‘We interrupt this column for a family faith formation announcement …’

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Marriage, Family & Life

Let me begin by apologizing for an interruption in the progression of my column. In the previous OND I ended my column by informing the reader that I was leaving you in a “cliffhanger” because I was not able to finish covering the final part of Pope Francis’ review of “(love) is not irritable or resentful.” I was going to use this column to write about the Holy Father’s reference to St. John Paul II’s writing on marriage as a “communion of persons.” I promise to get to that in my next column, but something has come up that is a great opportunity for families to enrich their faith. While there are some more details in the article HERE, I want to write about the opportunity for each home in the Diocese of Crookston to access “Formed.org” between Oct. 19 and Dec. 1. This website contains hundreds of Catholic movies, documentaries, study programs, books and audio lectures that you will be able to access for free. I will use this column to suggest some ways that you and your family could use these resources for faith development in the home. At the end of the column I am also going to offer a special marriage enrichment opportunity for any married couple in the diocese.

In case you are reading this column online and do not have the entire edition of OND in front of you, let me tell you a little more about Formed.org. This website contains full access to over 100 movies and documentaries, 36 study programs, 120 books that you can download and more than 100 lectures and audio books. Among the content is the landmark series “Catholicism” by Bishop Robert Barron (originally aired on PBS, this series of 10 episodes has been described as speaking to the “head, heart and the soul”), the Symbolon series from the Augustine Institute (described as a video catechism for Catholics), a number of movies about saints (the ones about St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe and the documentary on St. Therese of Lisieux are among my favorites), and a number of talks and books that are too numerous to mention. The Augustine Institute, which offers Formed.org, is offering a free trial in the hopes that parishes will subscribe, allowing all parishioners access to the material.

Formed contains a number of resources that speak to marriage and family life. One resource is a set of cartoons that are suitable for children related to Jesus, the saints, and the Church. It would be great for parents and their children to watch these and then talk about the faith. For example “Brother Francis” videos teach about prayer and the “Jesus Stories” present the parables at a level that children can understand.

Another resource is found in the online lectures. There are marriage and family life related talks about parenting, anger and forgiveness, and marital love. One of these talks focuses on people before they get married, “How to save your marriage before meeting your spouse.” There are about 10 books on parenting and a number of books describing the Catholic sacramental approach to marriage as well.

Finally, let me tell you about an online marriage enrichment workshop. I have given many marriage enrichment workshops/retreats around the diocese and I hear that some of you would like more while others have not had the opportunity to attend one of my “praysentations” (we pray together in the midst of me presenting the topic). I am offering a marriage enrichment workshop to the first 20 couples who contact me. You do not even need to leave your home to attend. The workshop will use resources from Formed.org and will also include a weekly call-in session (On Thursday Nov. 2, 9 & 16 between 7:00 – 7:45 pm). Participating couples will watch one or two of the Beloved: Finding Happiness in Marriage – Living Marriage episodes found on Formed.org. Topics such as keeping “Christ at the Center” of your marriage, “Conflict and Communication,” and “Building a Thriving Marriage” are covered in this series. Each video takes about 20 minutes to watch and there is an attached book for the couple to begin conversation. Then, once a week, I will lead the group in prayer, reflection and discussion via a conference call that you can access from your home. If you want to participate, please e-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Oct. 29 and I will send you an e-mail with more details.

I hope you have a chance to check out Formed.org. I think this is a great resource for adult continuing education as well as wholesome entertainment for the entire family.

On the last day, Jesus will say, ‘show me your hands’, what will yours look like?

By Fr. Don Braukmann/St. Philip, Bemidji & St. Charles, Pennington

A few weeks ago at Mass, we heard one of my favorite pro-life stories from the Gospel of Matthew (15:21-28).

A Canaanite woman pleads with Jesus to heal her daughter who is tormented by a demon. The disciples insist on sending her away claiming she is just a nuisance. Jesus himself remains mute for a moment then seemingly insults her by saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Through it all the woman remains steadfast in faith and determination. She will do whatever it takes to bring her daughter relief.

Of course, we know “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say. Jesus sees her faith and cures the woman’s daughter.

At the time there was a great deal going against the mother. First, she was a woman, a second class citizen in the eyes of many; second, she was a Canaanite, an enemy of the Jews of that day.

So, in short, she was rejected by society, treated as a dog, and there was little value to her life. Her voice was not one to be heard, but routinely dismissed.

Jesus took the opportunity to teach a valuable lesson. A desperately needed lesson 2,000 years ago and just as urgently needed today.

The Scriptures suggest the disciples of the Lord never quite got Christ’s message when it came to the dignity of each and every person no matter their heritage, their geographic location or their perceived value to society.

I would suggest we still don’t get it.

To Jesus Christ, every life is sacred and has a purpose and value because every life reflects the beauty of God’s face.

This includes every human life: the life of the Canaanite woman, the Muslim man, the Jewish child, the Hindu Elder, the Buddhist family.

The black, red, brown, yellow or white man, woman or child. Adolph Hitler’s life was sacred, so was Osama bin Laden’s. The ISIS warrior beheading Christians? Sacred.

The person with same sex attraction. The transgender person. The grand leader of the KKK. The woman sitting in the abortion clinic waiting room. The parent who abuses their children by beating or neglect. The politician who chooses opinion polls over her faith. The priest who devastates lives by abusing the innocent. The bully who pushes and pushes till their victim kills himself. The immigrant trying to save the life of his family by running full throttle to the American border. The hate filled person who denies the holocaust ever happened. The driver of the car in front of us who doesn’t have a clue. The democrat who despises the republican and the republican who despises the democrat. The gang who waves the confederate flag and tells African Americans to go back home. The shooter in Las Vegas who erased lives from the face of the earth in his sickness. All are sacred.

Sadly, Jesus came 2,000 years ago to bring freedom but we didn’t want to be free!

On the last day, Jesus will say, “show me your hands.” And when we stretch them out will they be in chains curled into a fist because of hate and anger ... or will they be open with scars of love that are deep and fresh?

Folks, our blood is red. We love. We fail. We struggle. We make bad choices and we make good ones.

Some belong in prison. Some live in their own prison.

Yet, in the end, God is god of all whether we admit it or not, like it or not, preach it or not.

Isn’t it amazing that God has not wiped us out? How tired God must be of us, it seems to me. But who still comes to us each time we step up to the altar or bend a knee? Jesus, the Savior, the Prince of Peace, the King of all creation!

God does not tire. God chases us down, no matter where we live or who we are. God chases us down and loves us to death.

Overdoses, suicides, gun violence and the need for God-talk

By Jason Adkins/Minnesota Catholic Conference

Our society is failing to get to the bottom of the issues. We spend our energy trying to treat the symptoms of social crises, while either ignoring or remaining in denial about the deeper problems in today’s world, which exist first and foremost within the human heart.

Mass shootings, suicides, drug addiction – the litany of crises goes on. We hear about them all the time. Conferences, rallies, and awareness campaigns sprout up at every turn as we seek solutions and meaningful change.

But unless we address these problems with an eye to the whole of the human person – a union of body and soul made for relationship with God and others – that change will not come.

‘DISEASES OF DESPAIR’

For example, a recent column in MinnPost’s health section cited recent statistics from the Minnesota Department of Health showing that drug and alcohol-related mortality and suicide are on the rise. This disturbing trend is attributed to an increase in “diseases of despair,” meaning Minnesotans are suffering from an increasing lack of hope, with grave consequences.

The author of the article identifies unemployment, income inequality, and lack of opportunity as the main sources of this hopelessness. The implied solution, therefore, is to intervene in some way to change these socioeconomic conditions, which have fomented widespread despair.

If people are more economically secure and have more opportunities, the thought goes, their sense of hopelessness will disappear.

Although unemployment or opportunity gaps certainly have some explanatory value in this case, the overall approach of the article is a striking example of what Pope Francis calls the “technocratic paradigm” in action.

THE TECHNOCRATIC PARADIGM

In his most recent encyclical, “Laudato Si”, Pope Francis describes the technocratic paradigm as “the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society” (LS 107).

A technocratic approach to social crises, then, is one which reduces them to considerations of science – social or hard sciences – and technology alone.

Put another way, it’s an instance of reducing a complex human problem to simple economics. Hopelessness can allegedly be engineered out of society, if we create the right program or implement the right policy.

Even the term “diseases of despair” is telling. Despair is now considered a disease, and a disease can be treated, for example, by the state health department.

HEALING THE WHOLE OF THE HUMAN PERSON

Of course, we ought to address the difficult problems of mass shootings, substance abuse and suicide, and use all the means at our disposal to combat them. Yet, though this sort of action is necessary, it is not sufficient. It fails to speak to the whole of the human person, which is why we continue to struggle with solutions.

