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Danny Schneible

Danny Schneible

During this quarantined Holy Week, I am reminded of Isaiah 55:8-9 where God states to His people, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways… For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The coronavirus has swept the earth and has separated God’s people during the holiest time of year. Many are dying, disease is rampant, and social distancing has been mandated. We are in need of the Resurrection, yet it has not arrived.

This theme of suffering and failure sits not only at the climax of Salvation History but also at the foundation of everyone’s spiritual life. Pain, disease, weakness, isolation, failure, rejection, and even death have now been made central aspects of the spiritual journey this Holy Week. How can we be certain of this? It is Christ’s example, for He came into the world in the humblest form and died a slow, tortuous death.

This quarantine has been hard on everyone, myself included. I have failed many times in adjusting to my new work routine, watching the kids, homeschooling, exercising, praying, studying, and more. Yet our hope in Christ is so great that even in our failures we succeed. St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 puts it this way:

“Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak then I am strong.”

What an opportunity we have to carry our crosses, i.e coronavirus, weakness, suffering, inaccessible sacraments, etc. alongside Christ this Holy Week! I pray we can really enter into the mystery of being nailed to our cross and being made a holy and acceptable offering to God. In this way we can rise again with Christ!

I love the words of Fr. Jacques Phillippe in his book entitled Searching for and Maintaining Peace. He states, “Let us recognize that, given the way we are made, it would be dangerous for us to do only good… [for] we have a deeply rooted tendency toward pride.” It reminds me not to be too disheartened and scandalized by my own sinfulness, rather to run to God with my failures and thank Him for keeping me humbled.

Now, in the middle of what is both a worldwide crisis and the holiest time of year, may we enter more potently into the Paschal Mystery, feeling Jesus’ suffering, yet trusting fully in our Father to bring to completion His magnificent work.


My 7-year old daughter made me cry the other day.

There’s something you should know about my daughter: she never sings, dances, or performs in front of me. She’ll go to her room, shut the door, tell Alexa to play the Frozen soundtrack, and sing her little heart out. She’ll sneak into the playroom and dance like a ballerina to Mozart’s Nutcracker Suite. She’ll don a dozen different costumes and bandy about, skipping and running, using different voices to bring her characters to life.

But never in front of me.

The Gaze of the Father

Why not? She’s obsessed with me, but she won’t perform in front of me? Is she afraid I’ll point out her flaws? I’ve always tried to instill in her that it’s ok to make mistakes. Does she not think she’s good enough? I tell her every day how good she is! Is she afraid of messing up when all eyes are on her? God knows I’m afraid of that, too.

I’ve tried to catch her in the act before, but it never works. I’ll peak around the corner or open the door just a crack, but as soon as she sees me she stops. Embarrassed, she’ll exclaim, “Daddy! You ruined it!” The most I’ve been able to do is press my ear against the door and imagine the childlike play unfolding on the other side.

That is, until the other day.

Trusting Him

I was in my home office responding to some emails when I heard a knock at the door. I answered it to find my sweet daughter in an Elsa dress, hair pulled back behind her ears (“Just for you daddy!”), with my wife’s cell phone in her hand. “I made a video for you daddy, wanna see it?” How could I possibly say no to that?

What I saw was a revelation. I felt like I was pulling back the curtain to the Holy of Holies. There she was, my beautiful daughter, performing a perfect rendition of “Let it Go.” She wasn’t shy or hidden. She was looking right into the camera, giving it all she had. Her little chipmunk voice hit all the high notes. She choreographed it too, with Elsa’s motions from that classic scene in Frozen.

10 seconds in and I lost it. “You have tears coming out of your eyes, daddy,” she said. I reassured her, “You make daddy happy!” I thanked her and hugged her, and by her bright smile exposing two empty spaces where her baby teeth used to be, I knew she was happy she took a risk on me.

The Father’s Heart

Her video was powerful for many reasons. It was vulnerable. There was no hiding, no closed door. It was her way of saying, “I’m ready for you to see me, daddy. I’m ready to give you this part of me.” It was permission, trust, and love from someone I would gladly die for.

