theology and has one, two or three degrees, but has not learned to carry the cross of Christ is useless,” the pope said May 7. “He might be a good academic, a good professor, but not a priest.”

During Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis ordained six priests for the Diocese of Rome and one each for the Brothers of Our Lady of Mercy, the Peru-based Family of Disciples, the Apostolic Prefecture of Azerbaijan and the Diocese of Nocera Inferiore-Sarno, Italy. The men were between the ages of 26 and 38.

Pope Francis used the prescribed homily for the ordination although, as usual, he added comments.

To the admonition that priests nourish their people with sound doctrine, Pope Francis added a request that they speak simply and clearly.

“Don’t give homilies that are too intellectual and elaborate,” he said. “Speak simply, speak to people’s hearts, and this preaching will be true nourishment.”

Pope Francis asked the new priests to be particularly merciful with penitents in the confessional. “Don’t lay on the shoulders of the faithful burdens that they cannot carry and that you couldn’t either. That is the reason Jesus rebuked the doctors of the law and called them hypocrites.”

“You were chosen by the Lord not to advance your career, but to carry out this service,” the pope told the men. “Please, don’t be ‘lords,'” but pastors who model their service on Jesus, the good shepherd.

Shortly after the Mass, before reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer at noon, Pope Francis told visitors in St. Peter’s Square that Jesus expressed his authority in service, leading his flock “by giving his life and not asking others to sacrifice theirs.”

“One can trust such a leader, like the sheep listen to the voice of their shepherd, because they know that with him they will be led to good and abundant pastures,” the pope said.

Before giving his blessing to an estimated 25,000 people gathered in the square below, Pope Francis invited four of the newly ordained Rome priests to his window. They joined him in blessing the crowd below.




MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis fulfilled his much-desired wish to pray in silence before the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

After celebrating the first Mass of his papal trip to Mexico Feb. 13, the pope made his way to the “camarin” (“little room”) behind the main altar of the basilica dedicated to Mary. The miraculous mantle, which normally faces the congregation, can be turned around to allow a closer and more private moment of veneration.

Laying a bouquet of yellow roses in front of the image, the pope sat down in prayerful silence with eyes closed and head bowed. After roughly 20 minutes, the pope stood up, laid his hand on the image and departed from the small room.

About 12,000 people packed the basilica for the papal Mass and another 30,000 were watching on screens set up in the outer courtyard. Built in 1976, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located near Tepeyac hill, the site of Mary’s apparitions to St. Juan Diego in 1531. With some 12 million people visiting each year, it is Catholicism’s most popular Marian shrine.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the Gospel reading, which recalled Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Mary’s humility in saying “yes” to God’s will, he said, is a response “which prompted her to give the best of herself, going forth to meet others.”

That very humility also led her to appear to a poor indigenous man, he said. “Just as she made herself present to little Juan, so too she continues to reveal herself to all of us, especially to those who feel — like him — ‘worthless,'” the pope said.

Recalling the miraculous appearance of Mary’s image, Pope Francis noted that through such a miracle, “Juan experienced in his own life what hope is, what the mercy of God is.”

The pope said that despite the indigenous saint’s feelings of inadequacy, Mary chose him to “oversee, care for, protect and promote the building of this shrine.”

“In this way, she managed to awaken something he did not know how to express, a veritable banner of love and justice: no one could be left out in the building of that other shrine: the shrine of life, the shrine of our communities, our societies and our cultures,” he said.

God’s true shrine, he added, is the life of his children, especially young people without a future, the elderly who are often unacknowledged and forgotten and families lacking even the most basic necessities.

“The shrine of God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said that those who suffer do not weep in vain and their sufferings are a silent prayer that rises to heaven, “always finding a place in Mary’s mantle.”

Like St. Juan Diego, Christians are called to be Mary’s ambassadors and console those who are overwhelmed by trials and sufferings, he said.

“‘Am I not your mother? Am I not here with you?’ Mary says this to us again. Go and build my shrine, help me to lift up the lives of my sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters,” the pope said.


ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO HAVANA (CNS) — Making his 12th trip abroad, Pope Francis was accustomed to collecting interview requests, notes and gifts from the journalists who travel on the plane with him.

But his flight to Cuba Feb. 12 had a unique moment. Noel Diaz, who lives in Los Angeles and was covering the trip for ESNE — a Catholic radio and television network — asked the pope if he could shine his shoes “in memory of all those people who struggle daily to put bread on their tables.”

Diaz told the pope that when he was growing up in Tijuana, Mexico, his mother told him he would have to delay his first Communion because she could not afford to buy him black pants and a white shirt. Although not quite 8 years old, Diaz said he went out with a shoe-shine box to earn the money for the clothes and was able to receive his first Communion with his peers.

The pope reluctantly conceded to Diaz, and the man knelt in the aisle of the plane and brushed the pope’s shoe. Then he gave the pope a shoe-shine kit.

Valentina Alazraki, a correspondent for the Mexican Televisa and the journalist who has done the most papal trips, gave the pope a large sombrero decorated with his coat of arms, his image and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Alazraki had given similar hats to St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI when she traveled with them to her homeland. The pope put the sombrero on briefly and smiled for the cameras.

Nestor Ponguta Puerto, a radio journalist from Colombia, gave Pope Francis two golden bags of Colombia’s finest coffee and asked the pope when he would visit the South American country. If talks between the government and opposition groups continue and a peace treaty is signed, the pope said, “I will go next year.”

The pope also received a white rose, a box of homemade chocolate chip cookies and a brand new zucchetto or scullcap. He put it on his head for a few minutes, then gave it back to the TV correspondent as a souvenir.

As is his custom at the beginning of a trip, Pope Francis thanked the traveling press corps and semi-apologized for the crazy hours they would work in Cuba Feb. 12 and in Mexico through Feb. 17.

“The schedule is full,” he said.

Although the planned stop of three-and-a-half hours in Cuba complicated matters, Pope Francis told reporters the meeting there with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church “was very much desired by my brother (Patriarch) Kirill and me.”

And speaking of Mexico, Pope Francis said, “My greatest desire is to pause” in front of the tilma, the cloak bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The tilma “is a mystery that is studied and studied, but there are no human explanations” for how the image was produced, the pope said. “It’s something of God.”

Before greeting each member of the media one by one, Pope Francis publicly thanked Alberto Gasparri, the main papal trip organizer who has worked at the Vatican 46 years and is about to retire.