Despair is not like the flu; it reaches deep into the human soul. For this reason, Pope Francis calls technocratic solutions one-dimensional; they address only one aspect of the human person, and often overlook the most important human realities.

THE NEED FOR GOD TALK

Is it any wonder that in an increasingly secular society people do not know for who or what they are made? Without such knowledge, they develop psychoses, or chase things to fill the God-sized hole in their heart, falling into behaviors that are destructive or that lead them into despair.

As Pope Francis puts it: “When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves” (LS 115).

Therefore, we cannot stop at the level of the specifically scientific when it comes to social crises. We must look deeper to the root causes, which lie at the heart of what it means to be human.

It is our duty as Christians to remind people – all people, regardless of belief – that they are made for loving relationships, with God and with others.

Such “God talk” is not inconsistent with a commitment to pluralism or respecting others. It’s instead a reminder to all people about the reality of who the human person is – created by God body and soul, which, as the ancients and our nation’s founders could attest, is a truth that can be known by reason outside the light of faith.

Unless we propose an integrated vision of the person, we will be unable to address fully all of the causes of the social crises around us.

VFTV: October 18, 2017

RESPECT LIFE MONTH

The Respect Life Program, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, started in 1972 and begins anew every October. The entire month is set aside as “Respect Life Month.” This year’s theme is: Do Not be Afraid. Indeed, we cannot be afraid when it comes to fostering respect for life in our country and world. Did you see the news reports about U. S. Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn’s campaign announcement being removed by Twitter because of her clear and direct message about being pro-life and working to stop the selling of “baby parts”? We need not be timid nor afraid in our efforts to protect life from conception to natural death because Jesus is with us: “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20) Let us continue to invoke God’s help and the intercession of Mary, our mother, in our work to end abortions and foster respect for all life.

THANK YOU

We are all saddened to hear of so many of our brothers and sisters hurting due to the recent string of natural disasters. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have devastated Puerto Rico and parts of the southern United States. Wild fires in California have ruined homes and acres of land. Lives have been lost. So many have lost their homes. Then there was the terrible incident of the shooting in Las Vegas. Again, so many lost their lives; so many have suffered. It is heartening, however, to see the outpouring of care, help and support. Millions of dollars have been given to help the people in need. Millions of prayers and expressions of support have been offered for those hurting. Here in the Diocese of Crookston, the special collection for the victims of Hurricane Harvey netted over $88,000. Thanks to all who reached out to help those in need. Keep praying for those who are suffering. Contributions are still being accepted for distribution through the USCCB.

BORED AGAIN CATHOLIC?

A grandmother took her little granddaughter to the local Pentecostal Baptist Church service. The little girl had never been there before and was astonished at the exuberance demonstrated by some of the congregation members. As the Scripture passage for the day was read, some of the congregation shouted out “Amen” and others shouted “Hallelujah.” Some even jumped high into the air. Others danced in the aisle. The little girl asked her grandmother: “Is all that jumping into the air important?” The grandmother answered: “Oh no dear, that’s not what’s important. What’s important is what they do when they come down.”

I sometimes think of that story when I hear someone say that the Catholic Mass seems so flat or boring when compared with some of the services in some of the fundamentalist Christian denominations. It does take a little work to understand and appreciate the beauty and depth of the Mass. Yet, if we do the work, “the beauty of the Mass can change not only us but the whole world,” wrote Timothy P. O’Malley in “Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life.”

In a recent column, we began a look at the Mass with the Entrance Rites. We saw how these beginning rites help us understand that we come to Mass because Jesus invites us to come. In the Entrance Rites, we make room for Jesus and one another. We come to Mass not to be entertained but to join with other believers and engage our minds and hearts in worshiping our loving and living God. In the entrance procession, we see in the priest the presence of Christ, the Head of the Church. We see the lighted candles that remind us of the lights of heaven. In the incense, we see an image of the cloud of glory, the Shekinah that was found in the holy of holies of the Temple. The Entrance Antiphon and/or Entrance Song call our attention to God’s presence in history. We mark ourselves with the sign of the cross, identifying ourselves as believing Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ.

The priest kisses the altar. Why? It is the place where the sacrifice of Jesus will become present. No blood will be spilled, but the one sacrifice of Jesus will be made present. Thus the altar is reverenced and also the crucifix as signs of Jesus’ total love-gift to us. Bread and wine will be placed on the altar and with those gifts we will offer ourselves. Sacrifice is about transformation and on this altar bread and wine will be transformed into the Body and Blood of

Jesus Christ; in this Eucharist we will be transformed to be more like Christ. The priest offers the greeting which calls us to recognize that God is indeed with us and that his love is already active in us: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship (koinonia=communion) of the Holy Spirit be with you.”

In the Penitential Rite, we acknowledge that we are sinners and that our sin has real effects on our relationships and on our world. Before God and one another, we ask forgiveness and purification that we might more worthily come to worship. In our confessing is also acknowledgment that the God we come to worship is a forgiving God who heals. We next praise this God in the Gloria. We sing the song the angels sang at the birth of Jesus announcing the beginning of God’s reign of peace. Our recognition that God’s glory comes to us is important for our celebration of the Mass. God’s glory is coming to us in our being present with one another, in the proclamation of the Word, in the sacrifice on the altar and in Holy Communion. We sing the Gloria, a song of praise honoring the Trinity. O’Malley writes, “And every time our voices enter into this praise, the glory of God revealed through Jesus Christ becomes present to us once again.” The Entrance Rite is concluded with the Collect prayer offered by the priest. Why the name “Collect”? This is a prayer which collects all the thoughts, hopes, desires, the individual prayers that have been welling up in our hearts that have been taking place in Mass so far. These Collect prayers are some of the oldest and most beautiful prayers in our liturgical history. According to O’Malley, they express our hope and desire that “the way God has acted in the past will inform his action within the present.” In closing, I share this prayer from O’Malley’s book: “O almighty Father, through the sweet speech of your Church, you have formed us to offer praises and prayers to you. Teach your Church to marvel at the gift of your Son for the world and give us faith, hope, and love so that we may become this gift for others. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.”

‘Generous openness’ in marriage and family life: Part I

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Marriage, Family & Life

Let me begin this column by taking a step back to consider the subject of my recent (and a number of future) columns. I have been leading readers through Pope Francis’ commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 found in his letter to the Church, “The Joy of Love.” This passage from Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth explains what Christian love is meant to be. It is interesting that Paul describes more about what love is not than he does about what love is. If you read the passage, you will see that the first two descriptors of love reflect on what love is. Then he reviews eight things that love is not: jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude, insisting on our own way, irritable, resentful, rejoicing in what is wrong. The passage concludes with a list of five things that love is, so Paul ends on a positive note. It is interesting that when it comes to love, Paul writes more about what it is not than what it is. In “The Joy of Love” Pope Francis often takes the passages concerning what love is not and describes the opposite state; he reflects on what love should be. He does this again when he writes about the passage for today’s column: “it (love) is not irritable or resentful.”

It would be great if every reader, upon seeing what I am going to write about, could rightly think, “this column does not pertain to me because I am never irritable or resentful in my marriage or in my family life!” But, on the chance that you might occasionally be irritable, or you perhaps become resentful once or twice a year, this column contains the answer to the questions: What must I do to never be irritated with my spouse, children or parents? and How can I keep resentment from creeping into my feelings about my family?

These questions reflect some big tasks, so to take these on, I need to use not one, but TWO popes – Pope Francis and Pope St. John Paul II. Pope Francis addresses the challenge of the question “How can I keep resentment from creeping into my family?” with some specific advice. It is written as if he was a parish pastor talking to a husband and wife or with parents and their children. He writes: “My advice is never to let the day end without making peace in the family,” and he goes on to suggest to do this, “… by a small gesture, a little something, and harmony within your family will be restored.”

Pope Francis states that this will work if the family members want to forgive each other. He writes that, “The opposite of resentment is forgiveness, which is rooted in a positive attitude that seeks to understand other people’s weaknesses and to excuse them.” Even though the Holy Father is writing about one of the descriptors about what love is not (love is not resentful), he presents what love should be (love is forgiving) as an antidote for resentment.

It would be great if we were never irritated in the first place because without family irritation there would be no reason for family resentment. How do you keep from being irritated with your family – even when someone does an irritating thing? Pope Francis in the “Joy of Love” quotes Pope St. John Paul II to address this. Pope St. John Paul II often spoke and wrote about the family as a “communion of persons” – an intimate union centered in the love of God. Just think, if all in your family could live as a communion of persons who have God at the center of everything they do, could you ever become irritated with your spouse, your children, your parents?

