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.

Filtering by Tag: evangelii Gaudium



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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Daily Reading for Dec. 2: Evangelii Gaudium paragraphs 9-13

Reflection by Martha Fernandez-Sardina


Pope Francis is calling the Church to carry out The Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World with a renewed commitment to and appreciation for the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing so that we and others may experience the joy that fills heaven and must fill earth when what is lost is found and what is dead is brought back to life. 

Is it worth the effort – and can we evangelize any other way?

Yes… and no… to use the same expository style used by Pope Francis in this Apostolic Exhortation on a love that evangelizes or an evangelizing love as I am fond of saying when speaking, writing, and training others for the new evangelization.

Yes, it is worth it! 

  • Few joys this side of heaven surpass the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing! 
  • Few things compare to the joy of making Christ and His plan of salvation known. 
  • Few things demonstrate greater love for our neighbor and for the God who wishes everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 4: 2). 

No, we should not evangelize in any other way.

  • We evangelize with joy because “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” Both the evangelizer and the evangelized “who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ, joy is constantly born anew.” (Evangelii Gaudium, No. 1)
  • We cannot effectively evangelize if we are “Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.” (No. 6)
  • We can experience daily the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing because we have first encountered Love Incarnate: Jesus Christ: “Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (No. 8; cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 24)
  • We, the evangelizer, “must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” Rather, “Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that ‘delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow… And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ.’” (No. 10; Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80)

We can. We must. Evangelize with joy! 

Download Martha's in-depth reflection on this section: Evangelii Gaudium Nos. 9-13

About the Author


Martha Fernández-Sardina is an international, bilingual speaker, and consultant touching thousands through radio, TV, articles, training seminars, talks, and new evangelization outreach projects, including Remember You Are Loved™, N.E.T.S.-New Evangelization Training School™, Prepare The Way™, the Hispanic Festival of Faith and the Month of Hispanic Evangelization. Her programs educate, enthuse, and equip Catholics for a new evangelization. Find, friend, and follow Martha and her Mission of Love at,,,, and For a speaking engagement or a consultation, email her at

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Tomorrow we begin our daily reading of Pope Francis' first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. Now, while apostolic exhortations have been around for hundreds of years and although Pope Francis seems to speak... well... frankly, words such as "apostolic exhortation" aren't very mainstream words. In fact, most of us are left scratching our heads saying, "Apostolic Exhort-what-tion?" So, let's begin our journey through this document knowing what it is and why is is important to every Christian.

Catholic speaker and presenter, Thomas Smith, explains what an apostolic exhortation is and how it is pertinent for our lives today as he helps us prepare our hearts this Advent in this wonderful to-the-point 4 minute video.

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"THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come" (Evangelii Gaudium, 1).


I am excited to have you join us —yes, us; for I have a few friends joining me in the journey through the "Joy of the Gospel" this Advent and I am thrilled that they will be contributing to our daily reading, reflection and response to the words of Pope Francis' first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. Some of the contributors to our daily reflections are Catholic writers or speakers, some are catechist or leaders of apostolates, some are moms or homemakers, some are religious, some are laity, some are podcasters, some authors and some are bloggers, but ALL of them are passionate about bringing the JOY of the Gospel to the hearts of many.

So let's cut to the chase and get to the why and what we are doing. My life is busy and I'll be honest, sometimes that means my prayer life and quest for knowledge get pushed to the backseat with many a forgotten french fry and art project; but that said, I really yearn to know and understand my faith, because I know that understanding and wisdom will lead me deeper into my relationship with the Lord, and I need a deeper relationship with the Lord! 

With that in mind, I decided (as I do every year) that this Advent, I really want to prepare my heart for Christ to enter ever deeper. This Advent is going to be different. This Advent I am going to stick to my plan... but this Advent there seems to be more to it than just my own personal preparation.

Upon reflecting on Advent and the coming of the Lord, it hit me that Advent is not just about preparing my heart to be a dwelling place for Christ, it's also about going in haste to bring Jesus to others, like Mary did when she was told she was to be the one that would prepare Jesus to enter the world as a baby and become man. 

Advent isn't just about my relationship with Jesus, it's about relationships in the grand sense of the word. It's about my relationship with others and my willingness to introduce them to a relationship with Jesus. It is what Mary did when she heard the first good news proclaimed by the angel. She went in haste to meet Elizabeth where Elizabeth was on her journey and she literally brought Jesus to Elizabeth. And what was the result? Upon hearing Mary's voice and knowing Jesus, "My Lord", was near, John leapt in the womb of his mother. Now get this! What does Mary do? She is so overcome with joy that she breaks out into song, and her heart magnifies the Lord! 

This Advent I want to do that. I want to walk in Mary's footsteps and prepare my heart to receive Christ. I want to meditate on the Word of God. I want to go in haste to bring Jesus to others, and I want to be overcome with the Joy of the Gospel! I want to “Shout aloud and sing for joy!” (Though I guarantee you do not want me to break out in song!) But, here's the catch... every Advent I start out with the goal of setting time aside each day to prepare for Jesus and somehow, at sometime along the journey, I get distracted. So, how am I going to stay focused this year? Simple, I'm doing two little things. First, I'm going to set time aside for prayer each day. I've already posted the prayer from Evangelii Gaudium (see below) on the cupboard that holds my coffee cup, so it's a gimme that I will begin each day with that prayer. Second, I'm going to grow in my understanding of the faith this Advent by reading and reflecting on the words of the Holy Father in his first apostolic exhortation, the Joy of the Gospel.

Ok, I admit, reading an apostolic exhortation sounds intimidating to many. Reading 224 pages of Church talk sounds intimidating to many. Reading 288 paragraphs of papal writing sounds intimidating to many, and reading 48,000 words sounds intimidating to all! BUT, when presented in small doses with some food for thought and a little strong coffee, the apostolic exhortation mountain top appears more accessible. So, that's what we are going to do here for the next 25 days. We are going to take little bites of Evangelii Gaudium and I invite you to join us! 

Each day will have a reflection, challenge or perhaps practical ideas for how to live the aspect of the Gospel that day's words speak to. We will for sure post the 288 paragraphs such that by Christmas we (and hopefully other busy people) will have read and meditated on some 48,000 words, but in small sips. 

So join us for our daily reading and go in haste to invite your friends to do so also. Who knows, perhaps this daily digesting will help us bring about a “revolution of tenderness” by opening our hearts each day to God’s unfailing love and forgiveness.


Daily Prayer from Evangelii Gaudium:

“Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”.

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