The past and present thoughts of a Catholic husband, father, and fledgling faith formation director at St. Michael Catholic Church in St. Michael, Minnesota

Friday, February 27, 2015

On Being Recast...

I think the good Lord is breaking my heart in order to rebuild it today. Nothing bad happening at all -- just some rusty scrap between my lungs that is being heated to be molded or hammered into something new, I think. A shield? A sword? A ring? A wrench? Maybe He'll leave it molten and malleable so it can be reshaped at will...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Confessions of a Struggling LIFT Parent

Over the past several weeks, 114 parishioners completed our anonymous LIFT Mid-Year Survey. We received a good balance of responses across all four LIFT nights and all grade levels; we heard strong, positive feedback; very frank and consistent negative feedback; and lots of great ideas about things we could do differently. The results of the survey are available on the church website,, by clicking the Faith Formation tab at the top of the page.

I take your feedback seriously, not only because it’s my job, but because I’m a LIFT parent, too. I know firsthand what it’s like to remember the night before LIFT that you haven’t even asked your kids about their homework, let alone helped them with it. I know that it’s harder to motivate myself to attend LIFT as my kids get older. I know that some nights, we’re lucky to remember to say Grace as a family before we scarf a late supper and fall into bed.

Monday, February 16, 2015

LIFT Links: Lenten Edition

Ash Wednesday is this week, marking the beginning of Lent, the penitential season that prepares us for the joy of Christ's Resurrection at Easter. Too often we treat Lent like a do-over for our New Year's resolutions or a chance to jumpstart our diet before swimsuit season. But Lent isn't meant to be about loss--we fast to gain, to grow spiritually.

To that end, this week let's look at few links on what Lent's really about, and how to live it as a family.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Go Ahead: Be a Stick In the Mud

I watched the Super Bowl last night with my bride and, at times, my kids. They came and went as it held their interest, and I spent the second half contemplating why we consume this (or why it consumes us) year after year.

The game was exciting to the finish, marred at the end by an odd play call that sealed the victory for the Patriots, followed by a borderline brawl as the Seahawks saw the championship slipping away. But the halftime show and commercials were what really sparked my thinking. Unlike past years, last night there were only a couple of commercials that made me happy the younger kids had already gone downstairs to play -- unfortunately, one was a movie promo, which means not only will we be seeing it for months, but there's a feature-length version somewhere. The halftime show, on the other hand, once again had me talking to my three teens about what's wrong with the world. It was a short, pointed conversation, since halfway through the performance, my eldest went downstairs to practice his bass and the other two voiced their agreement with my rant and tuned out (from the show, and likely me, as well).

Monday, January 26, 2015


Blogger's Note: There are both book and movie spoilers below. You have been warned.

We finally saw Unbroken last week. The book version of the story -- Laura Hillenbrand's 2010 biography of Olympic athlete and WWII veteran Louis Zamperini -- is a spell-binding, white-knuckled page-turner. It's well researched, lovingly crafted, and unflinching in its portrayal of the danger and brutality endured by Zamperini and his comrades during 47 days adrift in a life raft after their plane crashes into the Pacific and two and a half years in Japanese prison camps.

I know many people now, men and women alike, who have read this book, and every single one has loved it. When I finished it, I told Jodi this man had four or five movies worth of material happen to him in his lifetime, and I blogged that "the fact that all of them really happened to one man is almost too much to be believed."

Zamperini died just this past summer at age 97. When I heard the news on the radio, I choked up. What an amazing man.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What’s Keeping You?

It’s been nearly eight months since I left the University of Minnesota to work full-time for our parish. At some point in each of my previous jobs, I looked around and asked myself, “Jim, what are you doing here?” Thankfully that has yet to happen since I joined the church staff, but I don’t doubt that it could—work is work, after all.

Faith is work, too. It’s hard sometimes to believe in a good God with so much wickedness in the world, including within the Church. It’s hard to do the right thing when so few people agree on what the right thing is, even within the Church. It’s hard to pray or read or learn more about Jesus, to drag ourselves to Confession, or to haul the family to Mass each Sunday when so many Catholics just…don’t.

I’ll bet at least once you’ve sat in church, looked at Father and the people gathered around you, and asked, “What am I doing here?” It’s a worthwhile question to consider. According to data collected by the Pew Research Center, not only do most U.S. Catholics say they attend Mass once a month or less, but many disagree with the Church’s fundamental teachings regarding marriage, contraception, and the sanctity of life. Yet they persist in calling themselves Catholic. What’s keeping them in the Church?