 

I suppose some are now thinking, “If my spouse/parents/children never did irritating things then I would never be irritated!” But Pope St. John Paul II showed us how to not be irritated even when irritating things happen. What is this good and holy path? How can I follow it? What is this antidote to familial irritation? I am sorry to say that I have lead you to a cliffhanger in this column. St. John Paul’s answer requires its own column, so stay tuned to OND and I will address how to be irritation free in your family.

More lives will be lost because of a single governor’s signature

By Fr. Don Braukmann/St. Philip’s Bemidji & St. Charles, Pennington

In August, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law a bill requiring all state insurers to provide free abortions to all (citizens or not). According to the law, Oregon insurers must provide 100 percent coverage for abortion without co-pays or deductibles. Those Medicaid beneficiaries who are covered by the state’s single nonprofit Catholic health insurance provider will have their abortion costs reimbursed by the state.

Pro-abortionists throughout the nation rejoiced. The silent scream of the child in the womb goes unheard once again.

It is expected there will be a rise in abortions in the state, especially an increase in late-term abortions which are very expensive and risky to perform. The number of sex selective abortions are bound to increase as well: pregnant with a boy but want a girl, no problem, start over. All abortions will be covered either by the insurance companies or by the taxpayers of Oregon. In short, Planned Parenthood will get its money one way or another.

The director of Planned Parenthood in Oregon applauded the new law saying “Women, transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, people of color, immigrants and people of faith are not going to silently stand around while politicians in Washington, D.C. try to take away our health care.”

Did you catch that one line in particular? “People of faith are not going to silently stand around ...” Christ weeps as America shows once again we are no longer a Christian nation when “people of faith” are included in a list of those praising the execution of the guiltless.

Abortion isn’t health care. If it were, why would the doctor performing abortion refuse to show the ultrasound picture used to guide the doctor’s hand as the baby is dissected in the womb? The screen is turned away from the woman so she cannot see the truth. For any other procedure from ingrown toenail surgery to open heart surgery, every possible angle of the procedure is shown and explained to the patient.

However, the deception should not come as a surprise. Abortion is a lie and a dirty little secret Planned Parenthood and others keep from women.

Abortion isn’t health care. Using and abusing women for financial gain and treating women like they can’t handle the truth is an insult to women.

The Oregon bishops released a statement following the passage of the law by the legislature: “By insisting on complete insurance coverage of abortion, including late-term and sex-selective abortions, the legislature shows itself intolerant of widely-held opposing views and will compel thousands of Oregonians to support what their conscience rejects.”

I have stated before and say again, when it comes to the issue of abortion, I do not blame women and men who seek it out. I have met them and their stories are sad and compelling. But, I blame the nation that offers the lie of abortion as an acceptable “solution” to an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.

America is the only so called “super power” in the world. We send troops to defend the powerless and defeat the aggressors around the world. We have put people on the moon and are preparing to do the same with Mars. Our technology allows us to extend life, reduce pain, and fix what is broken within our bodies. Yet, America, why cannot we defend the most blameless among us?

We lie to ourselves and each other calling deliberate carnage health care. Health care is about saving lives, not destroying them. We say people have a right to their own bodies and yet there are two bodies involved in abortion. Truth is, when two human beings walk into an abortion mill, only one walks out and the cash register at Planned Parenthood hums with delight.

To justify such an outrage we twist and bend our moral compass, our conscience, to justify horrendous things and abortion, by far, is the most grievous.

Women who feel they have no “choice” but to seek an abortion deserve to know the truth about the life within them. They should be supported in any and every way possible to give birth to their child.

If they are afraid of violence being done to them because of the pregnancy, we need to be there through our laws and courts to protect them. Being pro-life does not simply mean ordering someone to have a baby they do not want. Being pro-life means being there for those in fear and confusion and assuring them of their goodness, the beauty of the life within them and that they are not alone.

From St. Mother Teresa: “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love one another, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”

VFTV: October 4, 2017

I want to bring you up to date regarding the lawsuit filed against me and the Diocese of Crookston by Mr. Ronald Vasek. You can read my official statement HERE regarding a settlement of the claims raised against me personally, but I want to comment on that statement here. Let me first reiterate what that statement says: the settlement agreement does not constitute any admission of unlawful conduct or wrongdoing on my part. I, your bishop, deny that I forced, coerced or encouraged Mr. Vasek to not pursue making allegations against Msgr. Grundhaus. I want you to know that I signed the settlement agreement so we could avoid a long, drawn out legal process and to avoid costly attorney fees. No diocesan funds were used in this settlement agreement; our diocesan insurance provider has covered the claims involved.

It was in 2011 that Mr. Vasek first asked to see me. When I met with him, he told me his story alleging that Msgr. Roger Grundhaus had tried to inappropriately touch him in 1971. I asked if there was anything the diocese could do to help him and he told me no, saying that he was doing fine. I asked if he wanted to make an official, public accusation against Msgr. Grundhaus by contacting our vicar general, who, according to our diocesan policy, is “responsible for receiving all complaints of sexual abuse by a cleric.” Mr. Vasek told me he absolutely did not want to do this as his wife, his son, and his family did not know anything about this past alleged incident and that Msgr. Grundhaus remains a family friend. I told him I would respect his wishes and his right to keep this matter confidential as he asked. I did not pressure Mr. Vasek to remain silent about this matter.

I met a second time with Mr. Vasek about this matter in October 2015. We had been informed by a neighboring diocese that Msgr. Grundhaus’ name would not be included on their list of priests who could do coverage in that diocese because Mr. Vasek had talked to a priest of that diocese about the alleged incident. I wondered if Mr. Vasek, at that time, wanted to make an official accusation/complaint. At the end of our conversation that day, I thought it prudent to have in writing a statement from Mr. Vasek that he still did not want to make an official accusation by contacting our vicar general. I put together a statement for him to sign expressing his free intent and desire not to make an official accusation: “I, Ron Vasek, regarding a trip I was on when I was 16 years old, and on which a priest of the Diocese of Crookston was also participating, clearly and freely state that I have no desire to nor do I make any accusation of sexual impropriety by the priest toward me.” Mr. Vasek signed the statement and dated it: October 21, 2015.

Looking back and knowing what I know now, I believe I would have handled my conversations with Mr. Vasek differently. However, please know that I did not pressure Mr. Vasek to sign this statement or to make any decision with which he was not comfortable.

It has also been reported that I threatened not to ordain Mr. Vasek to be a Permanent Deacon. In fact, I met with Mr. Vasek and his wife in April of this year, and I told Mr. Vasek that I would ordain him. It was Mr. Vasek’s own decision not to be ordained with his class, a decision I only heard about later.

The judge has taken under consideration the motion for dismissal of the remaining counts against the Diocese of Crookston. Again, while we are dealing with this matter, I ask, please pray daily for a fair, just, and timely resolve to this matter. Join me in making each Friday a day of fasting and abstinence from eating meat as a sign that we know our most important sustenance comes from our loving God.

Evangelization, catechesis begin with sharing a relationship

By AJ Garcia/Office of New Evangelization and Justice

Recently I started reading “After Emmaus: Biblical Models for the New Evangelization” by Father Marcel Dumais. I am especially interested with the second chapter titled: Direct Proclamation of the Gospel (The Kerygmatic Model). The book has been thought provoking and has led me to great reflection and I wanted to share some of those reflections here and invite you to reflect on the role of evangelization and catechesis in formal and informal faith formation.

In 2005 in his encyclical, “God is Love,” Pope Benedict shared this thought: “Being Christian is born not of an ethical decision or a lofty ideal, but an encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”  Throughout history men and women have made the decision to be Christian and many factors have impacted those decisions. It is helpful today to consider and seek the source of inspiration leading one to make the decision to be a Christian.

We are at a critical moment in the life of our Church, we are bombarded with statistics about how Church attendance is plummeting and of the increased and almost desperate need for priests and religious. However, this shouldn’t cause us to lose hope, Jesus Christ is still Lord and what he did on the Cross should bear a significant impact on how we live each day. Understanding who Jesus is and what he did must go beyond something we know as a historical fact or something we learned in class. Knowing who Jesus is and what he did can be a personal experience with the person of Jesus Christ. Father Dumais wrote, “Christian faith is not, first of all adherence to doctrinal content or moral values. Christian faith is essentially an encounter with someone with whom one develops a relationship and by whom one lets oneself be transformed.”

Adherence to doctrinal content and moral values will become part of relationship, but if that is the primary focus of a religion or relationship, it should be examined and maybe even called to question. If we are going to adhere to doctrine and morals it should be out of a profound love (relationship) for a person: Jesus.

