April 2019 Reflection
Holy Week & Easter

“We must do more than pray. We must meditate on being faithful.
And we must share our faithfulness with others.

                                                      Mattie J.T. Stepanek

Celebrating Holy Week with
“Ponder, Praise, and Prayer”
Meditations from Mattie

All through history, Catholics have approached Holy Week pondering the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In 1998, in preparation for receiving his First Communion, 7-year-old Mattie Stepanek created a Lenten meditation booklet with daily Bible readings and personal responses. Titled “Ponder, Praise and Prayer,” the collection is a prayerful journey that begins on Ash Wednesday, continues through the Lenten season and Holy Week, and culminates on Easter Monday.

The Bible verses he selected were not the ones found in that year’s daily readings, but rather, Mattie’s own selections, including some that were his favorites, and others that he said spoke to his heart that season. The following year, Mattie, age 8, was preparing for Confirmation. Because of his disability, he was not expected to live long enough to be able to receive it as a teen. He approached Confirmation by editing his personal daily meditations in the Lenten booklet, and adding a “foreword and forthword” statement, and sharing the booklet with many members of his parish.

Each page of this Lenten collection includes a Bible verse on which to reflect and ponder, a meditative response of and for praise, and a poetic offering as Mattie reached out with purpose – or his “Heartsong.” Mattie, born in July of 1990, wrote some the poems included in this booklet when he was 3 years old, and others when he was 6,7 or 8 years of age.

In the days leading up to Holy Week, Mattie’s meditations are on prayer with responses including:

 “We must do more than pray. We must meditate on being faithful. And we must share our faithfulness with others. Not in a way that is meant to show off, but in a way that is meant to inspire others to see the way of the Lord.” – Mattie

The next day, he continues…

 “Prayer comes in all forms, just as God, too, comes in all ways and forms and times. Be there waiting for God to enter your heart, and follow the message in life.” – Mattie

Just before Palm Sunday, Mattie pondered the meaning of death of Jesus, and also the deaths of his siblings. He prefaces his meditation with this passage from the Old Testament:

 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” – Psalm 56:3.

He then writes:

It is always sad when someone dies. And it is especially sad when a little child or a baby dies. But we can’t be angry. We can be hurt, and confused, but not so angry that we turn away from God. There is a reason for everything. We don’t know the reasons, but we can find meaning, if we pray, and trust in God.” – Mattie

As a preschooler, Mattie experienced the loss of his brother, Jamie, and deeply felt and grieved that loss. His two other siblings, Katie and Stevie, died before he was born, and those losses, too, pained him – a yearning for the family he had never met. And, around the time he was creating this booklet, a dear family friend had just lost her baby.  So, death, especially of children, was very painful and real to him.

On Palm Sunday, Mattie places his sadness about all these losses in God’s hands:

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power
and of love and of a sound mind.”– 2 Timothy 1:7

Then on Monday of Holy Week he ponders the Eucharist, again remembering his brother Jamie, with this meditation and a poem about Communion:

“Our bodies get hungry for food. Our memories get lonely for those who have gone away from our sight and homes. But it is our spirit that needs to be fed with Jesus. It is not a trick. It is not just words. It is not a symbol. It is real life. And through Jesus and the church, we will always be with what we need and we will always see those we love again.” – Mattie


Excerpt from The Reality of Magic-Bread


When I was little,

 I used to be a teeny-bit angry about communion.

I thought that it was “magic bread”

And that we should have given a piece of it

To Jamie so that he wouldn’t die, or so that

He would come back to life, like Jesus did.

But now, I am five-and-a-half, and so much older.

Now I know that communion is not magic.

Miracles are not tricks.

They are real.

Heaven is real.

Jamie’s spirit is real and alive in Heaven.

But sometimes, what is real can feel very sad,

Even though later,

Like when we die and go to Heaven,

We will feel happy forever.

I believe all of that, God, but sometimes,

Waiting for what’s Real is really hard.


          Mattie J.T. Stepanek
          February 18, 1996
          Unpublished – Private Manuscripts

On Good Friday he reflects on Heaven, with this passage, meditation, and poem: 

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he or she is God’s messenger, will share in his or her reward. And whoever welcomes a good person because the person is good, will share in his or her reward.”Matthew 10:40-41


“Only God knows exactly what ‘Heaven’ means, but we know that it is the best-of-the-best, and it is forever. So always live with your heart set on Heaven.” – Matti

The next day, Easter Saturday, he offers “Climbing to Heaven”– a poem that moves us from the wood of the cross to the glories of eternity.

The next day, Easter Saturday, he offers “Climbing to Heaven”– a poem that moves us from the wood of the cross to the glories of eternity.

The next day, Easter Saturday, he offers “Climbing to Heaven”– a poem that moves us from the wood of the cross to the glories of eternity.

On the final page of his Lenten booklet, Mattie invites each of us to reflect and ponder on the messages shared, and to respond at a personal level with praise and prayer, and he encourages us to:

“…choose to reach out with the Message, by sharing your Heartsong with others. Share God through your words and way of living, every day.”

As we move through this Holy Week, and through each week of our lives, let the purity of Mattie’s belief and faith open our hearts to God, and to His son, Jesus Christ, and to the beautiful glories that are the truth of Heaven.

The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild

Download the PDF version of the
April Guild Reflection here…

View and download our
Spring Guild Message & Activity
(poetry & RRR pages — coming soon…