kelly wahlquist

Catholic Evangelist & Speaker

Kelly Wahlquist is a dynamic and inspiring Catholic speaker whose gift of weaving personal stories and Scripture together with practical advice allows her audience to enter more fully into what Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have called us into - to be witnesses of our faith and part of the New Evangelization.

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The Way of Beauty

Day 1: Vision of St. Helena

Vison of St. Helena.jpeg

On January 11, I am beginning my New Year's resolution. Ok, yes, I realize I will already be eleven days into the New Year, but my resolution was to incorporate Visio Divina into my prayer life on SATURDAYS. Ok, yes, I realize I already missed the first Saturday of the New Year, but in my defense my book Meditations on Vatican Art buy Fr. Mark Haydu had not yet arrived. So, alas, I shall begin this Saturday, January 11th! (Taking into account my "cup 1/2 full" perspective, this is like beginning a diet on Tuesday —and we ALL know starting a diet on Tuesday is always more successful than beginning on a Monday!)

If you want to join me as I travel down this prayerful path that the ancients called The Way of Beauty (Via Pulchritduinis) and work to deepen my prayer life by being more aware of God's beauty that surrounds me, I encourage you to by Fr. Haydu's book.

Each Saturday I will post an art piece from one of the 12 museums that make up the Vatican Museums. I will follow the order of Fr. Haydu's book and I will post the theme and Scripture verse that accompanies the painting to meditate on as well. But truth be told, to get the fullness of the prayerful meditations, you'll want to buy Father's book. The book offers insightful summaries on each painting, prayer and guided reflections for each meditation and each chapter culminates in a magnificent spiritual exercise. (Please note: I am not making any commission on selling this book…. though I imagine my reward will be great in heaven if praying with the beauty of Vatican art deepens my relationship with Christ... and yours too!)

I'm doing this because, let's face it, I could use a little depth in my prayer life. I'm also intrigued with Visio Divina. While I was in Rome with my daughter in 2010, I spent many hours in awe of the beauty that surrounded me. How great to be able to now pray with it! To give thanks to God! To rejoice in the beauty of His creation! As always, I invite you to join me on my adventure. It would be wonderful to create some discussion around our Visio Divina experience, so please don't be shy to leave a comment on my Saturday blog posts.

Today I'm giving you a sneak peak at this Saturday's reflection, Vision of St. Helena. The theme is "Treasures that last" and I couldn't think of a better way to begin my new year than to allow God to divert my attention from the treasures of this world to treasures that never parish.

I'd love for you join me for the next 28 Saturdays as I journey along The Way of Beauty!

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Daily Reading for Dec. 15: Evangelii Gaudium paragraphs 135-144

Reflection by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff


As a Mother Speaks to Her Child – So Also Does the Church Preach


In paragraphs 135 – 144 of Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father speaks about the importance of the homily within the liturgical celebration. Right off the bat, Pope Francis describes what the homily can and should be, “an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s word, a constant source of renewal and growth” (¶ 135).

In my diaconate ministry, I have been three-times blessed by the Lord. First, the opportunities encountered to serve and console people in their need and suffering, to share in their joy and celebration, has been life-changing. Second, to share my talents to further and deepen adult education and faith formation has been a true joy. Third, to serve the Lord in my liturgical roles, including the joy of proclaiming the gospel and preaching, has deepened my own interior participation in Holy Mass and at other liturgies.

As one who preaches a homily on a fairy regular basis, I welcome the Holy Father’s inspiring words of instruction, encouragement and correction in regards to the homily.

Pope Francis reminds us of the words of Blessed John Paul II in Dies Domini , “the liturgical proclamation of the word of God, especially in the Eucharistic assembly, is not so much a time for meditation and catechesis as a dialogue between God and his people, a dialogue in which the great deeds of salvation are proclaimed and the demands of the covenant are continually restated.” He says of the homily, “it surpasses all forms of catechesis as the supreme moment in the dialogue between God and his people which lead up to sacramental communion” (¶ 137).

Much of what Pope Francis writes in this section might seem to be directed solely to the clergy who preach, but that would be a mistake. For the proclamation of God’s word, he reminds us, is a dialogue. 

God speaks to us within the context of the liturgy and we all hear… and we take what we have received into our daily lives and return it to God through our love for one another and through our prayer. The priest and the deacon are called to “guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist. This means that the words of the preacher must be measured, so that the Lord, more than his minister, will be the centre of attention” (¶ 138). If we are to be transformed by grace and led to a deeper communion with the Lord, both the preacher and the hearer must be engaged.

I really like the image that Pope Francis paints of the homily being a moment of conversation, much like a mother with her child, “…she preaches in the same way that a mother speaks to her child, knowing that the child trusts that what she is teaching is for his or her benefit, for children know that they are loved” (¶ 139).