For years it has been the Catholic cultural/parochial norm to catechize (to teach the faith) through faith formation in a parish while very little, if any, happens in the home. This history has led us to where we are now and what I described above – plummeting Church attendance and an increased need for priests and religious. How much of this is a result of catechizing without first evangelizing? Father Dumais wrote: “If there is no initial evangelization, if there is no personal relationship with God living in Jesus Christ, catechesis doesn’t make any sense, since it represents delving deeper into the faith.”

Evangelization that precedes catechesis is what we see the first Christians do in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts Chapter 2, St. Peter preaches, he shares the Kerygma; the reality of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Then the crowd asks him what they are to do because they’ve become so convicted of the truth and love of Jesus. In verse 38, St. Peter tells them “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Verse 41 tells us that 3,000 people were baptized that day!

From that moment, Acts 2:42 describes what that group of people did going forward: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” Notice that the first item mentioned is the teaching of the apostles, or catechesis. However, this was not until after they were told the great story of Jesus and made the decision to know Jesus and follow him in a personal way.

As we strive to evangelize and share the faith let’s look to the example of Jesus and the apostles and be willing to tell the story of Jesus and invite people to know him and follow him. Only with that as the precedent will catechesis ever make sense or take root in one’s life. Before we share the facts about Jesus, we should simply share who he is and how he has transformed our lives and we will set the world on fire!

The key to the Christian family: generosity in love

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Marriage, Family & Life

As I continue to review Chapter 4 of Pope Francis’ “The Joy of Love,” specifically his review of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, we are at the phrase: “Love does not insist on its own way,” which the Holy Father presents as “Love is generous.”

In this section, he highlights a central teaching of the Church that comes down to us from Jesus that is both very apparent based on the life of Christ and at the same time something that, in our human weakness, is so difficult to pull off. In short, this teaching is that it is greater to love than to be loved, or in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas quoted by Pope Francis, “it is more proper to charity to desire to love than to desire to be loved.” To put it directly in the context of marriage, we are called to love our spouse and our children more than we expect love from them. The more we give away our love, the greater love will be in our marriage and family.

I have known some great examples of this type of selfless love in married couples. While I hope in most marriages both spouses are sharing the love of God with each other, in other marriages the sharing of love is more of a “one-way” street where the one spouse shares the love of God and may get very little affection from the other. One woman I knew was in a marriage where she became a font of God’s love to her children and her husband. She always loved even though she did not receive obvious signs of love in return. It seemed that her husband was so preoccupied with career and hobbies that he was not aware of what she did for him and their family. He was always very appreciative of his wife, but frankly was self-centered in giving his love away. This woman reflected the free and full love of Jesus for the world in her own way. She gave and gave and gave some more to her husband and children without expecting anything in return. If you are reading this and thinking, “She is just being taken advantage of,” or “This is just not fair,” then you are probably thinking like many (perhaps most) do in marriage. For many a sense of “justice” means that if I share my love with my spouse, I should expect some love in return. Yet this woman never complained, never resented, never felt alone. Instead, she felt a true joy in being able to love her family. She was a true saint in her marriage because she was more interested in loving others as Christ loves the Church than in any signs of love or affection she could have received.

And if you are thinking that only women love like this, I know of a man whose wife became ill with a chronic disease and the way he responded was holy. By his own account, before his wife became ill, he was rather self-centered in his marriage. But after her illness he cared for her and the children without expecting (nor receiving) much love in return. His love went way beyond cooking and cleaning to also include being the source of loving comments, gestures, and reflecting an attitude of love in his family. I cannot remember his exact words, but he in private would claim that his wife’s illness, “provided me with the opportunity to love her more than I ever had before.” And the beauty of his love was that he expected nothing in return. At first, sharing self-less love was hard for him to accept but as time went by he realized the joy he received by giving love away; a joy which was so much greater than anything he felt when he received signs of love from his wife.

Both of these examples are people that came to see that the more they gave their love away the greater love became in their marriage. God is love, and the more we share God’s love, the more God’s grace will come into our lives. God’s love for us is not a self-centered love – God does not look for what he can get from us in return for loving us – and so our love in our marriage and our family is not to be a self-centered love. When someone is being generous, they give something away without expecting anything back. We are called to be generous with love, generous even when we receive nothing in return. This is tough to do. We may at times come up short of this wonderful goal but still, strive to do what Pope Francis wrote – strive to be generous with your love.

Armageddon: the playground of the Prince of Peace

By Fr. Don Braukmann/St. Philip’s, Bemidji & St. Charles, Pennington

When we hear the term “Armageddon” we think of the end of the world; the end of the world caused by a nuclear holocaust where the sun is blotted out and every living thing on earth dies.

It is a Greek word mentioned in the Book of Revelation (16:16) and, over the centuries, has become known as the spot where the future (or lack thereof) of the world will be determined.

There actually is a place on earth nicknamed “Armageddon” and, no, it isn’t meal time on Thanksgiving day at my sister’s house! Armageddon is another name for the Jezreel Valley in Israel.

Located in the northern part of what is today Israel, the valley, for many centuries, was a main thoroughfare for travelers and conquering armies heading from Europe/Asia to Africa and vice versa. Archaeology of the area has revealed a glimpse of the many wars fought there.

During the Cold War (1950s-1990s), the beginning of the end of the world was predicted to take place. The armies of the United States would be facing north in defense of Israel and the military might of the Soviet Union would be facing south standing with its Arab allies.

The end result of the standoff would be Armageddon, the nuclear annihilation of the world.

Ironically, Nazareth, the home town of the Child Jesus is perched on the edge of the valley with a magnificent peaceful view of a land where so much blood has been shed. Jesus, the child, would have played marbles, soccer, baseball or hide ‘n seek on the sweeping plain! Jesus, the Prince of Peace, running free in the valley of war and hate.

In reality, the Valley of Armageddon is more than a political battleground, it is a place in each of our souls where spiritual warfare is fought.

We all have an Armageddon within us, things in our lives which seem to be the poison of our souls. It may be a habit, or a resentment, or a hatred of self.

I pray we can allow the child Jesus of Nazareth to wander through our Armageddon and restore our innocence, to be as forgiving as a child is, as Jesus is. Isn’t it true, forgiving ourselves is often much more difficult than forgiving others?!

At each Mass we cry out, “Lord have mercy!” and I often hear in my mind’s ear Jesus replying: “I do have mercy on you! Now have some mercy on yourself!”

On the opposite side of the Valley of Armageddon in Israel is the Mount of the Transfiguration where Jesus conversed with Elijah and Moses, assuring great hope for all of humanity. Hope, trusting that the future is better than the past, is exactly what Jesus brings to our own personal Armageddons.

Jesus, in his Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8) makes it clear Christ’s love for you and his love for me is real, right now, in this moment of your life and mine. God loves us! Enough of our excuses trying to convince God he cannot love us. We may be impressed with our sins but God isn’t. God only cares about loving you and loving me.

Too many of us think we have to get our act together before God will even consider hearing our cries for help. Waiting to come to the Lord until we get our life cleaned up is like waiting to go to the Emergency Room until we stop bleeding! God doesn’t love some future version of ourselves, God loves us in our mess, our Armageddon!

Jesus came into Mary’s womb while we were still sinners. He filled his diaper in the manger of Bethlehem while we were still sinners. He cured the cripple who didn’t even ask to be healed, while we were still sinners.

And, in the end, he hoisted himself on a donkey; to march into Jerusalem; to be filleted in front of the people; to be stapled to a cross with a crown of razor sharp thorns; to be bullied for claiming to be exactly who he was; and to be buried in a common tomb and left for common dead ... all of that while we were still sinners!

The only way the Gospel message of Life will be heard by the world is if we, who do our best to proclaim it, reveal by our lives another way, another truth: that we are saved by God’s mercy, not our perfection. May we soon play in the valley or our own Armageddon’s again ... innocent and free!

Combating racial disparities with the wisdom of Catholic social teaching

 

By Jason Adkins/Minnesota Catholic Conference

Racial disparities continue to persist in American life. As a response, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently instituted a new initiative to fight racism in all its forms.

Though racism – irrational animus toward others based on their skin color, ethnicity, or race – is a sin within the human heart and cannot be fully eradicated by public policy, we can work in the public arena to mitigate its effects.

Combating racial disparities will require overcoming policies championed by both the political right and left that entrench established ideological and economic power structures. In other words, it requires the wisdom of Catholic social teaching.

RACISM IS ABOUT EXCLUSION

The effects of racism can be measured many ways, but one way to look at them is the degree to which African Americans and other persons of color are excluded from social, economic, and political participation in American life.

The possibility of participation in the economy, in cultural life, and in politics, is, according to the Church’s social doctrine, a necessary condition for human flourishing. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1959 states, “The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.”

