Program #0042 for Friday, May 6, 2011: Fr. John Phalen, CSC, of Holy Cross Family Ministries

May 6, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell

Today’s guest(s): Fr. John Phalen, CSC, President of Holy Cross Family Ministries

Today’s topics: Father John Phalen of Holy Cross Family Ministries, the Family Rosary, Family Theater, God’s Children Now retreat

A summary of today’s show: Scot and Fr. Mark talk with Fr. John Phalen about praying the rosary as a family including practical tips for praying with children. They also discussed the upcoming Family Rosary day for families on June 4 at BC High and the status of the cause for canonization of Fr. Patrick Peyton, the famed Rosary Priest. Also, this Sunday’s Gospel reading on the road to Emmaus.

1st segment: Scot welcomes back Fr. Mark. Fr. Mark says in the past week he’s been doing end of the academic year duties, including his last class with seminarians at St. John’s for the year and last with the permanent deacon class. He teaches marriage & family and a class on the temporal goods of the Church and is just starting an introduction to canon law class.

Scot said May is one of the two months of the year the Church dedicates to the Blessed Mother. (October is the other.) One of the ways we live the devotion to the Blessed Mother is the rosary. In Easton, Mass., is headquartered Holy Cross Family Ministries, founded by Fr. Patrick Peyton, known as the Rosary Priest. Fr. John Phalen, the current president of the ministry, will join us to discuss praying the rosary as a family.

2nd segment: Scot welcomes Fr. Phalen to the show. Fr. Phalen is a past president of the Mariological Society. Scot asked Fr. Phalen why Catholics need to turn to Mary for a robust faith life. He said Mary was the first Christian and the first among the saints. If we want to conform our lives to Christ, we should go to the one who knew Him the best. She is the one who contemplated His face the most, who spent the most time with Him in her life. Here in the Northeast, we connect May with flowers, but this month we also celebrate Mother’s Day, so it is appropriate.

Fr. Mark asked about her role as intercessor. Fr. Phalen said Mary is a special intercessor. He said that on a trip to Uganda, he found a parish called “I Saw You” Parish. The pastor said the ground was the king’s property at one time and it was forbidden trespass. When trespassers were brought before the king, the accusation was “I Saw You” and they would be condemned to death. The only person who could intercede with the king was the Queen Mother and she would sometimes intercede, asking for him to comply as a favor to her. People in the parish understood the role of Mary as intercessor by this Queen Mother role. Mary helps us by going to her Son an interceding for us with her prayer. She is like us completely, being a human being who gave birth to her savior.

Scot said he recalls Fr. Peyton’s saying “The Family that prays together, stays together.” Why is it great for families to pray the rosary together? Fr. Phalen said the rosary’s prayers are very simple: Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. If they need the mysteries, there is simple guides available. Saying the Hail Mary over and over helps us to contemplate the mysteries. The Rosary is simple so everyone can do it. Grown adults can participate on their own level, but in the presence of other members of their family.

Fr. Mark said there are many families that try and give up because of how the kids squirm. Fr. Phalen says keep trying, but do it in small bites, like just one decade at a time. Keep coming back to it. Model it as a something you want to do it and then hold it out as something they can do when they’re grown up enough to do it. It’s been proven that the Rosary lowers blood pressure and calms you down. But sometimes we make the perfect the enemy of the good and we expect a complete rosary right then and there. Gradually, they will become accustomed to it.

Fr. Mark asked about the balance between listening to the words of the Hail Mary and reflecting on the mystery. We don’t want to just whip through the words. Fr. Phalen says he’s usually trying to get people to slow down and enunciate the words. As for repetition, Bishop Sheen used to say that if you love someone, you will say you love them over and over again. We’re different people from moment to moment and so we’re not repeating ourselves because we’re saying it as a new person to a new person. I love who you are now as I am now.

We also have repetition in the Mass: Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord have mercy. Holy, Holy, Holy. It’s not enough just to say it once.

Scot asked when are the best times for families to pray the Rosary together. Fr. Phalen says dinnertime is great because the family is all together, so pray before or after the meal, relating it to the meal and the unity achieved around the dinner table. Ask the children for their special intentions. Besides the spiritual benefit, the children and parents learn more about what is going on in their hearts and minds and lives.

3rd segment: Scot asked the best way to offer intentions for family rosaries. Fr. Phalen said it will help to break up the whole rosary by punctuating each decade with specific intentions, while offering general intentions for the whole rosary. Should each family member have their own or share one rosary? Fr. Phalen said some families keep a bowl of rosaries. Others have a set of hooks with a rosary for each person. Then there’s the orsary our mothers gave us: Our ten fingers.

Fr. Mark asked about good sources of mysteries: Fr. Phalen said there is the book of “Father Peyton’s Rosary Prayer Book”. There’s also his own book “Living the Rosary: Finding Your Life in the Mysteries.”