It also made me wonder: How often am I that vulnerable with the Lord? How many times have I shut the door so that He won’t see me? How many times have I convinced myself that God my Father – and everyone else for that matter – is primed and ready to confirm the worst things I think about myself?

Ultimately, I cried that day because my daughter gave me exactly what I want so desperately to give to the Father: A complete gift of self, fully trusting and unafraid.

Why can’t I give that to God? I don’t know. I guess my reasons are as mysterious as my daughter’s reasons. What I do know is that when I’m ready, He’ll be there. And His words to me will be the same words I gave my daughter:

Thank you, my blessed and wonderful child.
Your gift brings me joy.
I see you and I love you.

Our modern world is full of information and broad communication. One person sitting in his living room can tweet or host a show via YouTube to thousands of people. Modern resources have made it possible for churches to have highly engaging and educated speakers give talks on well-lit stages, giving off a celebrity-like appeal to grab the attention of viewers. All of this is done in an effort to evangelize.

Yet, I wonder if the right message is being relayed. All the flashy lights, technology, charisma, and education is engaging. However,  it might also be communicating to the viewer that this is how evangelization must be done. Does every evangelist really have to be highly-educated in theology, charming, and technologically savvy? In short, does he/she need to become a “professional” or a “celebrity” in order to lead others to Jesus?

The answer is a definitive NO! 

Evangelization, at its core, is relational and to forget that is dangerous. Priest’s are spiritual fathers. One’s neighbor is a brother or sister in Christ. A celebrity, or expert, or “professional Christian” is a more distant person who can rarely produce friendships or family-like relationships in your own life. Conversions that result from this type of evangelization can be short-lived if authentic, Christ-centered relationships are not established. Also, many of those who have lasting conversions as a result of this “professionalism” pursue a less familial approach to evangelization themselves. They tend to rely heavily on apologetics and debate, and forget the primacy of Christ-like love. 

The most effective evangelization is that which springs from one’s vocation. For example:

  • Diocesan priests ought to be priestly in every moment of their day. Their life, joy, sacrifice, prayer, thoughts, and actions are for the people within their parish boundaries. As their Father, that is how the priest wins souls for the Kingdom.

  • For married persons, their life’s mission is primarily to serve God through their family. Everything flows through their family and is colored by them. Any actions that build up their family, spiritually and physically, in turn build up the community at large.

  • Single people are able to use their time and talents to build up the community and reach those who would otherwise be unreachable.

Each vocation, in its unique way, leads others to Christ.  

All of this is not to say that we shouldn’t be utilizing every resource at our disposal in order to evangelize.  By all means use them, but all the while remember that God’s grace is sufficient (cf. 2 Cor 12:9), and nothing can replace the power of personal relationship.




By the time you read this, I will be two months into Exodus 90. I’ll also be hungry – very, very hungry.

In case you’re wondering, no, there are not 90 chapters in the Book of Exodus. Exodus 90 is a 90-day spiritual exercise for men, a kind of personal exodus from the bondage of sin to freedom in God. My 90 days started on Jan. 13, which means they end on Easter Sunday, the day the whole Church celebrates salvation and new life.

The Long Road Ahead
This spiritual exercise is like a prolonged Lent. It’s a time of both radical self-denial and radical love. It’s also no joke. Here’s a list of the sacrifices we’re supposed to embrace during the 90 days:

  • Take short, cold showers.
  • Practice regular, intense exercise (at least 3 days a week).
  • Get a full night’s sleep (at least 7 hours).
  • Abstain from alcohol, desserts, and sweets (including soda and sweet drinks).
  • Abstain from eating between meals.
  • Abstain from television, movies, televised sports, and video games.
  • Abstain from non-essential purchases.
  • Only listen to music that lifts the soul to God.
  • Only use the computer and mobile device for essential tasks.
  • Make Wednesday and Friday days of fasting and abstinence.

Along with these sacrifices are ways we are encouraged to grow in holiness and fellowship:

  • Pray 1 hour a day, 20 minutes of which are in silent contemplation.
  • Pray an examen every evening.
  • Attend 1 extra Mass each week.
  • Go to Confession regularly.
  • Meet once a week with the men you are doing Exodus 90 with.
  • Check in daily with your “anchor partner,” someone from the fraternity who will encourage you and hold you accountable.
  • Read the daily Scripture passage and reflection from the Exodus 90 app.