Laws remain on the books that, while not necessarily discriminatory on their face, disproportionately affect persons of color.

FOSTERING RACIAL JUSTICE

The policies that exacerbate racial disparities and deny social participation today are found primarily, though not exclusively, in three areas: education, criminal justice, and the family.

For example, too many children of color are trapped in underperforming schools and, as a result, there is a significant achievement gap between white students and students of color, particularly African-American and Latino students.

As education is the great ladder of opportunity, denying children the right to a good education puts a significant barrier in their path to social, cultural, political and economic participation.

Kids need a lifeline, and giving families greater choice in education is a top civil rights imperative.

Similarly, kids trapped in failing schools and who lack hope often turn to a life of crime, which is known today as the school-to-prison pipeline. And because of overly punitive sentencing policies that helped politicians win elections, we imprisoned many non-violent people unnecessarily, particularly African-American men, when what they really needed was treatment, counseling, or a job.

Putting more people in prison will certainly limit crime in the short term, but not without other long-term costs.

Fortunately, public officials on both sides of the aisle now recognize these costs and Minnesota has led the way in criminal justice reform during the past few years, enacting policies such as “ban the box” and drug sentencing reform.

But more can be done, such as reconsidering the length of probation sentences imposed on offenders who have shown good character, as well as identifying ways to eliminate the collateral consequences of a conviction that impede access to education, employment, and housing.

Imprisoning large numbers of African-American men during their prime education and earning years has severely harmed their long-term economic prospects, as well as their ability to marry and form families. Many of these men are considered unmarriageable and, as a result, 70 percent of African-American children are born out of wedlock to women who are often not even partnered, let alone married.

A major difference in the percentage of white and black children born to married parents (64 to 30) is perhaps the most significant cause of racial disparities, and one that creates a cycle of poverty and exclusion that leads back to the education-to-prison pipeline.

According to the Institute for Family Studies, “Black children in the United States enjoy less family stability than white children, experiencing close to twice as many family transitions – union dissolutions and partnership formations – as white children. Family instability is associated with a host of negative outcomes ranging from asthma to obesity, and from teen pregnancy to substance abuse. It is also negatively linked with fundamental predictors of success in adult life like educational attainment. For these reasons, black children’s family instability is an important part of the U.S. stratification story.”

Similarly, welfare reform was meant to encourage marriage and foster family stability, but is often structured in ways that either do not encourage marriage, or even discourage it. That needs to change.

The data is in: family structure matters to child well-being, and kids need both their mother and father to play an active role in their life.

To be sure, combating racial disparities is a complex and challenging problem. Other issues, such as discrimination in employment and housing, and the creation of barriers to economic mobility by the monopolistic behavior of businesses and industries, also play a role.

 

But to decrease the reality of an economy of exclusion and foster greater social participation by minorities and persons of color, education, criminal justice, and marriage are important places to start.

 

VFTV: September 13, 2017

TEACHING AND LEARNING

It’s that wonderful time of year when students head off to schools and teachers welcome them aboard for the adventure of learning. As our schools and faith formation classes start up for another year, we are excited at the new opportunity our young people have to grow in grace and wisdom. Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” acknowledges the wonderful contribution of so many Christians in our world today, people like teachers who devote themselves to the education of children and young people, sacrificing their lives and their love in helping so many to grow in grace and wisdom. I thank all who will engage in teaching and catechesis with our young people this year.

On Aug. 28, I had the delight of joining our Catholic School teachers, administrators and staff members at the Diocesan School In-service Day. We offered Mass asking God’s blessing on our new year of learning. The following Thursday, I joined youth ministers and directors of religious education from our parishes and we too offered Mass for God’s blessings on the new school year. I reviewed with both groups the rich heritage of our Catholic Church on the ministry of Catholic education. As we go about the task of education, I invited all to keep in mind five principles for Catholic education found in our rich heritage of Catholic Church documents.

1. Teaching in our Catholic tradition is inspired by divine mission. We engage in teaching because that is what Jesus sent his disciples to do and what he sends us to do. As he was sent by the Father, so Jesus sends us out: “Go out and teach all nations … Teach them to follow everything I have commanded” (Mt 28).

2. Teaching in our Catholic tradition models Christian communion and identity. We know that the first and natural environment of education is the community of the family. All other Catholic education takes its place beside the family. Catholic education is education for communion. We are made for communion with God, the Trinity of divine persons, and with one another. We know that communion in the Body of Christ and we experience it in our parish communities of faith.

3. All Catholic education encounters Christ. Teaching for us is helping people find and know Jesus Christ. Teaching for us is helping people be fed by Christ in frequent experiences of prayer, scripture, and the liturgical and sacramental tradition of the Church. Christ is that perfect man.

4. Catholic education aims for an integral formation of the whole person. During this new year of learning, our young people will grow in all the dimensions of their personhood, the physical, intellectual, psychological, sexual, and spiritual dimensions. They will grow to be more like Christ. Education in the light of faith will help our young people come to understand themselves as made in God’s image.

5. Catholic education also imparts a Christian understanding of the world. Teaching in the light of faith helps our young people see what is good in our world and what is not. It is teaching that treasures and transmits both the secular and religious cultural patrimony handed down from previous generations. May God bless all our teachers this year. And may God grant that through their work, all our young people may grow in understanding who they are and what a wonderful world God continues to provide for us.

BORED AGAIN CATHOLIC?

As I mentioned in the last edition of OND, I want to review with you some thoughts about the Mass, using as a springboard a little book entitled: “Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life” written by Timothy P. O’Malley of the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Remember, Christ calls us all to be missionary disciples who evangelize the world. To be so and do so, as Pope Francis reminds us, we need to begin with ourselves. A good place to begin is with our own understanding and involvement at the central event of our Christian life, the Eucharist. It’s true: “The beauty of the Mass can change not only us but the entire world.”

I’ve shared before how, as I grew up, my family went to the early daily Mass together. We took Saturdays off, but every other day of the week our family went to Mass. Many mornings, amidst the last minute scramble to get everyone in the car, I remember asking myself, “Why in the world are we doing this?” Well, first of all, we go to Mass because Jesus asked us to. On his last night with his apostles, at their last supper, Jesus gave us the Eucharist and said: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Right from the beginning of the Church, (the very word “Church” means those gathered) the believers of Jesus have gathered on the first day of the week to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus by joining together in celebrating the Eucharist. In saving us, Jesus calls us to become part of his Body, the Church. As Mr. O’Malley puts it: “In Catholicism, joining together to pray, coming from all corners of our towns and villages, is an enactment of what it means to belong to the Catholic Church to begin with. To pray together, to worship together, this is what it means to belong to the Church.”

We become all God intends us to be by joining with other believers to participate in praising and thanking God in Eucharist (the word “Eucharist” means thanksgiving). And too, we know, God wants all people to be saved. And O’Malley reminds us, “Going to Mass is not fundamentally about my unique spiritual experience but about giving over part of myself in love to all other believers so that together we can manifest Christ’s love for the world.”

The Entrance Rites: The gathered believers join in making room for God’s presence. In the entrance procession, those gathered together welcome the presence of Christ. Remember that the ministerial priest has been ordained to be present “in persona Christi capitis,” that is, in the very person of Christ the Head of the Church. As he processes in with the other ministers, the assembly makes room for Christ who is present when we gather, who will speak his word in the Scriptures and be present to us in his Eucharistic sacrifice. The incense we use at the beginning of Mass is an image of the cloud of glory, the Shekinah, found in the holy of holies of the Temple. The Roman Missal sets out the Introit for each Mass. These are entrance chants taken from Scripture and call our attention to God’s presence in history. When a “Gathering Song” is used instead of the Introit chant, that song should also focus our attention “less upon ourselves and more on how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit has redeemed the human race, gathering us together now to sing a new song to the Lord.” (Ps. 96)

We mark ourselves with the sign of the cross, identifying ourselves as Christians, believers baptized into the life of the Trinity, brothers and sisters of the Son of God made flesh, brothers and sisters with one another. So, right from the beginning, there is a lot going on and none of it is boring.

Brothers and sisters, we gather with our loving God for a banquet of love. We open our hearts. We know God’s love. Our hearts sing God’s praises.

O’Malley writes, “Participation in the Mass every week attunes us to a truth that we might have forgotten in the course of our daily lives: that we are called to become a hymn of praise to the world.” Next time, we’ll finish our look at the Entrance Rites with thoughts about the Greeting, the Penitential Rite, the Gloria and the Collect. Between now and then, let us look to see how the beauty of the Mass can really change us and our whole world.

