Sunday, March 9, is the Fifth Sunday in Lent (Year A, Cycle II). Today at 10 a.m., Pope Benedict XVI will say Mass at the Church of St. Lawrence in Piscibus in Rome. The International Youth Center, which the Knights of Columbus helped fund, is there.

The Pope is a little more than a month away from visiting Washington, D.C., and New York, and World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, is four months away. Find information and advance coverage at, a National Catholic Register website where Tim Drake is blogging about the visit.

Parish offers best parish practices.

With Easter only two weeks away, many parishes will be looking to plan spring events. St. Francis of Assisi in Bakersfield, Calif., wrote about the success it had with singer Gretchen Harris.

“The most e-mails that I have ever received about anything in my parish were the e-mails I received after her [Gretchen Harris’] concert. She moved a lot of people with the living testimony that she gives; you can tell that it comes from her heart,” said Father Craig Harrison, St. Francis of Assisi Pastor. “This is the type of person we need in parishes today.”

A concert by a Catholic singer could be a great way to attract and inspire people who aren’t interested in usually in church events. More information is available at the Epriest website.


If you meant to make it a practice to get to daily Mass during Lent, but never did — or if you hadn’t made those plans at all — this would be a good week to take the family to daily Mass. The readings this week start out teaching about heaven then start preparing for Passion Sunday and Holy Week. offers Next Sunday Ideas on its website.


We love to watch the old Charlton Heston movie The Ten Commandments. It’s a great way to remind the children of the background of the Holy Week story, though it could do with a little less of the extra-Biblical stuff. In it you see prefigurements of Holy Thursday and Good Friday (the Passover, with the Blood of the Lamb saving the Jews from slavery).


Ezekiel 37:12-14, Psalms 130:1-8, Romans 8:8-11, John 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45 offers free homily packs for priests.

Our Take

Pope Benedict XVI, in his homily before the papal conclave that elected him, called Catholics to “friendship with Jesus.” It’s a theme he has returned to many times.

Today’s Gospel is about three siblings, Martha, Mary and Lazarus, who were close friends of Jesus. The Gospel of Luke (10:40) showed one intimate family moment with Jesus and Martha and Mary. Today’s Gospel gives more details of that friendship:

Jesus helps his friends. The sisters send word to the Lord about Lazarus, saying, “The one you love is ill.”We can pray the same way, because each of us is “the one you love” to Jesus.

Jesus looks out for his friends. Later, Christ says, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”

This time, he isn’t prompted by a prayer — he’s looking out for his friend, as he will for us.

We trust our friend. Martha illustrates great trust when she says, after Lazarus has died, “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

We need faith that Christ can solve the seemingly intractable problems in our own life.

We run to meet our friend. When Mary heard Jesus was coming, she didn’t hesitate: “she rose quickly and went to him.”

We need to respond right away to Jesus, our friend … not hesitantly.

Jesus shares our sorrows. We can get into a habit of thinking of Jesus as severe, distant or aloof. But here we see how he really is. “When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled,” says the Gospel. “And Jesus wept.”

Jesus gives us life. Finally, the resurrection of Lazarus should teach us that our friendship with Jesus isn’t just a warm human friendship: It’s a friendship with God, whose power will astonish us.

The Hoopeses are

editorial directors of

Faith & Family magazine (