Impossible, right? That’s what I thought. After just 1 week, I was with the guys trying to hold back tears as I lamented how much of a failure I was. “I can’t do this. I’m a slave to the world. I’m too weak and undisciplined.”

Facing My Failure

The Field Guide for Exodus 90 states it bluntly: “If you’re going to do Exodus 90, do Exodus 90. There is no ‘lite’ version.” I read that, looked at the disaster of my first week, and was convinced that I should just quit.

The guys could have shown me the door, and technically they would have been right. But instead, they showed me God’s patience and mercy. “Nicholas, we’re just glad you’re here,” they said. “This isn’t about Exodus 90, it’s about growing in holiness. If it’s better for you to pick a handful of things and focus on that, then as far as we’re concerned, you’re still doing Exodus 90.”

Really? It’s okay to start small? I don’t have to be instantly perfect?

Turning Failure into Freedom

I’m trying to believe what they told me that day, but it’s not easy. Sometimes, I still hear a voice of condemnation in my mind. But, I banish it and focus on doing what I can. For me, right now, that means not eating between meals, not watching as much TV, getting a full night’s sleep, and putting down my phone. I’ve been going to Mass on Tuesday. I’ve been fasting on Wednesday and Friday.

To my surprise, I’m not dead yet.

In fact, I’ve learned that it’s the “doing” that makes the “not doing” easier. In other words, as I commit to prayer, reflection, and receiving God’s grace, He makes it possible for me to say no to my disordered appetites. He reminds me that this is not about me, it’s about Jesus working in me. In Him I’m not a failure, and the more I detach from material things, the more room I make for Him.

I’m certain now that as long as I keep making Him room, when Easter comes I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that God and I did something great together. The occasional cookie will be pretty nice, too.

I love barbecue. Seriously, my heart yearns for it.

Owensboro, KY, where I’m from, is actually the epicenter of a unique variety: mutton barbecue. Mutton is meat from sheep around three years old, as opposed to lamb, which is meat from sheep less than a year old. It starts out fatty and tough, but if you cook it low and slow and add our special vinegar-and-pepper based sauce, then it comes out moist and tender. It’s typically served either pulled or sliced, but it also comes in a regional stew called “burgoo.” I was always told that outside of Europe or the Middle East, no one consumes more mutton than the residents of Owensboro, KY.

So, yes, I love barbecue. I love the taste of it. I love the smell of it. I love the skill and craftsmanship that goes into making it. I love the time and dedication necessary to get it just right.

I was recently at a friend’s house for some barbecue. This time it was pulled pork from Pickles & Bones Barbecue in Milford, OH.

I was excited.

I had never tried their barbecue before, and my friend was extolling its virtues. To my delight, it was everything he said it would be. It had the crispy bits mixed in, but it was still tender. It was juicy, smoky, and savory. Buns were available to make sandwiches with it, but I just heaped a hearty helping on my plate and ate it with a fork. SO GOOD.

Something More than Food

When I left for the evening, I wasn’t thinking about the food, though. I was thinking about the welcome, fellowship, and friendship. Through a sorcery I have not yet mastered, my friend has raised his family to be absolutely the most hospitable people you could ever meet. He has eight kids (with one on the way!), and it was as if each one was specially assigned to meet our needs. As soon as we walked in the door, one of his little sons ran up to my little daughter, gave her a big hug, and exclaimed, “I love you!” She was thrilled by this, and was right at home for the rest of the evening. They made sure my youngest son had plenty of chips (I don’t know how he grows because that’s basically all he eats), and my oldest son had plenty of space when he needed it … and video games, plenty of video games.

For me, my friend had a cold beer ready as soon as I walked in, he started prayer when he sensed I was getting antsy (I can’t stand milling about), and he generally made me feel like a valued guest in his home. His wife, for her part, was full of warm, loving concern for my wife and my whole family. There was great conversation, laughter, prayer, and even some praise-and-worship. It was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long while.