‘Love is not rude’ – no matter what you hear in a song

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./ Office of Marriage, Family & Life

With this column I will return to reflecting on Chapter 4 from Pope Francis’ letter on marriage and family “The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia)”. From my previous columns on this topic you may recall that Chapter 4 contains the Holy Father’s reflection on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 which contains St. Paul’s reflection on Christian Love. We are up to, “it (love) is not arrogant or rude.” As I reflected on what Pope Francis wrote about this line of sacred scripture, my mind went back to my youth and I thought of a song (again – see previous columns) recorded by the Mill’s Brothers. They originally released the song in 1944 but I became aware of the Mill’s Brothers when, while a college student, I was the host of a “Big Band” radio show. The title of the song is “You Only Hurt the One You Love” and the opening line of the song starts with the title and goes on with, “… the one you shouldn’t hurt at all.” The song was recorded by many others including Peggy Lee, Ringo Star, Michael Buble’ and even Ryan Gosling sang it in a movie.

If you think about the premise of the song and apply it to marriage the lyrics do not paint a very “redemptive” view of love. If we always hurt the one we love, some may think that we just have to learn to live with the inevitable hurtful comment, look or action that a husband will do towards his wife and a wife will do to her husband. The song paints a picture that love will be paired with hurt. Another line from the song goes, “You always break, the kindest heart, with a hasty word you can’t recall.” Perhaps a number of readers are thinking to themselves, “Well, it’s true, at some point or another we will say something hurtful to a member of our family – something that we should not have said.” But St. Paul calls us to love as Jesus loves and to not accept the premise of the song. It is not inevitable that we will hurt the ones we love if we learn to love like Jesus loves us.

Pope Francis writes that love is “… to be gentle and thoughtful.” and that “Love abhors making others suffer.” He goes on to explain that interpersonal “courtesy … is not something that a Christian may accept or reject.” And he then quotes St. Thomas Aquinas: “Every human being is bound to live agreeably with those around him.” So being gentle and thoughtful with those around us is not something we can follow on some days and then stop on others. Christians are called to be kind and courteous to all people but yet the song may be stuck in our heads – “You only hurt the one you love.” Some people can be so nice to others they encounter in their daily life at work, in the parish or around the community but then can be rude to their spouse, their children or their parents. Yet it is not an option to be courteous to others and not courteous to members of our own families.

Why do we hurt our family members by the things we say, the looks we give, the behaviors we do? Some do so because they do not care for their own family but this is not the most common reason. What more often occurs is that we let our guard down with our family, we do not maintain our “best behavior” with them, because we trust that they will continue to accept us even though we hurt them. To be sure, many hurtful acts in a family are preceded by a variety of things, but in the end we are responsible for our thoughtless actions and we should not dismiss our discourteous behavior by saying, “Oh well, you always hurt the one you love.” We are called to love like Jesus loves – and Jesus will never hurt us. The God who is love, who created us out of love, who is the source of all genuine love, always loves us. And so to love like God in our families, the Holy Father teaches that we should never make others suffer. We should always be courteous, to live agreeably with those in our family, and to speak “…words of comfort, strength, consolation, and encouragement.”

Do not get into the habit of dismissing your discourteous behavior with your family by singing the Mills Brother’s song in your head. Strive to love as Christ loves us – strive to be saintly with sharing your love in your family. A tough task – yes, to be sure – but through prayer, the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and loving like Jesus loves we can re-write the lyrics of the song and sing; “You never hurt, the one you love, the one you’ll never hurt at all.”

What would you do if you only had 14 minutes left to live?

By Fr. Don Braukmann/St. Philip’s, Bemidji & St. Charles, Pennington

Thankfully, Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, backed off a threat made weeks ago claiming his military was preparing to fire four missiles at Guam in mid-August. As we know, the war of words has been heating up for many months (years) with the dictator. Most presume it was because of pressure from North Korea’s only true ally, China, which caused the pull back in rhetoric.

Guam is a U.S. island territory in Micronesia, in the Western Pacific. 163,000 people live on the island and it sits 2,131 miles southeast of Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons. It would take just 14 minutes for a missile launched from North Korea to reach Guam.

Even though this most recent threat has mercifully passed, the question remains for all of us:

What would you do if you knew you had just 14 minutes to live?

14 minutes: Where are you (where am I) at with God?

14 minutes: No time to call a family meeting and repair old wounds and resentments.

14 minutes: No time to run to the church to find a priest for confession as he, himself, is facing the same dilemma!

14 minutes: No time to get to the airport and fly out of Dodge.

14 minutes: Forget using cell phones, the system will be overwhelmed.

14 minutes: It is taking me an awful lot longer than 14 minutes just to write this column!

14 minutes: What would you do?

I wish I had a profound answer as to what I would do. I don’t. I guess it all comes down to the fact I need to be living today as if it is my last day so when those last 14 minutes come I won’t question where I am at with God.

I believe one of the most fundamental questions of life is not whether we will die, or when, but how will we live? How are we living right now, in this moment?

I was once told to live my life by first deciding what I want written on my tombstone and then live backwards from that. Good advice.

One quote chiseled into a tombstone that has stuck with me is: “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

Living life in 14 minute clumps may not seem practical, yet it changes one’s perspective on many things.

As we pray the Our Father we say, “deliver us from evil.” Spell “evil” backwards and there you have it: LIVE! The anecdote for evil and selfishness is to live life, every 14 minute clump, believing the light within us and within the world is greater than the darkness!

Eternal life is not our first goal ... loving Christ is! Loving as Christ loved solves all the world problems from those in the womb to the threat of nuclear annihilation. And love is an action word; it means to live life to the full!

In the movie “Collateral Beauty,” one of the lead characters said this about the moment he became a father: “When my daughter was born, I felt love. When I held her, I became love.”

14 minutes. Lord, help us to “become love” now, and when the clock starts ticking on those 14 minutes, we will stand tall on our knees.

Gender ideology: Colonizing – not cultivating – student minds

By Jason Adkins/Minnesota Catholic Conference

Our schools should be places where children are trained to pursue the true, the good, and the beautiful – or, at the very least, equipped to honestly and rationally engage with objective reality. A school should be a place of education, not ideological instruction.

But a “transgender toolkit,” approved on July 24 by the state’s School Safety Technical Assistance Council (SSTAC), is a clear instance of that vital mission being flipped on its head. The recommendations of the toolkit, advertised as a means of combating bullying, instead distort reality and impede real education.

The falsehoods of gender ideology – essentially, the view that gender is unrelated to biological sex and can be chosen at will – are not fit to be disseminated anywhere, least of all in our schools. The council’s decision to distribute this toolkit to public schools throughout Minnesota reveals that state bureaucrats are more concerned about colonizing students’ minds than forming them to seek the truth.

IDEOLOGICAL COLONIZATION

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has drawn attention to what he calls “ideological colonization,” or the imposition of secular values on religious societies through threats or incentives.

We typically think of ideological colonization in places like Africa, where Western nations and NGOs attempt to impose contraception and abortion on countries in exchange for development dollars. But Pope Francis has also linked it to gender ideology being taught in the classroom.

The Pope told the Polish bishops in 2016 that gender theory is the “exact opposite of God’s creation,” and that this “sin against God the Creator” is an example of “ideological colonization” funded by powerful institutions.

“Today, children are taught this at school: that everyone can choose their own sex. And why do they teach this? Because the books come from those people and institutions who give money,” the pontiff said, calling the situation “terrible.”

The transgender toolkit is a clear instance of ideological colonization in our own backyard. Through the threat of lawsuits against schools, well-funded activists work to enact anti-bullying measures that are instead vehicles for making disordered views of the human person and human sexuality normative in the broader culture, all the while punishing those who dissent.

DENYING REALITY

We all agree that public schools should be places that are welcoming to all students, regardless of personal challenges that they bring to the classroom. Persons struggling with gender dysphoria or who identify as transgender should be treated with compassion and sensitivity, and reasonably accommodated.

These steps should be taken to create an environment where students can participate in the pursuit of truth, unhindered by things that might hold them back, such as bullying or fear and anxiety.

But the advance of gender ideology in the mask of anti-bullying programs undermines the heart of the educational enterprise by injecting a false vision of reality into the language and culture of schools. It requires students and faculty to speak and accept actions in contrast to plainly observable fact, namely, that boys are boys and not girls (or some other thing), and vice versa. As First Things editor R.R. Reno notes, gender ideology forces students to accommodate themselves to lies knowing that truthful words will be punished.

Gender ideology has no credible scientific basis. It requires people to perpetrate falsehoods and is a clear example of the triumph of the subjective will taking precedent over objective reality; it has no place in a setting serious about intellectual inquiry.