When he was in seminary, he would return home to visit his parents. He would spend time at night on the dock on the lake, and he would find the Glory of God in the world and receive a sense of God’s presence. This moment stays with him now, especially every time he contemplates the mystery of the Transfiguration. His aim in the book is helping people connect the moments in their lives to the moments in the mysteries that will helps us in our prayer.

Scot asked about the Luminous Mysteries that Bl. John Paul II offered to the Church. Fr. Phalen said one of his most profound remarks was that the Rosary marks the rhythm of life. This was from his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae. He said that the rosary was the prayer of the laypeople. It was created in the Middle Ages in imitation of the monks’ prayer the 150 Psalms of the Liturgy of the Hours. Because they couldn’t read, the people needed the assistance of an image of a mystery to help them pray. In the churches and cathedrals the artwork taught the people of the moments of the lives of Christ and Mary and the saints, just like the mysteries of the rosary. So the Luminous mysteries pick up the time from the ending of the Joyful Mysteries to the beginning of the Sorrowful Mysteries. But Pope John Paul did it in a humble way by proposing it and not imposing it so the people could take it up or leave it. But Fr. Phalen’s experience is that the people do love it and are praying it.

In his letter, Bl. John Paul said:

The Rosary is by its nature a prayer for peace, since it consists in the contemplation of Christ, the Prince of Peace, the one who is “our peace” (Eph 2:14). Anyone who assimilates the mystery of Christ – and this is clearly the goal of the Rosary – learns the secret of peace and makes it his life’s project. Moreover, by virtue of its meditative character, with the tranquil succession of Hail Marys, the Rosary has a peaceful effect on those who pray it, disposing them to receive and experience in their innermost depths, and to spread around them, that true peace which is the special gift of the Risen Lord (cf. Jn 14:27; 20.21).

4th segment: One of Holy Cross Family Ministries most important works is supporting the spiritual life of families. They have coming up on June 4 at Boston College High School an event from 8am to 5pm. Register at Bring family members of all ages, from the youngest on up. There are workshops planned just for the small children. There will be a track for teens led by Fr. Bob Reed of CatholicTV. There will be a Spanish-language track for the whole family. Greg and Lisa Popcak will speak to families as well. The theme is God’s Children Now — Living and Learning Together. There will also be workshops on topics such as bullying, using the Internet and more. The day will end with the Rosary and a Mass celebrated by Bishop Daniel Reilly of Worcester.

For the last few years have taken place at Stonehill College in Easton, but they wanted to move closer to Boston to be more central. Some day they want to hold it in Fenway Park with 30,000 people praying on the field.

The cost is $7 per person and $40 max per family, if registered before May 15. Price goes up to $10 each and $50 per family after May 15. Lunch is included.

Fr. Phalen gave an update on the cause for canonization of Fr. Peyton. The paperwork was sent to Rome last July, the closing of the major local work. Now the Vatican is reviewing all the materials and once that is done, then possible miracles will be considered for beatification. Right now, they are looking at possible miracle, but can’t say too much about it right now.

Fr. Mark said the amount of work that goes into such investigations is amazing. It is very meticulous work.

5th segment: Looking at this Sunday’s readings for Mass.

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

What strikes Scot is how sad the disciples are in the death of Jesus and how they didn’t understand all that happened. Fr. Phalen said they are so down, it reminded him of Red Sox fans. They are down every year, even when their team is doing well for now. The disciples’ hopes had been dashed. Then Jesus Himself criticizes them for being foolish and explains everything to them. Fr. Mark says he’s truck by how an extraordinary day it was. Jesus just rose from the dead and chose to spend the day walking with two guys on the road to Emmaus. And the He explains all of Scriptures in the greatest lesson ever given. And now we don’t even know both of their names.

Scot said God’s grace had an effect on them as Jesus spoke because their heart burned. And they didn’t want it to end and invited Christ in because Christ does not force himself on us.

Fr. Phalen said there is a great Eucharistic reference here as they recognize Jesus in the Eucharist, the breaking of the bread. For ourselves, after a crisis, sometimes we can say, wasn’t it necessary for it happen because God knew better than I.

Scot noted that going back to Jerusalem from Emmaus is 7 miles uphill and they ran it away after a long day’s walk. They must have been so excited.

Fr. Phalen said we can recognize Christ in our accompaniment of one another, especially gathered around the Table of the Lord, and it gives us great hope.

That will conclude today’s presentation of The Good Catholic Life. For recordings and photos of today’s show and all previous shows, please visit our website: You can also download the app for your iPhone or Android device at to listen to the show wherever you may be. We thank our guest Fr. John Phalen. For our co-host, Father Mark O’Connell, our Production team of Rick Heil, Anna Johnson, Justin Bell, Dom Bettinelli, and George Martell, this is Scot Landry saying thank YOU for listening, God bless you and have a wonderful weekend!

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