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Father of Mercies: A Retreat Guide on the Parable of the Prodigal Son

February 3, 2016 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Mercy, Retreat Guides



The newest Retreat Guide from RC Spirituality, Father of Mercies, is now available at

We are all familiar with the Gospel parable of the Prodigal Son—at least, we are familiar with one part of it. We all remember how the younger brother in the parable demanded to receive his inheritance before his father died, and then went off and squandered that inheritance in sinful living. When he had nothing left, he humbly came back to his father’s house, and instead of being punished for his selfishness he was welcomed with a celebration.

That’s what we remember about this parable. We all agree that it’s a good story. But is it really meant for all of us? Isn’t it just a parable for really big sinners who do terrible things?

It can’t be a parable just for really big sinners who do terrible things, because Jesus told this parable to the Pharisees, who were the most faithful and religious people in Israel. The very word, Pharisee, means “separate”, in the sense of being superior to the others. The Pharisees were the good guys, the perfect Jews.

So why would Jesus tell them the parable about the prodigal son, about someone who was so far from being perfect? There are a lot of reasons, and some of them have an important, refreshing, and inspiring message for us. This Retreat Guide, Father of Mercies: A Retreat Guide on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, will explore that message.

  • The first meditation will focus on the hidden hero of this parable, the father who shows mercy to both of his sons.
  • The second meditation will look at the relationship between God’s mercy and Christian Joy.
  • And the conference will look at some practical things we can all do to live that joy more.
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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at

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  • BHG

    A homilist once preached about the Prodigal Father…how prodigious God’s mercy. I have never forgotten it.

    • LizEst

      …and I read a book once called “If the Prodigal were a Daughter” by Janice Chaffee, a Christian author now deceased. Very powerful and thought-provoking. God bless you, BHG! Happy optional memorial of St. Blaise today!

  • Charles Fisk

    As always you enlighten us so incredibly well
    I will add your beautiful video to our parish webpage St Joseph church San Antonio TX

    • LizEst

      Thank you Charles. Please add a link to our site as well. God bless you!

      • Charles Fisk

        Spiritual direction is one of our links since a couple of years’ back.
        We are thankful for all it provides

        • LizEst

          Wonderful, Charles! Happy optional memorial of St. Blaise today!

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