OUR RESPONSE

When we see gender theory imposed by public officials, or perpetrated in schools, we have the responsibility to respond, proposing instead the reality of our created nature and the beauty of sexual difference – man and woman, made for each other and made for life.

If the Church is to be a field hospital, as Pope Francis calls us to be, prospective patients need to know that things like gender theory that are peddled by the culture as elixirs of happiness are really poison, and that there is a place that offers healing and hope.

In addition, we must continue to assert that the facts of objective reality and the task of pursuing the truth of things should guide our public discourse and our education system. Otherwise, our discourse becomes mere sophistry and our public policies become tools of oppression and exploitation by those in power.

VFTV: August 23, 2017

OUR MOTHER MARY

A constant prayer in the back of my mind during the summer months is the safety of all children as they go about enjoying their summer vacations. I’m sure that prayer is also in the mind of each and every mother not only during the summer months but in every day of the entire year. On the cross, Jesus gave his own mother Mary to be our mother and Mary holds that same prayer for each of us as she constantly watches over all the children of God entrusted to her care. “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly… Taken up into heaven she did not lay aside this saving office, but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 969).”

During the summer, we remember Mary in marvelous ways. By the time you read this, we will have celebrated the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15. It is the faith of the Church that Mary, when her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, sharing in the glory of Christ’s resurrection, and “anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 974). We hold this truth to be so important that the Assumption of Mary is a Solemnity, a Holy Day of Obligation.

On Sept. 8, we celebrate Mary’s birthday, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the course of the Church year, we celebrate only three birthdays: Jesus’, John the Baptist’s, and Mary’s. Like all birthdays, Sept. 8 is a special day, a festival day, a day in which we join Mary and all God’s family in celebrating and giving thanks to God for the life of Mary.

Our new deacon, Nate Brunn, shared with me a moving experience he had this summer. He and Father Xavier Ilango were visiting the hospital. Father Ilango administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to an elderly gentleman. Afterwards, while they were praying the Hail Mary for the sick man, the words came true. At the end of the prayer, while praying the words: “… pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death …,” at that exact moment, the man died. Mary did indeed intercede for that sick man at the hour of his death.

During one of the Masses at the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in St. Louis at the beginning of August, the choir offered a reflective song after Holy Communion. They sang a motet composed by Henryk Gorecki, one of Poland’s greatest contemporary composers. They sang in Polish, but the English translation carries the beauty of the prayer-song: “Your heart, Mary, is filled with mercy, our constant joy and consolation, in the hour of need and suffering, refuge of sinners, pray for us. And at the end of our days, Mother of God, wipe the last tear and close our eyes with your holy hands forever: Refuge of sinners, pray for us.”

Yes, what a delight to remember Mary during our summer days; Mary remembers us each and every day.

BORED?

As a kid on a hot summer’s day, I can remember feeling “played out” and asking mom for “something to do, cuz I’m bored.” I thought of that as I recently picked up a little book entitled: Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life. It’s written by Timothy P. O’Malley who teaches in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He asks why we come to Mass in the first place and answers that we don’t come to be entertained but to become fully engaged!

“For Catholics, fruitful participation in the Mass requires this ability to let the mind wander and wonder alike.” Do you find Mass boring sometimes? The contention of Mr. O’Malley is that we come to Mass to pray and think; to think and pray, and that, if we use them well, even moments seemingly so boring to us can give rise to contemplation and become moments of spiritual growth. We know that the Eucharist is the center of our life in Christ. Here God draws us deeper and deeper into the mystery of life and love.

“To let our minds be distracted by the way that incense fractures the colored light, revealing the beauty of a beautiful God, or let our imagination wander during the homily, may be less a matter of fritting away the time and more often a moment in which God’s voice speaks in the stillness of our hearts.”

In the next editions of OND, I want to review with you some thoughts about the Mass, using as a springboard this interesting little book. We need to know what is happening at the Mass to pray the Mass well and mine its spiritual riches. Christ calls us, we know, to evangelize the world. But to do that, Pope Francis reminds us, we need to begin with ourselves. A good place to begin is with our own understanding and involvement at the central event of our Christian life, the Eucharist. It’s true: “… the beauty of the Mass can change not only us but the entire world.”

A few ways to begin spreading the joy of the Gospel in your family

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Director of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life

For those who regularly read this column, you know that I am in the midst of reviewing Pope Francis’ reflection on love based on 1 Cor. 13:4-7 found in his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of Love”. I am going to take a one-column break in this review to write about a remarkable event that I was blessed to attend. At the beginning of July, over 3,300 delegates from Catholic dioceses across the United States gathered in Orlando for the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders” which focused on the Holy Father’s “The Joy of the Gospel”. Our U.S. bishops decided some years ago to gather bishops, priests, deacons, religious and the laity (about one-fourth clergy and three-fourths laity) to pray and reflect on what it would mean to follow Pope Francis’ call for us all to be “missionary disciples”. We were invited to consider our role in leading the Church in the New Evangelization which Pope Francis says should bring the “Joy of the Gospel” to everyone, especially those who have become separated from the Church or were never connected to God or the Church.

You may wonder, “What does this have to do with me?” You may even be thinking that, while there were certain words in the first paragraph that sounded familiar, you do not really know how they impact you as a Catholic. So allow me to ask you this question: “Do you want to spread the joy of the Gospel in your family?” If your answer is yes, then you may be wondering “How do I do this? How do I evangelize my family to the joy of the Gospel?”

During the convocation, Cardinal Wuerl of Washington D.C. described five characteristics of “The New Evangelist” and I believe that we should all apply them to our families. To be a “New Evangelist,” Cardinal Wuerl said that you have to have: boldness, connection to the Church, urgency, compassion and joy. Let me suggest how you can bring these to your family:

- Boldness (what Cardinal Wuerl says is a form of courage): Decide that from this day forward you are going to love your family as Christ loves us all and, when you come up short, you will have the courage to begin again. This is a bold goal for you to set for yourself.

- Connection to the Church: The Church is the living Body of Christ and so your sharing (i.e. evangelization) of the “Joy of the Gospel” must be anchored in prayer, in the Mass, in life in the Church. The boldness that I wrote about above can only be powered through the power of God’s grace which we experience so uniquely in the Church. The Eucharist, Reconciliation, prayer with the Church – all are sources of the grace you need to reach the bold goal of loving your family as Christ loves the Church. Then take this one step further and work to keep your entire family connected to the Church. Attend Sunday Mass as a family, pray with your family, get engaged in the life of your parish with your family.

- Urgency: Spread God’s joy in your family as soon as you are done reading this column in OND! Just had a fight with your siblings or with your spouse? Show them love right now. Perhaps they are not with you right now? Text the words “I love you” to your entire family. Do not wait for the “perfect time” to show them this love – decide that every time together is the right time to love.

- Compassion: Have a heart of mercy in your family, forgive their mistakes, feel their pain as well as celebrate their joys. Reflect as best you can the heart of merciful Jesus in your family.

- Joy: Share true love, which comes from God, in order to spread a spirit of joy in your family. If you have a joy-filled spirit you can more easily bring happiness to your family. And if you are a wounded soul who does not see much happiness in life, share your faith in God and the perfect joy we will experience in heaven. The Gospel points us to the ultimate joyful life when we are united with the God in heaven.

Many Catholics believe that they cannot participate in the “New Evangelization” but Cardinal Wuerl points us in a clear direction. Live the characteristics of the “New Evangelist” in your family today, do it again tomorrow, and the next day and the next. If every member of every family in the Diocese of Crookston spread the “Joy of the Gospel” in their family, this joy would radiate out from our families into our parishes and communities and we would all become “Missionary Disciples” in the New Evangelization.

To view presentations from the convocation, visit: www.usccb.org/convocation.

American Family Insurance, Edward Jones and a pet store

By Father Don Braukmann/Parochial Vicar - St. Philip’s, Bemidji and St. Charles, Pennington

Every third Wednesday of the month, for an hour, parishioners gather at the site of the Planned Parenthood office here in Bemidji. The office is a referral center for abortions which take place in Fargo, the Cities or elsewhere.

For some reason, during our time of prayer this month, I noticed the neighborhood in which the office is located. Located in a strip mall, on one side of Planned Parenthood is an American Family Insurance agency; on the other is Edward Jones. The paradox was obvious but I had never noticed it before. “Family” insurance, there to help and protect families and all those things which are part of living. Edward Jones is all about financial planning for life!

A couple doors down is Cherry Berry, a yogurt bar, one of my favorite spots in town; a place to celebrate the sweet things in life with friends.

A couple more doors to the south is a pet shop. Sad how pets, in this strip mall and in the world in general, have more rights than the child in the womb!

To the north is a small cafe which is to be avoided at all costs according to my doctor. They serve the best “turkey plate” in the business: lots of gravy and potatoes!

