Apr 26, 2020

“Anything that happened in my childhood had to do with ‘yes practice, no practice’.”

“When I came to the United States,
I appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show as a 13-year-old,
and I played a Mendelssohn Concerto,
and it sounded like a talented 13-year-old with a lot of promise.
But it did not sound like a finished product.”

Itzhak Perlman


I’ve been walking a bit more than usual during these lockdown weeks. The walking gives me good time for thinking and a rhythm of stepping and breathing that seems to move my thinking forward. I’m never in the same head or heart space when I finish a walk as when I started.

While I walk alone I am rarely alone on a walk. On the roads around the neighbourhood there are always people exercising while remaining in their bubble group.

Over the last month I’ve become familiar with the exercise routines of many who walk or run at the same time each day. The runners always look a bit sad and they never break their stride by stopping for a chat. But the walkers are different. There is always a word or two, and there are some with whom the chats are regular.

My regular chat mates include the older couple who walk their dog, the man who walks alone, and the parents with their four young children.

I had a longer chat with the father of the family yesterday. He asked what I did and I told him that I was a priest. I couldn’t read his reaction initially, then I recognised what I thought was guilt which he immediately verified telling me that he went to a Catholic school but was not a very good Catholic. I laughed and told him that I was not a very good Catholic either. We both laughed.

He admitted that he still called himself a Catholic when asked, but had not been near a church for twenty years. Our chat continued when I asked why he thought he wasn’t a good Catholic and he replied that he didn’t go to church.

I added that I knew a lot of Catholics who had not been to Mass for more than a month, and we both laughed again.

All the way home I was thinking about our conversation feeling sadness that we have used Sunday Mass as the only measure of whether or not someone is a “practising” Catholic. Why is it that a Catholic who is baptised, prays regularly and insists that their children are baptised and enrolled in a Catholic school doesn’t feel able to call themselves “practising”?

Today’s gospel reading is a favourite, an all-in-one account of the followers of Jesus coming to terms with what it means for Jesus to be risen and among them.

Two of the followers of Jesus were out walking to a small town near Jerusalem. They meet a stranger and they chat about things that were important including faith. They asked and answered questions. Their sharing was honest and their conversation did not hide from reality. Sounds like my walk yesterday. The whole point of this passage of scripture is that these two travellers did have a connection with Jesus (think baptism) and were practicing this faith by walking together and talking together about the real stuff of their lives including their hopes, as Jesus (albeit unrecognised) walked alongside them.

They didn’t know it but they were on the journey to the Eucharist which we today call the summit of our Christian faith.

Before I left Christchurch to move to Auckland earlier in the year the most satisfying part of my work was with parents who were requesting sacraments for their children. All of them were, like me, on the journey of faith towards full union with Christ. All of them would hesitate (like me) to call themselves a “good Catholic” but all of them, even if they haven’t been to Mass for a dozen years are, like me and the guys on the road to Emmaus, practising Catholics.

Last month I saw the movie “Itzhak” which tells the powerful story of the life of Itzhak Perlman who after contracting polio at age four practiced to become one of the world’s best violinists. Since the day he first picked up a violin he has been practising. Now he is the best, and he still practises.

An Invitation:

  • I began this post with the Itzhak Perlman quotations. The movie “Itzhak: is well worth watching. Beautiful and powerful. Trailer at this link.
  • I have been thinking for some time about providing a Pray to Sleep audio reflection, based informally on Compline the Night Prayer of the Church, a way of relaxing as you prepare for sleep with a reflection on the graces of the day, leading (hopefully) into sleep. This will be available from Monday of next week.



Keep the bell pictures coming in. Send to  Thanks Brian for today’s bell tower  from Immaculate Heart of Mary, Tighes Hill (Newcastle, NSW). Brian adds “We have a tradition that all who visit us have to ring the 8AM Sunday morning Mass bell. They love it!”

Sunday Easter Week III  (15 minutes)

Sunday Easter Week III  (25 minutes)


  1. Great reflection. Lots to think about. We are all on a journey towards heaven as we walk our paths in life as Christians and practising Catholics.

  2. PS Thank you for the link to Itzhak Perlman’s music. I am enjoying listening to his music – so beautiful. God bless.

  3. I was very moved, John, by your sharing with that family “I’m not a good Catholic either”!

    I think in part because I have the privilege of walking alongside Māori. They seem to prefer concentrating on one Mass where they all come as a large family.

    I think Pope Francis would appreciate your response too. When he was asked ‘Who he was?’ He replied ‘I am a sinner’!

  4. Blessings John.
    I feel a deep sense of peace, that is helping me face issues from My childhood .
    Thank you too for the music. It is beautiful

  5. Thank you, Fr John. I am finding the Lectio Divina sessions to be deeply inspirational and helping me through these long days of self-isolation as I don’t feel so much on my own knowing Jesus is always there. Having the quiet time with Him and listening to Him has changed me any many ways. The Road to Emmaus is one of my most favourite scriptures. God bless you for all that you are doing with Food for Faith. Pax et bonum.