The Lasting Encounter

On the drive home, I couldn’t get over how happy I felt. As I thought about it more, I realized: my friend and his family evangelized me. They proclaimed the Gospel of love, mercy, and graciousness in their hospitality towards me. Ultimately, they spoke to a keenly felt desire to be loved, accepted, and fully known. In their friendship I encountered the friendship of the Lord.

It’s a shame that families can’t evangelize more often in this way, especially in their encounters with other families. There’s not much to it, really. When a family loves each other and loves others, this is what happens. They proclaim the Gospel by being who they are.

In my short time there, I experienced love, acceptance, unity, dignity, service, and praise. Isn’t that what eternal life with God is supposed to be like? Simply put, my friend and his family gave me a taste of heaven.

Well, that and the barbecue.

The season of Advent is filled with unique symbols, colors, and liturgical oddities. If we know a bit about them, then we can share them with others. More than that, a knowledge of these “signs of the time” can help make Advent a season of genuine peace and holy preparation.

Why “Advent”?

The word “Advent” comes from the Latin phrase ad venire, which means “to come towards.” With each day of Advent, we get closer and closer to the coming of Jesus, to that radical “coming towards” in which God got as close to us as He possibly could. Advent should be a reaching out, a drawing near, and a yearning for someone who can meet every human desire.

The Advent Wreath

It is customary to celebrate Advent by displaying a special wreath and lighting candles in our homes. Parishes too will often have a grand wreath with candles lit by a parish family to begin each Sunday Mass. But why a wreath? Why four candles? And why are three of them purple and one pink?

In his article “The History of the Advent Wreath,” Fr. William Saunders provides this short historical account of the wreath itself:

“There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn ‘the wheel of the earth’ back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.”

By the Middle Ages, Christians had taken up this practice and infused it with new meaning as a way to prepare for Christmas. Since Jesus is the light of the world, it is fitting that the wreath would produce more and more light the closer we get to the celebration of His birth.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Three of them are purple, a color associated with royalty (the King is coming!). One of them is rose, a symbol of our rejoicing. The circular shape of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God. The leaves of the wreath, derived from evergreen trees, symbolize the immortality of the soul and the everlasting life found in Christ.

Gaudete Sunday

This is the third Sunday of Advent. It is named after the Entrance Antiphon for Mass on that day, which begins with the Latin words, “Gaudete in Domino semper!” – “Rejoice in the Lord always!” After two weeks of purple vestments, a new color breaks through. The candle on the wreath is pink (or, to be precise, rosacea). The priest may even wear rose-colored vestments. It’s so rare and bright, it’s like an exclamation in a quiet room or a shaft of light in the darkness. It’s a shock to our senses. It awakens us and reminds us that Jesus is near.

The Jesse Tree

The “Jesse Tree” is a small tree you set on a table and use to tell the Story of Salvation History. It’s called a “Jesse” tree because this story is Jesus’ story, and Jesus is the one who Isaiah spoke of when he said:

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. ” (Isa 11:1-2).

This is the story of God establishing covenants and drawing more and more of mankind unto Himself. This is the story of preparing the world for the Savior of the world. Each day of Advent has its own ornament, which represents an important moment from the Story (an apple, an ark, Jacob’s ladder, a burning bush, etc.). Guides for making ornaments and summarizing each event are readily available online.

Other Ways to Celebrate

The ways to celebrate Advent are only limited by your imagination. For example:

  • Pray with the wreath. Gather your family around it every evening or every Sunday. Have one person recite the Gospel reading for the day, another light the candle, and then everyone sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
  • Dine by its light. Prepare special Sunday dinners where you eat by the wreath’s flickering light.
  • Play with your manger scene. Move the wise men a little closer to the manger each day, until they finally arrive on the Feast of Epiphany (Sun. Jan. 6). Keep the manger empty until Christmas Day, and in the meantime, every act of kindness by a family member results in a piece of straw for Jesus’ bed.

Whatever you do, be sure to “seize the season” so that you can share it with others and get the most out of it yourself. For more on this blessed season, see “5 Ways to Seize the Season of Advent.”

Have a Blessed Advent and a Merry Christmas!