Across the way is Burger King, another constant temptation where chicken fries beckon me each time I pass by.

A stone’s throw across the street is a flower shop, a beauty salon and a pharmacy where people go to get healthy.

And there, in the midst of all those places that share in the many paths on the journey we call life, there sits Planned Parenthood with a mocking sign pasted at the entrance proclaiming “No guns allowed on the premises.” Indeed, no guns are needed at Planned Parenthood, yet it is the one place in our community where you can walk out having the information needed to put a child to death.

And so, as we pray, hundreds of cars pass by. Some honk in support, others honk or wave their finger in disgust. One passerby, during this past visit, yelled “bull” excrement at us. Without missing a beat, one in our group said quietly, “absolutely!” The driver was right, what Planned Parenthood promotes resembles what I shoveled for years on the farm growing up.

The silent scream from the womb falls on many deaf ears.

Are we not, as Americans, brave or courageous enough to offer health care to women and all our people which is solely committed to life and its dignity? Why must the most innocent among us pay the ultimate price for us to live as we wish under the disguise of “health care”?

The next day, Sunday, our same group attended Mass and heard the Gospel of the sower and the seed. My mind was flooded again with the obvious insight I had the day before. At one time or another, sometimes in the same day, our hearts are rich soil, stone cold or chocking with weeds.

All of us, from those who work at Planned Parenthood, to those who walk into their office seeking help and advice, to the priest who is praying outside ... we are all sinners. We are also the soil where God deliberately and generously scatters the seed of love, mercy and compassion, whether we accept it or not.

And still, as individuals and as a society, we must name the seeds of the evil one for what they are and where they are. In the innocent enough looking strip mall in Bemidji, as motorists scurry back and forth living their lives, there sits a dark chasm next to family businesses which offers the death of the innocent ones as a solution to the problems of life.

Our prayers will continue. First, praying that we can practice what we preach, and then falling to our knees begging God to end the scourge of abortion and the fear, loneliness and greed in our hearts which let it continue.

The crisis of men without work from a spiritual, social view

By Jonathan Liedl/Communications Manager, Minnesota Catholic Conference

There is a growing deficit of men in the workforce. According to government data, more than 7 million American men between the ages of 25 and 54 – the traditional prime of working life – are not even looking for a job. The U.S. now ranks second-to-last among developed nations in the rate of adult men in the workforce, thanks to a steady 13 percent decline over the past 50 years.

The potential impact of this trend has economists sounding the alarm, but Pope Francis has also drawn attention to its spiritual and social consequences. It robs people of hope, he says, and squanders “their great resources of energy, creativity, and vision.”

Overcoming the crisis of young men without work is a cultural challenge, and is part of a broader crisis of manhood. But public policy also has a role to play. By fostering opportunities for wider economic participation, we can help more men get back to work and live lives consistent with their God-given human dignity.

A 'FUNDAMENTAL DIMENSION'

Pope St. John Paul II puts it plainly in “Laborem Exercens”: “Work is a fundamental dimension of human existence on earth.” While work can take on any number of forms (including work done in the home and nursery), we are all called to it. Work is an act of co-creation with God that involves and develops our creativity, rationality, and personality – those distinctively human gifts. Therefore, in the words of John Paul, when man works he “achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a human being.’”

We also work as an act of solidarity with the wider community. As John Paul says, “Man must work out of regard for others, especially his own family, but also for the society he belongs to, the country of which he is a child, and the whole human family of which he is a member, since he is the heir to the work of generations and at the same time a sharer in building the future of those who will come after him in the succession of history.” Through work, we make a gift of self to others.

MEN WITHOUT WORK

In recent times, most men have worked outside the home. Therefore, opting out of the workforce has closed many men off to a primary opportunity for work, seriously crippling their capacity for both human development and self-gift.

One startling statistic illustrates clearly these debilitating effects. Nicholas Eberstadt, the author of Men Without Work, estimates that non-working men have an extra 2,150 hours of free time per year. But instead of using this time to serve others in their family or community, the data shows that non-working men spend much of it sleeping, engaging in self-care, or relaxing, which includes five and half hours of media consumption per day. Darker self-indulgent habits, such as pornography and drug use, also occur with greater frequency.

Deprived of the human formation that work provides, many men give in to their worst impulses instead of cultivating their most noble gifts. Cut off from the opportunity to serve others through work, many men turn inward instead of making a gift of self. Men need work to be thriving, selfless citizens.

EXPANDING ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION

So how can public policy help address the “men without work” crisis?

For one, we can do a better job of connecting men with the work that is available. One puzzling aspect of the men without work crisis is that it is largely voluntary; many non-working men choose not to work, despite the availability of jobs, some that even pay quite well. In fact, the Star Tribune reported on July 5 that Twin Cities builders are struggling to find skilled workers to fill any number of decent-paying positions.

One problem is that our education system has imposed a one-size-fits-all approach to workforce preparation. Four-year university degrees are over-prioritized and, as a result, many men are ill-equipped—or uninterested—in blue collar jobs that, until recently, appealed to their demographic. A greater emphasis on vocational training at an earlier age could help connect men with these enriching work opportunities.

We can also incentivize businesses to more directly reach out to non-working men with jobs and training opportunities, especially those reintegrating into society after serving a prison sentence. Special attention must also be given to stagnant wages; men raising a family must be able to access work that pays a living wage.

The “men without work” problem has deep cultural and spiritual roots. But through public policy that expands and encourages economic participation, we can help more men get back to work, and back to answering God’s call to co-creation.

VFTV: July 26, 2017

CONVOCATION

The national Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando has come and gone and what a convocation it was! 3,300 diocesan delegates from all corners of our country showed up to pray, reflect and dialogue about our life as the Catholic Church in the United States. We came to reflect, pray and converse about how, as God’s people in this country, we might best implement the vision for the Catholic Church put forth by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium,)”. Our days were mainly spent listening to great speakers, engaging in dialogue in the many breakout sessions offered and in praying together in both Eucharistic and devotional prayer.

Some of the speakers reviewed recent research on the Catholic Church in the United States as a means for us to see “the lay of the land.” Dr. Hosffman Ospino of Boston College, for example, said that we are in an “in-between moment”. The rapid changes in our culture have affected the Church: society has reconfigured family life; communal life in society has eroded; we live amid what the media calls “cultural wars”; individualism, relativism, and secularism are all around. Fewer Catholics attend Mass regularly. Twenty-five percent of all people in the United States self-identify as “nones,” that is having no religious affiliation. The call of Pope Francis in “Evangelii Gaudium” is to see this moment in-between the present and the future as a moment of opportunity. We are to see this moment as Kairos, as an opportunity to bring the joy of the Gospel to those who are waiting to hear it. The call is not for all of us to be disciples and some of us disciples to be missionaries. The call is for all of us to be missionary disciples.

I would say this is one of the main challenges covered at the convocation. We, the Catholic Church in the United States, need to embrace in a renewed way that we are all missionary disciples. As Pope Francis puts it in “Evangelii Gaudium”: “Indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries’, but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples.’”

In a society where marriage and family have been reconfigured, Catholic couples evangelize through their marriage and family. Where communal life has eroded, Catholic faithful evangelize by joining together to praise God, assist one another, and reach out in charity to all. Where so called “cultural wars” divide and polarize, Catholics evangelize by speaking the truth in the public arena and working for the true common good in a loving way. “An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn. 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved.” (Evangelii Gaudium 24)

Of course, the life of one who is truly a missionary disciple flows from his or her relationship with Jesus. Jesus calls us, equips us, and sends us out to bring the joy of the Good News to all in our world. One person I always like to listen to is Donald Cardinal Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C. He spoke to the delegates about five characteristics of a true missionary disciple: boldness or courage, commitment and connection to the Church, a sense of urgency or haste (like Mary hastening to visit Elizabeth), compassion and mercy, and joy. The vision of Pope Francis of a world full of Catholic faithful missionary disciples bringing the joy of the Gospel to all, especially those on the peripheries, is a call to each of us to a real conversion.

In “Evangelii Gaudium”, Pope Francis is inviting “all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.” The more we fall in love with God, the more we are moved to bring the joy of the Gospel to all. He says we are challenged in this moment “to abandon the complacent attitude that ‘We have always done it this way” and to be “bold and creative” in living the life of a missionary disciple. I am grateful for the eight Catholic leaders from the Diocese of Crookston who took part in the Orlando Convocation of Catholic Leaders. We look forward to the work ahead of us here in this local Church as we seek to live out the call to be missionary disciples who bring the joy of the Gospel to all.

To watch presentations from the convocation, visit: www.usccb.org/convocation