He goes on to describe the homily as a heart-to-heart conversation that, “arises from the enjoyment of speaking and it enriches those who express their love for one another through the medium of words. This is an enrichment which does not consist in objects, but in persons who share themselves in dialogue” (¶ 142).


We who preach should take to heart these words and give the time and thought and prayer necessary to meet these ideals and principles. This role the Lord has placed on us is both a high honor and a grave responsibility where we serve to bring God and the human person together. “To speak from the heart means that our hearts must not just be on fire, but also enlightened by the fullness of revelation and by the path travelled by God’s word in the heart of the Church and our faithful people throughout history” (¶ 144).

Those who listen should recognize the encounter with their God that takes place, particularly in the Liturgy of the Word during Holy Mass. We should present ourselves as children who love to hear and do what their mother speaks to them.

Into the deep…


Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor-in-chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™ ( A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff was ordained in February, 2006, and is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplains to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association and co-founder of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

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Daily Reading for Dec. 3: Evangelii Gaudium paragraphs 14-18

Reflection by Thomas Smith

Parish life at St. Joseph's in Rosemount, MN

Parish life at St. Joseph's in Rosemount, MN


In this final section of the introduction (para. 14-18), Pope Francis identifies the three audiences/settings of the New Evangelization and the seven themes that shape his vision of our particular chapter in the ongoing story of salvation.  

These seven themes, and each of the three audiences/settings, will be explored in more detail as the document unfolds.  Even though this section is a “nuts and bolts” summary of what Pope Francis will be proposing in Evangelii Gaudium, it isn’t lacking in material that both challenges us and invites reflection. While I am tempted to explore each of the three audiences here, they will be unwrapped as the document unfolds, so I will focus on the first one, as it gives us plenty to “sip” on for a daily meditation.



There’s a real danger of imagining that the Gospel call and the New Evangelization is about “those people out there.”  And yet, for Pope Francis, the first setting of the New Evangelization is the local parish and it’s first audience is most of the people reading this series - it’s us!  By us, I am presuming you are an “intentional disciple” (1) whose life is marked by “full, active and conscious” participation in the Mass (2) while flourishing in and sharing your particular charisms with the Body of Christ (3).  That’s a tall order, I know, but that should be ordinary Christian living.  

Even when we are doing all that, we are still the object of the New Evangelization. Conversion is an ongoing process, an organic growth that we have to constantly cultivate and engage.  As Pope Benedict remarked a few years ago, if we are not advancing in the spiritual life, we are, by default, regressing.  If the Gospel is at it’s heart a relationship with a Person, Jesus Christ, then it naturally has to be engaged daily like a healthy marriage. The central place that relationship is strengthened and nourished is the parish setting where we meet Christ in Word, Sacrament, and in each another.  By the way, this was the topic of Pope Francis’s first Sunday of Advent homily for a suburban Roman parish (see )   


With this in mind, take a few moments today to make a clear-eyed assessment of your engagement with your local parish community.  Are you welcoming Christ fully in Word and Sacrament so you are continually growing in the exercise of your gifts and your confidence and joy while sharing the Gospel?  Consider some simple changes like arriving at Mass early so you can recollect your heart to receive all the graces the Mass offers.  Take a few minutes in Lectio Divina on the scriptural readings of the day “to prime the pump” of your heart for their proclamation and exposition by our clergy (the Pope is counting on our clergy being “animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts of the faithful” (para. 15). If you find your mind wandering in the liturgy, establish a “wakeup” word or phrase that draws your heart back into the moments of the Mass.  I use very simple ones like “Jesus” or “I love you, Lord help me to love you more.”

Have you discovered and deployed your particular charisms?  This is one of the most important ways we can take up Pope Francis’s invitation here to “grow spiritually so that [we] can respond to God’s love even more fully in [our] lives (para.15).  If you don’t know what your charisms are, seriously consider discerning, discovering and deploying them. Your particular parish desperately needs them, and you were given them for that community.  You owe it to your brothers and sisters to do this. My life was transformed when I discovered and started living in my charisms.  A great place to start is

Pope Francis reminds us we must be vigilant and continually open to the Gospel, even as seasoned disciples.  The daily prayer that Pope Francis offered in para. 3 is one of my morning renewal prayers now, like Kelly, to also help me be attentive to that.  When we do this, we are equipped to faithfully and fruitfully share the Gospel to the other two audiences (the baptized but not evangelized, and those who don’t yet have the gift of faith).  


(1) What in the world is an “intentional disciple”? See Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples.  This should be on every Catholic bookshelf.

(2) Sacrosanctum Concilium. para. 14.

(3) Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 798-801.



Catholic speaker and presenter, Thomas Smith, was a Protestant minister who was received into the Catholic Church in 1996. Bringing a wealth of experience and insight on the Word of God to audiences across the U.S., Thomas is a repeat guest on EWTN and Catholic radio as well as a sought after parish mission and conference speaker. To follow Thomas' insightful blog or contact him visit:

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