    • Thank you for concluding your comment with ‘Pax et bonum’. I was encouraged to look it up and have now learnt a beautiful expression! Pax et bonum to you and yours :).

  6. What a beautiful moving time thank you John,I still feel the warmth and love I feel very blessed, God Bless.

  7. Father, comments like these are honestly starting to get to me. Why do Catholics who regularly receive the Sacraments consider themselves practicing? Because that is how we practice our faith. It really is that simple. If you’re a Catholic who does not go to Mass, you are in mortal sin. This is Catholicism 101, please stop deflecting from this. People need to be told straight, because very few people are doing the telling any longer, and it’s putting souls in jeoprady. I’m young (under 30) and I don’t think I recall being told that at school; and then often people wonder where are all the young people at Mass? What’s the point of a young person practicing their religion if the people entrusted with instruction tell them that there’s barely any need to practice it?

    It is not sufficient just to self-assess yourself as a nice person who means well. That’s a good baseline, but it’s not even a bare minimum.

  8. You are not just a blessing to us at FFF but to your community also… thank you!

  9. As a perfectionist, today’s reflection really spoke to me. Life is a journey, a continuous succession of moments and opportunities to ‘practice’; to practice being present, being open to God and the ways he communicates with us and through us, to practice getting our priorities right … like children, we make mistakes, maybe throw a tantrum now and then, but like a loving parent God is always there still loving us and guiding us, helping us pick up the pieces when we are ready. We are never ‘fully formed’ or fully perfect, and being open to the idea of continual growth and ‘practice’ perhaps helps to keep alive within us the childlike innocence and trust required in order to grow continually closer to Him. Thank you beyond words Fr John for all the time and effort and energy you must be putting into these reflections; I often think to myself how amazing it is that you are able to keep providing such profound and meaningful reflections every day without fail. You are truly providing priceless ‘food for faith’ and helping to enrich my personal relationship with Jesus on a daily basis. Thank you and God bless.


  10. John, the Emmaus story is one of my favourite Gospel passages, as it is also for you and for many people. To me it speaks of the presence of Christ in the Word of scripture and in the sharing of Eucharist. Like these two disciples we recognise Christ “in the breaking of bread”, but in this time of lockdown we are unable to take part by receiving Communion. But this is a time of wonderful opportunity for us to deepen our recognition of Christ in scripture. Your reflections help me to see myself on the Emmaus road listening to Jesus. Like these two disciples, I can come to experience “my heart burning within me”. Thank you for your sharing each day.

  11. “Food for Faith” mirrors my early morning walks around the beautiful ‘Autumn’ Lake situated in close proximity to my home.

    The sight of the glorious sunrise reflecting on the water and the tantalizing colours – orange, pink, blue and red makes me feel I am on my way to Heaven.
    Beautiful black and white swans, geese, ducks and water birds attuned with the dense cover of mixed trees and shrubs intertwined around the pathways, accompany me on my way forward.

    My walk in nature each morning reflects the sunrise of my life – the light and love of the Resurrection.

    Blessings in return to my Companions in Faith on the pathway of life and love. +

  12. What an amazing story of your conversation with whom one of your regular conversation, a stranger and become a spiritual experience in faith journey. Thank you for sharing and articulating the happenings of the day to see and to find Jesus. The story – Journey to Emmaus is happening and happens every day in our life when our heart is in Jesus. It is inspiring story to practise walking to Emmaus with faith and knowledge that Jesus is here and is among us. It takes practise, faith to prefect our bringing the consciousness of Jesus present in all things and in all events to reveal Himself to me. Yes practice, no practice…

  13. An interesting & helpful reflcction. Practising is spelt with an S, not a C, though!

  14. John, Thank you and blessings. You really are a true blessing in helping me in my journey to live in relationship with Jesus. This Gospel is also one of my favourites.
    Thank you again for FFF and for using these special gifts our God has given you.

  15. I enjoyed your conversation with the with the non-practicing Catholic of 20 years, and I am pleased he still called himself Catholic. I did the exact same thing when I didn’t attend Mass for around 20 years. There are many reasons and circumstances why Catholics may not practice their faith. I think your approach was non- judgemental, and non-threatening. He just may return just as I did.

  16. Last week our daughter went to the local park in Oxford UK with our 2 grandchildren ( 5 and 6) after having been in self isolation for 3 weeks as her husband had Covid19 (now recovered almost fully thank God ). The children rode their bikes and for the first time Miss 5 suddenly took off without her trainer wheels. There were claps all round and shouts of joy from mother and brother. An elderly man was passing . He stopped -at a distance of course – and said that watching the joy on all their faces made his day and thanked them for giving him this joy. Our daughter and husband are essential workers in the large NHS hospital there. We never know how and when we can give joy to one another as we walk in faith. Thank you Fr John for helping me walk in faith while I practise being a Christian.

  17. Oops! I’ve just reread your post and my comment and I misunderstood the practising your talking about. I should have worded my comment better.


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